Blog Post 31 - Matthew 21-22
Matthew 21 begins with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem during which He humbly entered, a king riding on a donkey, fulfilling the prophesy of Zechariah. He enters the temple shortly after and, upon seeing it filled with moneychangers, merchants, and livestock vendors, began driving these people out citing the words of Isaiah “’My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Jesus then began healing the blind and lame and they cried out His praises. Leaving the city, He took up lodging in the city of Bethany. What follows are the well-known accounts of Jesus cursing a fig tree, the chief priests challenge His authority, the parable of the two sons, and the parable of the tenants.
Chapter 22 begins with the parable of the wedding feast in which a king holds a celebration for the wedding of his son. Unfortunately, none of those invited wanted to go despite the incredible extravagance of the meal. The king eventually calls in anyone and everyone his servants can find, the good and the bad, providing them with garments for the feast and taking them in. Only those with the garments are allowed to stay for the feast.
After hearing this parable, the Pharisees try to entangle Jesus in His own words with the test around whom to which the Jews should pay taxes. Jesus deftly avoids their trap, saying “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” More testing follows with the Pharisees and Sadducees both trying to trip Him up. Jesus eventually asks a question of His own, for which the religious elite have no answer.
Malachi is the last prophet before the Intertestamental Gap, and in his book we find at 3:1-3 “… And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” Well, the day had come when Jesus came to His temple. The way in which He came to His temple is not what the religious elite of the age expected which is why, throughout these two chapters especially, you see them desperately trying to trap Jesus in what He says or by relentlessly challenging His authority.
In every way Jesus lives out His own commandments given on the Sermon on the Mount; that is, to live your life for God and to walk the walk. He exemplifies the importance of this yet again in the parable of the two sons. One initially refused to follow the orders of his father, yet eventually thought better of it and did as he asked. The other appeared to be obedient, but his actions didn’t line up with what he said he was going to do. Jesus said these things during his conversation with the elders and chief priests, asking them which son did what the father wanted. They all say the first son was obedient, though initially rebellious.
Jesus then slams the elders, saying “truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 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.” Take a moment to consider the shock to their system this would have been! The elders and chief priests with all their vaunted status and long robes and supposed piety were further from the kingdom of heaven than the lowly tax collector and prostitute. Indeed, it is never the action or words alone that make one right with God but the submission of heart and following in obedience and love.
Application and question:
The past year and a half have been some of the most trying and difficult months that most of us have ever faced. Upon reflection, how have you noticed your interactions with God and His Word change or evolve? Has this been a time during which you have dug down deep, or has your prayer life and Bible reading been stifled? Has God become more of a priority over this pandemic or less?
My friends, there is nothing more important than knowing Jesus. Nothing more important now or later. We need to be honest with ourselves, especially when we read Matthew – where would you stand if you were there when Jesus entered Jerusalem? Would you be praising Him as your Lord, or standing far off with a feeling of self-sufficiency? Jesus addressed the people of His time with stark words and there’s no reason to believe He would soften those words if He appeared in this age instead of that. We need to be clear-eyed about our walk with Christ and ensure that He truly is calling the shots in our lives!
Thank you Lord for making your kingdom accessible to all people. Thank you for your atoning sacrifice that made the way to salvation for anyone who would call upon your name. We ask you today that, in the power of your Holy Spirit, to convict us who are holding ourselves back from living totally for you. Please crush our pride and self-sufficiency, please refine and purify us, so that we might always be useful to you and a joy to others! Amen.
Song: Set A Fire - Jesus Culture
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.