Today in Matthew 21:23-45, we see the religious leaders question Jesus and his authority, Jesus shares some parables with them to reveal their motives and we end with hearing the greatest commandment the Lord has given us!
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
The Parable of the Tenants
33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’[a]?
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[b]
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
First we see the Pharisees testing Jesus. Look back at v. 23-27. Do you see how they are trying to “frame” him?
Jesus knew what they were trying to do, they were trying to frame him, but he knew exactly what he needed to say in order to get their true motives to be shown, we see that when it says, “we don’t know”. In reading through the application on this, we learn that, Jesus couldn’t say his authority was from God or he would be accused of blasphemy, but he also couldn’t say that he was acting on his own, because then the crowds wouldn’t believe his power was greater than anything they already knew, it says, “Jesus showed that the Pharisees wanted the truth ONLY if it supported their own views.” I think this is still true today, with so many views and opinions, the waters can get cloudy, but we need to focus on Jesus, the only one who’s view matters. Where do you personally see these cloudy waters in your life, or even society, where Jesus needs to be the focus again?
Which perfectly leads us into this first parable, verses 28-32. What stood out to you as your read this section? For me it was verse 30, when the son says he’ll go but he actually doesn’t go, caught my attention. I love what Jesus is doing here with this. We can’t say we live for the Lord, but then not take action to show we do. I loved what the Bible application had to say on this, “The son who said he would obey and then didn’t, represented many of the people of Israel in Jesus’ day, particularly the religious leaders. They said they wanted to do God’s will, but they constantly disobeyed. They were phony, just going through the motions. It is dangerous to pretend to obey God when our hearts are far from him because God knows our true intentions. Our actions must match our words.” Do you agree with this application? Have you ever felt or acted like that second son? Have you ever had a friendship with someone like the second son?
Jesus doesn’t stop on these religious leaders… He goes on to tell them verses 33-46. When reading this, it’s easy to kind of skip over it, but there’s a lot Jesus is telling us in this. We can learn from our application that the landowner was God, the vineyard was Israel, the tenants were the religious leaders, the landowner’s servants were the prophets and priests who stayed faithful to God, the son was Jesus and the other tenants were the Gentiles. Knowing this now, let’s re-read the scripture. What stands out to you the most? Verse 43 got me. That the kingdom of God is not going to be for the tenants (religious leaders), but rather to the servants and the new tenants (Gentiles), the ones that are going to bear His fruit, because they are living for Him. This whole parable was given though so Jesus could reveal the leaders plan for murdering Him. Did you catch that as you read it?
We are going to jump over to one more story in scripture today, where we learn the greatest commandment that Jesus teaches us, it’s worth the extra few minutes, His words are SO good here in Matthew 22:34-40:
The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
First, a little background, right before this, Jesus is teaching about what scripture says about the resurrection, which silenced the Sadducees and this should have pleased the Pharisees, but our application said that they were the Pharisees were just too prideful to be impressed by what Jesus was preaching and that they cared more about “defeating Jesus than in learning the truth.”
But, what’s more important is what Jesus is teaching them and all of us here… What is the one word is jumping out at you?
LOVE, right? Love God first, then love others and when we get those two things right, all the rest just naturally fall into place because we are loving and living for God, we start loving his people.
Jesus loved all people, we see that example after example of who God and Jesus chose in the Bible. What an important day leading up to his death. He knew it was almost His time, but He made sure to include this teaching in the Bible before he did. This holds power and significance, but most of all truth and a teaching of how we should be living.
Let’s end in prayer and worship today.
Heavenly Father, thank you for all these lessons that Jesus teaches us today, but most of all that we need to love you Lord, with all our heart, soul and mind, it’s only then that we can love like you love and live a life with love as our intention. Help us to love you Lord so we can in turn love your people. We see Jesus live his life loving others, help us to love like Jesus. Help us to live a life where we reflect your love. Help us to not only speak of you, but to put our beliefs into action. Help us to be a light for you in this world. It’s in your LOVING name we pray, AMEN!