Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 24

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 23.

Last week’s look at Matthew 23 ended with Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. For the sake of our readers, we took a jump forward to Paul’s writing to the Romans regarding the mystery of the Salvation of the Jews. God still has a plan for the Jews that has played an integral part in the inclusion of us Gentiles into the Kingdom of Heaven, and we know that He will do something for the Jews once the fullness of us Gentiles has come in. I feel no need to practice any form of prophetic code-cracking.

Today we’ll move into Matthew 24. This passage is our primary text for forming our eschatology… it is Jesus specifically answering the question “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age”? I am completely baffled that anyone would build their eschatology with any other passage as the foundation.

Matthew 24 (ESV)

Matthew 24: 1-2 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Matthew 24: 3-14 (ESV) |  Signs of the End of the Age

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The disciples asked Jesus several questions, that they thought would all occur at the same time. Jesus answers the most important questions regarding His return and the signs of the end of the age. The Christian Way is to set our hearts on Heavenly things while walking as exiles and sojourners in this world, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples and baptizing them in the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus glazes over the first question regarding when the temple would be destroyed in the mention of wars and nation rising against nation. That happens roughly around 70 AD. What remained of the Church in Jerusalem was finally scattered to the ends of the Earth. But that Temple was no longer the focus of the Promise to God’s people… Jesus is. The testimony and proclamation of the Gospel of Grace and of Christ’s finished work on the Cross is now the Power of God to save. That physical Temple was destroyed, but Christ had already come and the veil had already been torn apart. The Physical temple was superseded by the Body of Christ.

Matthew 24: 15-28 (ESV) |  The Abomination of Desolation

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of ManWherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

This passage is about the Tribulation that will come as the sign of the end of the age. We have indeed seen several instances of great tribulation since the Ascension of Christ, but these are all precursors to what is coming. No one will be able to say “Christ has returned, come here”… no one, because all will see. It will be the end. The mention of “false christs” can also be translated “falsely anointed ones”. In our day, there are hundreds if not thousands of individuals falsely claiming special “anointings”. Rebuke them. Do not fear them. Do not listen to them.

Matthew 24: 29-31 (ESV) | The Coming of the Son of Man

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

NO SECRET RETURN/RAPTURE. Christ will return once, and for all.

Matthew 24: 32-35 (ESV) | The Lesson of the Fig Tree

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

This passage is often plucked right out of this chapter and presented in some twisted attempt to reject the bodily return of Jesus at the end of the age and somehow dismiss this chapter as only a foretelling of the destruction the Temple in Jerusalem. Sometimes it is used to suggest that the Temple mount has to be rebuilt for Christ to return… but that doesn’t fit the narrative here. Once the Temple was built, we don’t see a return to the Tabernacle. Now that Christ has come, there is no reason to keep pushing back toward the Temple. That veil was torn by God. We, the Body of Christ, are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 24: 36-51 (ESV) | No One Knows That Day and Hour

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This month, we’ve had a lot of flat-out stupid claims of prophetic insights made by self-proclaimed prophets and so-called Christian teachers/preachers. The 4 blood moons, the “mystery of the shemittah” and whatever Harold Camping-esque contrivance declared today (Oct 7, 2015) the end of the age… whatever. False christs and false prophets practicing divination and omen reading to spread fear and doubt for selfish gain… to sell books and rations for the apocalypse.

Dear Christian, you are not called to calculate the day or the hour, nor are you called to warn people of a specific date, or sign, or prognostication… you are called by the Grace of God to walk by faith in Christ. Preach the Word, both in season and out of season. You have no say in Christ’s return… none. He will return at a time of His choosing to judge the living and the dead.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 25, where Jesus continues to teach concerning His return at the end of this age. We’ll work through 2 parables which are parallels to this site’s theme or tagline from Luke. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 23

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 22.

Last week’s look at Matthew 22 ended after the silencing of the Sadduccees. Jesus then stumped the Pharisees with a question on who the Christ is and we learn with the closing statement from the writer that from that time forward none would seek to trip Jesus up in His words. If you remember from the past couple of weeks that we’ve been reading these encounters in light of the demonstrated parable of Jesus cursing the fruitless fig tree and it withering up and dying. The religious leaders, the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees are the fruitless fig trees being cursed for their lack of fruit. What follows in today’s reading, is the final declarations of curses or woes to the scribes and Pharisees.

Matthew 23 (ESV)

Matthew 23: 1-36 (ESV) | Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Seven woe’s to the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy… but it was more than that. As we see at the beginning, they sit on Moses’ seat. They were given the highest authority under the Law. Remember what James tells us in the first verse of chapter 3, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” And being the ones charged with overseeing Israel, they were lost in unbelief, not able to recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and actually waging war against Him.

Matthew 23:37-39 (ESV) | Lament over Jerusalem

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Here we see Jesus crying out over Jerusalem… not just over His last 3 years or so of ministry; rather, for centuries before the Word became flesh and walked among us. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ lamenting over Jerusalem and her unwillingness to submit to Him. The closing comment is interesting, because it is what the crowds were singing back in Chapter 21, but now they were not singing it. So the triumphal entry, while it was itself a fulfillment of prophecy pointing to the Messiah is here pointed out as a foreshadowing of the next time we will see Christ… the next and final time, Praise be to God.

Now at this point, some tend to use this chapter to support a notion that Jerusalem is permanently doomed until the Judgement, when Christ Returns. I think the Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans regarding this thought bears some reading.

Romans 11:25-36 (ESV) | The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Paul’s writing is… well, as Peter put it, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:14-17 ESV)”. But what we can understand, is that the hardening of Israel is both partial and for our (Gentile) benefit… but Israel is still part of God’s eternal plan.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 24. We’ve worked through this chapter once before when we were working through our eschatology. We’ll work through it once more and I think it is wonderful timing given the recent rash of doomsday prognostications engaging in fear-mongering for selfish gain (4 blood moons, Mystery of the Shemitah, and now the Super-Shemitah). I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 22

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 21.

Last week’s look at Matthew 21 ended with a look at 2 parables Jesus taught that clearly rebuked the Pharisees for having a form (appearance) of godliness, but lacking fruit… just like the fig tree He cursed. We’ll pick up in the same vein with another of Jesus’ parables.

Matthew 22 (ESV)

Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV) | The Parable of the Wedding Feast

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The kingdom of heaven sent out invitations, yet those who were invited ignored the call to the wedding, and some even mistreated and killed the servants of the King. So the King widened the call because of the unworthiness of the invited. Still, the King did not accept the unworthy, and those not clothed for a wedding were cast out. This is a very interesting parable. I see a lot of parallel here with what Paul taught in Romans 11. I’m going to intentionally avoid a deep-dive into certain schools of thought and their academic squabbles (dispensationalism, covenantalism, replacement theology, etc.) and just focus on the patterns we see in the parable and how we see the Gospel of Jesus Christ being demonstrated. The Kingdom of Heaven has a King and a Son who is getting married. The wedding feast is prepared and a specific set of invitations have gone out. Clearly the King sent out His invitations by His own free will. He is the King. He determines who is invited. That those who were invited to the wedding did not come only serves to condemn them as unworthy… it has no bearing on the King’s authority. The King then opens the invitation to everyone and sends His servants out to gather all, both good and bad. The King has not changed the event, it is still a wedding feast for His Son. The call has gone out to the ends of the earth… but not all who are called will be dressed for the wedding, and those who are not dressed for the wedding will not be chosen, though they were indeed called. Why would someone who is allowed to attend the wedding feast of the Son, without an official invitation, still not come dressed for a wedding? Unbelief in the Son to whose wedding feast you’ve been brought.

John 3:17-18 (ESV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

One thing is for sure, the Pharisees were not only targeted as those who ignored their invitations to the wedding feast, but those who mistreated and killed the servants of the King sent to remind them of their invitations. As we saw after the last parable in chapter 21, the Pharisees already realized that Jesus was talking about them.

Matthew 22:15-22 (ESV) | Paying Taxes to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and for dismissing the Law of God for their traditions. Their response: they plotted in how to entangle Him in is words. I find it funny that in our day, those who rebuke false teachers of hypocrisy, self-righteousness and for dismissing the Law of God for their ideas/inclinations/dreams are called Pharisees while the false teachers spin and plot to entangle the discerning in their words.

Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV) | Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Jesus says they were wrong because they didn’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God. Jesus cut to the very underlying premise of this question as utterly false. These were religious leaders who were teaching falsely in addition to the sin of the Pharisees. This is probably the worst attempt at tripping Jesus up. Jesus didn’t only dismiss the question, but struck down a doctrinal distinctive of their sect.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) | The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

We’ve looked at this teaching before, mostly from the Gospel According to Luke. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking this is a Gospel truth… it isn’t… Jesus is answering a question of the Law. This is a Law we cannot keep ourselves, therefore, it exposes our sin. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to forgive us of our sin and to cleanse us from our unrighteousness until the Day of His Return.

Matthew 22:41-46 (ESV) | Whose Son Is the Christ?

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? ”They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

And with that, Jesus ended the “debate” stage of the war against the unbelieving religious rulers. Remember that this is after the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where Jesus fulfilled prophesy of the Messiah, the Christ, and everyone was singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:1-17)

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 23. We’ll work through Jesus’ judgement against the scribes and Pharisees and His lament over Israel. It’s not pretty, and it is quite damning. I think this next chapter is the equivalent of Jesus’ curse against the fig tree. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 21

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 20.

Last week’s look at Matthew 20 ended with Jesus opening the eyes of 2 blind men, who were then able to follow Jesus. This is a significant miracle, one that would not go unnoticed by the Jewish readers of the Gospel According to Matthew. Before moving into the next chapter, let us reflect back on a prophesy regarding the Messiah

Isaiah 42:1-9 (ESV) | The Lord‘s Chosen Servant

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
    I tell you of them.”

With that review in our minds, let us move to the next chapter in the Gospel According to Matthew.

Matthew 21 (ESV)

Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV) | The Triumphal Entry

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Now, Matthew quotes from the Prophet Zechariah 9:9. The people recognized it and celebrated what they thought was the coming of the king setting up an earthly kingdom. They were partly correct, but they weren’t seeing Jesus. They were blind to Who He Is. Instead, they were honoring what they thought the Messiah was going to be. Most of these very same people will soon be crying out for His crucifixion… yet He will still call for their forgiveness… Praise be to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Matthew 21:12-17 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise’?”

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Here, we see Jesus opening the eyes of the blind and lame who come to Him humbly… and we also see the blindness of the chief priests and scribes, who upon seeing the work of God become indignant. We also see Jesus referring them to Psalm 8… a Psalm of praise to the LORD our Lord. That’s huge. Jesus is flat-out telling them Who He is, and they remain blind to it. Jesus leaves the city and lodges in Bethany.

Matthew 21:18-22 (ESV) | Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

This is a tough passage. Prosperity and Word of Faith pushers twist this passage to justify their false teaching that as long as we have faith we can get whatever we claim/decree/declare. Similarly, I’ve also heard Muslims use this passage to refute the validity of the Gospels asserting that the writers can’t agree on what happened here… and both the Muslim and the false-teacher share a common interpretive problem… they both tend to read this as a vindictive act of Jesus against the fig tree because he was hungry. Yes, Jesus became angry, and yes he went to he fig tree and found nothing in it. However, Jesus cursed the tree for what it represented. Remember what we’ve seen in this chapter so far, Jesus entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Prophecy by Zechariah, and the people seemed to believe and gave a great showing, but we know they will bear no fruit, for in a short time they will cry out for His crucifixion. We see the chief priests and scribes bear witness to miracles that only the Messiah can perform, yet they are indignant and blind. We see Jesus clear out the Temple, for it has become a den of robbers (also a reference to prophecy of judgment against Israel). The fig tree represents Israel… full of leaves, giving the indication of life, but bearing no fruit. Jerusalem had an outward form of godliness, but inwardly they were dead.

Jesus was speaking of the Kingdom of heaven, of spiritual matters, not temporal. We have no record of any of the disciples rebuking a tree to wither it, nor speaking to a mountain for it to be uprooted and cast into the sea literally. What we do have in the New Testament, is the foundation of the Church laid by the Apostles with Jesus Christ as both its cornerstone and Head.

Matthew 21:23-27 (ESV) | The Authority of Jesus Challenged

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

So many times Jesus declared His identity and Authority, and the chief priests and scribes denied Him and hardened their hearts. This time, Jesus turns it on them and then declines to answer their question in like manner. Instead, He answers with a set of parables. Remember Jesus said that He spoke in parables so that only to those whom understanding had been given might understand, and for the unbelievers, they would not understand (Matthew 13:10-17 ESV). We’ll look at 2 of them today, and the third we’ll cover next week.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV) | The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Point-blank, Jesus tells them that the very people who are despised and rejected by the religious leaders will — by faith — enter the Kingdom of God before them… for the religious leaders are blinded by their self-righteousness and remain condemned in their unbelief. The fig tree just got rebuked.

Matthew 21:33-45 (ESV) | The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

The fig tree just got rebuked, again. This time, they realized He was speaking about them. Rather than repent and bear fruit, the fig tree withered… and plotted to do the very thing Jesus was saying they were plotting to do… This is the Heir. Come, let us kill Him and have His inheritance….

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 22. We’ll be looking at the parable in this series, the parable of the Wedding Feast. We’ll see more direct confrontations now that the battle lines have been clearly drawn. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 20

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 19.

Last week’s look at Matthew 19 ended with the cost of following Jesus. We who believe are called to take up our crosses daily, dying to self, dying to our flesh, and living in the Spirit. This takes a while to sink in for the disciples… and I’d say it take even longer for us to get a grasp on this. Is it any wonder there are so many denominations that get bogged down in the quagmire of works-righteousness? Keep this thought in mind, the thought of what it means to die to self, to the flesh, and live by the Spirit as we look to Matthew chapter 20, where Jesus begins with a very difficult teaching regarding the Kingdom of Heaven… one that confronts the “it’s not fair, why should he get full pay for doing less work than I?” that springs forth from our self-seeking flesh.

Matthew 20 (ESV)

Matthew 20:1-16 (ESV) | Laborers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

What a powerful parable. I’ve been mulling over this parable in my mind all week. Each time I try to work out the analogy of the hiring of the laborers throughout the day, my mind skips down to the complaint levied against the master of the vineyard. For this round, we will focus on this grumbling, and the Lord’s response to the grumbler.

Let us begin by establishing the relationship between the master and the first laborers. These first laborers are in need of work, in need of wages, and they agree to the wage for a day’s labor, and so begin the work granted to them by the master of the house. The agreement is between them and the master. Had no one else been hired, they’d have received their wage with gladness, even if work yet remained. The master didn’t change the terms, didn’t change conditions or the contract. He simply paid the same wages for those who had spent more time standing idly in the marketplace. From where did the grumbling come? From the laborers who were chosen first comparing their compensation to that of the laborers who came last. Rather than praise the master for his generosity to those who came last, they were incensed and offended, because in their eyes, they had done more work and they demanded that the disparity should be reflected in their compensation. The master rebukes this secondly. The master’s first rebuke is far more pointed. One might read it this way, “Do you presume to judge the Master in how I choose to use what is Mine?” I’m reminded of the LORD’s response to Jonah’s tantrum:

Jonah 4 (ESV) | Jonah’s Anger and the Lord’s Compassion
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind,and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?

While this isn’t an exact parallel, there is an overlap. Did Jonah have a true right to be angry? No. Sure, he could (and did) make excuses for his anger, but they simply didn’t stand up to the Word of the Lord and His compassion. The Master of the house showed compassion to the laborers hired in the eleventh hour… God’s Grace is His to extend, and we have no right to grumble against the Master of His House. The greater theme of this parable and of God’s response to Jonah, is that God is Sovereign over all. Our sinful flesh is quick to grumble and grow angry when God doesn’t follow our plan or properly compensate us according to our own measure.

As for application of this parable moving forward, I cannot help but think about the Apostle Paul. From Paul’s perspective, he is the least of the Apostles (1 Cor 15). He ended up working harder than the rest but I want to focus more on the time of his Apostleship. For that, let’s look at select portions from Acts.

Acts 1:15-17 (ESV)
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

Acts 1:21-22 (ESV) 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Acts 9:10-22 (ESV) 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

The disciples were the first laborers hired by the Master of His House. Paul came much later, and yet was called to the same office of Apostle. This is just an example… we see the disciples welcome Paul quickly and acknowledge Paul’s calling as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Sine Paul was the last Apostle, maybe we can find a broader example of application for this parable. Let us remain in the book of Acts and look to the example of welcoming Gentiles into the Promise, on equal footing with the Jews who believed and were baptized into the Name of Jesus.

Acts 15:1-11 (ESV) | The Jerusalem Council
1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

The point being made here is not one of ecumenical lack of discernment; rather, that the Lord is the Master of His House, and He extends grace as He sees fit. Rather than take offense, or accuse God of being unjust, we should praise Him for His Gracious Gifts.

I got a lot out of reading through this parable this week… several days of reading through the same chapter. I hope I didn’t belabor the point too much today.

Matthew 20:17-19 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Jesus warned His disciples of what was going to come. Still, with all of the warning, they were not prepared. God’s patience endures, even when our strength fails us.

Matthew 20:20-28 (ESV) |  A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered,“You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The point being made here reflects that of the first parable in the chapter. There is a tendency for us to view experience, or time-in-service as a qualifier for greater authority and rule over those with less experience. That is not how the Kingdom of Heaven works. God does set up offices of authority, but those called to these offices are called to be servants as stewards of God’s grace. The offices serve the church. This is one of the reasons the CEO model of church is so abhorrent… for the corporation serves its CEO, where the Overseers, Deacons, and Pastors serve the church and are held more accountable to God for their stewardship.

Matthew 20:29-34 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him

These men were blind, so they couldn’t see and follow Jesus of their own. But they had heard of Him, and so cried out to Jesus for mercy. They asked the Lord to open their eyes, and after He did, they followed Jesus. While this happened literally, we prayerfully ask that the Holy Spirit continue to open our eyes to the Truth in His Word, that we might walk in the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 21. We’ll be looking at the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple, cursing of the fig tree, and the question of Authority, followed by some more parables. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,