Matthew 21:33-46 The Parable Of The Wicked Vinedressers.

Matthew 21:33-46 The Parable Of The Wicked Vinedressers.

In yet another parable Jesus seeks to drive home the point that there is a lawsuit being brought upon the apostates of the old covenant administration. With the new covenant comes the renewal of the one covenant of grace through the son whom the Father has given. Israel was the vineyard, and the vinedressers were the apostate leadership in church and state. The LORD of the covenant had all along been establishing a relationship where the people would be His and He theirs. To this end there should have been some fruit borne out of this relationship, but there was not (vv. 33-36). The Father even sent his own Son at the time of the last days of the old covenant era, but the apostates were all the more vehement in their opposition.

They thought that killing him would be doing God a favour, and that they could somehow gain a covenantal inheritance of blessing, when all that awaited them was cursing (vv. 37-41). They also in ignorance testify to the justness of the judgment that should fall upon themselves (vv. 40-41). Jesus had to remind them that the stone that they were rejecting was destined to become the chief cornerstone of a new people of God. The kingdom would be taken from them and given to others who would bear fruit (vv. 42-43). The apostate leadership finally seemed to become aware that Jesus was speaking of them, but they did not pursue him at this time because “they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet” (v. 46).

Matthew 21:28-32 Actions Speak Loader Than Words.

Matthew 21:28-32 Actions Speak Loader Than Words.

Jesus taught this parable after he had entered and cleansed the temple, spoke of the apostates as a cursed fig tree, which led to the apostate religious leadership questioning his authority. Now he would teach that one of the things that characterized apostates was their having fine sounding words declaring obedience to the LORD of the covenant, but having actions that went contrary. At the same time, Jesus also highlighted those who initially said that they would not obey, but who had come to recognize the need for repentance. Just as they could not answer by what authority John and Jesus preached and acted, they consequently did not see their need to repent of their apostasy.

Matthew 21:23-27 A Question Of Authority.

Matthew 21:23-27 A Question Of Authority.

This passage is often focused on the questioning of Jesus’ authority by the chief priests and scribes. However, it is ultimately a question for them, a question which they could not answer. There are only two supposed sources for authority – either God or humans. The very question is a presumptuous one on their part, for one must have some authoritative source to ask the question of another. In their minds they had the authority, from God no less, by virtue of their office either as chief priests or their work as scribes. There were two questions posed to Jesus. The first was one of asking where he stood in relationship to them, namely did he speak and act because of the office he held such as a chief priest, or as one entrusted with the word such as the scribes.

The second question is intimately related to the first, namely who is it that gave him his office or entrusted to him the ministry of the word. These very same issues are what Jesus confronted them with. Either they believed that Jesus, like John, spoke simply by the authority of men, or they spoke by the authority given by God, and had their offices as prophets, and Jesus as also priest and king, from God. They were faced with the same dilemma with Jesus as with John. They wanted to say with regard to both, that they spoke and acted only through their own human authority, but in both cases they feared the crowd. They contemplated saying the authority came from God, but they realized that they would then have to answer why they did not obey.

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).