Matthew 21:18-22 Kingdom Transfer.

Matthew 21:18-22 Kingdom Transfer.

What Mark separates by a day, with the clearing of the temple in between  (11:12-26), Matthew here groups together. This highlights two basic differences between the two. It is thought that Mark sought to write a strict chronological order, whereas Matthew was more thematic in his approach. “In Matt. 21:12-22, Jesus proceeds to cleanse the temple upon His arrival and curses the fig tree the next day. In Mark, Jesus returns to Bethany for the night, in the morning He curses the fig tree and then cleanses the temple. Probably Matthew treats the material topically (no specific reference for the cleansing is given in Matt. 21:12), while Mark, who places stories within stories (5:21-43; 6:7-30), treats it chronologically.” (NGSB 1585) Matthew condenses an incident that took place on two separate days (cf. Mark 11:12-14, 20-26).” (NGSB 1540)

The main point is this: “The linking of this incident with the cleansing of the temple hints at God’s immanent punishment of Israel in the destruction of the city and the temple (Jer. 24:1-8).” (NGSB 1540-1) A fig tree’s purpose is to obviously bear fruit. This was also to be the purpose of the LORD planting Israel in his land to bear fruit. Since Israel had not bore fruit the kingdom would be given to others. Mountains in the scriptures often refer to kingdoms, and it is more likely that Jesus is referring to mountains being moved through prayer in respect to a changing of the guard. Prayer must however be combined with belief, which necessitates a knowledge of the scriptures and God’s plans for the future. When our prayers are in harmony with God’s plans for his kingdom, we are promised success.

Matthew 21:12-17 Jesus Transforms The Temple.

Matthew 21:12-17 Jesus Transforms The Temple.

The temple, meant to be a house of prayer, became a den of thieves. These seized upon the need of the people to have a sacrifice to offer, but likely for an exorbitant price (vv. 12-13 Cf. Mk. 11:15-18; Lk. 19:45-47; Jn. 2:13-16; Dt. 14:24-25). This exchange of goods by those too far away to bring an actual tithe or offering of the fruits of one’s labour, was to take place at the market, and not in the temple precincts. Jesus entrance into the temple would fulfill the prophetic word of the last of the prophets, Malachi (3:1). Jesus is the Lord and Messenger of the covenant, sent by the LORD of hosts. For this cause John also records how the disciples were reminded of the words of Psalm 69:9, that zeal for the LORD’s house would consume him (Jn. 2:17).

Instead of being a house of merchandise, Jesus transformed it into a house of healing, for the blind and lame came to him and he healed them (v. 14). Again, the children cry out to Jesus, referring to him as “the Son of David” (v. 15). This continued the Hosannas of his triumphal entry (21:1-11), in fulfillment of the words of Psalm 118:26 (v. 9). The chief priests and scribes were indignant or angry at the sound of the children, but as Jesus said, this also happened as the scriptures predicted, and in making this point he was claiming divinity (v. 16; Ps. 8:2 Cf. Mt. 11:25). This entrance of Jesus into the temple is a momentous turning point in salvation history. This would be the start of a move away from this temple, to the true temple which is Jesus himself, a point stressed by John above.

Matthew 21:1-11 The Triumphal Entry.

Matthew 21:1-11 The Triumphal Entry.

Jesus, the twelve, and other of his disciples, have been on a journey to Jerusalem, seen especially in the incidents when Jesus reiterates his coming death and resurrection (16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). On this occasion they are at Bethphage,* at the Mount of Olives, when Jesus sent two disciples ahead of them to bring to Jesus a donkey, and a colt with her (vv. 1-2 Cf. Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:29-38). The standing on the Mount of Olives comes in fulfillment of the day of the LORD when “His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zech. 14:4). “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem” (v. 8).

These two disciples were told that if anyone were to question them way taking the donkey and colt, that they were to inform them that ‘The Lord has need of them’, upon which the one holding them would let them go (v. 3).** This event was done to further the prophetic fulfillment concerning Jesus as the Messiah (v. 4), Matthew here quoting from Zechariah 9:9. Zechariah again makes the point that it was at this time that this just King would bring salvation and “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (v. 10 Cf. Isaiah 40:9-11; 62:11; Jn. 12:15). This reign is the time of salvation, not of second coming judgment!

“The disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them” (v. 6 Cf. Mk. 11:4-6). The people responded to the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the donkey and colt, as the entrance of the long awaited King, the Son to succeed David (vv. 7-9a Cf. Lev. 23:40; I Kgs. 9:13). This also was in fulfillment of prophecy, namely Psalm 118:26 (v. 9b).*** Others asked who Jesus was (v. 10). “So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee” (v. 11). Clearly, at this point, they regarded Jesus as both Prophet and King (Cf. 2:23; 16:15; Dt. 18:15-18; Lk. 4:16-29; Jn. 6:14; 7:40; 9:17; Acts 3:22-23).

*”Hebrew for “house of unripe figs,” a small village east of Jerusalem.” (NGSB 1584)

**”Colt. A young donkey (Matt. 21:2; John 12:15). The Old Testament prophesied Jesus’ actions (Zech. 9:9), which in this case identify Him clearly as the Messiah. Zechariah prophesied the coming of a righteous and gentle King to bring salvation.” (NGSB 1584)

***”Hosanna. A Greek transliteration of the Aramaic words for “Save now…O LORD” (Ps. 118:25).” (NGSB 1584)

Matthew 20:29-34 Blind Men See And Follow Jesus.

Matthew 20:29-34 Blind Men See And Follow Jesus.

All three gospels record this visit to Jericho (v. 29 Cf. Mk. 10:46-52; Lk. 18:35-43). The New Geneva Study Bible posits that there may have been two Jerichos, but it seems to may too much of whether the incident happened as they were entering it or going out, when it seems that they were simply passing through.* It was a city of palm trees near the Jordan, that was made famous by its defeat by the Israelites under Joshua (Nu. 22:1; Dt. 34:3; II Chr. 28:15; Joshua 6). It was later rebuilt by Hiel with his firstborn and youngest sons (I Kgs. 16:34), just as Joshua had prophesied (6:26), and in doing so was covenantally cursed.

Unlike the other two gospels, Matthew mentions two blind men. It is likely that Mark and Luke simply focused on the one who took the lead, one “Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus” (Mk. 10:46). Interestingly, the knowledge that it was Jesus of Nazareth (Mt. 2:23; Lk. 2:39-51; 4:16-30; Jn. 1:46), led them to refer to Jesus as “the Son of David” seeking his mercy for their healing (Mk. 10:47; Lk. 18:37-38).** Jesus was called a Nazarene (Mt. 2:23), and his followers as Nazarenes (Acts 24:5). The important thing to note is that people connected Nazareth to Bethlehem and the prediction that the Messiah would come as David’s son from there (Jn. 7:42).

Ironically,  this same passage in John records how the apostate religious leadership nevertheless rejected the authority of Jesus saying to Jesus, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee” (v. 52). Evidently they forgot the words recorded at Isaiah 9 of the Great Light arising in Galilee, of a Son who would be called, among other things, ‘Mighty God’, who would sit “upon the throne of David and over his kingdom” (vv. 6-7)!  In any case, Jesus did have compassion on these men, and out of mercy granted their request to receive their sight (vv. 32-33). And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him” (v. 34).

*“Luke implies Jesus was entering Jericho, whereas Matthew and Mark say the incident occurred as they “went out” of Jericho (Matt. 20:30; Mark 10:46). There seem to have been two “Jerichos” about a mile apart: the ruins of the Old Testament city conquered by Joshua (Josh. 6), and a city built by Herod the Great. The encounter may have happened as Jesus was leaving the old city and entering the new.” (1641)

**”Son of David. A popular messianic title Mk. 10:47; 11:10; 12:35) drawn from the Old Testament (Is. 11:1-3; Jer. 23:5, 6; Ezek. 34:23, 24).” (NGSB 1584)

Matthew 20:28b A Ransom For Many.

Jesus just finished teaching on servant leadership, brought on by a request from the mother of James and John that they be by his side as first among equals. However, greatness in leadership is not to lord it over others but to serve. To this end the Son came, and the one word that summarizes his great person and work of redemption is ‘ransom’. This is a truly loaded term, understood by any with a knowledge of the scriptures and even beyond them. In his life of coming to serve (Cf. Lk. 22:27), it should be noted firstly that he gave himself to this, it was not forced upon him, nor was his life taken against his will. “He gave His life.” Secondly, he could have given many things, but the one thing needful for sinners was life in place of death, the due penalty for sin.

Isaiah wrote about this coming Servant in his famous gospel passage of 53:10-11.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;

He has put Him to grief.

When You make His soul an offering for sin,

He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,

And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.

By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,

For He shall bear their iniquities.

Thirdly, these words show that only a fellow man could be an acceptable ransom, but also only God could himself bear iniquities.

A fourth point here should also not escape notice, and that is that he would be a ransom for ‘many’, not ‘all’. This expresses the same thought noted earlier, that “many are called, but few are chosen (v. 16). Fifthly, it is in offering himself as a ransom for many that he justifies the many (Cf. Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 5:15-18). This leaves us finally with the word ransom itself. “This term refers to the price paid to deliver someone from slavery or imprisonment. The price of freedom from sin and condemnation is Jesus’ life, given for us (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Since the elect are ransomed from the wrath of God, the ransom was offered to God Himself. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath (v. 23), not for His own sins; but as the means of ransoming many.” (NGSB 1539)*

*“Ransom. A price paid to free the guilty from a sentence (Ex. 21:30), or debtors from their debt (Ex. 30:12; cf. Is. 53:10).” (NGSB 1584)

Matthew 20:20-28a Servant Leadership.

Matthew 20:20-28a Servant Leadership.

Apparently James and John, the sons of Zebedee (4:21; 10:2), didn’t think it was appropriate to ask for the positions at Jesus’ side themselves, so it is their mother who asks (Cf. Mk. 10:35-45). Kneeling down before Jesus conveyed humility and respect, but the question was contrary to the posture (v. 20). Essentially, by asking that they be first at his side in his kingdom, they were asking that they might have the most prominent places of rule (v. 21). This reign is that which he would possess upon his ascension as the Son of Man, and “sits on the throne of His glory (19:28). Jesus would enter upon this reign by first suffering and being crucified – the cup and the baptism referred to here (v. 22 Cf. Lk. 22:42; 12:50). James and John said that they were willing, and Jesus indicated that they would suffer a similar end, but as to the position occupied by others in his messianic kingdom he stated that this “is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (v. 23 Cf. Acts 12:2).

This whole discussion displeased the other twelve (v. 24 Cf. Mk. 10:41), but it also revealed what was essentially a pagan view of leadership, namely “the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them” (v. 25). Instead, greatness in Jesus kingdom would be marked by the attitude and ministry of a servant (v. 26). Anyone seeking to be first among equals, needed to serve as a slave (v. 27), “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (v. 28a). It is the humble who will be exalted (23:11-12). This is the second time this issue arose, so that the first time obviously was not enough to put it to rest (18:1-5). On that other occasion they were told that they needed the humility of a child, those who know their utter need and trust implicitly in others. Peter reiterates this principle of leadership in the church when he instructs the overseers or bishops to not be “as lords” over those entrusted to them, but to serve as under shepherds (I Pet.5:3).

Matthew 20:17-19 Jesus Predicts His Death And Resurrection A Third Time.

Matthew 20:17-19 Jesus Predicts His Death And Resurrection A Third Time.

This is the third time that Jesus predicted his coming death and resurrection (Cf. 16:21-23; 17:22-23; Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34; Lk. 9:22, (44); 18:31; 24:46). Perhaps, being repeated on three separate occasions, as we see later with Paul, Jesus wanted to testify to the surety of what was to take place (Cf. II Cor. 13:1). On the first occasion Jesus spoke of going to Jerusalem (16:21), and on the second occasion “while they were staying in Galilee” (17:22). Now he and the twelve are “going up to Jerusalem” (v. 17). In the second prediction and here, he refers to himself as ‘the Son of Man’ who “will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death” (v. 18). This no doubt looks back to Daniel (7:13-14). His accusers were identified from the beginning, Matthew including the elders at 16:21.

It is the apostate Judaic leadership that carry the prosecution. It is they, through the pagan civil authorities, who will condemn him to death, after delivering “Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify” (v. 19a). The innocent One who came not “to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jn. 3:17), would be condemned for the salvation of many (Cf. Rom. 8:34). It is precisely through Jesus death and resurrection that there can be no charge laid against the elect, no condemnation for those who put their faith in him, he who now also intercedes for us. The resurrection, rising again on the third day, is the imprimatur for the gospel’s proclamation. With the resurrection, the Father declares the absolute acceptance of the once for all sacrifice of the Son (Heb. 9:12; 10:10 Cf. Zech. 3:9).

Matthew 20:1-16 The Owner, Steward, Workers, And Vineyard.

Matthew 20:1-16 The Owner, Steward, Workers, And Vineyard.

The metaphor of a vineyard here is doubtless meant to call to remembrance passages like Isaiah 5 that refer to God’s OT covenant people Israel as his vineyard (Cf. The labourers here would be the many prophets and other ministers of the word whom the LORD God sent to them to labour that the LORD might have fruit among them to his glory. There were some who preached the word from the very beginning of their covenant life up to the coming of Jesus the Messiah. There were some of the religious leaders who balked at the idea that Jesus and his rag tag of apostles would actually be numbered with these ministers, as they no doubt thought that they were (vv. 1-14). However, as Jesus stated, it was completely lawful for him to reward his servants as he saw fit (v. 15a). The reality was, some of them were in fact evil, and opposed Jesus because he was good. Ultimately it comes down to one thing and one thing only – the predestinating election of God. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (v. 16 Cf. 19:30; 22:14) The LORD had called many through his servants across the centuries, but ultimately only the chosen can respond in faith.

Matthew 19:23-30 With God All Things Are Possible.

Matthew 19:23-30 With God All Things Are Possible.

It has been suggested by some that the eye of a needle was a gateway coming into a city where a camel had to bow down to get through. However, there appears to be no actual proof of this. It can be taken at face value that Jesus is using hyperbole to make his point that it is impossible for a rich man, by himself to enter the kingdom of God (vv. 23-24). The response from the disciples is peculiar. It could be that they considered wealth to be a sign of God’s acceptance and approval. Or they may have thought that somehow the rich could buy their way into the kingdom. In either case, the point is it is not possible for any person to earn or buy their way in, “but with God all things are possible” (vv. 25-26 Cf. Jer. 32:17).

In the previous passage, the young man walked away sorrowful because Jesus in effect asked him to repent of his covetousness and the trust he had put in his riches (v. 22). The 10th commandment is the downfall of all. Peter replies that they had left all to follow him. Therefore what would they have (v. 27 Cf. Dt. 33:9)? It should not be lost that this commitment on the part of the disciples was because of the God who made this possible, and though they had left all to follow Jesus, they would be blessed with rule and riches (v. 29 Cf. Mk. 10:29-30). The “regeneration” appears to be when Jesus would ascend, since it would be “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory” (v. 28 Cf. Lk. 22:28-30).

The ultimate prize for those destined to reign in the kingdom with Jesus is the promise of eternal life. This is achieved not by one’s keeping of the commandments, which is impossible apart from God (vv. 16-22). Riches also are no sign or guarantee of the possession of this life, nor can it be bought. It is made possible by being a free gift of God. Those who think they should be first will be last (v. 30 Cf. Lk. 13:30). “Positions of honor or prestige in this life by no means assure heavenly approval; indeed, often the reverse will be true. Similarly, as the following parable illustrates (20:1-16), length of earthly labor may not correspond to one’s heavenly reward” (NGSB 1538).

Matthew 19:16-22 God Is Good, And We Are Sinners.

Matthew 19:16-22 God Is Good, And We Are Sinners.

From a man he perceived to be simply a good teacher, one asked what good he must do to live forever (v. 16 Cf. Mk. 10:17-30). Jesus’ initial response was to get at the most important issue raised, and that was his understanding of who Jesus was. The address to Jesus as being good, led Jesus to point out that he was in effect confessing his deity, although this was not something that appears to be in this man’s thinking at this point (v. 17a Cf. Mk. 10:18). Jesus then addressed his question directly, and like the record in Mark, this question of how one might live forever focused on those laws that Jesus himself encapsulated in the second great commandment, namely to love one’s neighbour as one’s self (vv. 17b-19), with the exception that Mark adds ‘Do not defraud” (Mk 10:19).*

One might suppose that there is no treatment here of what has come to be called the first table of the law, namely the first four having to do with one’s relationship to God. However, the man’s address, and Jesus’ response show that he failed on all counts in his understanding and keeping of the first four, by his misunderstanding of Jesus as being merely a good teacher. If he had understood the most basic attribute of God as his goodness, he then would have thought differently of his basic understanding of who God is, and with this, who Jesus really was. Nahum made clear that the covenant LORD alone is good (1:7), as the rest of the Hebrew scriptures bear witness (Cf. Pss. 25:8; 100:5; Jer. 33:11; Lam. 3:25).

The thought of the covenant LORD’s goodness is the one attribute which begins the antiphonal liturgy of Psalm 136, where the repeated testimony of the congregation is “His mercy endures forever.” (Cf. II Chr. 5:13; Ez. 3:11).** It is in fact mercy which this man needed. Besides his poor theology, he also did not understand the law or his own sinful condition. The very fact that he asks Jesus which laws he must keep to live forever, showed that he did not understand the scope of the law’s demand. As James put it, “whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10 Cf. Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:10-12). Well, this man stumbled at the first four, and as we will see, like Paul, on the 10th as well (Rom. 7:7).

“Christ instances in the commandments of the second table, as being more known, and better understood by this young man; “thou knowest the commandments”; that is, the following ones he mentions: and besides the argument runs strong from the lesser to the greater, which is implied, that if the commands of the second table, which respect the neighbour, are necessary to be observed, then much more those which concern God himself; and if men fail short in keeping the lesser commands, it can hardly be thought they should be perfect in the observance of greater ones; and so consequently, and which is our Lord’s drift, eternal life is never to be obtained by the works of the law.” (Gill’s Commentary)

Therefore, besides falling short on the first four commandments, the man also appears to have fallen short on the tenth, with its omission being symbolical of this great omission in the man’s life. It is this internal aspect of the law that colours all the others. It is often thought that Jesus brought forward something new in this respect, but he was really simply expounding on this role and effect of the 10th. This commandment is the judgment upon all men which encapsulates the breaking of all the others, for it goes to the core of man’s total depravity (Cf. Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21; Rom. 3:20). This is the perfection that all lack (vv. 20-21). Ultimately it is our pride in thinking we can earn eternal life  that must be repented of (v. 22).

*“Mark 10:19. The commandments of the second table enumerated are expressed by subjunctives with μὴ, instead of future indicatives with οὐ. While Mt. has the supernumerary, “love thy neighbour,” Mk. has μὴ ἀποστερήαῃς, which probably has in view the humane law in Deuteronomy 24:14-15, against oppressing or withholding wages from a hired servant; a more specific form of the precept: love thy neighbour as thyself, and a most apposite reminder of duty as addressed to a wealthy man, doubtless an extensive employer of labour. It should be rung in the ears of all would-be Christians, in similar social position, in our time: defraud not, underpay not.” (Expositor’s Greek Testament)

 “Defraud not] The word thus rendered occurs in 1 Corinthians 6:7-81 Corinthians 7:51 Timothy 6:5James 5:4. It means deprive none of what is theirs, and has been thought to sum up the four Commandments which precede.” (Cambridge Bible)

**“This psalm is an antiphonal liturgy with the memorable refrain, “His mercy endures forever.” A priest or soloist would chant the first part of a verse, and the congregation would respond with the refrain. Performance of the liturgy must have been powerful and moving, as the priest added example to example of God’s praise.” (NGSB 906)