Saturday, May 31, 2008

Matthew 21:23-27


23 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.

The Temple leadership questions Jesus' authority. "Where did you go to school?" In order to be a teaching Rabbi, you were to have 2 to 3 witnesses who affirmed you-witnessed you. They want to nail down Jesus' authority as to who were the ones who laid their hands on Him in order to teach with authority. Jesus gained His authority on the day of His baptism. There were 3 witnesses present from heaven-the Father's voice, the dove (Spirit of God) and John who was the primary baptizer.

It was customary for Rabbi's to sort of spar with one another by answering a question with a question. It's almost like a chess game. Jesus tied them in knots with His question, forcing them to either side with John as a man from heaven or as coming from men. Their predicament was that the people liked John and John identified Jesus as the Messiah.

NOTE that Jesus does not feel compelled to bring the conversation to some kind of conclusion, but lets it stay in the air for all to consider what was being said. It's like scattering seed indiscriminately to determine what kind of soil (heart) each person possessed. Jesus was content to let the seeds to fall where they will. So, don't you stress over "closing spiritual deals" with people. Just keep on planting the seeds and keep on watering. THEN God will work in their hearts and change them inside out!

Matthew 21:18-22


18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ``No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.'' And at once the fig tree withered. 20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, ``How did the fig tree wither all at once?'' 21 And Jesus answered and said to them, ``Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. 22 ``And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.''

Fig trees were a common and important source of food for the Jews. The unfruitful fig tree that was promising something it couldn't deliver was an illustration of those who looked good on the outside, but were fruitless. The history of Israel is one long preparation for the coming of the Promised One. But the promise is unfulfilled in those who reject Jesus through unbelief. Jesus' cursing of a fig tree is an action against the faithlessness of those who rejected his message. For faith to be fruitful and productive, it must be nourished authentic and focused faith.

Jesus turns the incident into a teaching time for His disciples. He challenges them to "have faith in God." They are to pray with a stubborn faith no matter how difficult the situation may be. The phrase "to remove mountains" was a common Jewish expression for removing difficulties. A wise teacher who could solve difficulties was called a "mountain remover". If we pray with faith, God will give us the means to overcome the difficulties and obstacles.

This stubborn faith is what Brennan Manning calls "Ruthless Trust". It's really ACTING AS IF.


Matthew 21:14-17


14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done and the children who were shouting in the temple, ``Hosanna to the Son of David,'' they became indignant 16 and said to Him, ``Do You hear what these children are saying?'' And Jesus said to them, ``Yes; have you never read, `OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?'' 17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

Note the sharp contrast between the children and the chief priests and scribes:

FIRST--The chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things Jesus did for the blind and the lame, yet became indignant and offended by it.

SECOND--The children saw the same thing and were praising Jesus as the promised Messiah-Hosanna to the Son of David.

What's the difference? The chief priests and scribes are in denial over their dependence upon God and His Messiah. In fact, God and His Messiah will easily mess up the "good thing" they had going for them. Whereas the children have no position to mess up, but are totally dependent upon God and welcome His Messiah. Take it one step further and note the desperate ones-the blind and the lame-who feel their dependent and desperate need to come to Jesus.

There are two ways to live your life: 1. You can be open, humble, eager to learn, and ready to listen.

2. You can be closed, prideful, defensive, and in denial and that's not a river in Egypt!

Matthew 21:12-13


12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, ``It is written, `MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN.''

This was a real problem within the Temple. It was not simply selling CDs, DVDs and books in the back of the room as most churches do or through their church bookstore nor is it the many sign-up, register and pay booths we have at our local churches. This was a real defrauding of the people!

1. Each animal was presented for inspection to see if it was acceptable for a proper sacrifice. Not only did they have to pay the inspector, but they inspectors tended to reject most of them and offer to sell a better specimen back to them at a high price. Or, if a person didn't have an animal to sacrifice they were gouged when they bought one from the Temple authorities.

2. There was also a Temple tax that was imposed upon everyone who came to the Temple feasts. This tax was to be paid in exact half-shekels and nothing else, therefore there was a third offense.

3. In addition to being gouged, those who were from out of town had to get their money changed to pay for the sacrifices. In the exchange transaction there was also a gouging of sorts going on. Because of the vast amount of pilgrims which journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover from foreign lands outside the land of Israel where collections would not already have been made, the revenue from such a conversion of money would have been immense!

They were stealing money from those whose pure intentions were to come to the Temple and make sacrifices to the Lord.

All in all, it seemed to Jesus that this had the spirit of a busy swap-meet, a major distraction away from coming to worship the God of gods. Anything that brings this spirit with money and the exchange of monies is most demeaning to the holiness of our God. So, Jesus cleaned up a bit!

What would Jesus do at your church service?

Matthew 21:1-11


1 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, ``Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 ``If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, `The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them.'' 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 ``SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, `BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.' ''

6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, ``Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!'' 10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, ``Who is this?'' 11 And the crowds were saying, ``This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.''

NOTE all the players in this drama of Jesus presenting Himself as God's Messiah:

1. A donkey and her colt. Jesus will use whatever is necessary to demonstrate Himself to those who need Him.

2. The owner or care-taker. Jesus is looking to use all that we have to show Him off.

3. Jesus' disciples. Jesus' disciples are always hanging out with Him as they enjoy the many field trips.

4. Crowds going ahead of Him. These may be the curious, but certainly the interested. This is all God requires-that we be interested!

5. Those who followed Him. Jesus continues to draw a crowd in every nation who will lift Him up and honor Him as the Messiah-Hosanna, Son of David!

This pageantry happens 24-7-365. Each of us has a role to play in this daily drama. What part are you playing? I want to encourage you to find your place in the life and teachings of Jesus. He will present Himself to everyone. Will you participate?