Welcome back, friends!
I so hope you are blessed by our study of biblical prophecy. I am enjoying reading your comments, so please drop a line if you want to contribute.
If you missed part one of our study of Matthew 21 you can find it here.
If you missed our introductory posts on biblical prophecy you can find them below:
Jesus told a parable of a landowner that planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, and he made a winepress. Then he built a tower where he would store the wine, the fruit of his labors. The fruit of those who labored in his vineyard. So what does this parable mean to us today? Let’s talk about the importance of bearing fruit.
Jesus taught in parables to teach important truths to his disciples and ultimately to his followers throughout history.
The book of Matthew tells the story of the kingdom of God. The King has come, and the kingdom of God is at hand. As Jesus talked about the kingdom, he used many parables to explain what it is and what it would be like. Jesus uses the parable of the vineyard to illustrate the importance of understanding the authority of the kingdom of God. Matthew opens up the gospel announcing that Jesus is the King of the Jews. None of the other gospels tell the story of the magi that travel from afar to worship the King of the Jews. And they were Gentiles. They were Gentiles who recognized that this was the time of the Messiah, the time of the birth of the King of the Jews. And they in turn have come to worship this King of the Jews.
In Matthew 8:11 Jesus speaks,
“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The Jews thought that simply because they were Jews , and had the books of the law, the commandments that they kept to the letter, that they would be guaranteed entry to the kingdom of heaven.
But in Matthew 5:20 we read,“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, it is not about keeping an external righteousness, the keeping of the law. It is about a matter of the heart.
Our chapter today, Matthew 21, opened with Jesus riding down the Palm Sunday road on the back of a donkey. People were proclaiming his entrance. Proclaiming that the time of the Lord had come. They were proclaiming him as King. And every king has a kingdom.
In verse 23, the Pharisees question Jesus. “Jesus entered the temple courts, and while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’”
At this point in time, they were the authority figures on the scene. They were the teachers of the law. But now, Jesus had become the teacher. And He was drawing the multitudes, young and old, sitting at His feet, taking in his every word.
In verse 24, “Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men?’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘if we say from heaven, he will ask, then why didn’t you believe him. But if we say, from men, we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ The he said, ‘neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’”
The chief priests and elders couldn’t answer Jesus because they were people pleasers. They were pleasers of people rather than God. They wanted the kingdom to remain under their authority, and not under He who had come. They chose to simply say, “I don’t know.”
Have you picked up on one word that has been repeated over and over? Authority. What is the kingdom of heaven all about? It’s a matter of God’s authority over man’s authority. This is what they don’t see. It is what they don’t want.
John the Baptist warned them in Matthew chapter 3. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” The kingdom of heaven was indeed near. But they didn’t want repent and obey the King. They wanted to get rid of the king.
Jesus begins to tell them another story. We read in Matthew 21:33,
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.”
Which of the two did the will of the father?
The son who told his father no regretted his decision and decided to do the work. This is a sign of true repentance. The second son told his father that he would indeed work but did not give us a true picture of disobeying our king.
Can you imagine what happened when Jesus said this? The tax collectors were despised by the Jews. They collected money from the Jews and gave it to Rome. There was no male role lower than a tax collector. And there was no one lower among women than a prostitute. Who would dare compare the chief priests and elders to tax collectors and prostitutes?
In relation to the parable, it was the tax collectors and prostitutes who did not initially do the will of God in the beginning, but they regretted their actions and turned from their ways. They are the ones who will enter the kingdom of heaven. John the Baptist warned the chief priests and elders, but they refused to listen. They would not submit to the authority of the word.
How often do we get stuck in our religiosity and legalism? We think we know the way and make the way. And that it’s our way or now way at all. The kingdom of God is not about our way. It’s abut God’s way and submitting to his authority.
Jesus was challenged by the chief priests and elders. They wanted to know where he got his authority. He answered them by way of this parable and showed them how they were refusing to submit to God. Remember His words, “Many will say to me Lord, Lord…”. He makes the way very clear.
Jesus tells them another parable.
33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted avineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.
The tower is where the landowner would store the wine. The people would put the wine into the jugs, and they would take them and put them in the tower. He wanted the chief priests and elders to know and understand what they were doing in regard to God. They were professing to be sons of the kingdom, but they were not. God gives them the picture that He is the landowner. “The earth is the Lord’s…” He is the creator. We are the created. He is Lord and Master and we are to be His servants. We are to be obedient to Him and to do His will.
34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
The chief priests and elders are so caught up in the story that they slip up and answer Jesus’s question. Jesus asked,
42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
They understood what He was saying. They got the point. That is why they were afraid of the people when they sought to seize Jesus. The people believed that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.
What does Jesus want us to know? Who are the slaves in this story? They are the prophets who were killed, stoned, and dropped in cisterns like Jeremiah. God sent another set of prophets that the people also reject. Finally the Landowner, God, sends his Son. Jesus is showing the chief priests and elders that they are rejecting the very Son of God. The cornerstone of the kingdom of heaven.
Why are they rejecting Him?
Because they do not want this man to reign over them. They do not want Him to be the King of the Jews. They want to rule. They “Seek to seize the kingdom by force…” But God says they will, “bow the knee to the authority of God…”
You and I cannot have our own ways. It is only God’s way. Our hearts have to have more than an external righteousness. We have to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. There is no other way to God.
What is on the hearts of the chief priests and elders? They know that this One standing before them performing miracles, teaching and claiming to be the Christ will rule over them. And they will do everything in their power to prevent it. Jesus rode the donkey into the down, assuming a position of peace, but they took it for war.
There is no peace without the Prince of peace. And Jesus Christ is the Prince of peace. Jesus took them in their mind’s eye to the ordinary places of life, to a vineyard with a winepress and a tower. It was there that He taught them these valuable truths about the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is at hand. And the King is coming. He is going to mount a white horse and claim his throne. Will you be among the redeemed? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior and submitted to the authority of the King?