TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 21-23
The King’s judgments (chapter 21:1-22:14); the King’s defense (chapter 22:15-46); the King’s denunciation (chapter 23).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
As we move into today’s reading, chapter 21 begins with three signs to the Nation of Israel (21:1-22). These three signs are then followed by three parables (22:23-22:14). (Do note that between Matthew 13 and Matthew 25 there are 12 parables on the Kingdom of heaven, corresponding to the 12 tribes of Israel. They all deal with Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, and from a doctrinal standpoint have no application to a Christian in the church age.)
The first sign is the COMING of the KING, what we typically refer to as the “Triumphal Entry” (21:1-11). This is the fulfillment of the prophecy we read just a couple of weeks ago in Zechariah 9:9 – “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” In Matthew 21:9, the people quote Psalm 118:26 – “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD.” Note that this passage is an exact fulfillment of the Second Coming, keeping in mind that at this point, all of the Old Testament conditions and promises could have been fulfilled without the “parenthesis” of the church age. The “mystery of the church” was something not revealed until Ephesians 3, and all Old Testament prophecies, as Peter indicated in I Peter 1:10-11, saw no intervening period (i.e. church) between the “sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow!
.” Through this sign, our Lord revealed Israel’s spiritual blindness.
The second sign is the CLEANSING of the TEMPLE (21:12-16). The fact that the Temple had become a place of merchandise will give you an idea of Israel’s inward spiritual condition. Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 in 21:13, calling the Temple “my house,” a claim of His deity. When the chief priests and scribes accuse Him of receiving the accolades intended for the Messiah, Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2 – a Messianic Psalm! You gotta love it! In this sign, our Lord revealed Israel’s inward spiritual corruption.
The third sign is the CURSING of the FIG TREE (21:17-22). The fig tree, of course, is clearly a picture of Israel (see Matt. 24:32-33; Luke 13:6-10). The fig tree had leaves but no fruit. The parallel passage in Luke 13:6-10 reveals that the tree had three years to bear fruit, but didn’t. By this time, Jesus had revealed Himself to Israel for a period of three years, but all they had was an outward show of religion (leaves), but no reality (no fruit). In this sign, our Lord revealed Israel’s outward fruitlessness.
In 21:23-29, Jesus comes into the Temple to teach and while He’s teaching the chief priests and elders come and question His authority. He answers by pointing them to a question of John the Baptist’s authority. They understood that if they said his authority was from heaven, Jesus would ask them why they didn’t get baptized. If they said that his authority was from men, the people would have beat the devil out of them (which is exactly what they needed!). They politely pleaded the “fifth,” and Jesus politely followed their lead.
He then proceeds into three parables that have to do with the Nation of Israel.
Parable #1 – The two sons (21:28-32). The point is, Israel rejected God the Father!
Parable #2 – The vineyard and husbandman (21:33-46). The point is, Israel rejected God the Son! (Do recognize, however, the reality of 21:37 – “They WILL reverence my Son”! Philippians 2:10-11 says, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Parable #3 – The marriage feast (22:1-14). The point is, Israel rejected God the Holy Spirit! (Acts 7:51).
The remainder of chapter 22 (22:15-46) can be broken down by four key questions that are asked:
•A political question about taxes (22:15-22).
•A doctrinal question about the resurrection (22:23-33).
•An ethical question about the law (22:34-40).
•A personal question about the Messiah (22:41-46).
As we then come into chapter 23, Jesus takes the first 12 verses to explain some things to His disciples and the multitude about the scribes and Pharisees (who are sitting right there in the Temple with all of the folks he is addressing), and then in verses 14-33, He speaks directly to the scribes and Pharisees. And, oh buddy, when you read what He says to them, brace for impact! He delivers a series of 8 “woes.” These “woes” are seen best in comparison with the 8 “Beatitudes” Christ laid down in chapter 5 in the Sermon on the Mount.
Woe #1 (23:13) – The proud “shut up” the kingdom. The “poor in spirit” inherit the kingdom (5:3).
Woe #2 (23:14) – “Devourers” receive “damnation.” “Mourners” receive “comfort” (5:4).
Woe #3 (23:15) – The proud send people to “hell.” The meek inherit the “earth” (5:5).
Woe #4 (23:16-22) – Those who hunger and thirst for material gain are found empty. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled (5:6).
Woe #5 (23:23-24) – The proud reject mercy because of insignificant details and are judged (i.e. woe!). The merciful shall obtain mercy (5:7).
Woe #6 (23:25-28) – The outwardly pure but inwardly rotten will be judged. The inwardly pure(i.e. “pure in heart”) “shall see God” (5:8).
Woe # 7 and #8 (23:29-33) – Murderers and persecutors of the righteous are “children of them which killed the prophets” (i.e. the “devil”!). Peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness are called “children of God” (5:9-12).
Chapter 23 closes with Jesus’ heartfelt lamentation over Jerusalem. And ain’t that last verse a dandy?!! “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me hence forth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the LORD” (23:39). In other words, as a nation, they won’t see Him again until the time of Jacob’s trouble (Dan. 21:1; Jer. 30:7), when in one day (Hosea 6:1-3; Isaiah 26:12-21) the nation of Israel will be converted and healed (Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 8:8-12) as they recognize that He is, in fact, the Messiah (Acts 2:36), and will cry out for His return (Psalm 44, 68, 74, 79, 83).