the novelist’s point of view, the Pharisees are a necessary bunch. Jesus is
little given to making cosmic philosophical statements. He much prefers the
arts of dialog and parable. There is no complete theological textbook in the
Bible; the closest we get to that is Romans. So we must examine the Scripture
more carefully. A textbook will teach you the facts; Christ reaches to the
Nature of Authority
Mat 21:23-27 NASB
When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came
to Him while He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing
these things, and who gave You this authority?" (24)
Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one
thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these
things. (25) "The
baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying,
"If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not
believe him?' (26) "But if we say, 'From
men,' we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet." (27) And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not
know." He also said to them, "Neither will I
tell you by what authority I do these things.
is a great shrewdness in how Christ handles this. He has no interest in giving
them the textbook answer (which He will do for His disciples), but rather He
knows that this is a matter of the heart. See His approach:
fornicator thinks no one is chaste.” He knows their hypocrisy – and
therefore knows that they think He is like them. They just can’t figure
out His “angle.” He will use this against them, giving them the
opportunity to pronounce upon His parables. He will then use their own answer
to convict them.
question, therefore is aimed at their hearts. His intention is to convict
them of sin. He is sufficiently confident of the truth of this that He
will allow them to be the judges of the truth he exposes.
might ask, why didn’t He just give them a direct answer? There are two
possible explanations. One is that we do not tell little children the
adult answers to their questions. They are not fit to receive the blunt
truth. Another is this: their eyes are closed tight by the hatred they
have. Christ’s intent is to skewer their pride, not harden it.
is dead, but his influence on that generation did not die with him. The people
considered him a prophet, like those in the Old Testament. By bringing up his
name, Christ contrasts the urbane, well dressed and rich appearance of the
priests with the rough exterior of the prophet. It’s a subtlety He does not
use aloud, but it’s there. Why is John so considered?
was free of the love of money and the ego often associated with “public”
religious work. You respect a preacher a lot more if you know he is not
in it for the money.
life and message were consistent. He looked and acted like a prophet from
the Old Testament.
importantly – John’s credentials were shown in the hearts he convicted of
sin. When the preacher convicts you of sin, it’s a good sign the man is
who he appears to be.
a power is not within man, but comes from God.
source – or many?
Pharisees have a building block missing in their reasoning. They believe that
there are multiple sources of authority – secular as well as sacred. But the
truth is otherwise:
Mat 28:18 NASB
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All
authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
all legitimate authority (as distinguished from power) comes from God, through
Christ. This thought carries with it a radical idea: servant leadership. The
Master who washed His disciples’ feet set the example for us. Authority,
rightly used, is for the blessing of those under that authority. And now you
know the difference between authority and tyranny.
Mat 21:28-32 NASB "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he
came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' (29) "And he answered,
'I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. (30) "The man came to
the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did
not go. (31) "Which
of the two did the will of his father?" They *said, "The
first." Jesus *said to them, "Truly I say to
you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. (32) "For John came to you in the way of righteousness and
you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe
him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.
you ask your opponent to pass judgment upon your argument, it speaks of a high
confidence in the righteousness of your cause. Remember Nathan’s little story
to King David?
The stories are rather obvious, and so is the conclusion. We all know that
delivering on Monday beats attending on Sunday. When introduced to someone, we
often ask, “What do you do?” It is impolite to ask next, “What do you want
people to think you do?”
the Pharisees get the point. My son is a lawyer, and his poor, simple father
often asks what appears (to me, at least) a simple question of law. I read
something in the paper, and I get curious. He gets verbose, making great use
of “if”, “and” and “else”. But this case is too obvious for that. Indeed,
Christ confirms their grasp of the obvious – and then points out the consequent
collectors and prostitutes
a common dichotomy in the church: health club for saints, or hospital for
sinners? I recall an incident when we first joined this congregation. We were
invited to return to a class the next week; in declining I explained that my
wife and I would be visiting a Christian from our previous congregation – in
was utterly shocked. No real Christian would ever go to prison (you might want
to check that with St. Paul), and no real Christian would ever admit to being a
friend with such. (She’s right; he was more than a friend. He also was a
member of my Bible class there, which does not say very much for the
teaching.) So we might examine ourselves on this.
useful to ask: do our attitudes and words welcome the different, the low
class, or do they hinder their coming? We have a young man in our congregation
who has tattoos, body piercings and hair coloring. He’s a friend to some in
our class; we welcome him. But if he came in by himself, knowing no one, would
we welcome him then? The answer, I suspect, is that some would and others
wouldn’t. We might well ask if that’s what we want.
attract certain people. Any church our size certainly welcomes good Christians
who have just moved into the area. But let’s not confuse that with
evangelism. If we are to reach “the prostitutes and tax collectors” we need to
open up, not tighten up.
don’t get it
is a complicating fact that, like the Pharisees in this passage, some people
just don’t “get it.” What is conviction to you may be babble to me. The cause
might be my hypocrisy – or the culture in which I was raised. Be bold – but be
and Future of Israel
Mat 21:33-46 NASB "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner
who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND
BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. (34) "When the
harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his
produce. (35) "The
vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a
third. (36) "Again
he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same
thing to them. (37) "But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They
will respect my son.' (38) "But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among
themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his
inheritance.' (39) "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 vine-growers?" (41)
They *said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and
will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds
at the proper seasons." (42) Jesus *said to them, "Did
you never read in the Scriptures, 'THE STONE
WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE
CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'? (43) "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. (44) "And he who falls
on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will
scatter him like dust." (45) When
the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He
was speaking about them. (46) When they
sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be
parable is capable of being elaborated on at great length, with many different
But here are three points I would have you see.
Land – ancient Israel – belongs not to the people but to God. He allots
the land to the tribes, but the land remains His; thus he can speak of the
land being utterly defiled,
for that land is holy to God. He is the Landlord.
walled city so favored by God is the city of Jerusalem. Christ wept over
that city, so one can see how precious it is to Him.
Law and the Prophets are sent to that land to bring back what is
rightfully the Landlord’s. The Law is ignored, the prophets abused or
the history of Israel in a nutshell. The parable would have been easy to
interpret by those around.
please, this is prior to the Resurrection). The figure of the Son enters; the
Jews are about to choose what to do with Him. There are only two options:
Him as the “stone of stumbling” – the one who brings sin to light so that
repentance might accept atonement.
Him – and be utterly crushed. This is the option they chose. Free will
is still with us.
Jews would be familiar with the image of the Stone:
Dan 2:27-45 NASB
Daniel answered before the king and said, "As for the mystery about which
the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. (28)
"However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made
known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was
your dream and the visions in your mind while
on your bed. (29) "As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what
would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to
you what will take place. (30) "But as
for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me
more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making
the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts
of your mind. (31) "You, O king, were
looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was
large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its
appearance was awesome. (32) "The head
of that statue was made of fine gold,
its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, (33) its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and
partly of clay. (34) "You continued
looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on
its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. (35)
"Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed
all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors;
and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the
stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole
earth. (36) "This was the dream; now we will tell its
interpretation before the king. (37)
"You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given
the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; (38)
and wherever the sons of men dwell, or
the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule
over them all. You are the head of gold. (39)
"After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another
third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. (40) "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as
strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron
that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. (41) "In that you saw the feet and toes, partly
of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will
have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with
common clay. (42) "As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of
it will be brittle. (43) "And in that
you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in
the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not
combine with pottery. (44) "In the days
of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be
destroyed, and that kingdom will not be
left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms,
but it will itself endure forever. (45)
"Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without
hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the
gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the
future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy."
the stone fall on the Jews – were they scattered like dust? From the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70 through 1948 the Jews, retaining their identity, wandered the earth.
Dispersed – like dust.
may be brief about this, for too much on this subject risks being mired in
competing interpretations. The return of the Jews seemed for a long time to be
completely impossible. But it was not so; it just waited for the proper time.
is specifically prophesied that the Jews would return to the Land.
is clear that the return will be centered on the city of Jerusalem, which
God will bless.
– when Israel finally acknowledges and worships Christ, the end of time
will come, and the dead will rise.
live in exciting times.