Jericho to the Cross – Part 3

Matthew 23:1-36

by Paul George

By His triumphal entry, temple cleansing, teaching and healing, Jesus had claimed His rightful title as Israel’s Messiah. The Jewish religious and political leaders of Jerusalem understood this and did everything possible to discredit Jesus and undermine His authority. They failed miserably. Every question they posed proved them to be in error, and Jesus to be in authority. Their final response is stunned silence (Matthew 22:46). 

In chapter 23, Jesus directs His attention toward the crowds and His disciples to rectify their mistakes concerning these scribes and Pharisees and reveal their true nature. Second, remove the prejudice which some of the multitude had conceived against Jesus and his doctrine, because it was opposed by the Pharisees and the scribes, it is good to know the true characters of men, that we may not be deceived by their positions in the church and pretensions to power. People must be told of the wolves (Acts 20:20-30), the dogs (Philippians 3:2), and the deceitful workers (2 Corinthians 11:13), that they may know how to identify the deceitful. 

The scribes and Pharisees as public teachers and interpreters of the law and the Law of Moses were not the itinerant judges that went from city to city. They heard appeals, handed down special verdicts, or writs of error by the law. They sat in Moses’ seat, not as he was Mediator between God and Israel, but only as he was chief justice. They were so wretchedly degenerated, that it was time for the great Prophet to arise, like unto Moses, to erect another seat. Good and useful offices and powers are not to be condemned or abolished because they fall into the hands of evil men, who abuse them. 

The scribes and Pharisees made it their business to study the scripture, and were well acquainted with the language, history, and customs of it, and its style and phraseology. Now Christ would have the people to make use of the helps they gave them for the understanding of the scripture, and do accordingly. As long as their comments did not pervert it and make void the commandment of God. They must be observed and obeyed, but with caution and a judgment of discretion. We must not disregard the truth because of the pretenders in pulpits or the laws because of dishonest judges. 

It is the duty of the followers of Jesus to test all doctrines and practices and carefully separate the lies injected from the truth. We must not accept corrupt doctrines perverted practices for the sake of toleration or please those who teach them, regardless of their position in the church. The scribes and Pharisees boasted of their goodness, works, orthodoxy teaching, and hoped to be justified by them; yet the things, which they valued were an abomination in the sight of God. 

In the following verses, Jesus identifies the works of the scribes and Pharisees that must not be imitated. In general, Jesus charges the scribes and Pharisees with hypocrisy and deceit. First, they were teaching one thing and doing the opposite of what they were teaching. The law was their teacher’s manual, but their lives deny what they taught and implied they seem to have found another way to heaven for themselves than what they taught others. The most inexcusable sinners are those who commit the sins they condemn in others. What greater hypocrisy can there be, than to preach or teach something an individual does not believe or obey.  

The scribes and Pharisees were imposing upon others those things which they were not themselves willing to submit to (v. 4). They were not only insisting upon the minute circumstances of the law, which is called a yoke (Acts 15:10) they were insisting the observation of them with more strictness and severity than God did by adding to His words, and imposing their own interpretations and traditions, under the highest penalties. The scribes and Pharisees loved to show their authority and to exercise their domineering faculty, which they made the Sabbath a burden on men’s shoulders, which was designed to be a joyful time. 

The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees 

First, they would not do those things that they imposed upon others; they pressed upon the people strictness in religion that they themselves would not be bound by; but secretly transgressed their own traditions, which they publicly enforced. They indulged their pride in giving law to others; but disobeyed the law they insisted others obey. 

Second, they would not ease the burden they placed upon the people. They added to God’s law making His Law a burden. Third, they were all for show, and nothing for substance, in religion (v. 5). We must do good works, that they who see them may glorify God; but we must not proclaim our good works so that others may see them, and glorify us; which our Savior charged the Pharisees in general, as He had done before in the particular instances of prayer and giving of alms. The form of godliness the scribes and Pharisees exhibited will get them a name to live by, which are all they aimed at and not the godliness that is essential to a life that finds favor in the sight of God. 

Third, they made their phylacteries, little scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written, with great niceness, these four paragraphs of the law, (Exodus 13:2-11; 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21).These were placed in leather pouches and worn upon their foreheads and left arms. It was a tradition of the elders, which had reference to Exodus 13:9; Proverbs 8:3, where the expressions seem to be figurative, intimating no more than that we should bear the things of God in our minds as carefully as if we had them bound between our eyes. Now the Pharisees made large phylacteries, that they might be thought more holy, and strict, and zealous for the law, than others might. It is a gracious ambition to covet to be holier than others are, but it is a proud ambition to covet to appear so. It is good to excel in real piety, but not to exceed in outward acts as the scribes and Pharisees. It is the guise of hypocrisy to make more ado than needs in external service, more than is needful either to prove, or to improve the good affections and dispositions of the soul. 

Fourth, they enlarged the borders of their garments. God instructed the Israelites, through Moses, to make borders or fringes upon their garments (Numbers 15:38) to distinguish them from other nations, and to be a memorandum to them of their being a peculiar people. However, the Pharisees were not content to have these borders like other people’s, which might serve God’s purpose they must be larger than ordinary to answer their purpose, they were more religious than others were. However, those who enlarge their phylacteries, and the borders of their garments, while their hearts are destitute of the love of God and their neighbor, though they may now deceive others, in the end will deceive themselves. 

Fifth, pride was the reigning sin of the Pharisees. 

Jesus describes their pride in verse 6 and 7. 

In all public appearances the scribes and Pharisees expected, and had, to their hearts’ delight, the uppermost rooms and chief seats.  Jesus does not condemn them because they were seated in place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues. Jesus condemned the value they placed on these positions and the resentment they would express if they were not given these places of honor. This is bad any where, but especially in the synagogues, to seek honor to self where all honor and glory is to be given to God man is to humble himself  before God.  

Jesus cautions His disciples against doing what the scribes and Pharisees were doing (vv. 8-10). It is not unlawful to give civil respect to those who have been called into the ministry. The problem is using titles of respect as a means of making a distinction between the clergy and the laity. The clergy must not assume the authority and dominion implied in the titles of respect. They must not be domineering over their brethren, as if they had dominion over the faith of Christians. They must not make their opinions and wills a rule and standard to all other people. The reasons for this prohibition are, (1) Christ is our Master, our Teacher, and our Guide. (2) Christ only is the great Prophet, whom we must hear, and be ruled and overruled by; whose word must be an oracle and a law to us. (3)  Ministers are brethren not only to one another, but also to the people. (4) The clergy and the laity are disciples of the same Master and as such, should help one another. (5) Disciples are to call no man “father.” (6) God is our Father; He is the Fountain of life. Our spiritual life is derived from Him and depends on Him.   

In verse 13, the “woes” begin. In verses 13-15, Jesus reveals the ultimate reason why men should not submit to the leadership and authority of the scribes and Pharisees. They should not follow the scribes and Pharisees because they are headed for condemnation and they will lead their followers after them. The crowds, who are somewhat favorable to Jesus, find the scribes and Pharisees barring the door to the kingdom by utilizing the full extent of their influence to keep people from following Jesus. In addition, the very few whom the scribes and Pharisees invite to join their elite group become twice as much a child of condemnation as their mentors. 

Jesus accused His adversaries as saying one thing, but doing another. In verses 16-22 Jesus’ focus is on oaths, “things they not only say, but swear to; verses 23-24 focus on tithing. The scribes and Pharisees make false distinctions, thus providing a way of escape from what they have promised. If one swears by the temple, he is not obligated to keep that vow. However, if one swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to keep his vow. Jesus shows that these distinctions are false, and that one is obliged to keep his vow, without distinction. 

In verses 23 and 24, our Lord indicts the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy about tithing. The Law taught tithing. The scribes and Pharisees were meticulous about tithing, when it came to trivial things. However, in making much of small things, they made little of very important things like justice, mercy, and faith. In our Lord’s assessment, they “strained gnats and swallowed camels.” Their attention to little things was a pretext for ignoring the most important things of all. They pay attention to outward appearances, rather than on what is on the inside. This should come as no great surprise to us. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus warned about performing our righteous deeds before men, for their praise. Since the scribes and Pharisees loved to be esteemed as more spiritual than others are, we would expect them to be preoccupied with external appearances, rather than the heart.  

In Leviticus 11:31-33, God talked about the defilement of vessels like plates and cups, even here it was what went into the cup that defiled it. Preoccupied as they were with appearances, the scribes and Pharisees were obsessive about the outside of the cup looking clean, so obsessive that the inside could be filled with the most putrid and defiled matter, and it would seemingly be ignored, so long as the outside looked good. They assumed that if the outside looked good, everything else must be good. Hypocrisy is a concerted effort to mask our failures, otherwise known as “sin” by making appearances look good. Jesus tells us that true cleansing begins “in the heart” and expands to the outside. 

The next “woe” continues the theme of a discrepancy between the outside, which looks good, and the inside, which is corrupt. However, Jesus changes the images from cups and dishes to tombs. Before Passover, the Jews whitewashed tombs so that a person would not innocently be exposed to the dead, and thus defile himself. Keeping with in the context of the text Jesus is not talking about the poorly marked grave of some pauper, a grave that would hardly be noticeable, apart from whitewashing. He is talking about a very elegant tomb, whose beauty is enhanced by whitewashing. It is so beautiful that it attracts attention and invites people to draw near to admire it. The scribes and Pharisees are like these beautified tombs. They seem so lovely and attractive, if judged solely by outward appearances. However, inside there is the greatest measure of defilement. Outside the scribes and Pharisees look so holy, so pious, so zealous for the things of God, but inside they are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Those who would have others believe that they are zealous for the law is those whom Jesus refers to as being full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 

Matthew 23:29-36 

Jesus had described the scribes and Pharisees as being like a beautiful tomb. Now, tombs are employed to expose yet another form of hypocrisy. Jesus is in Jerusalem, where the tombs of a number of prophets could be found. True to their hypocritical form, the scribes and Pharisees beautified the tombs of the “righteous” (v. 29) and “the prophets (v. 30). By honoring the prophets of old, who were righteous, the scribes and Pharisees gave the impression that they too were righteous. Many of these prophets had been murdered, however, so the scribes and Pharisees made it very clear that they would have had nothing to do with treating the righteous in such a manner. 

Jesus says something very interesting about this; indeed, one might say, something very perplexing. It was by saying that if they would have never have treated the prophets of old in such manner that they, in fact, indicted themselves. They actually prove themselves the “sons of their rebellious fathers,” who murdered the prophets by claiming they would never have joined them in their wickedness. How does this work? How does saying you would never have done what your ancestors did make you guilty with them? 

The scribes and Pharisees, like their ancestors, felt they were innocent. Did those who murdered the prophets say, “We are guilty sinners, worthy of the judgment the prophets have pronounced against us, but we do not want to obey God, so we will murder His prophets to silence them”? No! They believed that they were right and that the prophets were wrong. They were innocent, but the prophets were guilty, and worthy of death. The scribes and Pharisees rejected the words of condemnation of John the Baptist and Jesus because they felt that they were righteous. They found words of condemnation harsh and inappropriate, especially when addressed to them. The people of old maintained their innocence in the same way, even as they were putting the prophets to death. Thus, by insisting on their innocence, they only give more substance to the charges against them. The scribes and Pharisees share in the guilt of their ancestors for killing the prophets. They actually “fill up” the measure of the sins of their forefathers. They are snakes, the offspring of snakes, and they will not escape being condemned to hell. Strong words indeed! 

There is still another way the scribes and Pharisees will demonstrate that they are the sons of those who killed the prophets. They will prove themselves guilty with their ancestors by repeating the sins of their forefathers. Jesus says that He will send them prophets and wise men and scribes, whom they will persecute and kill, exactly as their forefathers had done. In so doing, they will become guilty for the murders they have committed, and for those of their forefathers. This present generation will be held accountable for the murder of every righteous saint from Abel onward (v. 35-36). 

How can this be so? How can one be guilty of crimes that were committed long before they were born? First, they will be guilty for rejecting Jesus, and for killing Him. They will also be guilty for murdering some of the righteous of their own generation. Somehow, there must be a connection between the rejection of the prophets of their own day and the rejection of the prophets of old by their forefathers. Jesus emphasized the connection between His ministry and that of John the Baptist, who was the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. Since the scribes and Pharisees are aware of the connection Jesus has made between Himself and the Old Testament prophets, then the rejection and murder of Jesus is, in effect, the rejection and murder of all of our Lord’s predecessors. Has this link not already been made by our Lord?  

Turn to Matthew 21:33-39, “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went on a journey. When the harvest time was near, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his portion of the crop. But the tenants seized his slaves, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other slaves, more than the first, and they treated them the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and get his inheritance!’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” 

Who is the landowner?

Who is the vineyard?

Who are the tenant farmers?

Who are slaves or servant?

Who is the son?

Jericho to the Cross – Part 2

Matthew 22:1-46

by Paul George

We have here the parable of the guests invited to a wedding-feast. The parable of the vineyard represents the sin of the rulers that persecuted the prophets; it shows also the sin of the people, who generally neglected the message, while their rulers persecuted the messengers. The wedding-feast represents the rejection of the son. This is the last confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities until His arrest in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56). The recipients of the parable are “the multitudes” of 21:46. The Jews generally associated the concept of the wedding feast with the future reign of the Messiah; the messianic reign is compared to a feast or banquet.

The time had come for the wedding celebration to begin. Therefore, it is also time for the people who had been invited to come: “And he sent his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding celebration” (22:3a). In accordance with Jewish marriage customs of the day, the king sends “his servants” to contact those who had previously been invited and to advise them to come to the wedding celebration. Typically, at some time prior to the banquet, invitations were sent. Then, when the time for the celebration of the marriage arrived, the servants were sent to advise that everything was ready and it was time to come. The previous unrecorded invitation represents the general call by God to the messianic banquet made through the Old Testament prophets. John the Baptist, the 12 apostles, and other early pre-Pentecost witnesses, best interprets the recorded call to the wedding-feast for Christ, in the coming kingdom.

Those initially invited reject the offer: “they did not wish to come” (22:3b). They were expected to attend the royal function but refused to do so. To decline an invitation by a commoner without a legitimate excuse would be insulting. However, to do this to a monarch would be even more so. This refusal to attend the wedding-feast sets the stage for the second call to the wedding-feast.

“Again he sent other servants and “Say to those who have been invited, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner my oxen and fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding-feast’” (v. 4). The message is more specific than before, possibly to provide added incentive for them to come. The first part of the message concerns the nature of the wedding banquet. This meal is now ready and waiting. The king has already prepared everything in advance, anticipating the acceptance of his invitation to the banquet. The invitation ends with a final plea: “Come to the wedding-feast.” The king earnestly desires the presence of the people he had invited to the wedding celebration. He has expended much effort in preparing the feast and has overlooked their first rejection. The second group of servants represents the post-Pentecost missionaries for Christ. Through these, God continued to offer to Israel a place at the wedding celebration for His Son. The parable now turns to the second response of those invited to the wedding-feast.

Those invited a second time respond in two ways. Some are apathetic; some are openly antagonistic. The rejection of the first group of people is found in v 5: “But, paying no attention, they went away, the one to his own field, the other to his business.” The attitude of these people is one of indifference. They leave the servants and return to their own affairs. The first rejection was very insulting to the king since the invitation to a royal function is both an honor and a command. To do this on the grounds of routine business commitments is even more insulting.

A second group of invitees responds with open rebellion and violence: “But the others, after seizing his servants, mistreated and killed them” (Matthew 22:6). The word “mistreated” denotes mistreatment that is of a violent nature and may involve both verbal and physical abuse. This abuse went one-step further, because they also killed the servants. The violence of the people against the servants is representative of the persecution and martyrdom of the post-resurrection apostles and Christian witnesses by the Jews, most particularly by the religious authorities who are here “the others.”

The second refusal of the king’s graciousness now sets the stage for the second response of the king.

The king, who had previously responded graciously, now responds in wrath: “But the king was enraged and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire” (v. 7). This verse seems to be a clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.

The king has now issued two invitations to those he had invited to the wedding-feast for his son and has twice been refused. The second refusal brought to some a harsh judgment by the king. The verses as a whole depict the sad history of the nation of Israel. God, through His servants, repeatedly offered the people an invitation to attend the wedding-feast for His Son, the Messiah. Their persistent refusal culminated in the Romans destroying Jerusalem.

Now the king sends out his servants with new instructions. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is ready, but those who had been invited were not worthy. Go, therefore, to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding-feast’” (Matthew 22:8-9). The third invitation represents the extension of the invitation to the wedding-feast to all people, including the Gentiles.

The obedience and success of the servants is reflected in verse 10, “Those servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.” The servants obeyed their king and went out and amassed a new collection of people to attend the banquet. Although the text does not explicitly state that an invitation was issued, it must be inferred that one was given and that these people responded affirmatively.

The people described as “evil and good” signifies the varying moral states of those who accepted the invitation to the banquet. The servants did not discriminate as to whom they invited. All who were willing to come were welcome. The desire of the king to have many people in attendance at the wedding-feast for his son is finally realized.

The scene now shifts to the banquet itself (v 11): “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes” The wedding-fest is now in progress and the king enters the palace to observe the guests. He immediately notices a man dressed unsuitably for a wedding. It was customary for each person who would attend such an affair to clothe himself appropriately before going. The man obviously did not prepare himself in a fitting way for a royal banquet. This man was not naked, or in rags but he did not put on the wedding garment. The king did not rebuke his servants for letting this man into the wedding feast. The king rebukes the man for coming into the wedding feast inappropriately dressed.

When the king questioned the man, he was speechless, being convicted and condemned by his own conscience. They who live within the church, and die without Christ, will not have one word to say for themselves in the judgment of the great day, they will be without excuse. Those who never heard a word of this wedding feast will have more to say for themselves; their sin will be more excusable, and their condemnation more tolerable, than those who came to the feast without the wedding garment.

The king orders his servants to bind the man hand and foot and cast him into “that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 13). When the wickedness of hypocrites appears, they are to be taken away from the communion of the faithful, to be cut of as withered branches, taken away from the king, from the kingdom, from the wedding feast. Those that walk unworthy of their calling, forfeit all the happiness they presumptuously laid claim to.

Jesus ends the parable with the statement, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14). If you consider all those that make light of the invitation to the wedding-feast, prefer other things before it. If you consider all that make a profession of religion, but their lives are a constant contradiction to it. If you consider all the profane, and hypocritical, you will find that there are few, very few, that are chosen.

Prior to Matthew 22:15, those who opposed Jesus had been mostly the chief priests and the elders. Jesus will now face opposition from another quarter the Pharisees. They will try to trap Jesus using the interpretation of the law. This has been an old practice of Satan and his agents; it began in the Garden of Eden.

The Pharisees send their disciples and the Herodians to Jesus with a question they believe the Romans will accept as a conspiracy against Rome. The Herodians were the pacifist of the first century. They advocated a peace at any price and the appeasement of Rome. Some historians believe the Herodians were the collectors of the land tax, as the publicans were of the customs. In this plot against Jesus, we have two opposing parities joining in a common cause, the destruction of Jesus. The Herodians demanded the tax, and the Pharisees denied it. Herod being obliged, by the charter of the sovereignty, to take care of the tribute, these Herodians, by assisting him in that, helped to endear him to his great friends at Rome. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were zealous for the liberty of the Jews, and did what they could to resist the Roman yoke. Now, if Jesus agrees with the Herodians the Pharisees cam use this to prove Jesus does not have the interest of the people in what He does and teaches. If Jesus agrees with the Pharisees, the Herodians can convince Jesus is an enemy of Rome.

Listen to how the enemy lays the groundwork in the plot to trap Jesus into saying something to discredit Himself (Matthew 22:16). If they had come to Jesus with a serious enquiry, and the most sincere intention, they could not have expressed themselves better. What they said to Jesus was right, even if they did not believe it. Jesus is a faithful Teacher, He the Truth itself. As for His doctrine, the matter of his teaching was the way of God, the way that God requires us to walk in, the way of duty that leads to happiness. The manner of it was in truth; He showed people the right way, they way in which they should go. He was a skilful Teacher, and knew the way of God. He is a faithful Teacher that would be sure to let us know it what is the right way and the way we should go.

This is the character of a good teacher, to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and not to suppress, pervert, or stretch, any truth, for favor or affection, hatred or good will, either out of a desire to please, or a fear to offend, any man.
Jesus, in preaching, He did not seek the approval of man, He did not dread the most powerful of His enemies. He did not turn from the truth to please man nor from his work, for fear of the most formidable and He showed partiality.

Even though what the enemy’s agent said was true, yet there was nothing but flattery and treachery in the intention of it. They called Jesus, Master, when they were contriving to treat Him as the worst of criminals. They pretended respect for Him, yet their hearts were filled with hatred. They showed their hatred and disrespect when they questioned His wisdom, His omniscience as God, of which he had so often given undeniable proofs, when they imagined that He could not see through them and their pretense.

The question, “Tell us then what do you think?” (v. 17a). In other words, we knew what our religious and political leaders and the common man has answered the question, “Is it lawful to give a poll tax to Caesar, or not?” (v. 17b), but you are a truthful Teacher and teach the way of God and fear no man, what do you believe? This question implies two question they enemy’s agents did not ask, “Does Caesar have the right to impose a tax upon the people, is it lawful to pay the tax? However, by this question they hoped to entangle Jesus and expose Him to the fury either of the jealous Jews, or of the jealous Romans.

Jesus’ question, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites” does not imply Jesus did not know the purpose of the questions they enemy’s agents asked Him. Our Lord Jesus knew why they asked Him the questions they asked. He saw all the wickedness in the hearts of these pretenders. He was letting them know they could not sway Him with their flatteries and pretenses  He that searches the heart can call hypocrites by their own name. Those that presume to tempt Jesus will certainly find He knows what is hidden in the deepest recesses of the heart. He sees the hate and wickedness of hypocrites that use flattery and pretense to hide their true motives.

In verses 19 and 20 Jesus forced the pretenders to confess the authority of Caesar over them. In dealing with those that look for and point out faults and defects in others, it is good to give our reasons, and, if possible, our point of view, we give our conclusions. This can catch those who are looking for and pointing out faults and defects in others off guard because they were prepared to oppose the truth and not against the reason of it. Jesus told those who were testing Him, “Show Me the coin used for the poll tax (v. 19). They gave Jesus a denarius and Jesus asked them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (v. 20). They said “Caesar” v. 21).  Jesus told them to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21).

Christianity is no enemy to civil government, but a friend to it. However, the same cannot be said of civil government. Christ’s kingdom does not clash or interfere with the kingdoms of the earth. The kingdoms of the earth clash with Christ’s kingdom. It is the duty of subjects to render to the civil government that which, according to the laws of their country, is their due. The civil government being entrusted with the public welfare, the protection of the subject, and the conservation of the peace, are entitled to a just proportion of the public wealth (Romans 13:6).When we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s we must remember to render to God the things that are God’s, out of our time and resources. However, if Caesar’s commands interfere with God’s we must obey God rather than man.

In Matthew 22:23-33, we have the question concerning the resurrection.

The Sadducees were the fewest in number of all the sects among the Jews, but generally persons of some rank. They maintained, that, except God, there is not spirit (Acts 23:8), nothing but matter and motion. They would not own the divine inspiration of the prophets, nor any revelation from heaven, but what God himself spoke upon Mount Sinai. Now the doctrine of Christ carried that great truth of the resurrection and a future state much further than it had yet been revealed, and therefore the Sadducees in a particular manner set themselves against it. The Pharisees and Sadducees were contrary to each other, and yet joined in the plot to destroy Jesus.

The Sadducees open the question concerning the resurrection quoting Deuteronomy 25:5 (v. 24). The purpose of the law was to preserve the distinction of families and inheritances. The question involves seven brothers and their obedience of the law. The woman also dies. The question, if there is a resurrection, which of the seven would be her husband, the first or the last brother.

Jesus told the Sadducees their problem was they did not understand the Scriptures that affirm that there shall be a resurrection and a future state. The scriptures speak plainly, that the soul is immortal, and that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Job knew there would be a resurrection (Job 19:26). Those who deny the resurrection of the just and unjust do not understand what is written in the Scriptures or do not believe them, or do not take the true sense and meaning of them.

Jesus corrects the Sadducees error in verso 30. When the resurrection occurs, we will not live in the state we are now in upon earth. In our present state marriage is necessary; it was instituted in innocency; whatever intermission or neglect there has been of other institutions, this was never laid aside, nor will be until the end of time. All civilized nations understand the marriage covenant; and it is requisite for the gratifying of the desires, and recruiting the deficiencies, of the human nature. However, the resurrection, there is no occasion for marriage. In the glorified bodies, there will not be any distinction of sexes and there will be in it no carnal desires to be gratified. When the mystical body is completed, there will be no further occasion to seek a godly seed, which was one purpose of the institution of marriage Malachi (2:15).

In heaven, we will live in the same state the angels live in. Man in his creation was made a little lower than angels (Psalm 8:5) but in his complete redemption he will be as the angels; pure and spiritual, knowing and loving as the angels, ever praising God like them and with them. Our bodies will be incorruptible and glorious. We should therefore desire and endeavor to do the will of God now as the angels do it in heaven, because we hope we will soon be like the angels who always behold our Father’s face. Jesus said nothing of the state of the wicked in the resurrection; but, by consequence, they shall be like the demons, whose will they have done.

Jesus’ argument to confirm this great truth of the resurrection and a future state backed the truth with a solid argument. In verse 31 Jesus asked the Sadducees, “have you not read what was spoken to you by God?” What the scripture speaks God speaks. What God spoke to Moses was spoken to us; it was spoken and written for our benefit. This is why we should read and hear what God hath spoken, because it is spoken to us. It was spoken to the Jews in the first place, because to them were committed the oracles of God.
The question answered, the Sadducees silenced (v. 34), the people amazed and astonished by the teachings of Jesus (v. 33) one of the Pharisee, a lawyer asked Jesus, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” (v. 36). The testing of Jesus has not been laid to rest. The lawyers were students in, and teachers of, the Law of Moses, as the scribes were; but some think that they differed, because they dealt more in practical questions than the scribes did. The purpose of the question was to test Jesus’ knowledge of the law.

The question “What is great commandment of the law” (v. 36) was one greatly debated by the scribes and lawyers. Some claimed the law of circumcision was the great commandment. Others said, the law of the Sabbath was the great commandment, others the law of sacrifices. Which these commandment (vv. 37-39), could be consider the greatest?

All the law is fulfilled in one word, and that is “love” (Romans 13:10).All obedience begins in the affections, and nothing in religion is done right, that is not done there first. Love is the leading affection, which gives law, and gives ground, to the rest; and therefore love is the foundation of the law. Man is a creature created for love; therefore, the law written in the heart is the law of love.

The love of God is the first and great commandment of all, and the summary of all the commands of the first table God wrote the Ten Commandments on. God, being infinitely good and eternally, is to be loved in the first place, and nothing loved beside Him. We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.   Our love of God must be a sincere love, and not in word only, it must be a strong love. We must love Him more than any thing else. All our love is too little to bestow upon Him, therefore all the powers of the soul must be involved.

The second great command, love our neighbor as we love ourselves (v. 39), this implies we should do nothing to our neighbor we do not want our neighbor to do to us. When Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love our self He was not referring to a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins. A love we must mortify. We must love ourselves, that is, we must have a due regard to the dignity of our own natures, and a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies.

The love of love is the sum and substance of all those precepts written in men’s hearts by nature, revived by Moses, and backed and enforced by the preaching and writing of the prophets. All hang upon the law of love; take away this, and all falls to the ground, and comes to nothing. Rituals and ceremonials must give way to these, as must all spiritual gifts, for love is the excellent way.

The many questions the Pharisees asked Jesus were intended to discredit Him, but now let him ask them a question; and he will do it when they are gathered together (v. 41). He did not take some of them apart from the rest to shame them. He questioned them when they were all together, when they were consulting against Him. In verse 42, Jesus asked the Pharisees a question that they could easily answer. They asked Jesus questions about the law, but He asks a question about the promise. There are many who are so concerned about keeping the law they forget Christ, as if their duties would save them without His merit and grace. It concerns each of us seriously to ask ourselves, what think we of Christ? Some seldom think about Him, He is not in all, not in any, of their thoughts.

When the Pharisees answered Jesus’ question (v. 42) Jesus asked two questions in response to the Pharisees answer (vv 43-45). The Pharisees were probably proud of the knowledge they possessed that enabled them to answer Jesus’ question. However, when they are called to confirm the truth, and to vindicate and defend it, they reveal their lack of knowledge concerning what is written in the Scriptures. Jesus’ purpose in asking the questions He asked the Pharisees was not to entrap as they were trying to do to Jesus. Jesus’ purpose was to instruct them in a truth they were rejecting the expected Messiah is God.

The question, if the Christ, the Messiah is the son of David, why does David call Him Lord?  The Holy Spirit inspired David to write verse 1 of Psalm 110, which the scribes understood to be a reference to the Messiah. Psalm 110 verse 1 is a prophetical summary of the doctrine of Christ; it describes him executing the offices of a Prophet, Priest, and King, both in his humiliation and in his exaltation.

It is not easy for those who do not believe in the Godhead of the Messiah, to see Psalm 110 verse 1 as a reference to the Messiah. It is difficult to explain why the father, David the king, would call his Son Lord. There can be only one reason why David would call his son Lord, he was not referring to the one who would replace him on the throne after his death, he was referring to one who come from the lineage of the house of David and one day take His place on David’s throne.

No man was able to answer Jesus’ questions or from that day on ask Jesus another question (v. 46).

In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus turns His attention toward the crowds and His disciples.

Jericho to the Cross – Part 1

Matthew 20:29-21:46

by Paul George

Jesus and the disciples left Jericho, their destination, Jerusalem, and a large crowd followed them. From the time, Jesus began His ministry multitudes followed Him, some for love, some for curiosity, and some in expectation of the establishing of Israel as a world super-power. Two blind men hearing that Jesus was passing by cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David” (Matthew 20:30).  The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet but they cried out, even louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us” (Matthew 20:31).

Here is an example of persistence in prayer. These men earnestly cried out for mercy. They cried out as men in a desperate situation without hope of surviving. They cast themselves upon the altar of mercy. They confessed that Jesus is Lord and therefore had the authority to deliver them from their blindness.

Like the blind men, we must expect to meet with hindrances and discouragements from within and from without, something or other that tries to silence our pleas when we earnestly seek mercy. The permitting of attempts to silence us tests our faith, patience, and perseverance. Sincere and serious seekers of mercy will always encounter the worst rebukes from those that follow Jesus. When opposition from the pretender and hypocritical place an obstacle in our path we must cry louder for mercy form the Giver of mercy.

The multitude rebuked the blind, but Jesus encouraged them. The blind would be in a sad situation if the Giver of mercy were not more loving and passionate than the crowd following Jesus. Unlike the crowd of followers, Jesus poured out His love and favor upon the blind who received rebukes and contempt from the crowd. In the hour of rebuke and contempt from man, we must never lose sight of the fact Jesus will not permit our supplicants to fall by the wayside. He will hear our cries and answer them. He is never too busy to respond to our cries. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to complete the mission the Father sent Him to earth to do and He interrupted what He was doing in order to respond to the cries of two blind men.

Jesus asked these two men what they wanted from Him. He did not ask them what they wanted from Him because He did not know what they wanted; He knew what they needed from Him before they asked. Jesus asked them what they wanted because He wanted to hear their request and confession there was no one who could fulfill the request. Jesus not only calls us to pray, He invites and joins us. He tells us, here I am what do you want me to do, ask and I will do it. Jesus is able to do for us, and willing and requires one thing from us, tell Him, even though He knows before we tell Him, what we would have Him do for us. It is the will of God that we should in every thing make our requests known to Him by prayer and supplication not to inform or move Him, but to qualify ourselves for the mercy. When the blind men made their need known Jesus healed them; the tender mercy of our Lord Jesus gave light and sight to those that sat in darkness.

Our Lord Jesus came not only to bring light to a world in darkness, but also to give sight to blind souls. As a token of this, He cured many of their bodily blindness.

When Jesus and the disciples “had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus told two disciples to ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, the Lord has need of them, and immediately he will send them.’” (Matthew 21:1-3). The disciples did as Jesus told them and brought the donkey and her colt to Jesus, they laid their coats on the donkey and the colt, and Jesus sat on the coats (Matthew 21:6-7). The crowd spread their coats in the road and some of the people cut branches from the trees and laid them in the road. The people leading the way into Jerusalem and following behind Jesus were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21: 8-9). Jesus entering the city on the back the foal of a donkey fulfilled the prediction of Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9-10).

“All the city was stirred, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds were saying ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee’” (Matthew 21:10-11). Notice the change in attitude. On the road into Jerusalem the crowd were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” now He is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth, surroundings make a big difference in some people’s testimony.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem He did not go up to the court or the palace, though He came in as a king, He went to the temple. The first thing He did when He entered the temple, He drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those selling doves (v. 12). The blind and lame came to Jesus and He healed them. However, the chief priests and scribes were finding fault with what Jesus was doing and the children were shouting in the temple, probably at the gate or in the Temple court. The blind and lame were not permitted to enter the Temple (2 Samuel 5:8).  Jesus left Jerusalem and went to Bethany.

When Jesus returned to Jerusalem, the next day, He was hungry. He saw a fig tree, expecting to find fruit on the tree because it had leaves; but, finding none, He sentenced it to an unending barrenness.

Prior to this incident, all the miracles Jesus performed were for the good of men, and proved the power of His grace and blessing, none for the terror or punishment of His enemies. In this miracle, Jesus shows His disciples all judgment is committed to Him and He is able to not only save, but also destroy.
This cursing of the barren fig tree represents the state of hypocrites in general; and so it teaches us, Jesus expects His disciples to produce fruit and His expectations are just. He comes to many, seeking fruit, and finds barren trees and He justly punishes the sin of barrenness, with the curse and plague of barrenness. Those who do not produce fruit lose the honor and comfort Jesus gives to those who produce fruit. Those who are as the barren fig tree withers in this world because they have no root in themselves, their profession soon come to an end; the gifts wither, common graces decay, the credit of the profession declines and sinks, and the falseness and folly of the pretender are manifested to all men.

The barren tree also represents the state of the nation and people of Israel. They were a fig tree planted in God’s vineyard. God incarnate came among them, expecting to find some fruit, something that would be pleasing to Him; He hungered after it and His expectations were frustrated; He found nothing but leaves. They called Abraham their father, but did not do the works of Abraham. They prayed for the coming of the promised Messiah, but, when He came, they did not receive Him. After they rejected the Messiah they became worse and worse; blindness and hardness increased to the point their nation was rooted up; their beauty was defaced, their privileges and ornaments, their temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices, and festivals, fell like leaves in autumn.

Before you point a finger at the people of Israel in the days when Jesus walked among the people, look inward at the professing church that is like a barren fig tree, covered with leaves; thousands come Sunday after Sunday to have their felt needs met. What about the spiritual need, is it being met?

The disciples admired the effect of Jesus’ curse, they marveled, no power could do what Jesus did. They marveled at how quickly the fig tree withered away. There was no visible cause of the fig tree’s withering, it was not only the leaves of it that withered, but the body of the tree; it withered away in an instant and became like a dry stick. What a sad thing it is when churches that were once filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and because they no longer produce fruit have withered and become like a dry stick. They have the form but lack the power.

Jesus told the disciples if they have faith and do not doubt they will not only do what was done to the fig tree they will be able to move mountains (vv. 21-22). Before we go off the deep end and try to move physical mountains, we need to understand Jesus was speaking figuratively. Moving a mountain is a proverbial expression; intimating that we are to believe that nothing is impossible with God.

The challenge by the high priests and elders (vv. 23-27)

Following the incident with the barren tree, Jesus went to the temple. When He entered the temple, the priests and elders came and asked Him who gave Him the authority to do what He did when He drove out those who were buying and selling in the temple and over turn the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those selling doves and teach in the temple. Who gave Him the authority to ride into Jerusalem like amidst the shouts of hosannas; did Caesar or the high priest give Him the authority expressed in His acts?

Jesus answered their demand with His own (vv. 24-25). Jesus put His enemies between the rock and the hard place. Two things they considered in this reasoning with themselves, their credit, and their safety. If they said the source of John’s baptism was from heaven they knew Jesus would ask them, before all the people, why they did not believe John. John had testified to them who Jesus was.  If they should say that John’s baptism was of men they would turn the people against them because they believed John was a prophet sent by God. After weighing the pros and cons they answered Jesus, “We do not know” (27). Jesus told them He would not tell them by whose authority He did all these things (27). Jesus avoided the trap chief priests and elders laid for Him and justified His refusal to answer their question.

The parable of the two sons (vv. 28-32)

Turning to the disciples, Jesus asked them, “What do you think?” A man had two sons and sent them to work in the vineyard. What is the point Jesus is attempting to make in this parable?  The parable represents two types of people. They both have the same father, the father is God. There are favors they both receive from Him and obligations to Him that are alike. They both had the same command given them; work in the vineyard, a creditable, profitable, and pleasant occupation. One of the sons said, he would not go, but went and worked in the vineyard. The second son said he would go and did not go.
Both of these sons had their faults, one was rude and the other was false, but the question is, which was the better of the two, and the less faulty? The disciples said the first, his actions were better than his words and the end better than his beginning.

In this parable, Jesus proves that John’s baptism was from heaven and not of men. Remember, by their fruits you shall know them, the fruits of their doctrines, the fruits of their doings. It was evident that John came in the way of righteousness by his ministry. In his ministry, he taught people to repent, and to work the works of righteousness. In his conversation, he was a great example of strictness, and seriousness, and contempt of the world, denying himself, and doing good to every body else. Jesus therefore submitted to the baptism of John, because it became them to fulfill all righteousness.  Now, if John thus came in the way of righteousness, could they be ignorant that his baptism was from heaven, or make any doubt of it?

Jesus proves that John came in the way of righteousness by the success of his ministry; the publicans and the harlots believed. If God had not sent John the Baptist, He would not have crowned his labors with such wonderful success, nor have made him as instrumental as he was for the conversion of souls. If publicans and harlots believe his report, surely the arm of the Lord is with him.

The parable of the landowner (vv. 33-46)

In the parable of the landowner we have here the privileges of the Jewish nation, represented by the letting out of a vineyard to the husbandmen; they were as tenants of God. God provided the vineyard, furnished all things requisite to an advantageous management and improvement of it. He planted this vineyard. He planted the choicest vine.  He hedged it round about. He dug a wine press and built a tower. He entrusted the care of the vineyard to the chief priests and elders; he let it out to them as husbandmen, not because he had need of them but because he would try them, and be honored by them. He planted the vineyard and then went into a far country.

The landowner’s expectation was a reasonable expectation. His expectations were not hasty; he did not demand a deposit. He did not threaten a forfeiting of their lease if they ran behind-hand production, but he sent his servants to remind them of their duty, and of the rent-day, and to help them in gathering in the fruit, and prepare it for market. These servants were the prophets of the Old Testament, who were sent, and sometimes directly, to the people of Israel to reprove and instruct them. They were not hard; they came only to receive the fruit due the landowner. He did not demand more than they could make of it, but some fruit of that which he himself planted, an observance of the laws and statutes he gave them. Israel became a wild vine bringing forth wild grapes.

When the landowner sent his servants to receive what was due Him, the tenants abused them. They beat Jeremiah, killed Isaiah, and stoned Zechariah.  This was God’s old quarrel with the Jews, misusing his prophets (2 Chronicles 36:16). How do you think the Lord views those who abuse His servants in the ways they do today?

God revealed His goodness to the abusers of His servants when He sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the sending of His Son. All the prophets were forerunners sent to prepare the people for the coming of the promised Messiah. The reception of the Messiah, the Son of God, would be a powerful and effectual revealing of fruitfulness and obedience, because He comes with more authority than the servants do, judgment is committed to Him, that all men should honor Him. There is a greater danger in rejecting Him than disobeying the Law given to Moses.

The vine-growers when they saw the Son, said amongst themselves this is the heir let us kill Him and seize His inheritance (v.38). Pilate and Herod, the princes of this world, did not know what they were doing, if they had known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). However, the chief priests and elders knew that Jesus was the Messiah; at least some of them knew Jesus was the Messiah. The motivating factor behind their hatred of Jesus was envy. They hated and feared Jesus because of His interest in the people and thousands were following though most were not truly committed to Him. They followed Jesus as many do today for what they can profit by following Him. They pretended that He must die, to save the people from the Romans (John 11:50). Their true purpose for wanting Jesus dead is to cover up their hypocrisy and tyranny from that reformation which the expected kingdom of the Messiah would certainly bring with it. He drives the buyers and sellers out of the temple; therefore let us kill Him. He comes to receive what belongs to Him therefore let us kill Him and seize His inheritance.

In the fullness of time, the enemies of the Lord executed their plan to kill the Lord of glory (v. 39). Though the Roman power condemned him, the chief priests and elders were not only the prosecutors, but also the principal witnesses against Him. They looked upon Him as unworthy to live and cast Him out of the vineyard. Those who persecuted the servants persecuted the Son and their doom comes out of their own mouths (vv. 40-41).

Jesus asked the disciples, ‘When the owner of the vineyard comes what will he do to those vine-growers” (v. 40). They answered, He will bring these wretched to a wretched end and rent out the vineyard to other vine growers who will give the owner of the vineyard what is due him (v. 41). The Romans fulfilled this in destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. It will be fulfilled upon all that walk the path of wickedness; hell is everlasting destruction, and it will be the most miserable destruction to all that have enjoyed the greatest share of church privileges, and have not improved them.

God will have a church in the world, notwithstanding the unworthiness and opposition of many that abuse the privileges of it. The unbelief and abuse of man shall not make the word of God of no effect. The servants of the enemy may destroy the servants of the Lord, but they cannot destroy the church. The chief priests and elders imagined that they were the people and without them wisdom and holiness would die. However, when God makes use of any to bear up his name, it is not because He needs them.

Jesus ends the parable of the landowner with a reference to Psalm 118 beginning with verse 22. The builders’ rejecting of the stone is the same with the vine growers abusing of the son that was sent to them. The chief priests and the elders were the labors, God the builder and they would not allow His Son a place in their labors, would not admit His doctrine or laws into their constitution; they threw Him aside as a despised broken vessel, a stone that would serve only for a stepping-stone, to be trampled upon. The advancing of this stone to be the head of the corner is the same with giving the vineyard to other vine growers. He who the Jews rejected the Gentiles embraced. They accepted His authority over the gospel church, and influence upon it, His ruling it as the Head.

The hand of God was in all this, even the rejecting of Him by the Jewish builders was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; He permitted and overruled it. He advanced the rejected stone to the chief corner stone. God’s right hand and His holy arm brought it about; God Himself exalted the name of Jesus above every name.

To Israel the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), the sacred trust of revealed religion, and bearing up of God’s name in the world God committed into the care of Israel, but now it shall be so no longer. They were unfruitful in the use of their privileges, but under pretence of them, opposed the gospel of Christ, and so forfeited them. It is a righteous thing with God to remove privileges from those that not only sin against them, but also sin with them (Revelation 2:4-5). The kingdom of God was taken from Israel, for a time set by God, by the temporal judgments that came upon Israel, and the spiritual judgments that came upon, blindness of mind, hardness of heart (Romans 11:8-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:15). They who had not been a people, and had not obtained mercy, became favorites of Heaven. This is the mystery which The Apostle Paul was so much affected with (Romans 11:30, 33) and which the Jews were so much affronted by (Acts 22:21-22). At the first planting of Israel in Canaan, the fall of the Gentiles was the riches of Israel, the fall of Israel was the riches of the Gentiles (Romans 11:12).

The Stone rejected by the builders is set for the fall of many, some through ignorance others through unbelief, this is the greater sin. This Stone cut out of the mountain without hands, will break in pieces all opposing power (Daniel 2:34-35). Christ will destroy all those that fight against Him.