Matthew 21:23 – 22:14

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 19, 2007


Jesus is in His last week before the crucifixion.  He’s made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and He’s cleansed the Temple from the money changers and animal sellers.  He’s been spending His nights staying on the Mount of Olives, then walking into Jerusalem and teaching in the Temple during the daytime.

Matthew 21

:23-27 Jesus’ Authority Questioned

:23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?"

This is the second day in Jerusalem, the second day in the Temple. The chief priests weren’t too happy with Jesus chasing their business partners out of the Temple the day before. They want to know by what authority Jesus did this.

:24 But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:

:25 "The baptism of John; where was it from? From heaven or from men?" And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'

:26 "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."

:27 So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know." And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

I don’t know if Jesus said these things just for the sake of trapping the chief priests, but it did trap them.

The truth was, John’s baptism was from heaven – John was a man sent by God.

The religious leaders were unwilling to acknowledge that God worked beyond their little world.

Because they were unwilling to acknowledge God’s work in John, they were going to miss God’s even bigger work in Jesus.

Be careful you don’t miss out on what God wants to do in your life.


What if God works outside your box?

Sometimes our ideas of how God works is pretty limited.
As folks who enjoy a “Calvary Chapel” style of ministry, we can start to think that God only works inside a Calvary Chapel, or even more narrow, that God only works in our little church.
When God starts working in a church that isn’t a Calvary Chapel, some of us struggle and can fall into the trap of saying that this isn’t God working.
The typical joke about this goes something like this …

A man dies and goes to heaven. As he’s getting escorted around on his introductory tour, the angel takes the man near a tall wall where he is told to be very quite. “Why do I need to be quiet?” the man asks. “Because the Calvary Chapel people are on the other side of the wall and they think they’re the only ones here,” the angel replies.

We need to be careful that we don’t just explain away a work of God when it’s happening in another church or with a group we don’t totally agree with.
There are limits to this principle.
I was talking today with a computer tech about his “Bahai” faith. I asked him to explain to me what he believes. Basically the Bahai teach that every religion is right, they all lead to God, there is truth in every person’s belief. I asked him about what he does with some pretty obviously goofy groups like the cult from Waco Texas or Jim Jones’ type of stuff. He said that they had a group that “voted” on whether something was good or not.
The Scriptures tell us that God is going to allow deceptive things to happen to test whether or not we will stick to the truth:

(Deu 13:1-3 NKJV) "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, {2} "and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'; which you have not known; 'and let us serve them,' {3} "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

It’s possible that some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day might have quoted this verse to us, but the truth is Jesus was not leading the people to worship another “god”, He was leading them to the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

:28-32 Parable of Obeying Sons

:28 "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'

:29 "He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.

:30 "Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.

:31 "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to Him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.

:32 "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

The religious leaders were like the second son, the one who said he’d do what his father asked, but didn’t.

The tax collectors and sinners were like the first son who said he wouldn’t do his father’s will, but turned around and did it.


Better late than never

God wants you to follow Him. If you’re still alive and still breathing, it’s not too late to do what God wants you to do.
The Obedient Wife
There was a man who had worked all of his life, had saved all of his money, and was a real miser when it came to his money. Just before he died, he said to his wife, “When I die, I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me. I want to take my money to the afterlife with me.” And so he got his wife to promise him with all of her heart that when he died, she would put all of the money in the casket with him. Well, he died. He was stretched out in the casket, his wife was sitting there in black, and her friend was sitting next to her. When they finished the ceremony, just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, the wife said, “Wait just a minute!” She had a box with her, she came over with the box and put it in the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket down, and they rolled it away. So her friend said, “Girl, I know you weren’t fool enough to put all that money in there with your husband.” The loyal wife replied, “Listen, I’m a Christian, I can’t go back on my word. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him.” You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with him!!!!?” “I sure did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my account and wrote him a check. If he can cash it, he can spend it.”

For that silly husband, it was too late.

Sometimes we can fall away from the Lord and let the devil whisper in our ears, “This time you’ve just gone too far, God will never take you back”.
But the only time it’s too late for you to turn around is when you’re dead.
The tax collectors and harlots in Jesus’ day had been wise enough to turn from their sins and follow Jesus.
The religious people should have paid attention to what was going on and turned from their sin and followed Jesus as well.

:33-46 Parable of Wicked Vineyard Workers

:33 "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.

Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch – but I find it interesting that Jesus was buried in a garden in the tomb of Joseph, a wealthy man. The area in Jerusalem known as “the Garden Tomb” is thought to be Joseph’s garden, it is located just north of the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day.

Joseph’s garden was a vineyard. They know this because they found the winepress.

Joseph was from Arimathea. I did not find any sources that claim to know exactly where Arimathea was, some suggest a location 20 miles away.  But the main point is that he was not from Jerusalem.  He lived in a place away from his vineyard.

I just find it interesting to note the parallels with someone that was apparently acquainted with Jesus.  Wouldn’t it be interesting for the people listening to Jesus thinking about some very real people in very real situations that just happened to fit His story?

Jesus is teaching with a parable – there will be some symbolic meanings within the story.

:34 "Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.

Remember what happened (in last week’s study) earlier in this same day at breakfast time? Jesus was looking for fruit – for figs.  Now He tells a story about a landowner who is looking for some fruit from his vineyard.

:35 "And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.

The land owner is like God. The vineyard is like Israel. The vinedressers are like the religious leaders Jesus has been talking with.

:36 "Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.

The servants are like the prophets throughout the history of Israel – sent by God to help the nation bear fruit.

:37 "Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'

Who is the “son”? It’s Jesus.

:38 "But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'

:39 "So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Jesus is talking about His death.

:40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"

:41 They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."

Jesus asks His listeners about what they think should happen.  They reply with what seems to be the reasonable, logical thing for the owner to do.

Jesus is hinting at both the coming destruction of Jerusalem, as well as the handing over of the care of God’s kingdom – the gospel being entrusted to the Gentile church instead of the Jews.

:42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'?

Do you remember where we saw this verse? Last week we looked at Psalm 118 – the same passage that related to the Triumphal Entry.  Jesus now pulls the concluding lesson from the very same passage that described the events that took place earlier in the week.

:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

:44 "And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Jesus is the “cornerstone”.

If you fall on Him and follow Him, you will be broken.

(Mat 16:25 NKJV) "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

If you wait for Jesus to fall on you, you will be destroyed in judgment.

I think there’s a hint here also of the vision of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2, where Nebuchadnezzar is shown the kingdoms of the world.  In the vision, there is a stone that would come and destroy the kingdoms of the world.
(Dan 2:44-45 NKJV) "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. {45} "Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure."

A heavy warning to these religious leaders.

:45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

:46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

It’s sad to think of how shortsighted these religious men were.

Here they are being concerned about what the people around them are going to think, when Jesus has made it pretty clear that they ought to be more concerned about the God whose vineyard they’ve been watching over.

Jesus will rebuke the Pharisees at one point:

(Mat 23:24 NKJV)  "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
There was an old Levitical law about not eating meat with the blood in it – and the Pharisees took it to the extreme of not swallowing a gnat that flies into your mouth accidentally – they would gag themselves to keep from swallowing “gnat meat” with it’s blood.  And yet they would turn around and be willing to swallow some huge bozo mistake.
They would do anything not to offend the crowds or their fellow Pharisees, yet they were ignorant of a much greater offense – they had offended God.

We do the same thing when we become more concerned about what people think than being concerned about what God thinks.

Matthew 22

:1-14 Parable of the Wedding Feast

:1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

Jesus is still teaching in the Temple.

:2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,

:3 "and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.

call those who were invited – It was customary on special occasions like this for there to have been a double invitation.  The initial invitation would have gone out long before, letting people know that they were going to be invited to the wedding feast of the king’s son.  But when the actual event drew near, the servants would go out and remind the people of the invitation.

These individuals had been initially invited, just as the Jewish people had been invited by the prophets of Israel.

And now that the time for the actual wedding has come, new servants are sent out, like the apostles, and the nation was not willing to respond.

:4 "Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."'

This is what we do when we share the gospel – we are inviting people to the wedding feast of God’s Son.

All things are ready – God has done everything for the feast – He’s finished the sacrifice – the Son has paid for our sins.

:5 "But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.

:6 "And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

This is what the world does to those who serve the Lord.

:7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Jesus is talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem – fulfilled in 70 AD.

:8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.

:9 'Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'

:10 "So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

bad and good – that’s what you find in the church, bad and good.

:11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

:12 "So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.

Here’s an interesting suggestion:

Many of the people at this banquet were invited at the last minute.  And yet the king is still surprised to have someone show up without the proper attire?

The suggestion is that the king was surprised because he had not only invited the guests, but provided from his own wardrobe the appropriate clothing.

The people “both bad and good” came straight from the streets to the wedding banquet – how would they have come properly dressed unless the king had also provided the clothes for the occasion?

Just because you’ve been invited to the wedding feast doesn’t mean that all will enjoy the dinner.

Some people think that since Jesus died for everyone, that everyone is going to be saved.

Wrong.  You have to come dressed appropriately.

Is this talking about us living a good life?

The Scriptures often talks about our “deeds” or our “righteousness” as being a type of clothing. But …

(Isa 64:6 NKJV)  But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags
Our own “good” deeds are nothing more than rags and filth.

God is the one who gives us the right clothes to wear to the wedding.

(Isa 61:10 NKJV)  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

The correct clothing, the righteousness God requires comes from our trusting in Jesus.

(Rom 3:21-22 NLT)  But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight--not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. {22} We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.
(2 Cor 5:17-21 NKJV)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. {18} Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, {19} that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. {20} Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. {21} For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We have this “word of reconciliation”, we’re the servants sent out to invite people to the wedding feast of the Son.

:13 "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Hell is a very real place.

It is not where people will party all night long.  It is a place of sorrow and pain – weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is what we are saved “from”.

If we think we’re going to enter heaven in our own “rags”, we’re fooling ourselves.
We need new clothes.  We need Jesus.

:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen."

The invitation to follow Jesus goes out to everyone, but not everyone is going to accept the invitation.

Here’s a similar parable …


The Beggar's Rags

A beggar lived near the king’s palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party. The beggar went on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed. Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought. Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him tremble. Would he dare? He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. “Please, sire, I would like to speak to the king.” “Wait here,” the guard replied. In a few minutes, he was back. “His majesty will see you,” he said, and led the beggar in. “You wish to see me?” asked the king. “Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?” The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint smile that was on the king’s face. “You have been wise in coming to me,” the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. “Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes.” The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hope for. “You are now eligible to attend the king’s banquet tomorrow night,” said the prince. “But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever.” The beggar dropped to his knees. “Oh, thank you,” he cried. But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again? Quickly he gathered them up. The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies. Time proved that the prince was right. The clothes lasted forever. Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags. As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They saw only the little bundle of filthy rags that he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags. One day as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king’s face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince’s words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty. He wept bitterly at his folly. And the king wept with him.

… by Wayne Rice. Copyright 1995 by Youth Specialties, Inc.

Even as Christians, we have a great legacy, a wonderful wardrobe that consists of what Jesus has done for us.

We need to live that “new life”, we need to not get trapped in the “old life”.  We need to count on what Jesus has done for us and not what we try to do for Him.
Perhaps we don’t often live at the level of what God has for us.