Matthew 21

 

 

 The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (vs. 1-11)

      (Parallels:  Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19.)

 

1 “And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to

Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,”

We have come to the last week of our Lord’s earthly life, when

He made His appearance in Jerusalem as Messiah, and suffered the penalty

of death. If, as is believed, His crucifixion took place on the fourteenth day

of the month Nisan, the triumphal entry must be assigned to the ninth,

which day was reckoned to commence at one sunset and to continue till the

following evening. This is regarded as the first day of the Holy Week, and

is called by Christians from very early times Palm Sunday (see on v. 10).

He had probably gone straight from Jericho to Bethany. and spent the

sabbath there with His friends (ch. 26:6; John 12:1).

Bethphage. The name means House of figs, and was appropriate to a

locality where such trees grew luxuriantly. The village has not been

identified with certainty, though it is considered with great probability to be

represented by Kefr-et-Tur, on a summit of Olivet, within the bounds of

Jerusalem, i.e. two thousand cubits’ distance from the city walls. Bethany is

below the summit, in a nook on the western slope and somewhat further

from the city. The Mount of Olives is separated from Jerusalem by the

valley of the Kedron, and has three summits, the center one being the

highest; but though it is of no great elevation in itself, it stands nearly four

thousand feet above the Dead Sea, from which it is distant some thirteen

miles. Then sent Jesus two disciples. Their names are not given, and it is

useless to conjecture who they were, though probably Peter was one of

them. Alford suggests that the triumphal entry in Mark 11. is related a day

too soon, and that our Lord made two entries into Jerusalem — the first a

private one (Mark 11:11), and the second, public, on the morrow But

there is no sufficient reason to discredit the common tradition, and

Mark’s language can be otherwise explained. The deliberate preparation for

the procession, and the intentional publicity, so contrary to Christ’s usual

habits, are very remarkable, and can be explained only by the fact that He

was now assuming the character and claims of Messiah, and putting Himself

forward in His true dignity and office as “King of the Jews.” By this display

He made manifest that in Him prophecy was fulfilled, and that the seeing eye

and the believing heart might now find all that righteous men had long and

wearily desired. This was the great opportunity which His mercy offered to

Jerusalem, if only she would accept it and turn it to account. In fact, she

acknowledged Him as King one day, and then rejected and crucified Him.

 

2 “Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway

ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them

unto me.”  The village over against you. Bethphage, to which He points as

He speaks. He gives their commission to the two disciples, mentioning even

some minute details. Straightway. “As soon as ye be entered into it”

(Mark). Ye shall find an ass (a she ass) tied, and a colt with her.

Matthew alone mentions the ass, the mother of the foal. This doubtless he

does with exact reference to the prophecy, which, writing for Jews, he

afterwards cites (v. 4). St. Jerome gives a mystical reason: the ass

represents the Jewish people, which had long borne the yoke of the Law;

the colt adumbrates the Gentiles, as yet unbroken, “whereon never man

sat.” Christ called them both, Jew and Gentile, by His apostles. Loose them,

and bring them unto me. He speaks with authority, as One able to make a

requisition and command obedience.

 

3 “And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath

need of them; and straightway he will send them.”  Say aught unto you.

This might naturally be expected. Christ foresaw the opposition, and instructed

the disciples how to overcome it with a word. The Lord; ΚύριοςKurios –

 equivalent to “Jehovah,” or the King Messiah. Doubtless the owner of the

animals was a disciple, and acknowledged the claims of Jesus. His presence

here was a providentially guided coincidence. If he was a stranger; as others

suppose, he must have been divinely prompted to acquiesce in the appropriation

of his beasts. He will send them. Some manuscripts read, “he sends them,” here,

as in Mark. The present is more forcible, but the future is well attested. The

simple announcement that the asses were needed for God’s service would

silence all refusal. The disciples, indeed, were to act at once, as executing

the orders of the supreme Lord, and were to use the given answer only in

case of any objection. Throughout the transaction Christ assumes the

character of the Divine Messiah, King of his people, the real Owner of all

that they possess.

 

 

 

Ready Response to Divine Claims (v. 3)

 

“Straightway he will send them.” It does not at once appear whether our

Lord made a claim on this animal, in a general way, for the service of God,

or in a particular way, as a personal favour to Himself. He must have been

well known in the neighborhood of Bethany, and it is quite conceivable

that the man distinctly lent the animal to Jesus. It was not a working

animal, and there was no loss of its labor, or its mother’s, in this use of it

by Jesus. What stands out to view, as suggestive of helpful thoughts and

useful lessons, is the ready response of this good man. Think of it as a

Divine claim, and he presents an example of prompt, trustful,

unquestioning obedience. Think of it as a request from the great Teacher,

and then you have revealed a secret disciple, or at least one who felt the

fascination of our Lord’s presence.

 

  • READY RESPONSE TO DIVINE CLAIMS AS AN EXAMPLE.

There was no questioning or dispute; no hesitation or doubt; no anxiety,

even, as to how the animals would be brought back again. There was no

anxiety as to what was to be done with them; no fear as to any injury

coming to them; the man did not even suggest that the colt would be of no

use, for he had not been “broken in.” It is beautiful and suggestive that the

simple sentence, “The Lord hath need of them,” sufficed to quiet and

satisfy him. He could shift all the responsibility on the Lord. “He knows

everything; He controls everything. What I have to do is to obey. Depend

upon it, the rest will all come right.” So away at once, and away cheerfully,

went the animals. That is a noble example indeed. We spoil so much of our

obedience by criticizing the things we are called to do, or give, or bear.

Then we hesitate, question, doubt, and do languidly at last what we do. If

we know what God’s will is, that should always be enough. We have

nothing to do with the how or the why. Send the animals at once if you

know that “the Lord hath need of them.”

 

  • READY RESPONSE TO DIVINE CLAIMS AS A REVELATION

OF CHARACTER. I like this man. I seem to know this man. His act

reveals him. A simple-hearted sort of man, whose natural trustfulness has

not been spoiled. An open-hearted, generous sort of man, with very little

“calculation” in him. He reminds one of Nathanael, “in whom was no

guile.” (John 1:47)  And simple souls somehow get the best of life.

 

4 “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the

prophet, saying,”  All this was done; now (δὲ - de - yet) all this hath come to pass.

Many manuscripts omit “all,” but it is probably genuine, as in other similar

passages; e.g. ch. 1:22; 26:56. This observation of the evangelist

is intended to convey the truth that Christ was acting consciously on the

lines of old prophecy, working out the will of God declared beforehand by

divinely inspired seers. The disciples acted in blind obedience to Christ’s

command, not knowing that they were thus fulfilling prophecy, or having

any such purpose in mind. The knowledge came afterwards (see John 12:16).

That it might be fulfilled (ἵνα πληρωθῇ - hina plaerothae – that may be

being fulfilled). The conjuction in this phrase is certainly used in its final, not

in a consecutive or ecbatie (result or consequence) sense; it denotes the purpose

or design of the action of Christ, not the result. Not only the will of the Father,

but the words of Scripture, had delineated the life of Christ, and in obeying that

will He purposed to show that He fulfilled the prophecies which spake of Him.

Thus any who knew the Scriptures, and were open to conviction, might see that

it was HE ALONE to whom these ancient oracles pointed, and in HIM ALONE

were their words accomplished.  By (διά - dia - through) the prophet. Zechariah

9:9, with a hint of Isaiah 62:11, a quotation being often woven from two or more

passages (see on ch. 27:9).

 

5 “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee,

meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.”

Tell ye the daughter of Zion. This is from Isaiah 62 (compare Zephaniah 3:14).

The passage in Zechariah begins, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout,

O daughter of Jerusalem.” The “daughter of Zionis Jerusalem herself, named

from the chief of the hills on which the city was built. Of course, the term includes

all the inhabitants. Behold; marking the suddenness and unexpected nature of the

event. Thy King. A King of thine own race, no stranger, one predestined for thee,

foretold by all the prophets, who was to occupy the throne of David and TO

REIGN FOR EVER!  Unto thee. For thy special good, to make His abode with

thee (compare Isaiah 9:6). Meek. As Christ Himself says, “I am meek and lowly

in heart” (ch. 11:29), far removed from pomp and warlike greatness; and yet,

according to His own Beatitude, the meek shall inherit the earth (ch. 5:5),

win victories which material forces can never obtain, triumph through

humiliation. The original in Zechariah gives other characteristics of Messiah:

“He is just, and having salvation;” i.e. endowed with salvation, either as

being protected by God, or victorious and so able to save His people.

Sitting upon an ass. Coming as King, He could not walk undistinguished

among the crowd; He must ride. But to mount a war horse would denote

that He was leader of an army or a worldly potentate; so He rides upon an ass,

an animal used by the judges of Israel, and chieftains on peaceful errands

(Judges 5:10; 10:4); one, too, greatly valued, and often of stately appearance

in Palestine. And (καὶ - kai) a colt the foal of an ass; such as she asses bear,

and one not trained. It is questioned whether the conjunction here expresses

addition, implying that Christ mounted both animals in succession, or is

merely explanatory, equivalent to videlicet (viz., namely), an ass, yea, even

the foal of an ass. It seems unlikely that, in accomplishing the short distance

between Bethphage and Jerusalem (only a mile or two), our Lord should have

changed from one beast to the other; and the other three evangelists say

expressly that Christ rode the colt, omitting all mention of the mother. The

she ass doubtless kept close to its foal, so the prophecy was exactly fulfilled,

but the animal that bore the Saviour was the colt. If the two animals represent

respectively the Jews and Gentiles (see on v. 2), it seems hardly necessary

for typical reasons that Jesus should thus symbolize his triumph over the

disciplined Jews, while it is obvious that the lesson of His supremacy over

the untaught Gentiles needed exemplification. The prophet certainly

contemplates the two animals in the procession. “The old theocracy runs

idly and instinctively by the side of the young Church, which has become

the true bearer of the Divinity of Christ” (Lange). No king had ever thus

come to Jerusalem; such a circumstance was predicted of Messiah alone,

and Christ alone fulfilled it to the letter, showing of what nature His kingdom

was.

 

 

The Ass of Bethphage (vs. 1-5)

 

We cannot tell whether our Lord’s exact description of the locality where

the ass and colt were to be found was derived from His superhuman

knowledge, or whether, as seems more likely in so simple a case, he had

agreed with one of His Judaean disciples to have the animals in readiness at

an appointed time. However this may be, we can see from the whole

incident that Jesus paid especial attention to the arrangements for His entry

into Jerusalem. This was very unlike His usual habit. Let us consider its

significance from two points of view.

 

  • THE LORD’S NEED.

 

Ø      Jesus needed one of Gods humblest creatures.

 

o        This throws light on the lowliness of Jesus. In His Divine glory all the

wealth of the universe was at His disposal. But in His earthly

humiliation He had very simple wants. He required bread, water, rest.

It is a mark of a genuinely low estate to have need of what the great

despise.

 

o        This shows how what is most humble may yet serve the highest. The

ass is needed by the Christ. If a very lowly animal can be thus honored,

much more may the most obscure of men and women, Christ’s own

brothers and sisters, render him valuable service.

 

Ø      Disciples obtained what their Master needed. He told His need; at once

the two chosen messengers set off to have it supplied. It is not enough that

we serve Christ in our own way. We have to discover what He really wants.

Sometimes it may not be at all what we have chosen. But if it is serviceable

to our Lord, that should be enough to determine our course of action.

 

Ø      The unknown owner of the animals was obedient to the message of

Christs need. “The Lord hath need of them” was the talisman to silence all

remonstrances. Jesus may claim what is far more precious to us than any

dumb animal. Yet if He calls, He needs; and if He needs, His claim is

paramount. He may want a child in the other world; or He may require the

child in the mission field. Then it is not for us to withhold our dearest

from Him.

 

“Why should I keep one precious thing from thee,

When thou hast given thine own dear self for me?”

 

  • THE USE OF THE ASS. Why did the Lord need the ass and its colt?

 

Ø      To fulfil prophecy. We do not often come across the conscious and

intentioned fulfillment of prophecy. Usually the prediction comes true in

spite of the ignorance of the actors in the fulfillment, or while they are

aiming at something else than simply carrying out what a seer of old

foretold. But now Christ sets Himself deliberately to put into practice an

idea of Zechariah (see again John 19:28). What is best in the Old

Testament is followed by Christ in the New.

 

Ø      To aid in a solemn triumph. Jesus had long forbidden a public

confession of His Messiahship. But now He will make it for Himself;

for now it can do no harm. He is to ride in triumph, but in triumph to

the cross.  That glad entry to Jerusalem was to be just marching into

the jaws of death.

 

Ø      To express the peaceful and gentle character of Christs Kingship.

Jesus did not choose the spirited war horse. Following the idea of the

prophet, He selected the lowly ass, an animal which, although it was very

superior in the East to the ill-treated ass of the West, was still associated

with quietness and simplicity. It was to be a rustic triumph, an old world

triumph, quaint and antique, and therefore a protest against the vulgar

fashion of earthly glory.

 

6 “And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,”

As Jesus commanded them. They simply obeyed the order,

not yet knowing what it portended, or how it carried out the will of God

declared by His prophets.

 

7 “And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes,

and they set Him thereon.” Brought the ass. The unbroken foal would be

more easily subdued and guided when its mother was with it; such an addition

to the ridden animal would usually be employed to carry the rider’s luggage.

They put on them (ἐπάνω αὐτῶν – epano auton – upon them) their clothes

(ἱμάτια – imatia - garments). The two disciples, stripping off their heavy outer

garments, abbas, or burnouses, put them as trappings on the two beasts, not

knowing on which their Master meant to ride. They set him thereon (ἐπάνω αὐτῶν).

Thus the received text, and the Vulgate, Et eum desuper sedere fecerunt. But

most modern editors, with great manuscriptural authority, read, “He sat thereon.”

Some have taken the pronoun αὐτῶν – auton -  to refer to the beasts, and Alford

supports the opinion by the common saying, “The postilion rode on the horses,”

when, in fact, He rode only one of the pair. But the analogy is erroneous.

The postilion really guides and controls both; but no one contends that

Christ kept the mother ass in hand while mounted on the colt. The pronoun

is more suitably referred to the garments, which formed a saddle for the

Saviour, or housings and ornamental appendages (compare II Kings 9:13).

He came invested with a certain dignity and pomp, yet in such humble

guise as to discountenance all idea of temporal sovereignty.

 

8 “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others

cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.”

A very great multitude; ὁ δὲ πλεῖστος ὄχλοςho de pleistos ochlos –

the yet most throng – Revised Version, the most part of the multitude. This

interpretation has classical authority (see Alford), but the words may well

mean, “the very great multitude;” Vulgate, plurima autem turba. This crowd

was composed of pilgrims who were coming to the festival at Jerusalem, and

“the whole multitude of the disciples” (Luke 19:37). Spread their garments

(ἱμάτια – as above) in the way. Fired with enthusiasm, they stripped off their

abbas, as the two disciples had done, and with them made a carpet over which

the Saviour should ride. Such honors were often paid to great men, and

indeed, as we well know, are offered now on state occasions. Branches

from the trees. John (John 12:13) particularizes palm trees as

having been used on this occasion; but there was abundance of olive and

other trees, from which branches and leaves could be cut or plucked to

adorn the Saviour’s road. The people appear to have behaved on this

occasion as if at the Feast of Tabernacles, roused by enthusiasm to

unpremeditated action. Of the three routes which lay before Him, Jesus is

supposed to have taken the southern and most frequented, between the

Mount of Olives and the Hill of Offence.

 

 

 

Signs of Meekness and Signs of Joy (vs. 5-8)

 

“Thy King cometh unto thee, meek;” “And a very great multitude spread

their garments in the way.” The word “meek” is used in Scripture for “not

self-assertive,” “not seeking one’s own.” It is not to be confounded with

“humility.” The apostle puts “humbleness of mind” and “meekness”

alongside each other in such a way that we cannot fail to observe the

distinction between them. Moses was the “meekest of men,” but certainly

not the most humble. It is usual to associate our Lord’s “meekness” with

His riding on so lowly an animal; but this is to transfer our Western ideas of

asses to Eastern lands; and it also fails to observe that in v. 5 there are

two assertions, each distinct from the other. Our Lord was “meek;” and

our Lord was “sitting upon an ass.” If we take the word “meek” here in its

usual meaning, “not self-assertive,” we may find fresh suggestion in the

passage. The signs of joy given in vs. 8-9 are characteristically Eastern.

Bishop Heber thus describes his march to Colombo: “The road was

decorated the whole way as for a festival, with long strips of palm branches

hung upon strings on either side; and whenever we stopped we found the

ground spread with white cloth, and awnings erected, beautifully decorated

with flowers and fruit, and festooned with palm branches. These remnants

of the ancient custom mentioned in the Bible, of strewing the road with

palm branches and garments, are curious and interesting.”

 

  • THE MEEKNESS OF JESUS. This is not the thing which first arrests

attention. Indeed, on this one occasion Jesus seems to be asserting Himself.

Look deeper, and it will be found that He is not. He is not in any of the

senses men put into that term. There, riding into Jerusalem as a King, He

has no intention of setting up any such kingdom as men expect; He does not

mean to use any force; you could never mistake Him for a conqueror. There

is submission, there is no self-assertion.

 

  • THE JOY OF THE PEOPLE. In calling Jesus the “Son of David,” the

people recognized Him as the long promised Messiah; and, without clear

apprehensions of what His work was to be, they could rejoice in the

realization of the national hope. Their joy made it clear to the Jerusalem

officials that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. There could be no mistake

They must accept or reject the claim.

 

9 “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried,

saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in

the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”

The multitudes that went before, and that followed. These

expressions point to two separate bodies, which combined in escorting

Jesus at a certain portion of the route. We learn from John (John 12:18)

that much people, greatly excited by the news of the raising of

Lazarus, when they heard that He was in the neighborhood, hurried forth

from Jerusalem to meet and do Him honor. These, when they met the

other procession with Jesus riding in the midst, turned back again and

preceded Him into the city.  Luke identifies the spot as “at the descent of

the Mount of Olives.” (Luke 19:37) “As they approached the shoulder of the

hill,” says Dr. Geikie (‘The Life of Christ,’ 2:397), “where the road bends

downwards to the north, the sparse vegetation of the eastern slope changed,

as in a moment, to the rich green of garden and trees, and Jerusalem in its glory

rose before them. It is hard for us to imagine now the splendor of the

view. The city of God, seated on her hills, shone at the moment in the

morning sun. Straight before stretched the vast white walls and buildings of

the temple, its courts glittering with gold, rising one above the other; the

steep sides of the hill of David crowned with lofty walls; the mighty castles

towering above them; the sumptuous palace of Herod in its green parks;

and the picturesque outlines of the streets.” Hosanna to the Son of

David! “Hosanna!” is compounded of two words meaning “save” and

“now,” or, “I pray,” and is written in full Hoshia-na, translated by the

Septuagint, Ὡσαννὰ τῷ υἱῷ Δαυίδ Hosanna to huio David - by the people

are mostly derived from Psalm 118., which formed part of the great Hallel

(Psalm 113-118.) sung at the Feast of Tabernacles. “Hosanna!” was originally

a formula of prayer and supplication, but later became a term of joy and

congratulation. So here the cry signifies “Blessings on [or, ‘Jehovah bless’]

the Son of David!” i.e. the Messiah, acknowledging Jesus to be He, the

promised Prince of David’s line. Thus we say, “God save the king!” This,

which Ewald calls the first Christian hymn, gave to Palm Sunday, in some

parts of the Church, the name of the “day of Hosannas,” and was

incorporated into the liturgical service both in East and West. Blessed… of

the Lord: (Psalm 118:26). The formula is taken in two ways, the

words, “in the Name of the Lord,” being connected either with “blessed” or

with “cometh.” In the former case the cry signifies, “The blessing of

Jehovah rest on him who cometh!” i.e., Messiah (ch. 11:3;

Revelation 1:8); in the latter, the meaning is, “Blessing on Him who

cometh with Divine mission, sent with the authority of Jehovah!” The

second interpretation seems to be correct. In the highest (compare Luke

2:14). The people cry to God to ratify in heaven the blessing which they

invoke on earth. This homage and the title of Messiah Jesus now accepts as

His due, openly asserting His claims, and by His acquiescence encouraging

the excitement. Matthew omits the touching scene of Christ’s lamentations

over Jerusalem, as He passed the spot where Roman legions would, a generation

hence, encamp against the doomed city.  (Luke 13:34-35)

 

10 “And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying,

Who is this?”  Was come into Jerusalem. Those who consider that the day

of this event was the tenth of Nisan see a peculiar fitness in the entry

occurring on this day. On the tenth of this month the Paschal lamb was

selected and taken up preparatory to its sacrifice four days after

(Exodus 12:3, 6). So THE TRUE PASCHAL LAMB now is escorted to the

place where alone the Passover could be sacrificed. Taking A.D. 30 to be

the date of the Crucifixion, astronomers inform us that in that year the first

day of Nisan fell on March 24. Consequently, the tenth would be on

Sunday, April 2, and the fourteenth was reckoned item sunset of Thursday,

April 6, to the sunset of Friday, April 7 (see on v. 1, and preliminary note

ch. 26.). Was moved (ἐσείσθη – eseisthae - was shaken; is quaked); as by

an earthquake.  Matthew alone mentions this commotion, though John

(John 12:19) makes allusion to it, when he reports the vindictive exclamation of

the Pharisees, “Behold, the world is gone after him!” Jerusalem had been

stirred and troubled once before, when the Wise Men walked through the

streets, inquiring, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (ch. 2:2-3).

But the excitement was far greater now, more general, composed of many

different elements.

 

  • The Romans expected some public rising;
  • the Pharisaical party was aroused to new envy and malice;
  • the Herodians dreaded a possible usurper; but
  • the populace entertained for the moment the idea that their hopes

were now fulfilled, that the long desired Messiah (“the Desire of all

nations” – Haggai  2:7)had at last appeared, and would lead them

to victory.

 

Who is this? The question may have been put by the strangers who came from

all parts of the world to celebrate the Passover at Jerusalem, or by the crowds

in the streets, when they beheld the unusual procession that was advancing.

 

11 “And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth

of Galilee.”  The multitude; οἱ ὄχλοιhoi ochloi -  the multitudes; the

throng. These were the people who took part in the procession; they kept

repeating (ἔλεγον – elegon -  said - , imperfect) to all inquiries, This is Jesus

the Prophet of Nazareth. They give His name, title, and dwelling place. They

call Him “the Prophet,” either as being the One that was foretold (John 1:21; 6:14),

or as being inspired and commissioned by God (John 9.17). The appellation, “of

Nazareth,” clung to our Lord through all His earthly life. Matthew (ch. 2:23)

notes that the prophets had foretold that He was to be called a Nazarene, and

that this prediction was in some sort fulfilled by His dwelling at Nazareth.

We know not who were the prophets to whom the evangelist refers, and in

this obscurity the attempted explanations of exegetes are far from satisfactory;

so it is safer to fall back upon the inspired historian’s verdict, and to mark the

providential accomplishment of the prediction in the title by which Jesus was

generally known. Says Isaac Williams:

 

·         “Friends and foes,

·         chief priests in hate,

·         Pilate in mockery,

·         angels in adoration,

·         disciples in love,

·         Christ Himself in lowliness (Acts 22:8), and now,

·         the multitudes in simplicity,

 

ALL PROCLAIM HIM ‘of Nazareth.’”

 

 

The Entry into Jerusalem (vs. 1-11)

 

  • THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY.

 

Ø      Bethphage. The Lord had spent the sabbath in that holy home at

Bethany, where He was always a welcome Guest, with that family which

was now more than ever devoted to His service, and bound to Him by the

ties of the very deepest gratitude. On the Sunday morning (Palm Sunday)

He made His solemn entry into the holy city. He set out from Bethany on

foot; but He intended to enter Jerusalem as the King Messiah. He had

hitherto avoided anything like a public announcement of His office and His

claims. When the multitude wished to “take him by force to make him a

King, he departed again into a mountain Himself alone.”  (John 6:15)  Not

long ago He had forbidden His disciples to tell any man that He was the Christ.

He had charged them to tell no man of the heavenly glory of the Transfiguration.

The earthly view of the Messiah’s kingdom was universal. The apostles

themselves, warned as they had been again and again of its untruth, again

and again reverted to it. So strong was the hold which it had upon their

minds, that even after the awful scenes of the Passion, “they asked of Him,

saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

(Acts 1:6)  The Lord would do nothing to sanction this vain expectation.

His kingdom was not of this world. But now His hour was come — the

hour that He should depart out of this world. It was time for Him now to

make a public assertion of His claims. That assertion, He knew, would lead

to His death, and, through His death, resurrection, and ascension, to the

establishment of His spiritual kingdom over the hearts of men. He was

drawing near to Jerusalem. He was come to Bethphage, on the Mount of Olives.

He sent two disciples, bidding them fetch an ass and a colt whereon yet never

man sat. He described the place minutely. If any man interfered, they were to

say, “The Lord hath need of them.” The Lord, the Lord of all; all things are

His; He claims them when they are needed for His service. The words were

simple, but they seem to convey a great meaning, to imply far-reaching

claims. “The Lord hath need of them.” The Saviour describes Himself

simply as the Lord, just as the Septuagint writers express the covenant

name of God. The words would be understood as meaning that the ass was

wanted in some way for God’s service. The owners knew not how; but

they saw the solemn procession passing by; they saw the lowly majesty of

Christ. They must have known Him. He had been a frequent visitor at

Bethany. But a short time ago He had raised Lazarus from the dead.

Possibly they may have been among the number of His disciples. Even if

not so, they must have felt something of the enthusiasm and excited

expectation which were so widely diffused. They sent the ass. We must

give readily and cheerfully when the Lord calls upon us; we must keep

nothing back which He requires. “All things come of thee, and of thine

own have we given thee.”  (I Chronicles 29:14)

 

Ø      The prophecy.

 

o        It must be fulfilled. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which

was spoken by the prophet.” The apostles were not consciously

fulfilling the prophecy. They understood not these things at the first;

they did not consider that they were doing the things that had been

written of the Christ (John 12:16). They knew it afterwards; the Lord

knew it now. The prophecy came through the prophet, but it came

from God; and now God, the Author of the prophecy, brought about

its fulfillment. The prophecy announced the coming of the Christ as

King. God brought it to pass, for that coming to Jerusalem as Messiah

the King was the beginning of the great series of events by which

THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD WAS WROUGHT!

 

o        Its substance. It is taken from the Prophet Zechariah, but prefaced by

a few words from a similar prophecy in Isaiah (Isaiah 62:11), “Say

ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh.” Prophets,

apostles, evangelists, all proclaim the advent of the King. All His people

must swell that proclamation, telling of His presence, sometimes with

their lips, always in their lives. “Rejoice greatly,” the prophet said

(Zechariah 9:9). The coming of Christ brings exceeding great joy

to the Christian heart. Those who know that joy must declare its

sweetness to others, that their joy, too, MAY BE FULL!  “Behold,

thy King cometh unto thee.” The earthly Zion had not been the usual

dwelling place of the incarnate Lord. Yet He cometh now to Zion; He

is the King of Zion, her King from the times of old. He is our King

now — King of the Israel of God. He cometh to us — to each

individual soul, as on that first Palm Sunday He came to the earthly

Zion.  Let us receive Him with joy; and oh! let us take heed lest we

fall away like so many of those who then shouted, “Hosanna to

the King!” He is meek; not, like earthly kings, proud and haughty.

He is lowly, bowed down by much affliction, a Man of sorrows.

The Hebrew word means “afflicted,” “poor;” the Greek word

expresses that meekness which is the blessed fruit of affliction

borne in faith and patience. The King is meek; His followers

must learn of Him. Pride and violence are hateful in His sight.

Blessed are the meek; for they are like the Lord. He sat upon an ass.

He approached Jerusalem as a King, but not as one of the kings of

the earth; in festal procession, but not with pomp and magnificence;

riding, but not as earthly kings would ride — riding meekly on an ass.

He was a King, indeed, surrounded with a halo of sweet dignity,

and something of unearthly majesty that enforced reverence and

repelled presumptuous liberties. But His kingdom WAS NOT

OF THIS WORLD!  The procession of Palm Sunday set forth both

sides of the truth. He was a King; He claimed no earthly crown.

 

o        Its fulfillment. The two disciples obeyed at once. The owners of the

asses recognized the mandate of the Lord. The disciples put their

clothes upon the colt whereon never man sat, and they set the Lord

thereon.

 

  • THE PROCESSION.

 

Ø      The approach to Jerusalem. The modest procession climbed the road

that slopes up the Mount of Olives till, as they passed the shoulder of the

hill, Jerusalem lay clear before them, the temple glittering in all its glory of

gold and marble. The Lord wept as He gazed upon it. He, the Prince of

Peace, was coming to the holy city; but that city, Jerusalem, the inheritance

of peace, had not known the things that belonged to her peace; now they

were hid from her eyes. There were outward demonstrations of joy; in

some that joy was deep and true; in others it was, though not insincere,

founded on mistaken hopes which would soon be dissipated; in very many

it was mere excitement, worthless and unreal, — one of those transitory

bursts of apparent enthusiasm which are so contagious for a time, which

run through unthinking crowds. The Lord was not dazzled by the popular

applause; He estimated it at its true value. He wept as He looked upon

Jerusalem; His eye gazed through the future, resting, not on His own

approaching sufferings, but on the fearful doom which awaited the

impenitent city.

 

Ø      The multitudes. The tidings of the Lord’s approach reached Jerusalem;

crowds of pilgrims, who had come thither for the Passover, went out to

meet Him. There were pilgrims from Galilee, who could tell of many mighty

deeds; there were others who were present when He called Lazarus out of

his grave (John 12:17). That last wondrous miracle had for a time

rekindled the old enthusiasm. The crowd issuing from Jerusalem joined the

procession which came from Bethany; they swelled its numbers and

increased the excitement. They hailed the Lord as King, spreading their

garments in the way, as men had done to welcome kings (II Kings 9:13);

they strewed His path with branches from the trees; they cried,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” they hailed the Lord as the Messiah. The

Pharisees had agreed that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he

should be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). But they were

powerless that day; they felt that they could prevail nothing; the world,

they said, had gone after Him. The multitude owned Him to be the Messiah,

the Son of David, the King of Israel. They raised the shout of “Hosanna!”

— originally a prayer, “Save us now!” (compare Psalm 118:25); but now,

it seems, a cry of triumphant welcome; a cry, however, which recognized

Him as the Saviour, and ascribed salvation to Him. That prayer, they hoped,

would reach the heavens; that cry would be heard there; they prayed for

blessings upon Him, using again the words of Psalm 118.; they prayed that

God’s blessing might rest upon Him, and bring to pass that salvation which

was the real meaning of the hosanna cry. “Hosanna in the highest!” In the

highest the hosts of angels need not lift the prayer, “Save us now!” for

themselves; but they rejoice, we know, over each repentant sinner, over

each lost sheep brought home to the fold on the shoulders of the good

Shepherd; they may well re-echo the suppliant hosannas as they add the

heavenly incense to the prayers of the saints which go up before God

(Revelation 8:3-4). We may well believe that, on that great Palm

Sunday, the heavenly host bent in reverent adoration from their thrones of

light, watched that lowly procession as it escorted the King of heaven into

the holy city, listened to the earthly hosannas that welcomed His approach,

and repeated with more solemn tones, more awful expectations, the high

chant of praise which celebrated the Nativity, “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Let us make that welcome our

own. He who then came to Jerusalem comes now to us. Each day He

cometh to expectant hearts, to souls craving peace and mercy. He cometh

in the name of the Lord; Himself the Lord, He cometh from the Lord, to do

His Father’s will, “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to

remember His holy covenant.” (Luke 1:72)  “Blessed be He that cometh

in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:26; Luke 19:38)  Let us welcome

Him into our hearts with the hosanna cry of adoration and earnest

supplication, “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee,

send now prosperity!”  (Psalm 118:25)

 

Ø      The inhabitants. “All the city was moved”stirred, shaken (so the

Greek word means), at the approach of the jubilant procession. It was filled

with crowds waiting for the celebration of the Passover — eager, excited

crowds, ready to be stirred into commotion by any sudden impulse. “Who

is this?” they said. The form of the Lord must have been well known to

most of the dwellers in Jerusalem. Perhaps the question was asked by

strangers (see Acts 2:5, 9-11); perhaps it was asked with something of

scorn, “Who is this who comes with such a retinue, with all this festal

applause?” The multitude, mostly perhaps Galilaeans, understood the

suppressed contempt of the proud Pharisees, and answered with something

of provincial pride, “This is Jesus the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” He

belonged to them in a sense; the Pharisees had maintained, with ignorant

scornfulness, that “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” (John 7:52)  Even

Nathanael, the Israelite in whom there was no guile, had asked, “Can there

any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (ibid. ch. 1:46)  The Galilaeans had

a Prophet now, a Prophet mighty in word and deed; nay, more than a Prophet,

the Messiah that was to come. They were proud of His eminence, they shouted

their hosannas. Before the week was ended, some of them, it may be, would

change that cry to “Crucify Him! crucify Him!”  (Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21;

John 19:15)  All would forsake Him and leave Him to His death. Popular

excitement is a poor thing; the Christian must trust neither in crowds nor

in princes, but only IN GOD! . “Who is this?” the world still asks, some

in the spirit of anxious inquiry, some in scorn and unbelief; and still the

Christian answers in faith and adoring love, “This is Jesus, the

Prophet, the great High Priest, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

(Daniel 7:13-14)  He cometh to claim His kingdom in each human heart.

Receive Him; He bringeth peace.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      The King cometh; He is lowly. Only the lowly heart can receive the

lowly King.

 

Ø      Greet Him with holy joy; pray that that joy may be deep and true,

founded on a living faith.

 

Ø      Seek to know Him, to say, “This is Jesus,” out of a true personal

knowledge.

 

 

The Triumph of Christ (vs. 1-11)

 

 

In His journey to Jerusalem Jesus rested at Bethany, where, stopping at the

house of Simon the leper, Mary anointed His feet (compare ch. 26:6;

John 12:2-3). His progress on the day following is here recorded.

Observe:

 

  • THAT JESUS ENTERED THE CAPITAL IN THE ROYALTY OF

MEEKNESS.

 

Ø      He came in sacred character.

 

o        Animals which had never borne the yoke were employed for sacred

purposes (see Deuteronomy 21:3). The colt upon which Jesus rode was

such (see Mark 11:2). Specially acceptable to Christ is the

consecration of virgin youth.

 

o        His sacred character was recognized in the acclamations of the

multitude. “Hosanna!” was a form of acclamation used at the

Feast of Tabernacles, when the people carried boughs (see Nehemiah

8:15).  “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord?” equivalent to “Hosanna,

O Lord!” (see Psalm 20:9). “Hosanna in the highest! i.e. in the

heavens, which is an invitation to holy angels to join with the sons

of men in praising the Messianic King (compare Psalm 148:1-2;

Luke 2:14; 19:38).  (A preview of what will be in heaven when God

will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are

in heaven, and which are on earth” – Ephesians 1:10 – CY – 2017)

 

o        That a colt never before ridden should have borne Jesus amidst the

shoutings of the multitude was a miracle (compare I Samuel 6:7).

That miracle set forth the power by which Christ can subject to His

will the unruly heart of man (see Job 11:12).

 

o        While Jesus entered Jerusalem as a King, He showed that His kingdom

was not of the world. So Pilate acquitted Him of treason against Caesar.

 

Ø      He came as the Prince of Peace.

 

o        He rode not upon the warlike horse. To have done so would have been

unbecoming Him as King of Israel (compare Deuteronomy 17:16; Psalm

20:7). Has His royalty peacefully entered in triumph into your soul?

Has He received a welcome — a hosanna, in your heart?

 

o        As “the Judge of Israel He rode upon the colt of an ass (compare

Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:13-14). The kingdom of heaven is not force,

 but RIGHTEOUSNESS!

 

o        His coming was therefore the triumph of pure joy. This the multitude

expressed by acclamation and by spreading their garments and palm

branches  (compare II Kings 9:13; Psalm 118:25; John 13:13;

Revelation 7:9-12).

 

o        The hosannas of earth are the prelude to the hallelujahs of heaven.

 

Ø      He came in humble state.

 

o        He condescended to have “need” of the ass’s colt. If He is pleased to

have need of our poor services, this is reason sufficient for any sacrifice.

To render service needed by the Lord is at once the highest honor and

the greatest blessing.

 

o        He condescended to accept His praises from the lips of “babes.” Not

from the heads and rulers of the nation, but from His poor disciples.

Their greatness is childlikeness (compare ch. 18:1-4).

 

o        He condescended to come in meekness to those who plotted His

destruction. Lo! the King comes to be murdered by His creatures,

and in His death to redeem them from wrath!  (See ch. 26:52-54)

 

o        What triumphs are here! He triumphs over pride in His humility, over

affluence in His poverty, over rage and malice in His meekness. “Was

it a mean attitude wherein our Lord appeared? Mean to contempt? I

grant it. I glory in it. It is for the comfort of my soul, for the honor of

His humility, and for the utter confusion of all worldly pomp and

grandeur” (Wesley).

 

  • THAT JESUS ENTERED THE CAPITAL FOR THE TRIUMPH OF

DESTINY.

 

Ø      He came for the fulfillment of prophecy.

 

o        This last journey of our Lord from Jericho to Jerusalem was in the

same line as the triumphant march of the children of Israel from the

time of their first entry into the holy land to the taking of Jerusalem.

The spiritual progress is from the lowest to the highest, from the

place accursed to the place of the Name of our Lord.

 

o        He came as the very Paschal Lamb. It was now the tenth day of the

month, when the Law appointed that the Paschal lamb should be taken

up (see Exodus 12:3; I Corinthians 5:7).

 

o        He rode in triumph to his death. The priest according to the order of

Melchizedek suffers as a Priest and triumphs as a King. His victory is

moral, viz. over sin, death, and hell. He is the King in His death,

according to the inscription on His cross (see ch. 27:37). How

appropriate upon this occasion, then, was the “Hosanna” -“Save now”!

 

o        The history of this remarkable progress was pre-written (see Isaiah

62:11; Zechariah 9:9). Known unto God are all his ways from the

beginning.

 

Ø      His coming was itself a prophecy.

 

o        It suggested, by what Elliot calls “allusive contrast,” the ascension of

Jesus into the heavenly Jerusalem. Some of the multitude “went before

him,” viz. those who met Him from the city, as the angels met Jesus in

His ascension. Some “followed after,” viz. those who came with Him

from Bethany, as the risen saints ascended with their risen Lord

(compare ch. 27:52-53; Psalm 24). Those who would follow Christ

in his ascension must follow Him now in His lowly state.

 

o        It suggested also the second, glorious, advent of Messiah to this earth.

Then coming forth to vengeance, He is described as riding upon a horse

(see Revelation 19:11). Coming forth in glory, without a sin sacrifice,

he will descend upon a throne of white light. He will come with the

sound of the great trumpet, which shall wake the very dead. Instead

of the retinue of poor Galilaeans, He will come with a myriad retinue

of mighty angels. Then will be understood the “Hosanna in the

 highest!

 

o        The Lord’s day is the Christian type of the everlasting sabbath. As the

day of the triumphal entry of Christ into the earthly Jerusalem was the

tenth of the month, so was it also the first day of the week. It was the

first of that series of events which took place on the first day of the

week, entitling that day to be called “the day of the Lord.” Is there

no prophetic reference to this in the words of the psalm which was

evidently in the minds of the disciples: This is the day which the

Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now,

I beseech thee [הושיעח נא, hoshiahnna, from which the disciples

had their hosanna],” etc. (see Psalm 118:24-26)?

 

 

 

The Triumphant Ride (vs. 6-11)

 

This was arranged by Christ, and enthusiastically promoted by His disciples.

Here was a last glint of sunshine before the storm. The gladness of the

scene is in strange contrast with the awful sequel. Palm Sunday ushers in

Passion Week. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” While the evil

day has not yet come, gladness and the assurance of victory may be the

best preparation for it.

 

  • THE KING’S TRIUMPH. Few spectators would see anything kingly in

this rustic fete. To the ruling classes of Jerusalem it would seem but child’s

play. But to the childlike followers of Jesus it had a deep meaning. These

Galilaean pilgrims recognized in it the acceptance by Jesus of bis royal

rights. The question arises — Were they mistaken? He was riding in

triumph to Jerusalem. But it was a simple, homely, unconventional

triumph. Moreover, it did not lead to the throne, but its promise ended at

Calvary, or seemed to end there. We know that the issue was disappointing

to the early disciples (Luke 24:21). Nevertheless, we also know that,

with Jesus, the way to death was the way to victory. He was most kingly

when He suffered most. His Passion was His coronation. He reigns now in

the hearts of His people, just because He died for them.

 

  • THE PEOPLE’S ENTHUSIASM. Long suppressed emotions now

break forth into unrestrained utterance. It seems to be impossible to do too

much, in the hastily improvised procession, to show devotion to the Christ.

This is expressed in two ways.

 

Ø      By actions. Garments laid on the animal He rides, garments flung on the

road for the honor of being trampled on, sprigs from the wayside trees

scattered on the ground, palm branches waved overhead, — these things

show the utmost enthusiasm. Strong feeling must manifest itself in action.

 

Ø      By words. The people quoted a well known Messianic psalm, praying for

a blessing on the Christ. Their words had nearly the same meaning as our

“God save the king!” and they were prompted by an overmastering passion

of enthusiasm. This is not at all wonderful. The only wonder is that there

was but one Palm Sunday, and that our Lord’s last Sunday on earth before

His death. To know Him is to see grounds for unbounded devotion, for love

beyond measure, for glad praises which no words can contain. This is the

great distinction of our Christian faith, its keynote is enthusiasm for Christ.

 

  • THE CITY’S WONDER. The happy, noisy procession was heard in

Jerusalem, and the citizens looked up from their trades and forgot their

bargaining for a moment, in surprise at the unexpected commotion. We

may preach the gospel by singing the praises of Christ. One reason why the

world is apathetic about Christianity is that the Church is apathetic about

Christ. A fearless enthusiasm for Christ will arouse the slumbering world.

But we want to go further. In Jerusalem the effect was but slight and

transitory. A deeper and more permanent impression was made at

Pentecost; for it is the coming of the Holy Spirit, and no merely external

excitement, that really touches and changes the hearts of people. Yet even

this did not move the greater part of Jerusalem. Rejecting the peaceful

coming of Christ, hardened sinners await His next coming, which is in

WRATH and JUDGMENT!

 

 

 

The Second Cleansing of the Temple (vs. 12-17)

                                    (Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48)

 

12 “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that

sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the

moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,”

Went into the temple. The event here narrated seems to have taken place on

the day following the triumphal entry; i.e. on the Monday of the Holy Week.

This can be gathered from Mark’s narrative, where it is stated that, on the day

 of triumph, Jesus was escorted to the temple, but merely “looked round

about on all things” (Mark 11:11), and then returned for the night

to Bethany, visiting the temple again on the following morning, and driving

out those who profaned it. Matthew often groups events, not in their proper

chronological order, but in a certain logical sequence which corresponded

with his design. Thus he connects the cleansing with the triumphal entry,

in order to display another example of Christ’s self-manifestation

at this time, and His purpose to show who He was and to put

forth His claims publicly. In this visit of Christ we see the King coming to

His palace, the place where His honor dwelleth, the fitting termination of

His glorious march. This cleansing of the temple must not be confounded

with the earlier incident narrated by John (John 2:13-22). The two

acts marked respectively the beginning and close of Christ’s earthly

ministry, and denote the reverence which He taught for the house and the

worshiper God. The part of the temple which He now visited, and which

was profaned to secular use, was the court of the Gentiles, separated from

the sanctuary by a stone partition, and considered of lesser sanctity, though

really an integral part of the temple. Cast out all them that sold and

bought. In this large open space a market had been established, with the

connivance, and much to the pecuniary emolument, of the priests. These let

out the sacred area, of which they were the appointed guardians, to greedy

and irreligious traders, who made a gain of others’ piety. We find no trace

of this market in the Old Testament; it probably was established after the

Captivity, whence the Jews brought back that taste for commercial business

and skill in financial matters for which they have ever since been celebrated.

In the eyes of worldly-minded men the sanctity of a building and its

appendages was no impediment to traffic and trade, hence they were glad

to utilize the temple court, under the sanction of the priests, for the

convenience of those who came from all regions to celebrate the great

festivals. Here was sold all that was required for the sacrifices which

worshippers were minded to offer — animals for victims, meal, incense,

salt, etc. The scandalous abuse of the holy precincts, or the plain traces of

it (if, as it was late in the day, the traffickers themselves had departed for a

time), Christ had observed at His previous visit, when He “looked round

about upon all things” , as above, and now He proceeded to remedy

the crying evil.  The details of the expulsion are not given. On the first

occasion (John 2:15), we are told, He used “a scourge of small cords;” as far

as we know, at this time He effected the purification unarmed and alone. It was

a marvelous impulse that forced the greedy crew to obey the order of this

unknown Man; their own consciences made them timid; they fled in dismay

before the stern indignation of His eye, deserted their gainful trade to

escape the reproach of that invincible zeal. Money changers. These

persons exchanged (for a certain percentage) foreign money or other coins

for the half shekel demanded from all adults for the service of the temple

(see on ch. 17:24). They may have lent money to the needy. The

sellers also probably played into their hands by refusing to receive any but

current Jewish money in exchange for their wares. It is also certain that no

coins stamped with a heathen symbol, or bearing a heathen monarch’s

image, could be paid into the temple treasury. The seats of them that sold

(the) doves. These birds were used by the poor in the place of costlier

victims (see Leviticus 12:6; 14:22; Luke 2:24). The sellers were

often women, who sat with tables before them on which were set cages

containing the doves.

 

13 “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the

house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

It is written. Jesus confirms His action by the word of Scripture.

He combines in one severe sentence a passage from Isaiah 56:7

(“Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all peoples”), and

one from Jeremiah 7:11 (“Is this house, which is called by my Name,

become a den of robbers in your eyes?”). He brings out in strong contrast

the high design and use of the house of God (an allusion specially

appropriate at the coming festival), and the vile and profane purposes to

which the greed and impiety of men had subjected it. Ye have made it;

Revised Version, ye make it; and so many modern editors on good

manuscript authority. These base traffickers had turned the hallowed courts

into a cavern where robbers stored their ill-gotten plunder. It may also be

said that to make the place of prayer for all the nations a market for beasts

was a robbery of the rights of the Gentiles (Lange). And Christ here

vindicated the sanctity of the house of God: the Lord, according to the

prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 3:1-3), had suddenly come to His temple

to refine and purify, to show that none can profane what is dedicated to the

service of God without most certain loss and punishment.

 

 

 

Christ Cleansing the Temple (vs. 12-13)

 

According to Mark’s more detailed account, Jesus “looked round” on

the day of His triumphant entrance to Jerusalem, and effected His drastic

reformation of temple abuses on the following morning. Thus we see that

His action did not spring from a hasty outburst of passion. It was the result

of deliberation. He had had a night in which to brood over the shameful

desecration of His Father’s house.

 

  • THE DESECRATION.

 

Ø      The nature of it. It would be a mistake to suppose that the temple was

being used as a common market. The animals sold were not to be treated

as meat at the shambles. They were for sacrifices. The money changing was

not for the convenience of foreigners wanting to be able to do business in

the city with the current coin. This was carried on in order to provide for

visitors the Hebrew shekel with which to pay the temple dues. Therefore, it

was thought, the business was of a religious character, and could be carried

on in the temple as part of the sacred work. Animals were sacrificed there:

why should they not be sold there? Money was collected there: why should

it not be exchanged there?

 

Ø      The evil of it.

 

o        It interfered with worship. The outer courts of the temple were used

for private prayer. But the confusion of a market was most distracting

to the spirit of devotion.

 

o        It was unjust to the Gentiles. This traffic seems to have been carried on

in the court of the Gentiles. The Jews still reserved their own court in

decorum. The prophecy from which our Lord quoted says that God’s

house “shall be called a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56:7).

Thus the rights of the Gentiles were scornfully outraged.

 

o        It imported dishonest dealing. The keen eye of Christ detected wrong

dealing. It was not only trade, it was cheating that dishonored the

temple.

 

  • THE CLEANSING.

 

Ø      An act of holy indignation. Jesus was angry; He could be angry;

sometimes He was “moved with indignation”. It is no sign of sanctity to be

unmoved at the sight of what dishonors God and wrongs our fellow men.

There is a guilty complacency, a culpable silence, a sinful calm.

 

Ø      An act of Divine authority. It was His Father’s house that Christ was

cleansing. He spoke and acted as the messenger of God even to those who

did not know that He was the Son of God. CHRIST HAS POWER AND

AUTHORITY!

 

Ø      An act of righteousness. He used force, but of course, if He had met with

resistance, the merely physical power He put forth would soon have been

overborne. Why, then, did He succeed? Because He had an ally in the breast

of every man whom He opposed; the consciences of the traders fought with

Jesus against their guilty traffic. He who fights for the right has mighty

unseen allies.

 

Do not we need a temple cleansing? The trade spirit desecrates religious

work. Finance takes too prominent a place in the Church. It is possible to

crush the spirit of private worship in low, unworthy ways of providing the

means of public worship. We want the scourge of small cords to drive out

the worldly methods of Christian work.

 

 

The Fitting and the Unfitting in God’s House (vs. 12-13)

 

“My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of

thieves.” Selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and changing foreign money into

temple shekels, was right enough in its place; but the point is, that all this

was being done in the wrong place. The sense of the appropriate, of the

becoming, was lost; it was covered over and bidden by the greed of the

trader, and the avarice of the money changer. Trade is not wrong, if it be

honest trade, and buyer and seller pass fair equivalents. Banking is not

wrong in itself, though it gives great opportunities to the covetous. Our

Lord never interfered with tradesfolk or with money changers; He only

taught principles that would ensure their bargaining fairly. His righteous

anger was roused by the offence these traffickers gave to His sense of the

fitting, of the becoming. The true consecration of a building is no mere

ceremony, it is the feeling of consecration that is in all reverent souls in

relation to it. The consecration should have been in these traders, it was

fitting to the place where they were; if it had been in them, they would

never have thought of bringing the beasts, the cages, and the tables inside

the gates of the temple of Jehovah.

 

  • THE SENSE OF THE FITTING AN IMPULSE TO JESUS. We might

properly expect that this “sense” would be at its keenest in the case of

Jesus. The honor of the Father-God was the one all-mastering purpose of

his life. He could not bear any slight to be put on God, on anything

belonging to God, on anything associated with His Name. He was specially

jealous, with a sanctified Jewish jealousy, of the temple where God was

worshipped. He felt what was fitting to it — stillness, quiet, prayer,

reverent attitudes. He felt what was unfitting — noise, dirt, quarrellings

over bargains, shouts of drovers, and the greed and over-reaching of

covetous men. So the consecration of our worship places is really the

response to our quickened, spiritual, Christly, sense of what is fitting. The

one thing we ask for is the sustained sense of harmony

 

  • LACK OF THE SENSE OF THE FITTING GAVE LICENCE TO

THE TRADERS. In them the spiritual was hidden. Custom had covered it.

Greed had covered it. They were thinking about themselves and their

gettings, and so lost all sense of the becoming. They must learn, by a hard,

humbling, and awakening lesson, that God’s temple is for God.

 

14 “And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He

healed them.”  The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple. This

notice is peculiar to Matthew, though Luke (Luke 19:47) mentions that

“He taught daily in the temple.” An old expositor has remarked that Christ first

as King purified His palace, and then took His seat therein, and of His royal

bounty distributed gilts to His people. It was a new fulfillment of the prophecy

of Isaiah (Isaiah 35:4-6), which spake of Messiah coming to open the eyes of the

blind, to unstop the ears of the deaf, to make the lame man leap as an hart.

For acts of sacrilege which profaned the temple precincts, He substituted acts

of mercy which hallowed them; the good Physician takes the place of the greedy

trafficker; the den of thieves becomes a beneficent hospital. How many were the

acts of healing, we are not told; but the words point to the relief of numberless

sufferers, none of whom were sent empty away.

 

15 “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things

that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying,

Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,”

The chief priests. This term is generally applied to the high

priest’s deputies and the heads of the twenty-four courses, but it seems

here to mean certain sacerdotal members of the Sanhedrin, to whom

supreme authority was delegated by the Romans or Herodians (see

Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 20:10, 5). They formed a wealthy, aristocratical body,

and were many of them Sadducees. They joined with the scribes in

expressing their outraged feeling, whether simulated or real. The

wonderful things (τὰ θαυμάσια – ta thaumasia – the marvels); an expression

found nowhere else in the New Testament. It refers to the cleansing of the temple

and the cures lately performed there. Children crying in the temple. This fact is

mentioned only by Matthew. Jesus loved children, and they loved and

followed Him, taking up the cry which they had heard the day before from

the multitude, and in simple faith applying it again to Christ. While grown

men are silent or blaspheming, little children boldly sing His praises. Were

sore displeased. Their envious hearts could not bear to see Jesus

honored, elevated in men’s eyes by His own beneficent actions, and now

glorified by the spontaneous acclamations of these little ones.

 

16 “And said unto Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith

unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and

sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”  Hearest thou what these say?

They profess a great zeal for God’s honor. They recognize that these cries

implied high homage, if not actual worship, and appeal to Jesus to put a stop to

such unseemly behavior, approaching, as they would pretend, to formal blasphemy.

Yea. Jesus replies that He hears what the children say, but sees no reason for

silencing them; rather He proves that they were only fulfilling an old

prophecy, originally, indeed, applied to Jehovah, but one which He claims

as addressed to Himself. Have ye never read? (ch. 12:5). The quotation is from

the confessedly Messianic psalm (Psalm 8.), a psalm very often quoted in the

New Testament, and as speaking of Christ (see I Corinthians 1:27; 15:27;

Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:6, etc.). Sucklings. This term was applied to children

up to the age of three years (see II Maccabees 7:27), but might be used

metaphorically of those of tender age, though long weaned. Thou hast perfected

praise. The words are from the Septuagint, which seems to have preserved the

original reading. The present Hebrew text gives, “Thou hast ordained strength,”

or “established a power.” In the Lord’s mouth the citation signifies that God

is praised acceptably by the weak and ignorant when, following the impulse

of their simple nature, they do Him homage. Some expositors combine the

force of the Hebrew and Greek by explaining that “the strength of the weak

is praise, and that worship of Christ is strength” (Wordsworth). It is more

simple to say, with Nosgen, that for the Hebrew “strength,” “praise” is

substituted, in order to give the idea that the children’s acclamation was

that which would still the enemy, as it certainly put to shame the captious

objections of the Pharisees.

 

 

The Temple (vs. 12-16)

 

  • THE LORD’S ACTIONS THERE.

 

Ø      His entrance. Jesus went into the temple of God. It was a fulfillment of

the great prophecy of Malachi, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly

come to His temple.” He came, but, alas! they delighted not in Him. He

came to “purify the sons of Levi, that they might offer unto the Lord an

offering in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:1, 3) But, alas! they would not be

purified. The Lord might cleanse the temple; the priests who ministered there

would not yield up their hearts to him, that He might cleanse them. He

looked round about upon all things (according to Mark, the actual cleansing

of the temple was deferred till the Lord’s second visit, on the Monday). So

the Lord comes to His temple now, so He looks round about upon all things;

He notes the formal services, He notes the careless hearts. It is right that the

house of God be kept in decent order and beauty, but far more deeply

necessary that all who minister and all who worship there should offer up

their hearts to Him cleansed, purified through faith in Him; a reasonable,

holy, and lively sacrifice.  (Romans 12:1)

 

Ø      His ejection of the buyers and sellers. He had cleansed the temple once

before, at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-17). The irreverent

practices which He then checked had been resumed. The court of the

Gentiles had again become a market for the oxen, sheep, and doves, which

the worshippers needed for the various sacrifices. Again the money

changers had established themselves there to exchange the foreign money

brought by the worshippers from many lands for the sacred shekel of the

sanctuary, which alone could be accepted in the temple. Probably now, in

the Passover week, the traffic was busier than ever, the noise more

unseemly, the bargaining more eager than at other times. It was a sad

scene, an unholy intrusion of earth and earthly doings into THE

HOUSE OF GOD!  The Saviour’s holy soul was moved within Him. Filled

with that zeal for the house of God which had so much struck the apostles on

the former occasion, He cast out all that sold and bought in the temple. There

was a majesty in His look and bearing which could not be resisted; they fled

before Him, conscience stricken. They felt that He was right; He was

vindicating a great truth; God’s house must be held in honor; they who

reverence God must reverence His temple. “Lord, I have loved the

habitation of thy house, and the place where thy honor dwelleth.”

(Psalm 26:8)

 

Ø      His rebuke. He told them what the temple should be — a house of

prayer; it should be pervaded with an atmosphere of prayer; those who

came there should come in the spirit of prayer; they should go up into the

temple to pray. But how was prayer possible amid this noise and hubbub?

This unseemly trafficking unsettled the minds of the worshippers as they

passed into the inner courts. The court of the Gentiles was like a den of

robbers now; they were robbing God of the honor due to Him; they were

driving this unholy traffic in His courts, their thoughts bent on dishonest

gains. It must not be so, He said; God’s house is a sacred place. We

dishonor God’s house if we allow worldly, covetous thoughts to occupy

our minds when our bodies are present there. When the heart is like a den

of robbers, the prayer of the lips will not reach THE MERCY SEAT!  

We must do each of us our part to make God’s house indeed the house of

prayer by praying ourselves, and that in spirit and in truth.  “God is a

Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in

truth.”  (John 4:24)

 

Ø      His miracles. The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He

healed them. He would do works of mercy in the temple courts, as He

would do them on the sabbath; for, indeed, such deeds done in faith and

love are acts of worship, pure religion and undefiled before God and the

Father (James 1:27). It does our churches no dishonor to use them, as

sometimes they have been used in times of special need, for the service of

the sick and suffering. Still in the temple the Lord performs His miracles of

grace; there He opens the eyes of those who came praying, ‘“Lord, increase

our faith;” there He gives strength and energy to the hands that hang down

and the feeble knees.

 

  • THE DISPLEASURE OF THE CHIEF PRIESTS.

 

Ø      Their remonstrance. They saw the wonderful things that He did. The

miracles were wonderful; wonderful, too, was that strange majesty which

so impressed the crowd of dealers and money changers that they obeyed

Him, as it seems, without a word. It was a wonderful thing indeed that one

Man, and one without any recognized position in the temple, without any

official character, could overawe that concourse of traders. They heard the

children crying in the temple, repeating the hosannas of the festal

procession. They were sore displeased. They called the Lord’s attention.

They did not regard Him as the Messiah. He ought not, they thought, to

allow those untaught children to hail Him with such a title.

 

Ø      The Lords reply. He would not check the little ones. He ever loved

children, and children ever loved to flock around Him and to listen to His

voice. Besides, the children were right; their childlike hearts recognized the

dignity of Christ. Their hearts taught them, with an intuitive knowledge,

lessons which the learned rabbis, the dignitaries of the temple, could not

reach. So now holy children often utter profound truths in their simple,

innocent talk. Still God perfecteth praise out the mouths of babes and

sucklings. (v. 16; Psalm 8:2)  He accepts the children’s prayer; He listens

to the children’s hymn. Nay, the prayers and praises of children are our

example; for they are offered up in simplicity and truth.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      “The Lord is in His holy temple:” enter it with reverence.

 

Ø      His house is a house of prayer; drive out worldly thoughts; hush your

hearts into solemn attention.

 

Ø      Bring the little ones early to church; teach them the words of prayer and

praise; their praises are acceptable unto God.

 

 

 

The Ministry of the Children (v. 16)

 

Children are always delighted with a little public excitement, and readily

catch up the common enthusiasm; but we do not look to children for calm

and intelligent judgments on great issues. To our Lord children always

represented simple, guileless, unprejudiced souls, who put up no barriers

against His teachings, or against the gracious influences which He strove to

exert. These children would be lads from twelve years old upward. They

caught up the words of the excited disciples, and kept up the excitement by

shouting, even in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

 

  • THE CHILDREN COMFORTED JESUS BY WHAT THEY DID. It

was a bit of simple, honest, unrestrained enthusiasm. The young souls were

carried away by the joyous excitement of the day. It comforted Jesus to

hear some people speaking of Him who were unquestionably sincere; who

just uttered their hearts; who were glad, and said so. For it must have been

a heavy burden to our Lord that, even to the last, His disciples were so

guileful; they seemed as if they could never rise above the idea that they

were about to “get something good” by clinging to the Lord Jesus.

“Hosanna!” from the lads who wanted nothing from Him must have been

very comforting to our Lord, That is always one of the chief elements of

pleasure in children’s worship; it is guileless, genuine, the free unrestrained

utterance of the passing mood. It is not the highest thing. That is the

worship of THE FINALLY REDEEMED, who have won innocence through

experience of sin; but it is the earth-suggestion of it. Children’s praise is

still the joy of Christian hearts.

 

  • THE CHILDREN COMFORTED JESUS BY WHAT THEY

REPRESENTED. For to Him the children were types. “Babes and

sucklings” are types of simple, loving, trustful souls, and to such God’s

revelations come. Now, there are two kinds of trustful, humble, gentle

souls:

 

Ø      Those who are trustful without ever having struggled. Some are

naturally trustful, believing, receptive, and in all spheres of life they

are loved and loving souls.

 

Ø      Those who are trustful as the victory out of struggle. These are the

noblest ones, the true child souls, the true virgin souls; these walk the

earth in white, and it is white that will never take a soil. In their praise

Christ finds His supreme joy.

 

17 “And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He

lodged there.”  He left them. The chief priests had nothing to say in reply to

this testimony of Scripture. They feared to arrest Him in the face of the

enthusiastic multitude; they bided their time, for the present apparently

silenced. Jesus, wasting no further argument on these willfully unbelieving

people, turned and left them. The King had no home in His royal city; He

sought one in lowly Bethany, where He was always sure of a welcome in

the house of Martha and Mary. It is somewhat doubtful whether He availed

Himself of His friends’ hospitality at this time. The term Bethany would

include the district so called in the vicinity of the town, as in the description

of the scene of the Ascension (Luke 24:50). Lodged (ηὐλίσθη – aelisthae –

is camped out). This word, if its strict classical use is pressed, would imply

that Jesus passed the night in the open air; but it may mean merely “lodge,” or

pass the night,” without any further connotation; so no certain inference can

be drawn from its employment in this passage. This withdrawal of Jesus

avoided all danger of a rising in His favor, which, supported by the vast

resources of the temple, might have had momentous consequences at this

time of popular concourse and excitement.

 

 

The Cursing of the Barren Fig Tree (vs. 18-22)

(Mark 11:12-14, 20-26.)

 

18 “Now in the morning as He returned into the city, He hungered.”

In the morning (πρωίαςproias – of morning; an early hour) which implies a

very early time of the day, and is a term used for the fourth or last watch of the

night, Mark 1:35). Matthew has combined in one view a transaction which

had two separate stages, as we gather from the narrative of Mark. The

curse was uttered on the Monday morning, before the cleansing of the

temple; the effect was beheld and the lesson given on the Tuesday, when

Jesus was visiting Jerusalem for the third time (vs. 20-22). Strauss and

his followers, resenting the miraculous in the incident, have imagined that

the whole story is merely an embodiment and development of the parable

of the fruitless fig tree recorded by Luke (Luke 13:6, etc.), which in

course of time assumed this historical form. There is no ground whatever

for this idea. It claims to be, and doubtless is, the account of a real fact,

naturally connected with the circumstances of the time, and of great

practical importance. He hungered. True Man, He showed the weakness of

His human nature, even when about to exert His power in the Divine. There

is no need, rather it is unseemly to suppose (as many old commentators

have done), that this hunger was miraculous or assumed, in order to give

occasion for the coming miracle. Christ had either passed the night on the

mountain-side in prayer and fasting, or had started from His lodging

without breaking His fast. His followers do not seem to have suffered in the

same way; and it was doubtless owing to His mental preoccupation and

self-forgetfulness that the Lord had not attended to bodily wants.

 

19 “And when He saw a fig tree in the way, He came to it, and found

nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow

on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered

away.”  When He saw a (μίανmian -  a single; one) fig tree in the way.

The tree stood all alone in a conspicuous situation by the roadside, as if

courting observation. It was allowable to pluck and eat fruit in an orchard

(Deuteronomy 23:24-25); but this tree, placed where it was, seemed to

be common property, belonging to no private owner. The sight of the

leaves thereon, as Mark tells us, attracted the notice of Christ, who

beheld with pleasure the prospect of relieving His long abstinence with the

refreshment of cool and juicy fruit. He came to it. Knowing the nature of

the tree, and that under some circumstances the fruit ripens before the

leaves are fully out, Jesus naturally expected to find on it some figs fit to

eat. Further, besides the fruit which comes to maturity in the usual way

during the summer, there are often late figs produced in autumn which

hang on the tree during winter, and ripen at the reawakening of vegetation

in the spring. The vigor of this particular tree was apparently proved by

the luxuriance of its foliage, and it might reasonably be expected to retain

some of its winter produce. Found nothing thereon, but leaves only. It

was all outward show, promise without performance, seeming precocity

with no adequate results. There is no question here of Christ’s omniscience

being at fault. He acted as a man would act; He was not deceived Himself

nor did He deceive the apostles, though they at first misapprehended His

purpose. The whole action was symbolical, and was meant so to appear. In

strict propriety of conduct, as a man led by the appearance of the tree

might act, He carried out the figure, at the same time showing, by His

treatment of this inanimate object, that He had something higher in view,

and that He does not mean that which His outward conduct seemed to

imply. He is enacting a parable where all the parts are in due keeping, and

all have their twofold signification in the world of nature and the world of

grace. The hunger is real, the tree is real, the expectation of fruit legitimate,

the barrenness disappointing and criminal; the spiritual side, however, is left

to be inferred, and, as we shall see, only one of many possible lessons is

drawn from the result of the incident. Let no fruit grow on thee (let there

be no fruit from thee) henceforward forever. Such is the sentence passed

on this ostentations tree. Christ addresses it as if replying to the profession

made by its show of leaves. It had the sap of life, it had power to produce

luxuriant leaves; therefore it might and ought to have borne fruit. It

vaunted itself as being superior to its neighbors, and the boast was utterly

empty. Presently (παραχρῆμα – parachraema - instantly) the fig tree withered

away. The process was doubtless gradual, commencing at Christ’s word, and

continuing till the tree died; but Matthew completes the account at once, giving

in one picture the event, with its surroundings and results. It was a moral

necessity that what had incurred Christ’s censure should perish; the

spiritual controlled the material; the higher overbore the lower. Thus the

designed teaching was placed in visible shape before the eyes, and silently

uttered its important lesson. It has been remarked (by Neander) that we are

not to suppose that the tree thus handled was previously altogether sound

and healthy. Its show of leaves at an unusual period without fruit may point

to some abnormal development of activity which was consequent upon

some radical defect. Had it been in vigorous health, it would not have been

a fitting symbol of the Jewish Church; nor would it have corresponded with

the idea which Christ designed to bring to the notice of His apostles. There

was already some process at work which would have issued in decay, and

Christ’s curse merely accelerated this natural result. This is considered to

be the only instance in which our Lord exerted His miraculous power in

destruction; all His other actions were beneficent, saving, gracious. The

drowning of the swine at Gadara was only permitted for a wise purpose; it

was not commanded or inflicted by Him. The whole transaction in our text

is mysterious. That the Son of man should show wrath against a senseless

tree, as a tree, is, of course, not conceivable. There was an apparent

unfitness, if not injustice, in the proceeding, which at once demonstrated

that the tree was not the real object of the action — that something more

important was in view. Christ does not treat trees as moral agents,

responsible for life and action. He uses inanimate objects to convey lessons

to men, dealing with them according to His good pleasure, even His

supreme will, which is the law by which they are controlled. In themselves

they have no fault and incur no punishment, but they are treated in such a

way as to profit the nobler creatures of God’s hand. There may have been

two reasons for Christ’s conduct which were not set prominently forward

at the time. First, He desired to show His power, His absolute control, over

material forces, so that, in what was about to happen to Him, His apostles

might be sure that He suffered not through weakness or compulsion, but

because He willed to have it so. This would prepare His followers for His

own and their coming trials. Then there was another great lesson taught by

the sign. The fig tree is a symbol of the Jewish Church. The prophets had

used both it and the vine in this connection (compare Hosea 9:10), and

our Lord Himself makes an unmistakable allusion in His parable of the fig

tree planted in the vineyard, from which the owner for three years sought

fruit in vain (Luke 13:6, etc.). Many of His subsequent discourses are,

as it were, commentaries upon this incident (see vs. 28-44; ch. 22:1-14; chapters

23-25.).  Here was a parable enacted. The Saviour had seen this tree, the Jewish

Church, afar off, looking down upon it from heaven; it was one, single, standing

conspicuous among all nations as that whereon the Lord had lavished most care,

that which ought to have shown the effect of this culture in abundant produce

of holiness and righteousness. But what was the result? Boasting to be children

of Abraham, the special heritage of Jehovah, gifted with highest privileges, the

sole possessors of the knowledge of God, the Israelites professed to have what

no other people had, and were in reality empty and bare. There was plenty of

outward show — rites, ceremonies, scrupulous observances, much speaking —

but no real devotion, no righteousness, no heart worship, no good works.

Other nations, indeed, were equally fruitless, but they did not profess to be

holy; they were sinners, and offered no cloak for their sinfulness. The Jews

were no less unrighteous; but they were hypocrites, and boasted of the good

which they had not. Other nations were unproductive, for their time had

not come; but for Israel the season had arrived; she ought to have been the

first to accept the Messiah, to unite the new with the old fruit, to pass from

the Law to the gospel, and to learn and practice the lesson of faith. Perfect

fruit was not yet to be expected; but Israel’s sin was that she vaunted her

perfection, counted herself sound and whole, while rotten at the very core,

and barren of all good results. Her falsehood, hypocrisy, and arrogant

complacency were fearfully punished. The terms of the curse pronounced

by the Judge are very emphatic. It denounces PERPETUAL BARRENESS

on the Jewish Church and people. From Judea was to have gone forth

the healing of the nations; from it all peoples of the earth were to be blessed.

The complete fulfillment of this promise is no longer in the literal Israel; she is

nothing in the world; no one resorts to her for food and refreshment; she

has none to offer the wayfarer. For nearly twenty centuries has that fruitlessness

continued; the withered tree still stands, a monument of unbelief and its

punishment.  (I recommend Mark 11 – Spurgeon Sermon – Nothing but Leaves –

this website – CY – 2017)  The Lord’s sentence, “forever,” must be understood

with some limitation. In His parable of the fig tree, which adumbrates the last

days, He intimates that it shall some day bud and blossom, and be clothed

once more with leaf and fruit; and Paul looks forward to the conversion

of Israel, when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Romans 11:23-26).

 

 

 

The Fruitless Fig Tree (v. 19)

 

We may wonder how Jesus could have hungered during the short walk

over the Mount of Olives from Bethany, if He had just left the hospitable

roof of Martha. Had she taken His mild rebuke too literally when she was

busying herself in providing a bountiful table on a former occasion? Or may

we not think with more probability that Jesus, who was an early riser, had

left the house before breakfast? If so, this would have been a trial to

Martha; but it would have shown her and all the disciples how eager He

was to be about His Father’s business. Yet He is a man, and the fresh

morning air on the hills awakens the natural appetite of hunger. A few

verses back it is said that Jesus had need of an ass and its colt (v. 3).

Here we see that He had need of a few wild figs — commonest of wayside

fruit, so real was His human nature, so perfect the lowliness of His earthly

state.

 

  • THE CONDITION OF THE TREE.

 

Ø      It had promise. This was a forward tree as far as leaves were concerned.

Earlier than others of the same species in putting forth its foliage, it gave

promise of an early supply of fruit, because the figs appear before the

leaves. It is dangerous to make great pretensions. To stand out from our

brother men with some claim to exceptional honor is to raise expectations

of exceptional worth. We should do well to avoid taking such a position

unless we are sure we can sustain it without disappointing the hopes we

raise.

 

Ø      It was not true to its promise. This was the unhappy thing about the tree.

If it had been like the backward trees, nothing would have been expected

of it. But by giving a sign which in the course of nature should follow the

putting forth of fruit, it made a false pretension. Possibly the vigor of the

foliage absorbed the sap which should have helped the fruit buds. Great

attention to display directly injures the cultivation of really worthy

qualities. Religious ostentation is generally barren.

 

  • THE DOOM OF THE TREE. It is to wither. The fig tree is only

valued for the sake of its figs. If these are wanting, the tree is worthless. Its

luxuriance of leaves is worse than useless, because it prevents other plants

from growing where the fruitless branches overshadow the ground.

 

Ø      What is fruitless is worthless.

 

o        The nation. Here was typified the miserable state of Israel. The splendid

temple, with its gold so dazzling that no one could look steadily at it

when the sun shone on it, was in full view of Jesus as He passed the

fruitless fig tree. There on the opposite hill were the signs of the

unbounded claims and pride of Israel. Yet what had come out of

them all?

 

o        The Church. A Church exists for the glory of God and the good of

men. If it bears no such fruit, though it may flourish numerically and

financially, it is quite worthless.

 

o        The individual man or woman. God cares absolutely nothing for our

professions of piety; the showy religion that imposes on men is an

abomination in the sight of God. He looks for fruit in deeds of useful

service. All else is but a mass of worthless leaves.

 

Ø      What is worthless must be destroyed. The fruitless Jerusalem was

destroyed. Barren Churches have been swept away from Asia Minor and

North Africa; barren Churches will be swept from other parts of

Christendom in the future. Fruitless souls will be cast out of the garden

of the Lord.

 

 

The Tree the Type of the Hypocrite (v. 19)

 

“Found nothing thereon, but leaves only.” The attempted explanations of

the condition of this fig tree bewilder us. Some say our Lord expected to

find some stray figs on the tree left from the last harvest. Others say that,

as He saw leaves, He naturally expected fruit, because the figs appear on the

trees before the fruit. We must suppose that it was the custom to eat green

figs, for it is certain that at this season of the year the fresh figs could not

be ripened. What is clear is:

 

  • OUR LORD TAUGHT BY SYMBOLIC ACTIONS. There are spoken

parables and acted parables; both were used in all teachings, especially in

Eastern teachings; both were used by our Lord. All suggestion that our

Lord was personally vexed at the failure of the tree must be carefully

eliminated. With the genius of the teacher, our Lord at once saw, and

seized, the opportunity for giving an impressive object lesson, which He

completed by consummating at once the destruction of the tree.  The tree

must have been diseased, or it would have borne fruit. Its destruction was

certain. The tree did not sin in being diseased or having no fruit; but the

teacher may take it to represent one who sins in making outward show

that has no answering goodness within it. Our Lord only took beasts or

trees to illustrate DIVINE JUDGMENTS!

 

  • WHAT OUR LORD TAUGHT HERE WAS THE CERTAIN DOOM

OF THE HYPOCRITE. Christ never spoke so severely of any one as of

the hypocrites. Insincerity was the fault most personally offensive to Him.

The tree seemed to represent a hypocrite. It had leaves. There was fair

outward show. It seemed to say, “Come to me if you are hungry; I can

refresh you.” And when Christ came He found the leaves were all it had to

give. His thoughts were much occupied at this time with the Pharisees,

who were making outside show of superior piety, but had no soul piety

opening their hearts to give Him welcome. Perhaps our Lord meant to

picture Judas Iscariot. Fair showing as any disciple, but rotten hearted. Let

Pharisees learn, let Judas learn, let disciples learn, from that fig tree. It is

dying; Christ hastens the corrupting process, and it dies in a day. The

hypocrite is corrupting. He is under the curse of God. There is no hope in

this life or the next for the man who is consciously insincere.

 

20 “And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is

the fig tree withered away!”  They marveled, saying. The apostles’ remark on

the incident was made on the Tuesday, as we learn from Mark’s more accurate

account. After Christ had spoken His malediction, the little band went on

their way to Jerusalem, where was performed the cleansing of the temple.

On their return to Bethany, if they passed the tree, it was doubtless too

dark to observe its present condition, and it was not till the next morning

that they noticed what had happened. Matthew does not name the

apostle who was the mouthpiece of the others in expressing astonishment

at the miracle; he is satisfied with speaking generally of “the disciples”

(compare ch. 26:8 with John 12:4). We learn from Mark that

it was Peter who made the observation recorded, deeply affected by the

sight of this instance of Christ’s power, and awestruck by the speedy and

complete accomplishment of the curse. How soon is the fig tree withered

away! better, How did the fig tree immediately wither away? Vulgate,

Quomodo continue aruit? They saw, but could not comprehend, the effect

of Christ’s word, and wonderingly inquired how it came to pass. They did

not at present realize the teaching of this parabolic act — how it gave

solemn warning of the certainty of judgment on the unfruitful Jewish

Church, which, hopelessly barren, must no longer cumber the earth. Christ

did not help them to understand the typical nature of the transaction. He is

not wont to explain in words the spiritual significance of His miracles; the

connection between miracle and teaching is left to be inferred, to be

brought out by meditation, prayer, faith, and subsequent circumstances.

The total rejection of the Jews was a doctrine for which the apostles were

not yet prepared; so the Lord, in wisdom and mercy, withheld its express

enunciation at this moment. In mercy too He exemplified the sternness and

severity of God’s judgment by inflicting punishment on an inanimate object,

and not on a sentient being; He withered a tree, not a sinful man, by the

breath of His mouth.  (“For He spake, and it was done” – Psalm 33:9)

 

21 “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye

have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to

the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou

removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”

Jesus answered. To the apostles’ question the Lord makes

reply, drawing a lesson, not such as we should have expected, but one of

quite a different nature, yet one which was naturally deduced from the

transaction which had excited such astonishment. They marveled at this

incident; let them have and exercise faith. and they should do greater things

than this. Christ had already made a similar answer after the cure of the

demoniac boy (ch.17:20, where see note). If ye have faith, and doubt not

(μὴ διακριθῆτε – mae diakrithaete – no ye may be doubting). The whole phrase

expresses the perfection of the grace. The latter verb means “to discriminate,”

to see a difference in things, hence to debate in one’s mind. The Vulgate gives,

Si habueritis fidem, et non haesitaveritis. What is here enjoined is that temper

of mind which does not stop hesitatingly to consider whether a thing can be done

or not, but believes that all is possible — that one can do all things through

Christ who strengthens him. So the apostles are assured by Christ that they

should not only be able to wither a tree with a word, but should accomplish

far more difficult undertakings. This which is done to the fig tree (τὸ τῆς συκῆς –

to taes sukaes – to the fig tree); as, “what was befallen to them that were possessed

with devils (τὰτῶν δαιμονιζομένων – taton daimonizomenon – the ones being

demonized)(ch. 8:33). The promise may intimate that it was to be through

the preaching of the apostles, and the Jews’ rejection of the salvation offered

by them, that the judgment should fall on the chosen people. Thus they would

do what was done to the fig tree. And in the following words we may see a

prophecy of the destruction of the mountain of paganism. Or it may mean that

theocratic Judaism must be cast into the sea of nations before the Church of Christ

should reach its full development (Lange). This mountain. As He speaks, He points

to the Mount of Olivet, on which they were standing, or to Moriah crowned by

the glorious temple. Be thou removed; be thou taken up; ἄρθητι – arthaeti – be,

being lifted; picked up), not the same word as in ch. 17:20. The sea. The

Mediterranean (see a similar promise, Luke 17:6). It shall be done. It was not

likely that any such material miracle would literally be needed, and no one

would ever pray for such a sign; but the expression is hyperbolically used to

denote the performance of things most difficult and apparently impossible (see

Zechariah 4:7; I Corinthians 13:2).

 

22 “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall

receive.”  All things. The promise is extended beyond the sphere of

extraordinary miracles. In prayer; ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ - en tae proseuchae –

in the prayer; or, in your prayer. The use of the article may point to the prayer

given by our Lord to His disciples, or to some definite form used from the earliest

times in public worship (compare Acts 1:14; Romans 12:12; I Corinthians 7:5;

Colossians 4:2). Believing, ye shall receive. The condition for the success of prayer

is stringent. A man must have no latent doubt in his heart; he must not debate

whether the thing desired can be done or not; he must have absolute trust in the

power and good will of God; and he must believe that “what he saith cometh

 to pass” (Mark 11:23). The faith required is the assurance of things hoped for,

such as gives substance and being to them while yet out of sight. The words had

their special application to the apostles, instructing them that they were not

to expect to be able, like their Master, to work the wonders needed for the

confirmation of the gospel by their own power. Such effects could be

achieved only by prayer and faith. (On the general promise to faithful

prayer, see ch. 7:7-11.)

 

 

Entry into Jerusalem (vs. 1-22)

 

Our Lord had now entered on the last week of his life upon earth, but, save

in His own heart, there is no premonition of His death. Having spent the

sabbath in Bethany, He proceeds on Sunday morning to the city. That was

the day, four days before the Passover, on which the Jews were

commanded to choose the Paschal lamb. Our Lord, conscious of His calling

to die for His people, puts Himself into their hands. He now feels that His

hour has come, and proclaims Himself as the promised Messiah, the King of

Peace, by entering into Jerusalem, the metropolis of peace, in a manner

which no one could fail to interpret, as One who would certainly furnish

men with that which would not give one strong race power over others,

but which would weld all men together and give them common feelings

and interests, and restore in truth the unity of men. The points in the entry

which Matthew considered significant are:

 

  • OUR LORD’S PROCLAMATION OF HIMSELF AS KING OF

PEACE BY RIDING INTO JERUSALEM ON AN ASS. He did not

choose a horse, because that animal would have suggested royalty of quite

another kind from His — royalty which was maintained by war and

outward force.

 

Ø      What is it, then, that Christ claims? No one could have the slightest

doubt that He claimed to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, and to be that very

Person who was to come and bring with Him to earth everything which the

love of God could bestow. He professes His willingness to take command

of earth, not in the easier sense of being able to lay down a political

constitution for all races, but in the sense of being able to satisfy every

individual, to give peace to every soul, however distracted by trouble and

overwhelmed by sin. And some have through Him actually entered into

such peace that they are impregnable to this world’s assaults, and have

gained the mastery over its temptations. They have found Him to be all He

claims to be.

 

Ø      They proclaimed Him as the Saviour and King of men, and He accepted

these offices in a very different spirit from that in which they were

ascribed to Him. He knew that to be the King of a people so down trodden

with sin, so entangled in ancient evils, was full of danger and suffering; that

in order to deliver such a people HE MUST DIE FOR THEM! And it is

His expectation that we on our side should open our eyes to what He has done,

and acknowledge Him as our King. We must not grudge if it comes in the

way of our duty to Him to make real sacrifices.

 

Ø      It must, indeed, have been a humbling experience for our Lord to have

Himself ushered into Jerusalem by a crowd through whose hosannas He

already heard the mutter of their curses. Such is the homage a perfect life

has won.

 

  • ALTHOUGH OUR LORD MAKES NO MOAN OVER HIS OWN

FATE AS THE REJECTED MESSIAH, HE QUITE BREAKS DOWN

AT THE THOUGHT OF THE DOOM OF HIS REJECTERS. Terrible,

indeed, must the responsibility often have seemed to Him of being set as the

test of men, of being the occasion of so many being found wanting. Are we

in a condition so full of hazard and foreboding that it might justly bring

tears to the eyes of Christ?

 

  • THE WITHERING OF THE FRUITLESS FIG TREE WAS A

SYMBOLIC ACT. Our Lord saw in it the very image of Jerusalem. There

was there an exuberant display of all kinds of religious activity, with

absolutely nothing that could feed the soul or satisfy God. And the

withering of the fig tree reveals the other side of our Lord’s character in

connection with this rejection by the Jews. He wept, but He also

pronounced doom. To calculate our own future we must keep in view not

only the tears of Christ, but also His judgment. Throughout His life the one

is as prominent as the other. Words which were rarely or never heard from

the sternest Old Testament prophet are common on His lips. There is a day

of visitation for each man a day in which to us in our turn there appears

a possibility and an invitation to enter into the presence of God, and be

forever satisfied IN HIM AND WITH HIS LIKENESS!  (“Beloved, now

are we the sons of God, and it doth no yet appear what we shall be:

but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we

shall see Him as He is.”  I John 3:2)   Picture to yourself the shame

of being a failure, such a failure that the truest love and most inventive

wisdom must give you up and pronounce you useless.  (“There shall

be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and

Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and

 

you yourselves THRUST OUT!”  Luke 13:28)

 

 

The Return to the Temple (vs. 17-22)

 

  • THE WALK TO AND FROM BETHANY.

 

Ø      The Sunday evening. The Lord left the temple “when He had looked

round upon all things.” He had no home in the royal city. He went out unto

Bethany, and there He lodged, perhaps in the house of Lazarus, perhaps, as

many pilgrims did, in a booth on the hillside, or under the shelter of the

trees. “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

 

Ø      Monday. Very early the Lord returned to the city. It seems he had eaten

nothing; he hungered on the way. He was poor in this world. Let us learn

of him to be content in poverty and hardships.

 

  • THE BARREN FIG TREE.

 

Ø      The curse. It stood alone, a conspicuous object. It was full of leaves.

The time for figs was not yet, but this tree was singularly forward,

precocious; the leaves promised early fruit, “hasty fruit before the summer”

(Isaiah 28:4). It had none; it was barren. The Lord said, “Let no fruit

grow on thee henceforward forever;” “and presently the fig tree withered

away.” The miracle was symbolical, an acted parable. The priests and

scribes whom the Lord was about to confront were like that fig tree — fair

to look upon. They were held in honor, some for their official rank, some

for their supposed righteousness, but they brought not forth the fruits of

holiness. Such must wither when the Lord’s searching eye is fixed upon

them, when He comes seeking fruit. Leaves will not take the place of fruit,

outward profession will not atone for the absence of holiness of heart and

life. That fig tree was a meet emblem of the hypocrite. There were other

trees without fruit; but they made no show of special forwardness — they

were leafless still. This one tree was conspicuous for its foliage, but it had

no fruit hidden beneath its leaves. The other trees might yet bring forth

fruit in due time; this one had exhausted itself in leaves. Such a show of life

is worthless in the sight of God; it is not life, it is only a false appearance; it

may deceive men, it cannot deceive God. “I know thy works, that thou

hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”  (Revelation 3:1)  Many

professing Christians seem to us like that fig tree. Take we heed to ourselves.

The Lord passed on, His hunger unappeased. The whole world was His, the

cattle on a thousand hills; yet He hungered, for He had taken our flesh. He

suffered as we suffer; He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He

went on to Jerusalem, to the temple. Now apparently (according to the more

exact order of Mark) took place that expulsion of unhallowed traffic, the

miracles, the hosannas of the children, and the interference of the priests,

which have been already related by anticipation in this Gospel.

“When even was come, He went out of the city.”

 

Ø      The astonishment of the disciples. The words of the Lord produced an

immediate effect. The life of the tree, such as it was, was at once arrested;

the sap ceased to circulate, the leaves began to wither. But it seems from

the more minute account in Mark, that the disciples did not observe the

result till they passed the tree again in going to Jerusalem on the Tuesday

morning. Then they marveled, saying, “How soon is the fig tree withered

away!” We wonder at their wonder. They had seen many wondrous

manifestations of the Lord’s mighty power: why should they wonder now?

They were still weak in faith — as the nine had been when they sought in

vain to cast out the evil spirit beneath the Mount of the Transfiguration.

The Lord repeats the lesson which He gave them then, “Have faith in God;”

doubt not. Doubt destroys the strength of prayer. He that doubteth will not

receive anything of the Lord (James 1:7); but if we ask in steadfast,

undoubting faith, then there is the blessed promise, “All things are possible

to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23), for the prayer of undoubting faith availeth

much with God.  (James 5:16)  What was done to the fig tree, the Lord said,

was a small thing for faith to do; faith could do things greater far. The psalmist

had sung of the Mount Zion, “It cannot be removed: it abideth forever.”

(Psalm 125:1)  But the Lord said, pointing, it may be, to the mountains round

Jerusalem, “If ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou

cast into the sea, it shall be done.” (v. 21)  Faith can remove mountains;

difficulties vanish before the prayer of faith. Set the Lord’s promises before

you when you pray; claim them as your own; realize them, trust in them;

pray with persevering importunity, and, doubt not, you shall receive what

you ask in faithful prayer. This or that sin may seem like a mountain, rooted

deep in the heart, immovable; but pray against it, pray that it may be cast out;

pray in faith, believing in God’s power, believing in His love, and it shall be

done. It is our want of faith which makes our prayers so weak. If we fully

believed that God is able and willing to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,

to make us whiter than snow, we should, in our own actual lives, overcome

the world, the flesh, and the devil, and be more than conquerors through

Him who loved us.

 

  • LESSONS.

 

Ø      Let it be our most earnest effort to be true and faithful, not to seem to

be so. Hypocrisy is hateful in the sight of God.

Ø      Pray for a strong, undoubting faith; it is God’s most precious gift.

Ø      Pray always; believe in the power of prayer.

 

 

 

The Lord of the Temple (vs. 17-22)

 

“The temple of God (v. 12) Jesus calls “my house” (v. 13), asserting

Himself to be the Divine Lord of the temple. And quoting as He does from

Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11, He identifies Himself as “Jehovah.”

Acting in this quality, He surveyed the characters He found in the temple

and dealt with them accordingly. But the temple stands forth as a type of

Christ’s Church (compare I Corinthians 3:16; II Corinthians 6:16;

Ephesians 2:21-22; Hebrews 3:6), so the subject has its lessons for

us. We may ask, then:

 

  • WHAT SORT OF PERSONS DOES JESUS FIND IN HIS CHURCH?

 

Ø      He finds the secularist there.

 

o        The secularist is in his place in the world. The calling of the money

changer is lawful when honestly fulfilled. So is that of the vendor

of doves (see Deuteronomy 14:24-26).

 

o        The calling of the secularist is a desecration in the “house of prayer.”

Lawful things become sinful when ill-timed and ill-placed. The temple

of God is defiled by merchandise.

 

§         By that scandalous traffic in holy things, which is so largely

carried on within the borders of the professing Church, in

simoniacal presentation, fraudulent exchanges, preferment

obtained through flattery.

 

§         By that worldly, covetous, money getting spirit which dwells

in so many of its members. This spirit is demoralizing. It is

also distracting to worship.

 

o        Worldly gain must not be made the end of godliness (see I Timothy

6:5). Men should not enter the membership or seek office in Churches

with a view to increasing their business.

 

Ø      He finds the afflicted there.

 

o        “The blind and the lame” are in the world. Sin begets suffering. The

prevalence of suffering evinces the prevalence of sin. But there must be

qualification here (see John 9:3).

 

o        “The blind and the lame” are in the temple. The Church on earth is

not so perfect as to be free from afflictions.

 

o        The afflicted are where they should be in the Church. Christ the Healer

is still in His temple. Religion has its remedies. Religion has its reliefs.

 

Ø      He finds the true disciple there.

 

o        The Christian in the world is not of it.

o        In the Church he is at home.

o        He meets Jesus there.

o        He see His “wonders” there — miracles of moral healing, miracles of

wholesome discipline.

o        He raises the “Hosanna!” there. The “babes and sucklings,” who

perfected praise, were not infants literally, but childlike disciples

(compare ch. 18:1-6; 11:25; I Peter 2:2).

 

Ø      He finds the ritualist and the traditionalist there.

 

o        “The chief priests and the scribes” (v. 15). Ritualist and traditionalist

are frequently met in company.

 

o        They saw, but could not interpret, the wonders wrought by Christ.

They could not see His Godhead in the wonderful submission of the

traffickers. Neither could they see this in His miracles of healing.

 

o        They were angry with those who could interpret the wonders. They

were scandalized that the disciples should shout “Hosanna to the

 Son of David!” Proud men cannot bear that honor should be given

to any but themselves. To hypocrites everything that is not

commonplace and traditional is extravagant.

 

o        Prejudice could censure “the blind and the lame” for coming into the

temple to be healed, but could see no evil in the traffickers stalling

their oxen there. Superstition is often the companion of irreverence.

The priests probably had a pecuniary interest in the traffic, particularly

in those animals sold for sacrifice which they had to examine and

approve. Interest blinds.

 

  • WHAT SORT OF TREATMENT HAVE THEY TO EXPECT FROM

HIM?

 

Ø      What has the secularist to expect?

 

o        To be violently ejected from the Church. See the tables and seats

overthrown and the money scattered. What a different estimate of

its value has Jesus to that cherished by men of the world!

 

o        To have their characters exposed. “Robbers!” Extortioners and cheats,

viz. in their business, are robbers. The slyness of the fraud does not

diminish its villainy. How monstrous the sin when the very

Church of God is made a “den of thieves”!

 

o        Those who are not admonished by the searchings of truth must suffer

the retributions of power. On the first day when Jesus entered the

temple He “looked round about upon all things.” It was not until

the second day that He gave the sterner rebuke (compare Mark

11:11,15).

 

o        This was the second time that Jesus purged the temple. The first was

about three years earlier (see John 2:14). Note: Secularists ejected

from the Church will return. They must be expelled again.

 

o        As our Lord purged the temple first at the commencement of His

ministry and now again at the close of it, so at the beginning of the

Christian dispensation the Jewish anti-Messiah was driven out by

the Romans, and at the end of it the Gentile antichrist will be cast out.

 

o        Never, until THE ANTI-CHRISTIAN SECULARISM is purged

out of the temple of the Lord, will the glory of the Lord come into

it as in ancient times.  The millennial reign will set in with the

return of THE SHECHINAH!  (I recommend Ezekiel 43 –

this website – and the section dealing with God leaving

Jerusalem  following vs. 1 and 2 -  CY – 2017)

 

Ø      What have the afflicted to expect?

 

o        Miracles of healing. The physical miracles have their moral

counterparts. The “blind” come to spiritual conception. The

“lame” come to render moral obedience in. a steady, even walk.

 

o        Christ alone wrought miracles in the temple of the Lord. He only

can work out spiritual marvels.

 

o        Note: Christ brought in the afflicted as He turned out the secularists.

Concession to the spirit of the world is not the way to win men to

Jesus. We have too many sensuous “entertainments.”

 

o        Spiritual glory is grander than material splendor. By His healing

mercy Jesus made the glory of the latter house to surpass that of

 the former.

 

Ø      What have the true disciples to expect?

 

o        Mutual encouragement. The hosannas were in chorus. If “children,”

literally taken, raised their voices, it was in imitation of the childlike

disciples.

 

o        The defense of Christ. The expulsion of the traffickers was for the

defense of pious Gentiles; for it was in the court of the Gentiles the

traffic was carried on. The privileges of the Gentile believer must not

be diverted from him. Jesus also defended His disciples against their

enemies, the ritualists and traditionalists.

 

o        His commendation. God makes the wrath of men to praise Him.

But His praise is “perfected” by his disciples. With them His

praise is intelligent, generous, and free.

 

Ø      What have the haughty to expect?

 

o        Rebuke from Christ. There is a keen sarcasm in the question, “Did

ye never read?” when addressed to the “chief priests and scribes.”

 

o        Abandonment by Christ. “And He left them.” He had no sympathy

with their spirit. He found a more congenial lodging in the

olive-shade of Bethany.

 

o        THE GREAT REDEEMER IS A GREAT REFORMER!

 

 

 

 

The Omnipotence of Faith (vs. 18-22)

 

The miracles of Jesus were generally miracles of mercy. There are a few

exceptions. Conspicuous amongst these is the withering of the fig tree with

a word. When the disciples marveled Jesus expounded to them His

astonishing doctrine of the power of faith. We learn:

 

  • THAT BELIEVING IS ESSENTIAL TO PREVAILING PRAYER.

 

Ø      There can be no prayer without faith in A PERSONAL GOD!

 

o        The atheist cannot pray. The reason is obvious. He has no God

to pray to. His is a melancholy orphanage.

 

o        The pantheist cannot pray. His god is an infinite It, unsusceptible to

prayer. “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that

He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him!” (Hebrews 11:6).

 

o        The Christian can pray. He believes in a personal God, who created us

after His image. As a man can intelligently speak to his friend, so, etc.

(see Exodus 33:11).

 

Ø      There can be no prayer without faith in a Person susceptible to human

appeals.

 

o        The deist cannot pray. His god is too far removed from his works to

notice the specks upon a tiny planet.

 

The Christian can pray. For he has loftier views of God. He HE

IS SO GREAT that nothing can escape Him. While He rules

firmaments of suns and systems of worlds, He feeds the

animalculae.  (I highly recommend Fantastic Trip on You Tube

CY - 2017)

 

o        The Christian, moreover, is encouraged to pray by his faith in THE

MEDIATION OF CHRIST!  Without such mediation the sinner might

shrink from approaching the infinitely Holy. In it mercy in harmony

with justice is assured.

 

Ø      Faith is active in successful prayer.

 

o       The power of faith is like that of water, impotent in quiescence,

but efficient when in motion. It is like heat, impotent when

latent, but whose energy when molecules are in motion is

tremendous.

 

o       It is the active faith of saints that alarms Satan. It stirs three

worlds, viz.:

 

§         heaven,

§         earth, and

§         hell.

 

  • THAT BELIEVING PRAYER IS INFALLIBLY EFFECTIVE.

 

Ø      Because God has pledged Himself to it.

 

o        He is able to do whatever He will.  ("But our God is in the

heavens:  He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased."

(Psalm 115:3_  The power of the Promiser was exemplified

in the withering of the fig tree. The moral is drawn from this

example: “If ye have faith, and doubt not,” etc. (vs. 21-22).

 

o        He is willing to do whatever He promises. He cannot deny Himself.

(II Timothy 2:13)  “Heaven and earth may pass away.” The Creator

may reverse His act of creation. But the Uncreate cannot annihilate

Himself. But to falsify would be to annihilate Infinite Truth.

 

Ø      But how is the infallible effectiveness of believing prayer reconciled

with the wisdom of God?

 

o        If omnipotence is pledged to faith, may not omnipotence be put into

commission to folly; for man is confessedly fallible?

 

o        Faith, in the nature of the case, presupposes a promise. Where has the

God of wisdom promised a foolish thing?

 

o        But is there not here an open check: “All things, whatsoever ye shall

ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”? The particular promise is

still implied in the term “believing;” for faith itself is the gift of God.

The God of wisdom cannot inspire faith in the interests of folly.

 

Ø      But how can efficacy in prayer accord with the uniformity of natures

processes?

 

o        So undeviating is the order in the revolutions of the spheres that

eclipses, occultations, conjunctions, epacts, and other matters may be

calculated with certainty. (There is to be a total eclipse of the sun in

North America on August 21, 2017 and is to be of the longest duration

in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, within 10 miles of where I am typing this. 

This being March 31, 2017 - CY - 2017)  In like manner, chemical

changes never vary when the conditions are the same. Can prayer

disturb these things?

 

o        Who wants it to do so? There is no need to disturb matter when prayer

is made for spiritual blessings. What relation is there to eclipses and

epacts in answering the cry for mercy? A whole millennium of

spiritual glory may flood this earth in answer to prayer, without

touching the properties of a molecule of matter.

 

o        But how does the argument stand in relation to providence? There is a

sphere in nature for human providence. The farmer does not violate the

order of nature when he grows corn in response to the cry of a nation for

food. By draining and tillage he can alter the climate of his country and

alter its flora and fauna, and all this without altering the properties of a

single molecule of matter. In like manner, on a far grander scale, God

also has reserved to Himself a sphere for His providence in nature,

within which HE CAN ANSWER EVER PRAYER THAT HE

PLEASES TO INSPIRE!

 

  • THAT PRAYER FAILS THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF

CONDITIONS INIMICAL TO ACTIVE FAITH.

 

Ø      As when the matter of the suit is unwise.

 

o        “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss” (James 4:3). In

such a case God will in mercy withhold His gift of faith.

 

o        Or He may honor the sincerity of the prayer by conferring an

equivalent to that which His grace withholds. So He dealt with

Paul when he sought the removal of his “thorn in the flesh.”

(II Corinthians 12:7-9)

 

o        Honest prayer is never vain. Its very exercise ennobles. As the

domestic animal is ennobled by his conversation with man,

infinitely more is man ennobled by conversing with his Maker.

                              

Ø      As when the motive is unworthy of the suit.

 

o        Is our prayer for business prosperity? But is the motive good? Else the

answer may come in discipline. To how many is the accession of

material wealth the wasting of the infinitely more precious

moral properties!

 

o        Is our prayer for the spiritual conversion of a child? The end here is

undoubtedly good. But what is the motive? Is it that his consequent

dutifulness may increase the comfort of the home, rather than bring glory

to God and save a soul from death? Feather the arrows of prayer with the

very best motives.

 

Ø      As when the disposition of the suppliant is inconsistent with sincerity.

 

o        Such is the case when the lazy pray for a revival. Work for it while you

pray.

 

o        When the impenitent seek salvation. This is like a rebel suing to his

sovereign for pardon with a leaded revolver in his hand. The salvation

of the gospel is a salvation from sin. Repentance is therefore

indispensable (see ch. 5:23-26; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15-20;).

There is no mercy for the implacable (see ch. 6:12-15).

 

 

 

The Boundless Possibilities of Prayer (v. 22)

 

Read literally, this is a very difficult verse. We cannot see how it is verified

in experience. We should be horrified at its exact and verbal fulfillment,

because this would be handing over the control of the universe to the

praying mortal. The coachman would not put the reins in the hands of his

infant son, however much the child begged for them; yet the disaster which

would follow such an action would be nothing in comparison with the

unspeakable calamities which would visit the universe if we, in our

blindness, our ignorance, our folly, could have done for us whatever we

chose to wish for, and that merely for the asking. We may indeed be

thankful that no such fearful power has been entrusted to us. But then how

are we to interpret the very clear and emphatic words of our Lord?

 

  • IT IS FAITH THAT GIVES EFFICIENCY TO PRAYER. Many

prayers are absolutely void and useless because they are not borne upon

the wings of faith. They grovel in the earth-mists of unbelief, and never see

the light of God’s presence. The connection of the verses seems to imply

that it was His faith that gave Christ power to bring its doom to the barren

fig tree (v. 21). It is reasonable to suppose that God will give many

things to those who trust Him, which He will deny to people who will not

rely upon Him. At all events, the setting forth of faith as a condition of the

prayer that is to be answered shows that it is absolutely useless to practice

an experiment with prayer by testing its efficacy in order TO DISPEL

DOUBT!  The purpose of the experiment, and the grounds on which it

is made, presuppose the absence of an essential condition of successful

prayer.  Therefore, if prayer is heard, as Christ tells us it is, such an

experiment is foredoomed to failure. We want grounds for faith, but

we cannot find them here; or rather we cannot have our first grounds here.

The response to prayer will doubtless confirm and strengthen the faith

which prompted the prayer. But there must be this prior faith.

 

  • THE PRAYER OF FAITH HAS BOUNDLESS EFFICACY. We get

slight answers to prayer because we have little faith. Yet we cannot expect

to have just what we choose to ask for, even though we ask in faith. No;

but observe:

 

Ø      Faith is not confidence in our own prayer, but trust IN CHRIST!   Now,

when we trust Him we are led near to Him, we begin to understand Him, we

learn to think as He thinks and to desire what He desires. Thus faith brings

us into sympathy with Christ. But our foolish desires are quite

un-Christlike. We shall no longer cherish them when He is by our side.

Thus faith chastens prayer, purges it, elevates it, and brings it into harmony

with the will of God. The prayer of faith will be such a prayer that God can

hear, just in proportion as the faith is a spiritual power that unites us with

God.

 

Ø      The prayer of faith will certainly be answered, though not necessarily in

the way in which we expect. Jesus promised to those who lost lands and

friends for the gospel’s sake, more lands and friends (ch. 19:29),

and His disciples did not receive a literal fulfillment of this promise.

But they had a good equivalent. The prayer of faith is answered in God’s

large, wise way — answered to the full, but by the gift of what He sees

best, and not always of what we happen to name.

 

 

 

   Believing, the Condition of Acceptable Prayer (v. 22)

 

The immediate lesson which Christ drew from the incident was not taken

from the tree — that lesson He left the disciples to think out for themselves

— but from their surprise at the result which followed His words. Our Lord

seems always to have spoken of prayer in a large, general, and

comprehensive way; and yet we may always discern some intimation of the

qualifications and limitations which must always condition answer to

human prayer. It is true that “whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer ye shall

receive;” but it is also true that we must meet the appointed condition, and

be “believers” — those who cherish the spirit of openness and trust. “It

was rather the power and wonder of their Lord’s act, than the deeper

significance of it, that moved the disciples. Yet Jesus follows the turn their

thoughts take, and teaches that prayer and faith will remove mountains of

difficulty.”

 

  • BELIEVING AS GOD’S CONDITION. God’s conditions are never to

be thought of as arbitrary; they are always necessities, always sweetly

reasonable. The term “believing” represents that state of mind and feeling

in a man which alone fits him to receive, and make the best of, God’s

answer to his prayer. God might give, but His gift could be no real moral

blessing if there was no fitness to receive. It is the “right state of mind for

receiving” that is expressed in “believing.” This includes humility,

dependence, reliance, and hopefulness. It is opposed to:

 

Ø      the critical spirit that questions, and

Ø      the doubting spirit that fears.

 

Even we in common life make believing a condition. We gladly do things

for others when they trust us fully.

 

  • BELIEVING AS MAN’S DIFFICULTY. Self-reliance is the essence

of man’s sin, seeing that he really is a dependent creature. Man does not

care to trust anybody; he trusts himself. Other people may lean on him; he

leans on nobody. And so long as a man has this spirit, all prayer must, for

him, be a formality and a sham; because prayer is the expression of

dependence which he does not feel. Keeping the spirit of full trust is the

supreme difficulty of the Christian man all through his Christian course.

He has to be always on the watch lest he should lose the right to answer

because he is failing to believe, to trust.

 

  • BELIEVING AS THE CHRISTLY TRIUMPH. The man who has

altogether abandoned self-trust, and given himself wholly into the hands of

Christ for salvation, has won the power of trusting, and has only to keep it

up.   (“But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith,

praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking

for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life!”  Jude 1:20-21)

 

 

 

   Our Lords Authority Questioned: He Replies by Uttering Three Parables.

(v. 23-ch. 22:14; parallel - Mark 11:27-12:12; Luke 20:1-18.)

 

 

First attack, referring to His late actions: and Christs answer (vs. 232-27)

 

23 “And when He was come into the temple, the chief priests and the

elders of the people came unto Him as He was teaching, and said, By

what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this

authority?”  When He was come into the temple. The conversation

recorded here belongs to the Tuesday of the Holy Week, and took place in

the courts of the temple, at this time filled with pilgrims from all parts of

the world, who hung upon Christ’s words, and beheld His doings with

wonder and awe. This sight roused to fury the envy and anger of the

authorities, and they sent forth sections of their cleverest men to undermine

His authority in the eyes of the people, or to force from Him statements on

which they might found criminal accusation against Him. The chief priests

and the elders of the people. According to the other evangelists, there

were also scribes, teachers of the Law, united with them in this deputation,

which thus comprised all the elements of the Sanhedrin. This seems to have

been the first time that the council took formal notice of Jesus’ claims and

actions, and demanded from Him personally an account of Himself. They

had been quick enough in inquiring into the Baptist’s credentials, when he

suddenly appeared on the banks of Jordan (see John 1:19, etc.); but

they had studiously, till quite lately, avoided any regular investigation of the

pretensions of Jesus. In the face of late proceedings, this could no longer

be delayed. A crisis had arrived; their own peculiar province was publicly

invaded, and their authority attacked; the opponent must be withstood by

the action of the constituted court. As He was teaching. Jesus did not

confine Himself to beneficent acts; He used the opportunity of the gathering

of crowds around Him to preach unto them the gospel (Luke 20:1), to

teach truths which came with double force from One who had done such

marvelous things. By what authority doest thou these things? They

refer to the triumphal entry, the reception of the homage offered, the

healing of the blind and lame, the teaching as with the authority of a rabbi,

and especially to the cleansing of the temple. No one could presume to

teach without a proper commission: where was His authorization? They

were the guardians and rulers of the temple: what right had He to interfere

with their management, and to use the sacred precincts for His own

purposes? These and such like questions were in their mind when they

addressed Him thus. Wilfully ignoring the many proofs they had of Christ’s

Divine mission (which one of them, Nicodemus, had long before been

constrained to own, John 3:2), they raised the question now as a novel

and unanswered one. Who gave thee this authority? They resolve the

general inquiry into the personal one — Who was it that conferred upon

you this authority which you presume to exercise? Was it some earthly

ruler, or was it God Himself? Perhaps they mean to insinuate that Satan was

the master whose power He wielded — an accusation already often made.

They thought thus to place Christ in an embarrassing position, from which

He could not emerge without affording the opportunity which they desired.

The trap was cleverly set, and, as they deemed, unavoidable. If He was

forced to confess that He spoke and acted without any proper

authorization, He would be humiliated in the eyes of the people, and might

be officially silenced by the strong hand. If He asserted Himself to be the

Messiah and the bearer of a Divine commission, they would at once bring

against Him a charge of blasphemy (ch. 26:65).

 

24 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one

thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what

authority I do these things.” I also will ask you one thing; λόγον ἕνα  -

logon hena - one word, question. Jesus does not reply directly to their

insidious demand. He might have asserted His Divine mission, and appealed

to His miracles in confirmation of such claim, which would have been in strict

conformity with the old, established rule for discriminating false and true

prophets (see Deuteronomy 18:22; Jeremiah 28:9); but He knew too well their

skepticism and malice and inveterate prejudice to lay stress on this

allegation at the present moment. Before He satisfied their inquiry, He must

have their opinion concerning one whom they had received as a prophet a

few years ago, and whose memory was still held in the highest respect,

John the Baptist. The manner in which they regarded him and his testimony

would enable them to answer their own interrogation.

 

 

    Christ becomes a Questioner (v. 24)

 

Those who came to Christ on this occasion were distinctly officials,

representatives of the Sanhedrin, the council which claimed and exercised

authority in all matters related to religion. “Before its tribunal false

prophets were arraigned. It dealt with questions of doctrine, and, when

occasion arose, could exercise the functions of a council.” “In the New

Testament we see:

 

1.      Christ before the Sanhedrin as a blasphemer (ch. 26:65);

2.       the Apostles Peter and John, as false prophets and seducers

 of the people;

                  3.   the Deacon Stephen, as having blasphemed against

God; and

4.      the Apostle Paul, as subverting the Law.”

 

This was, no doubt, a very imposing deputation. Schemes to entangle Christ in

His talk had miserably failed; now the officials resolved to act straightforwardly

and imposingly. They would demand to know the authority on which Jesus

acted. The three elements of the Sanhedrin — chief priests, elders, and

scribes — were all represented, and we seem to see the confident

haughtiness of their approach.

 

  • CHRIST ASSERTING A SUPERIOR AUTHORITY. “He knew what

was in man.”  (John 2:25).  He was not in the least alarmed. He know their

guilefulness so well that He was not in the least deferential. The prophet

was never submissive to the temple officials. His authority was His

commission DIRECT FROM GOD!  They had been pleased to decide

that no one could be permitted to teach who had not passed through a

rabbinical school. Jesus knew that every man has a right to teach WHO

IS HIMSELF TAUGHT OF GOD!  He, moreover, was more than a

prophet; He was, in the highest and holiest sense, THE SON AND

THE SENT OF GOD!  They had no right to question Him. He

would recognize no such right, and give to their questionings no answer,

He would exert His authority and question them; and never was official

deputation more humiliated than when these men found themselves

questioned, and hopelessly entangled by the question put to them. All

putting Christ to the test implies a wrong state of mind. He speaks in the

name of God, and as God, and our duty is unquestioning obedience.

 

  • CHRIST DISCOMFITING HIS FOES BY HIS SUPERIOR

AUTHORITY. They felt His authority, and did not for a moment attempt

to dispute it. They did not think of saying, “We came to question you, and

cannot allow you to question us.” They were mastered by His calmness, by

His manifest superiority, by the skill of His question, which put them into

the most awkward and humiliating position. They retired defeated and angry.

 

25 “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And

they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From

heaven; He will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

The baptism of John (τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάννου – to baptisma to Ioannou –

the baptism of John). By “the baptism which was of John” Christ means his

whole ministry, doctrine, preaching, etc.; as by circumcision is implied the

whole Mosaic Law, and the doctrine of the cross comprises all the teaching of

the gospel, the chief characteristic connoting all particulars. From heaven, or

of men? Did they regard John as one inspired and commissioned by God, or

as a fanatic and impostor, who was self-sent and had received no external

authorization?  Now, two facts were plain and could not be denied. The rulers

and the people with them had allowed John to be a prophet, and had never

questioned his claims hitherto. This was one fact; the other was that John

had borne unmistakable evidence to Christ. “Behold the Lamb of God!”

etc. (John 1:32-36), he had said. He came and asserted that he came as

Christ’s forerunner; his mission was to prepare Christ’s way, and had no

meaning or intention but this. Here was a dilemma. They had asked for

Jesus’ credentials; the prophet, whose mission they had virtually endorsed

testified that Jesus was the Messiah; if they believed that John spoke by

inspiration, they must accept Christ; if now they discredited John, they

would stultify themselves and endanger their influence with the people.

They reasoned with themselves (παρ ἑαυτοῖς – par heautois – beside

themselves). The somewhat unusual introduction of this preposition

instead of the more common ἐν - en – in, implies that the reflection was

not confined to their own breast, but passed in consultation from one to another.

They saw the difficulty, and deliberated how they could meet it without

compromising themselves, seeking, not truth, but evasion. Why did ye not then

(δια τί οϋνdia ti oun -  why then did ye not) believe him? i.e. when he bore

such plain testimony to me. This appeal could be silenced only by denying

John’s mission, or asserting that he was mistaken in what he said,

 

 

26 “But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as

a prophet.”  We fear the people. They dared not, as they would gladly

have done, affirm that John was a false prophet and impostor; for then, as

according to Luke they said, “All the people will stone us.” Public

opinion was too strong for them. Whatever view they really took of John’s

position, they were forced, for the sake of retaining popularity, to uphold

its Divine character. All hold John as a prophet. Even Herod, for the

same reason, long hesitated to put the Baptist to death (Matthew 14:5);

and many of the Jews believed that Herod’s defeat by Aretas was a

judgment upon him for this murder (Josephus,’ Ant.,’ 18:5. 2); compare

Luke 7:29, which shows how extensive was the influence of this holy

teacher, who indeed did no miracle, but persuaded men by pure doctrine,

holy life, genuine love of souls, courageous reproof of sin wherever found.

Others had drawn the very inference which Christ now demanded (see

John 10:41-42).

 

27 “And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And He said

unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

We cannot tell; οὐκ οἴδαμεν – ouk oidamen -  we are no aware; we know not;

Vulgate, nescimus. The Authorized Version seems, at first sight, to be intended

to give a false emphasis to “tell” in Christ’s answer; but our translators often

render the verb οἴδα – oida -  in this way (see John 3:8; 8:14; 16:18;

II Corinthians 12:2). The questioners could find no way out of the dilemma

in which Christ’s unerring wisdom had placed them. Their evasive answer

was a confession of defeat, and that in the presence of the gaping crowd

who stood around listening to the conversation. They had every

opportunity of judging the character of John’s mission and that of Christ; it

was their duty to form an opinion and to pronounce a verdict on such

claims; and yet they, the leaders and teachers of Israel, for fear of

compromising themselves, evade the obligation, refuse to solve or even to

entertain the question, and, like a modern agnostic, content themselves

with a profession of ignorance. Many people, to avoid looking a

disagreeable truth in the face, respond to all appeals with the stereotyped

phrase, “We cannot tell.” And He said unto them; ἔφη αὐτοῖς καὶ αὐτός –

ephae autois kai autos – He averred to them: he also said unto them. The

Lord answers the thought which had dictated their words to Him. Neither

tell I you, etc. With such double-minded men, who could give no clear

decision concerning the mission of such a one as John the Baptist, it would

be mere waste of words to argue further. They would not accept His

testimony, and recognizing their malice and perversity, He declined to

instruct them further. “Christ shows,” says Jerome, “that they knew and

were unwilling to answer; and that He knew, but held His peace, because

they refused to utter what they well knew.”

 

 

Question met by Question (vs. 23-27)

 

Perhaps we shall best gather up the lessons of this incident if we look first

at the form it assumed, then at the underlying substance.

 

  • THE FORM.

 

Ø      The question of the rulers.

 

o        An insulting question. What right had they thus to challenge One

before whom they should have bowed in humble adoration?

Technically, they were in the right in so far as they acted as

guardians of the Law and religion of Israel. Yet they had proved

themselves false to their trust by their permission of the desecration

of the temple, and by the too common hypocrisy of their religion.

Some people put the same question today without a shadow of the

claim of the Jewish leaders. The human intellect has a right to search

for truth; we all ought to look for good grounds of faith. But the

attitude of humility will be that of an inquirer, not that of a judge.

 

o        An irrelevant question. The charges Christ made were true; the things

He denounced were wrong. Why, then, care so much about the question

of His authority? People raise technical questions and abstract

difficulties, but often these only obscure the plain moral truths

which cannot be denied.

 

o        An insincere question. Did these rulers thirst for knowledge concerning

the mission of Christ? Were they troubled with grave doubts? We know

that they were only anxious to entrap our Lord. Flippant doubt is

culpable, but the most deadly doubt is that which hates the light.

 

Ø      The counter question of Christ. He postpones His reply to a question He

desires to have answered by the rulers.

 

o        Showing His skill and wisdom. Christian apologists have acted too

much on the defensive. It would be wiser to follow the example of

Christ, and carry the war into the enemy’s territory.

 

o        Proving the weakness of the rulers’ position. They challenged Christ’s

status. What was theirs? People who reject Divine revelation, and the

larger number who simply ignore it, will have to account for

THEIR CONDUCT! 

 

o        Turning from a formal to a. moral inquiry, John the Baptist was an

embodiment of the national conscience. How was such a man to be

treated? We make too much of questions of rank and office, and too

little of those that touch right and wrong conduct.

 

  • THE SUBSTANCE. That was indeed an important question which the

rulers put to Christ. If it were asked humbly and sincerely, it might be

regarded as most just and reasonable. When it is so asked, Christ does

answer it. Indeed, if the rulers had not been blind, they would have found a

twofold reply close at hand. Christ justifies and confirms His claims:

 

Ø      By the authority of conscience. When He startled the people in the

temple by an unwonted exercise of authority, they submitted without an

attempt at resistance, because their consciences confirmed His action.

Christ speaks to the conscience, and the conscience echoes what He says.

 

Ø      By the authority of knowledge. Who are the authoritative teachers?

Surely the only teachers who can speak to us with authority are those who

know the subjects they undertake to teach. Jesus “spoke with authority”

(ch. 7:29), because He spoke out of knowledge. There was a self-evident

truthfulness and clearness of vision in Him.

 

Ø      By the authority of God. The rulers could not see this. If their blindness

had not been morally culpable, they would have been excused for rejecting

the claims of Christ, because those claims were so great that no mere man

could have a right to put them forth. When we perceive the Divine nature

of Christ, all His words and deeds are justified, and His authority comes

upon us with more than kingly power.

 

 

The Parable of the Two Sons (vs. 28-32)

(Peculiar to St. Matthew.)

 

28 “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the

first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.”  But what think ye?

A formula connecting what follows with what has preceded, and making the

hearers themselves the judges. By this and the succeeding parables, Jesus shows

His interlocutors their true guilty position and the punishment that awaited them.

He Himself explains the present parable in reference to His hearers, though, of

course, it has, and is meant to have, a much wider application. A certain man

(ἄνθρωπος – anthropos - a man) had two sons. The man represents God; the

two sons symbolize two classes of Jews — the Pharisees, with their followers

and imitators; and the lawless and sinful, who made no pretence of religion.

The former are those who profess to keep the Law strictly, to the very letter,

though they care nothing for its spirit, and virtually divorce religion from

morality.  The latter are careless and profane persons, whom the Lord calls

“publicans and harlots” (v. 31). The first. Westcott and Hort, relying on no

very weighty authority, reverse the order of the sons’ answers, altering v. 31

in agreement with this arrangement. Christ’s reply countenances the

received text, setting the repentant before the professing son. It is a matter

of small importance (see Tischendorf, in loc.). “The first son “here typifies

the evil and immoral among the Jewish people. Go, work today. Two

emphatic imperatives. Immediate obedience is required. “Today, if ye will

hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8). God called His

sons to serve in His vineyard — the Church. He called them by the

prophets, and more especially by John the Baptist, to turn from evil ways,

and to do works meet for repentance (ch. 3:8). Christ gives two examples,

showing how this call was received.

 

29 “He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and

went.”  I will not. The answer is rude, curt, and disrespectful, such a

one as would naturally issue from the lips of a person who was selfishly

wrapped in his own pleasures, and cared nothing for the Law of God, the

claims of relationship, the decencies of society. Repented, and went; i.e.

into the vineyard to work. The worst sinners, when converted, often make

great saints. There is more hope of their repentance than of the self-righteous

or hypocrites, who profess the form of religion without the reality, and in their

own view need no repentance.

 

 

 

Speech Tested by Deed (v. 29)

 

To see the point of this parable, it is necessary to observe the connection in

which it stands. Our Lord was dealing with men who proposed to entangle

Him in His talk, and, out of what he said, find accusation against Him. He

had turned the tables on them, by putting to them a question which they

dared not answer; and now, in this parable of the two sons, he presents to

them a picture of themselves, which they could not fail to recognize. They

were like the son who made great professions of obedience, but did not

obey. “The parable is too plain spoken to be evaded. They cannot deny that

the satisfactory son is not the one who professes great respect for his

father’s authority, while he does only what pleases himself, but the one

who does his father’s bidding, even though he has at first disowned his

authority. These men were so unceremoniously dealt with by our Lord

because they were false. They may not have clearly seen that they were

false, but they were so”.

 

  • SPEECH SHOWN TO BE WORTHLESS BY DEEDS. Professions are

good and right; they ought to be made. But professions must not stand

alone. They ought to express purpose. They ought to be followed by

appropriate action. The peril of religion in every age lies in the fact that

credit is to be gained and confidence won by making profession; and so the

insincere man, and the man who can deceive himself, are tempted to make

religious profession hide their self-seeking. And it must also be said that

religious profession, and observance of mere religious rites, becomes a

prevailing custom, by which men are carried away, and relieved of anxiety

about making deeds match words. The Pharisee class are evidently pictured

in this son. They were extremely anxious about speaking right and showing

right, but they were sadly indifferent about doing right. What needs to be

continually re-impressed is, that supreme importance attaches to being

right and doing right; these will find natural and proper expression. If we

are right, our profession will match ourselves.

 

  • SPEECH PUT TO SHAME BY DEEDS. The son is in no way to be

commended who refused obedience. It was a bad profession, and found

expression for a bad mind. But when he came to a good mind, and went

and obeyed, the obedience put to shame the hasty and unworthy words. No

doubt our Lord referred to the publican class, who had taken their own

willful and self-pleasing way, but now they had come to a better mind, and

were even pressing into the kingdom.

 

30 “And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered

and said, I go, sir: and went not.” The second. He typifies the Pharisees,

the scrupulous observers of outward form, while neglectful of the weightier

matters — judgment, mercy, and faith (ch. 23:23). I go, sir, Ἐγὼ κύριε

Ego kurie – I lord - Eo, domine. This son is outwardly respectful and dutiful;

his answer is in marked contrast to the rough “I will not” of his brother. He

professes zeal for the Law, and ready obedience. And went not. Such men did

no real work for God, honoring Him with their lips and outward observances,

while their heart was far from Him, and their morality was unprincipled and

impure.

 

31 “Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That

the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before

you.”  Whether of them (the) twain! Christ forces from the

unwilling hearers an answer which, at the moment, they do not see will

condemn themselves. Unaccustomed to be criticized and put to the

question, wrapped in a self-complacent righteousness, which was generally

undisturbed, they missed the bearing of the parable on their own case, and

answered without hesitation, as any unprejudiced person would have

decided. The first; i.e. the son who first refused, but afterwards repented

and went. Verily I say unto you. Jesus drives the moral home to the hearts

of these hypocrites. The publicans and the harlots. He specifies these

excommunicated sinners as examples of those represented by the first son.

Go into the kingdom of God before you; προάγουσιν ὑμας – proagousin

humas – are preceding you. This was the fact which Jesus saw and declared,

He does not cut off all hope that the Pharisees might follow, if they willed to

do so;  He only shows that they have lost the position which they ought to have

occupied, and that those whom they despised and spurned have accepted

the offered salvation, and shall have their reward. We must remark that the

Lord has no censure for those who sometime were disobedient, but

afterwards repented; His rebuke falls on the professors and self-righteous,

who ought to have been leaders and guides, and were in truth impious and

irreligious.

 

32 “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye

believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him:

and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might

believe him.”  For John came unto you. This gives the reason for Christ’s

assertion at the end of the last verse. John came with a special call to the

rulers of the people, and they made some show of interest, by sending a

deputation to demand his credentials, and by coming to his baptism; but

that was all. They did not alter their lives or change their faulty opinions at

his preaching, though they “were willing for a season to rejoice in his light”

(John 5:35). In the way of righteousness. In that path of strict

obedience to law, and of ascetic holiness, which you profess to regard so

highly. If they had followed the path which John indicated, they would have

attained to righteousness and salvation. John preached Christ who is “the

Way” (John 14:6). (For “way,” meaning doctrine, religious tenet and

practice, see ch. 22:16; Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; II Peter 2:21.)

Ye believed him not, to any practical purpose, even as it is said elsewhere

(Luke 7:30), “The Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the

counsel of God, not having been baptized of him.” Those who did receive

his baptism were the exception; the great majority stood aloof. Believed

him. Though these sinners may have first rejected him, yet his preaching

softened their hearts; they repented, confessed their sins, and were baptized

(see for examples, Luke 3:10, etc.; 7:29). This was another call to the

Pharisees to go and do likewise. When ye had seen it; i.e. the fruits of

true repentance in these sinners, which conversion was indeed a loud

appeal to the rulers to consider their own ways, and to bow to God’s hand.

Repented not (see v. 29). They profited not by this miracle of grace.

That ye might believe him. The end and result of repentance would be to

believe in John’s mission, and to attend to his teaching. Christ offers the

above explanation of the parable (here and the previous verse) in view of the

purpose for which He uttered it. It has been, and may be, taken in different

senses, and in wider application. “What is set forth in individual cases is but a

sample of what takes place in whole classes of persons, and even nations”

(I. Williams). Many expositors consider the two sons to represent Gentiles and

Jews; the former making no profession of serving God, and yet in time

being converted and turning to Him; the latter making much outward show

of obedience, yet in reality denying Him and rejecting salvation. It is

obvious that such explanation is allowable, and coincides with the letter of

the parable; but it does not satisfy the context, and fails in not answering to

Christ’s intention in uttering this similitude. Others see herein a picture of

what happens in Christian lands, and is the experience of every Christian

minister — how the irreligious and apparently irreclaimable are by God’s

grace brought, to repentance unto life; how the seemingly pious often make

much show, but fall away, or bring no fruit unto perfection. And as the

parable involves a general principle, so it may be applied universally to

those who make great professions of religion, and are for a time full of

good resolutions, but in practice fall very short; and to those who have

been the slaves of lust, covetousness, or some other wickedness, but have

been recovered from the snares of the devil, and have learned to lead a

godly, righteous, and sober life.

 

 

 

The Authority of Jesus (vs. 23-32)

 

The “things” in reference to the doing of which this question of the

authority of Jesus was raised by the chief priests and elders, were His

purging the temple from the traffickers, His publicly teaching and working

miracles of healing there. Mark, by more clearly placing the miracle of the

withering of the fig tree in order before these things, brings them into

closer connection with the passage before us. We may profitably consider

the authority of Jesus:

 

  • AS IT IS EVIDENT IN HIS CONDUCT.

 

Ø      His questioners were not ignorant of His claims.

 

o        He had long before plainly told them who He was (see John 5:36, 43).

 

o        He had but the day before claimed to be the Lord of the temple. He

called it the temple of God,” and spoke of it as His own house

(see vs. 12-13). And the passages He quoted in connection with this

claim spake of the temple as the house of Jehovah (see Isaiah 56:7;

Jeremiah 7:11).

 

o        Their object was now to get Him to assert this again, that they might

make it a pretext to fix upon Him the charge of blasphemy; for they

had plotted to destroy Him (see Mark 11:18).

 

Ø      His conduct vindicated His claims.

 

o        His expulsion of the traffickers was a miracle. It was a work which an

army might hesitate to undertake. Yet single-handed He did it

effectually.

 

o        He wrought miracles of healing which, the rulers and Pharisees

themselves being witnesses, no man could do unless God were with

Him (see John 3:1-2).

 

o        Moral miracles also attended his ministry. Publicans and harlots —

unjust and immodest persons — notorious sinners, were converted

into reputable citizens and exemplary saints. These were the people

represented by the son in the parable who “said, I will not; but

afterwards repented, and went” (v. 29). The life of the sinner is an

actual clamor of “I will not.”  But as there are those who promise

better than they prove, so are there those who prove better than

they promise.

 

“Seest thou yon harlot, wooing all she meets;

The worn out nuisance of the public streets;

Herself from morn to night, from night to morn,

Her own abhorrence, and as much your scorn?

The gracious shower, unlimited and free,

Shall fall on her when Heaven denies it thee.”

(Cowper)

 

Ø      Note here the gospel call.

 

o        It is a call to work for Christ. “Go, work in my vineyard.” It is charged

upon the Pharisees that they say, and do not  (ch. 23:3); upon the

chief priests and rulers here that they said, “I go, sir, and went not.”

Buds and blossoms are not fruit.

 

o        It is a call to work for Christ NOW!  “Go, work today in my vineyard.”

 

o        It is a call from the common Father. It comes to the “two sons,” and

these represent the two great classes of sinners, viz.:

 

§         the openly irreligious and

§         the hypocritical professors.

 

o        But though coming equally to all, it differs in its effects. There is more

hope of the openly irreligious than of the hypocritical professor.

 

o        True repentance is practical. When he repented “he went.”

 

  • AS IT IS EVIDENT IN THE TESTIMONY OF JOHN.

 

Ø      Johns baptism was proved to be from heaven.

 

o        By the scope of his ministry. He “came in the way of righteousness.”

He came walking in it as well as preaching it. He did not affect the “soft

clothing” of the courtier, as he might have done, being the son of a

notable priest, had he been moved by a vulgar ambition. Neither did

he flatter princes, but lost his head FOR HIS FIDELITY!

 

o        By the success of his ministry.

 

§         “The baptism of John” is here put for his doctrine.

§         Jesus, by submitting to John’s baptism, accepted and sanctioned

his doctrine.

§         The vast multitudes who came to his baptism thereby professed

faith in his teaching. Hence the general expression, “All hold

John as a prophet.” The defeat of Herod’s army in the war

with Aretas, King of Arabia, was esteemed by the Jews a

judgment for the death of John (Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 18:7).

 

Ø      Johns testimony therefore should be conclusive.

 

o        Prophecy indicated him to be the harbinger of Messiah. Thus Isaiah

spoke of him (Isaiah 40:3; compare ch. 3:3; John 1:23). So

Malachi (Malachi 4:5; ch. 11:14). So Zecharias (see Luke 1:17).

 

o        He indicated Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb

of God that beareth away the sin of the world.

 

o        The questioners had no reply to this argument. “They reasoned with

themselves,” not what was true to be believed, but what it was safe to

acknowledge. Note: Truths appear in the clearest light when taken in

order. The resolving of the previous question will be the key to the

main question. If the questioners answered Christ’s question, they

would answer their own.

 

  • AS IT IS EVIDENT IN THE DISCOMFITURE OF HIS ENEMIES.

 

Ø      They set up their authority against His.

 

o        They claimed the right to rule in the temple. They were “chief priests”

— judges in the ecclesiastical courts, “and elders” — judges in the

civil (see II Chronicles 19:5-11). They should therefore have been

the promoters of the kingdom of Messiah which they opposed.

 

o        They questioned the right of Jesus to teach in the temple, He being

neither priest nor Levite. They were more concerned about the right

of our Lord to preach than about the character of His preaching.

 

o        Their question, “Who gave thee this authority?” suggests that they

were offended because He not only taught without their permission,

but contravened their concession to the traffickers when He drove

them out.

 

o        Here, then, is human authority disputing with THE DIVINE

office in conflict with wisdom. Those who take upon themselves

to act with authority should ask themselves the question, “Who

gave thee this authority?” Those who run before their warrant

run without their blessing (see Jeremiah 23:21-22).

 

Ø      He treated their presumption with contempt.

 

o        He convicted them as hypocrites. They had wit enough to see that

reason was against them; for the Divinity of Christ was evident

from the testimony of John. They knew that their “We cannot tell”

was a lie for “We will not tell.” The son who said, “I go, sir,” and

went not, dissembled and lied. What sort of truth seekers are those

who refuse the evidence whose cogency they see? They were typical

infidels, whose HEART IS AT FAULT rather than the head. Those

who are ENGAGED AGAINST THE TRUTH  are abandoned to

THE SPIRIT OF FALSEHOOD!  (Does this not explain the

prevalence of FAKE NEWS in 2017?  CY – 2017)

 

o        He exposed them as INCOMPETENTS.   They affected to be judges

as to the authority of Jesus. Jesus forced from them the confession,

“We cannot tell,” in relation to the previous question of the authority

of John. The “Neither do I tell you” was a merited repulse in which

JESUS IN HIS AUTHORITY TRIUMPHS!.

 

o        He humbled their pride by proving them to be slaves to the fear of the

people. But for the fear of the multitude, they would have questioned

the authority of John. Many who are not influenced by THE FEAR

OF SIN are greatly influenced by THE FEAR OF SHAME!

 

o        He shamed them by the example of the publicans and harlots, who

believed John, but the lesson of whose reformation WAS LOST

UPON THEM!  Examples of the power of truth ARE OF LITTLE

AVAIL UPON THE PERVERSE!

 

 

The Two Sons (vs. 28-32)

 

In this parable our Lord illustrates the great principle which He more than once

enunciated — that “many shall be last that are first; and first that are last.” 

(ch. 20:16)  It has a special reference to the Pharisees and publicans of Christ’s

time. But there are publicans and Pharisees in our own day. Let us consider the

parable in its bearing on ourselves and the present conduct of people.

 

  • THE SON WHO REFUSED AND REPENTED.

 

Ø      His hasty refusal. Doubtless he spoke in impatience. His temper was

hot, and the call to work amazed him. Thus he began the day badly, as

many people begin life badly. This is altogether deplorable, because no

subsequent amendment can obliterate the fact that the beginning was spoiled.

 

Ø      His later repentance. We need not be the slaves of our own past. If we

started wrong, we are not forced to continue in the path of evil. “It is never

too late to mend.” There is a pride of consistency which only comes of

folly; and there is a noble inconsistency, a sublime inconsequence. The

change in the son showed:

 

o        reflectiveness;

o        humility;

o        a willingness to own himself wrong;

o        a desire to do better in future.

 

These are all hopeful qualities.

 

Ø      His obedient action. He “went.” That was everything. He may not have

said another word; but he obeyed his father, though in silence. The one

thing God looks for is obedience. The way to make amends for past

negligence is not to promise better things for the future, but just to do

them.

 

Ø      His improving conduct. We see this son in two stages, and the second is

better than the first. He was evidently moving in the right direction. The

most important question is not — To what have we attained hitherto? but

— Which way are we moving? towards the light or from it?

 

Ø      His accepted obedience. This was the obedient son. His insolent words

were forgiven when his subsequent conduct was penitent and obedient.

God forgives the bad past in his penitent children. If they are now in the

right path, He accepts them, although they were once far from it.

 

  • THE SON WHO CONSENTED AND DISOBEYED.

 

Ø      His ready assent. This was good in its way. But, being only verbal, or at

best an intention not yet executed, it was of slight worth. God does not

value religious professions as men prize them.

 

Ø      His courtesy. The second son was courteous to his father, addressing

him as “sir,” while his brother was rude and insolent. Now, it is our duty

to be courteous to all men, and to be especially respectful to parents. Yet

there is an hypocritical tone about good manners when they are not

accompanied by good actions. God prefers rude obedience to polite

disobedience.

 

Ø      His subsequent disobedience. We need not suppose that this second son

had lied to his father, promising in smooth words what he never intended

to perform. It is more probable that our Lord would have us think of him

as honest in his profession. He really intended to obey. But he did not

count the cost, or the good mood of acquiescence passed away, or some

other more fascinating attraction led him to forget, or at least to neglect,

his promise. There is an enormous step to be taken from good resolutions

to good actions. Many a hindrance, many a temptation, comes between.

 

Ø      His just condemnation. Jesus appealed to the bystanders for their

verdict. He wished to convince their conscience; He desires now to make us

see and feel THE TRUTH OF WHAT HE SAYS!   Could there be a question

as to the verdict? Good promises count for nothing, or rather they count

against the man who disobeys in conduct. God judges by conduct alone.  

 

 

Parable of the Vineyard Let Out to Husbandmen (vs. 33-46)

(Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19.)

 

33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which

planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a

winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and

went into a far country:”  Hear another parable. The domineering and lately

imperious party are reduced to the position of pupils; they have to listen to

teaching, not to give it; to answer, not to put questions. This parable sets forth,

under the guise of history, the Pharisaical party in its official character, and

as the representative of the nation. It also denounces the punishment that

surely awaited these rejecters of the offered salvation; thus exemplifying

the teaching of the withered fig tree (vs. 17-20). As applicable to the

Jewish nation generally, it represents the long suffering of God and the

various means which, in the course of their history, He had used to urge

them to do their duty as His servants; and it ends with a prophecy of the

coming events, and the terrible issue of impenitence. We must take the

parable as partly retrospective, and partly predictive. There was a certain

householder; a man (ἄνθρωπος – as in v. 28) that was an householder. Christ

in His parables often, as here, introduces God in His dealings with mankind as a

man. His house is the house of Israel in particular, and in general the whole

human family. A vineyard. God’s kingdom upon earth, and particularly the

Jewish Church. The figure is common throughout Scripture (see on ch. 20:1).

It was planted when God gave Israel a law, and put them in possession of the

promised land. The parable itself is founded on Isaiah 5:1-7, where, however,

the vineyard is tended by the Lord Himself, not by husbandmen, and it bears

wild grapes, not good grapes. By these differences different developments of

declension are indicated. In the earlier times it was the nation that apostatized,

fell into idolatry and rebellion against God, the theocratical Head of their race

and polity. In later days it is the teachers, rabbis, priests, false prophets, who

neglect the paths of righteousness, and lead people astray. In the parable these

last come into painful prominence as criminally guilty of opposing God’s

messengers. Hedged it round; put a hedge around it. The fence would be

a stone wall — a necessary defense against the incursions of wild animals.

This fence has been regarded in two senses — first, as referring to the

physical peculiarities of the position of the Holy Land, separated from alien

nations by deserts, seas, rivers, and so isolated from evil contagion; second,

as intimating the peculiar laws and minute restrictions of the Jewish polity,

which differentiated Judaism from all other systems of religion, and tended

to preserve purity and incorruption. Probably the “hedge” is meant to

adumbrate both senses. Many, however, see in it the protection of angels,

or the righteousness of saints, which seem hardly to be sufficiently precise

for the context. Digged a winepress. The phrase refers, not to the ordinary

wooden troughs or vats which were used for the purpose of expressing and

receiving the juice of the grapes, but to such as were cut in the rock, and

were common in all parts of the country. Remains of these receptacles meet

the traveler everywhere on the hill slopes of Judaea, and notably in the

valleys of Carmel. The winepress is taken to signify the prophetic spirit, the

temple services, or all things that typified the sacrifice and death of Christ.

A tower; for the purpose of watching and guarding the vineyard. This may

represent the temple itself, or the civil power. Whatever interpretation may

be put upon the various details, which, indeed, should not be unduly

pressed, the general notion is that every care was taken of the Lord’s

inheritance, nothing was wanting for its convenience and security.

(“What could have been done more to my vineyrard? - Isaiah 5:4)  Let it

out to husbandmen. This is a new feature introduced into Isaiah’s parable.

Instead of paying an annual sum of money to the proprietor, these vine

dressers payed in kind, furnishing a stipulated amount of fruit or wine as

the hire of the vineyard. We have a lease on the former terms in Song

of Solomon 8:11, where the keepers have “to bring a thousand pieces of

silver for the fruit.” The husbandmen are the children of Israel, who had to

do their part in the Church, and show fruits of piety and devotion. Went

into a far country; ἀπεδήμησενapedaemaesen – travels; went abroad.

In the parabolic sense, God withdrew for a time the sensible tokens of

His presence, no longer manifested Himself as at Sinai, and in the cloud

and pillar of fire. “Innuitur tempus divinae taciturnitatis, ubi homines agunt

pro arbitrio” (Bengel). God’s long suffering gives time of probation.

 

 

 

The Wicked Husbandmen (v. 33)

 

This parable belongs to the series in which our Lord shows up His enemies,

and reveals to them at once their own shameless scheming, and His

complete knowledge of their devices. But while the relation of the parable

to those Pharisees should be recognized, it is necessary also to see that the

man of God can never let the evils of his age alone. Those Pharisees were

holding men in creed and ceremonial bondage; Christ did not attack them

because of their personal enmity to Him. It was this — a liberator of human

thought can never let the thought enslavers alone. Illustration: Luther, or

C. Kingsley. In this parable we have the dealings of God with men

illustrated in the dealings of God with the Jews, and pictured in the parable

of the vineyard renters. Explain the first references of the parable.

 

Ø      Vineyard, God’s chosen people.

Ø      Husbandmen, the ordinary leaders and teachers of the nation.

Ø      Servants, the prophets or special messengers.

Ø      Destruction, the final siege of Jerusalem.

Ø      Others, the transfer of gospel privileges to the Gentiles.

 

  • THE REASONABLENESS OF GOD’S DEALINGS WITH MEN.

Illustrate this:

 

Ø      From the vineyard figures. (Compare the more elaborate description in

Isaiah 5.) Chosen ground. Planted. Nourished. Guarded. Pruned. And a

wine-vat prepared in expectation of fruit. What could have been done

more?

 

Ø      From the historical facts of God’s dealings with Israel. God’s call,

redemption, provision, guidance, and prosperity. The final seeking

fruit was Christ’s coming.

 

Ø      From our own personal experience, as members of the spiritual

Israel of God. Recall the graciousness of the Divine dealings with us.

 

  • THE UNREASONABLENESS OF MEN’S DEALINGS WITH GOD.

Illustrate this:

 

Ø      From the vineyard figures. The shame, dishonesty, ingratitude, and

rebellion of these husbandmen. See to what length it goes.

 

Ø      From the historical facts. The resistance, again and again, of Jewish

prophets, as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos. The willful casting out of the Son.

 

Ø      From our own personal experience. Take the case of one unsaved. Up

to this resisted motherhood, friendship, Bible, inward call of Christ, etc.

How must man’s unreasonableness be divinely met?

 

o       The sinfulness by Divine chastisement.

o       The unworthy response to privilege by the loss of privilege.

o       The persistent wrong by judgment. “Knowing therefore the

terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”   (II Corinthians 5:11)

 

34 “And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to

the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.”

When the time of the fruit drew near. The vintage season,

when the rent, whether in money or kind, became due. In the Jewish

history no particular time seems to be signified, but rather such periods or

crises which forced God’s claims upon men’s notice, and made them

consider what fruits they had to show for all the Lord’s care, how they had

lived after receiving the Law. Such times were the ages of Samuel, Elijah,

the great prophets, the Maccabees, and John the Baptist. His servants.

The prophets, good kings, priests, and governors. “I have sent unto you all

my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return

ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings” (Jeremiah 35:15;

and as a result the tragedy explained in II Chronicles 36:14-16 occured – CY –

2017).  To receive the fruits of it (τοὺς καρποὺς αὐτοῦ - tous karpous autou –

the fruits of him); or, his fruits, as rent.

 

35 “And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed

another, and stoned another.  Took his servants. The exaction of rent in

kind has always been a fruitful source of dispute, fraud, and discontent.

In the Jewish Church God’s messengers had been ill treated and put to death

(see ch. 23:34-37). “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?”

cried St. Stephen; “and they have slain them which showed before the

coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been the betrayers and

murderers” (Acts 7:52). Beat… killed… stoned. A climax of iniquity

and guilt. The statement is probably meant to be general; some, however,

endeavor to individualize it, referring the “beating” to the treatment of

Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:1-2), “killing” to Isaiah (Hebrews 11:37,

“sawn asunder”), “stoning” to Zechariah son of Jehoiada (ch. 23:35;

II Chronicles 24:20-21). Doubtless, the incidents in such persecutions were

often repeated.

 

36 “Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto

them likewise.”  Other servants. God’s loving kindness was not wearied out

with the husbandmen’s cruelty and violence. Each step of their wickedness

and obstinacy was met with renewed mercy, with fresh calls to repentance.

(What kind of God would forgive over 70 x 7 times [490]? If there was

ever a statement which is appended by the term “Selah,” as in the Psalms,

THIS IS ONE!  CY - 2017)  More (πλείονας – pleionas - ). More in number.

In the latter days the number of God’s messengers was much greater than in

earlier times; so it is unnecessary to take πλείονας in the sense of “more

honourable,” “of higher dignity,” though such interpretation is supported by

its use in ch. 6:25; Mark 12:33; Hebrews 11:4. Likewise. They resisted these

new envoys as they had resisted these first sent, treating them with equal

cruelty and violence.

 

37 “But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my

son.” Last of all; ὕστερονhusteron -  afterwards; subsequently - later on. The

parable now allegorizes the near present, and future, in such a way as for the

moment to conceal its bearing, and to lead the hearers to pronounce their own

condemnation: His son. Even JESUS CHRIST, who was now among them,

incarnate, teaching, and demanding of them fruits of righteousness. Here

was the authorization which they had required (v. 23). God sent His Son.

They will reverence my Son. God condescends to speak in human

language, as hoping for a good result from THIS LAST EFFORT FOR

MAN’S SALVATION!  He, as it were, puts aside His foreknowledge, and

gives scope to man’s free will. Though the sad issue is known to Him, He

often acts towards men as if He had hope that they would still use THE

OCCASION PROFITABLY!  (And the same scenario He wishes for you

today, O Sinner!  I highly recommend How to Be Saved and Lord Save Me,

#’s 4 and 5 – this website – CY – 2017) In the present case, whereas the

immediate result of the last measure was disastrous, the expectation was

ultimately realized in the conversion of many Jews to Christianity, which led

to the bringing of all nations to the obedience of the faith.

 

38 “But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves,

This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.”

When the husbandmen saw the Son. As soon as they recognized this new and

important messenger. This is the great element in the guilt of his rejection. They

might have had the same consciousness of Christ’s Divine mission as Nicodemus

(John 3:2), having possessed the same opportunities of judging. Ancient prophecy,

the signs of the times, the miracles and teaching of Christ, the testimony of the Baptist,

pointed to one evident conclusion; evidence had been accumulating on all sides. A

latent feeling had grown up that He was the Messiah (see John 11:49-52), and it

was obstinate prejudice and perversity alone (we live in a world that considers

prejudice to be politically incorrect, thus think of the prejudice of Progressive

Secularists of today in their prejudicial attitude toward Jesus Christ – Psalm 2

explains it all – even today there is no excuse for this prejudice nor is there

ANY WAY TO EXPLAIN AWAY THE ASSOCIATED GUILT! CY – 2017)

that prevented His open  acknowledgment. “If I had not come and spoken unto

them,” said Christ, “they had not had sin; but now they have no cloke for their sin”

(John 15:22; compare ibid. ch. 9:41). They said among themselves.

They plotted His destruction (see ibid. ch.11:53). We are reminded of the

conspiracy against Joseph, his father’s well beloved son (Genesis 37:20).

Let us seize on (κατάσχωμενkataschomen – we should be retaining; take

possession of, keep as our own) his inheritance. It would have been a wild and

ignorant scheme of the husbandmen to consider that by murdering the heir they

could obtain and hold possession of the vineyard. Here the parable bursts from the

allegorical form, and becomes history and prophecy. In fact, the possession

which the rulers coveted was supremacy over the minds and consciences of

men; they wished to lord it over God’s heritage; to retain their rights and

prerogatives in the present system. This ambition Christ’s teaching and

action entirely overthrew. They felt no security in their possession of

authority while He was present and working in their midst. Were He

removed, their position would be safe, their claims undisputed. Hence their

conspiracy and its result — a result very far from what they expected. They

had their own way, but THEIR GAIN WAS RUIN  (a result not infrequently

realized by modern power hungry and ambitious people!  CY – 2017) Says

St. Augustine, “Ut possiderent, occiderunt; et quia occiderunt, perdiderunt.”

 

39 “And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew

him.”  Cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. This is

prophecy, and alludes to a particular circumstance attending the death of

Christ, viz. that He suffered without the city Jerusalem, Calvary being

outside the walls (see John 19:17, and the parallel passages in the other

evangelists, and especially Hebrews 13:11-12, where it is significantly

noted that Jesus “suffered without the gate”). The words may also contain

a reference to the fact that He was excommunicated and given over to the

heathen to be judged and condemned, thus suffering not actually at the

hands of “the husbandmen” (compare Acts 2:23; 4:27). Christ, in His

Divine prescience, speaks of his Passion and death as already accomplished.

 

40 “When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do

unto those husbandmen?”  When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh;

when therefore the lord, etc. Christ asks His hearers, who are both rulers and

people, what in their opinion will be the course taken by the lord when he

visits his vineyard, knowing all that has transpired. So Isaiah (Isaiah 5:3)

makes the people give the verdict: “And now, O inhabitants of

Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my

vineyard.”

 

41 “They say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will

let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits

in their seasons.” They say unto him. The Pharisees probably made the reply,

not at the moment apprehending the sense of the parable. Or the words

were spoken by some of the bystanders, and taken up and emphatically

repeated by our Lord with an unmistakable application (v. 43). The

conclusion was a necessary consequence, and this will account for Mark

and Luke apparently making them a part of Christ’s speech. By their

answer they blindly condemn themselves, as David did at hearing Nathan’s

parable (II Samuel 12:5). He will miserably destroy those wicked men

(κακοὺς κακῶς – kakous kakos – evil men evily; miserable men); or, he will

evilly destroy those evil men; Vulgate, Malos male perdet. He will make their

punishment equal their crime. The slaughter and mortality at the siege of

Jerusalem accomplished this prediction TO THE LETTER!   Unto other

husbandmen; i.e. the Christian ministry, which took the place of the Jewish

priests  and teachers. As the husbandmen in the parable were rather the rulers

and rabbis than the whole nation (which, indeed, only followed their guides), so

these others are not the whole Gentile world, but those who sustained the

ministerial offices in the Christian Church. Which (οἵτινες – hoitines –

who any; of such kind as, denoting a class of servants. The clause is peculiar

to Matthew. The speakers did not clearly apprehend the bearing of this detail

of the parable.  In their seasons. The times when the various fruits are ripe

and ready for harvesting. These would vary in different climates and under

differing circumstances; but the good husbandmen would be always ready to

render to their Lord the fruits of faith and obedience, at every holy season and

in due proportion. This parable, spoken originally of Israel, applies, like all

such similitudes, to the Christian Church and to the human soul. How God

dealt with individual Churches we see in his words to the seven Churches

of Asia (Revelation chapters 1-3). Ecclesiastical history furnishes similar examples

throughout all ages. God gives privileges, and looks for results worthy of

these graces. He sends warnings; He raises up apostles, preachers,

evangelists; and if a Church is still unfaithful, He takes away His Spirit, and

lets it lapse, and gives its inheritance to others.  (Acts 28:25-28 is very

expressive of this situation!  CY – 2017)   In the other case, the

vineyard is the soul of man, which he has to cultivate for his Master’s use.

God has hedged it round with the law, external and internal, given it the

ministry and sacraments and the Scripture, and looks to it to bring forth the

fruits of obedience, service, worship. He sends times of visitation, teaching,

warning; He speaks to it by secret inspiration; He calls it in loving tones to

closer union. If it hearkens to the call, it walks in the way of salvation; if it

refuses to hear, it casts away the hope of its calling, and must share the lot

of Christ’s enemies.

 

 

The Parable of the Vineyard (vs. 33-41)

 

The vineyard is a favorite image in the Bible, and the mention of it by

Christ would call to mind in His hearers the Old Testament illustrations of

Israel. But more than Israel the nation must be intended by our Lord,

because the vineyard is to go on after the destruction of the Jewish state.

Our thoughts are therefore directed to the kingdom of heaven, partially

realized in Israel, more fully realized in the Christian Church, but always a

spiritual vineyard.

 

  • GOD HIMSELF FOUNDS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The owner

of the vineyard has it properly planted and all its arrangements completed

before he sends husbandmen into it. They have not to begin in the

wilderness. God does not behave like the Pharaoh who ordered the

Israelites to make bricks without straw. He plants. Therefore He has a right

to look for fruit.

 

  • GOD ENTRUSTS THE WORK OF HIS VINEYARD TO MEN.

There is work for God to be done in His kingdom. This is a high privilege,