We just finished an intriguing Chapter 21 in Matthew’s Gospel. It was an eventful and contentious time in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. At the opening we find Jesus riding toward the capital city Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah.  Jubilant crowds were waving palm and willow branches and some had placed their cloaks and shawls on the ground for Him to walk over. There was an air of celebration as both adults and children hailed Him, calling out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!”

For a moment it looked like all Jerusalem and then Israel would proclaim Him the new King of the Jews, and rally behind Him as their Messiah. But then things took a sudden turn that left people scrambling and confused. Jesus went straight to the Temple where He began to turn over the tables of the money changers, accusing them of taking God’s House of Prayer and turning it into a den of thieves. Even though what Jesus said was true, it incensed the priests and keepers of the Temple who saw their enterprise was in danger of being dismantled and their power of the people eradicated.

But not all saw this move as disruptive and overdone. Before the dust settled, the sick, the blind, and the lame began streaming to the Temple courts where Jesus began to heal them. The children began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” But not everyone was enthused about this maverick prophet from Nazareth tearing up the fabric of the Jewish religious elite. The chief priests and the teachers of the law began to complain. Some of them went to Jesus and confronted Him, asking Him if he knew what these children meant by their cheering Him as the Son of David. In His calm yet direct manner, Jesus reminded them of another prophecy in the Psalms that told how God would ordain praise from the mouths of children for the Messiah. Then our Lord turned abruptly, walked out of the city over to the village of Bethany where He spent the night.

The next morning, Jesus wanted to illustrate to His disciples what had just happened the day before when He came to Jerusalem in accordance with the Word of God that spoke of the Messiah’s appearance riding on a donkey, yet the chief priests and teachers of the law rejected Him. He came looking for those who would believe in Him but found only doubters and skeptics. So He spotted a fig tree along the road out of Bethany. It was early morning and He had not eaten breakfast. So He went to the fig tree, hoping to find some fresh fruit to satisfy His hunger. Although the tree was full of leaves, there was no fruit on its branches. So Jesus looked at the tree and said, “You will never bear fruit again!” Immediately, the tree started withering and its leaves began falling to the ground.

Apparently, the disciples were more amazed at  how quickly the tree withered than they were about the message Jesus was demonstrating for them. So when they asked Jesus for an explanation, He simply told them to have faith and not allow doubt to cloud their minds. Little did they know that it would not be long before they would see their Messiah wilt on a cross, just like this tree, but within three days He would rise to life again.

As soon as Jesus returned to Jerusalem that morning, the chief priests and elders were waiting for Him. They challenged Him to explain by what authority He had overturned the tables and accused them of making God’s House a den of thieves. But Jesus was also ready for them. His response was clear: “You tell me if John the Baptizer was sent by God or by man, and I’ll tell you if I was sent by God or by man.” His question stunned and baffled them. If they said that John was sent by God, He will then asked them why they didn’t believe in him. And if they said he was endorsed by men, then the crowd who saw John as an anointed prophet would rally against them. So they told Jesus, “We have no answer for you.” Then Jesus responded in kind, “Then I have no reason to answer your question.”

But Jesus wasn’t through. Just as He used the fig tree to teach His disciples a lesson on faith, He now asked the chief priests and elders what they thought of a story He was about to tell them concerning a man with two sons. He asked one son to go out and work the vineyard but the son said no, then changed his mind and went. When he asked the other son to go, the son said yes, then decided not to go. So which one do you think obeyed his father, asked Jesus? “The first son!” they responded. Jesus then looked at them with piercing eyes and said: “John the Baptizer came to show you the path God wanted you to follow but you rejected him. However, the prostitutes and tax collectors did believe and left the road of sinful living to walk in the light of God’s word. But even after you saw them turning from sin, you still refused to believe.

Before they could recover from this condemnation, Jesus told them another story about a man who leased his vineyard to tenant farmers who agreed to pay rent by sharing a portion of the fruit from their harvest. But when the owner sent emissaries to collect the rent, they beat, killed, and stoned them. Finally, he sent his son and they dragged him out of the vineyard and killed him. So what do you think this owner will do when he returns? They all quickly said that he will get rid of such wretched people and lease out his vineyard to more deserving people.

Then Jesus looked straight at them again and said that this is exactly what God was going to do to them. He told them that they were indicted by the Scripture that spoke of builders who rejected a stone that God had ordained to be the cornerstone to His kingdom here on earth. But instead of immediately repenting and asking forgiveness, the chief priests, elders, and Pharisees began to plot on ways to get rid of this prophet from Nazareth, just like those in the parable. But they were afraid the adoring crowds might attack them.

But Jesus was not yet finished. He had another story to tell them. That will be the opening in Chapter 22 of Matthew’s Gospel. I pray that you have been blessed by what you discovered in God’s Word through this study. I have no doubt that God will bless you for your dedication and love for His Son and His Word. I am so proud and happy for all of you who have taken the time to study this wonderful story of His Son.

We will begin Chapter 22 on Monday. See you then! – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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