04 March 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 21:18-22:14

In this portion of the book of Matthew, Jesus warns the religious teachers of their impending judgment. God had called them to direct the people to Jesus as the promised Messiah, but the religious leaders were not doing their job.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law knew the Old Testament prophecies and should have recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. But instead they lived by rules and didn’t enjoy a true relationship with Jesus.

While walking with His disciples, Jesus sees a fig tree. This tree is covered in leaves. A fig tree’s fruit grows before the leaves. So when Jesus sees this fig tree’s leaves, he expects to see fruit. He uses the tree as an object lesson. The tree represents the religious leaders. They didn’t have any fruit to show they had a heart transformation. They were more concerned about what people saw on the outside than what God saw on the inside. Jesus cured the fig tree and it withered immediately.

Jesus’ disciples were amazed at this. Jesus encourages them to ask God for the impossible – specifically they were facing a mountain of opposition from the Jewish leaders.

Next the chief priests and elders question Jesus’ authority. Jesus asks them about John the Baptist’s authority – was it from God or man? The chief priests and elders can’t give an acceptable answer. God had given them the truth, but they did nothing with it. Then Jesus speaks in several parables to these teachers and elders.

The first parable is about two sons. A father asks his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first son says no but later changes his mind and obeys. The second son says yes but does not obey. The first son is a picture of someone who rebelled against God but later realized his sin against God and then repented. The second son intended to do right but never did. This son is a picture of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day as well as people in our day who say the right words but never follow through on faith in their actions.

Jesus moves on to another parable – the parable of the tenants. The landowner represents God. The vineyard represents the nation of Israel. The tenants represent the religious leaders. The landowner’s servants represent the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist. The landowner’s son represents Jesus. The other tenants represent Jewish and Gentile believers.

God sent the prophets to Israel, but the people did not listen. God sent John the Baptist to Israel, but the people did not listen. Then God sent His Son to Israel, but still the people did not listen. God judges the murders of His prophets and His Son by taking away the responsibility of sharing Jesus from the religious leaders and giving the responsibility to believers.

Jesus isn’t done! He tells the parable of the wedding banquet. A king sends out the first invitation to a wedding banquet. This was like our save the date announcements. The people in the parable refused this invitation. The second invitation from the king asked the people to come now because the wedding banquet was ready. Again the people refused this invitation.

The people attack and kill the king’s servants who deliver the invitations. The king attacks the people’s city. Then the king tells his servants to invite the most unlikely people to come to the banquet. These people did not receive the original invitation. But they accepted the invitation and went to the banquet. These people represent the repentant sinners who turn toward God from their own sinful lives.

An uninvited guest sneaks in to the banquet. Traditionally, the host provided garments to the guests so people in the wrong attire would be very noticeable. In this parable, the king sees the man who is not dressed in the proper wedding clothes. The king questions the man. The man did not have anything to say in his defense. The king’s servants throw the man into the outer darkness.

God’s invitations to us today are the same as the king’s invitations in the parable. Now God is saying, “Come,” and He is inviting us to the future wedding banquet. Then when Jesus returns to earth, He will say, “The wedding banquet is ready! Come with me to celebrate.” Will you be ready to go with Jesus to the wedding banquet in heaven? If not, you will be like the uninvited guest in the parable. You will be cast into hell for all eternity.

Things to Think About
  • God requires authentic belief and active commitment to His Son.
  • How often do I tell God I will do something but never do it?
  • Do I have a true relationship with Christ, or do I just have religious practices that look good on the outside?
  • Which mountain am I asking God to move? Will I pray expectantly and not doubt?
  • Which fruit am I producing in my Christian life?
  • As Christians, our job is to make God known to the world. Am I faithfully doing this?