Matthew 21–22:14. The Question of Authority.
Key Notes: Palm Sunday. Four parables: two sons; the vineyard; the wedding feast; the guest with his own clothes.
So much happens in this passage that it is hard to comprehend. Jesus entered Jerusalem formally as king and demonstrated His powers against implacable enemies. There are more than a dozen references to OT prophecy that assure us of its significance.
21:1–11 Jesus went about the Triumphal Entry with a quiet and deliberate plan. The donkey-owner was on call and his animals were ready to go. The disciples knew at once how to help. He sat on an unbroken young donkey. (Mk.11:2). The donkey was the kind of animal ridden by David and Solomon. (IK.1:33,38) and by David’s sons. (IISam.13:29). It was an indication of humble leadership and peaceful rule. Moses refers to Judah's donkey and colt. (Gen.49:11.) In contrast, Absalom came with horses and chariot, showing force and intimidation. (IISam.15:1). Spreading garments under a king was known long before. (IIK. 9:13) The crowds were taken up with the excitement around Jesus and they marched into Jerusalem in triumph.
He fulfilled the prophecy of Zech. 9:9 coming to Jerusalem much as David would. The crowd picked up the theme, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” That is part of the songs of Passover taken from Psa.118:24–27. Hosanna means “save us”. But “Hosanna in the highest” sounds more like ”Hallelujah.” Jerusalem “quaked”. (21:10). But when Jesus was identified by the crowd as “the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee” it sounds quite lowly compared to “Son of David”. “Son of David” is a Messianic title.
Why spread garments on the road? We suppose that any garment touched or passed over by a king would be saved as a memento of the occasion.
21:12–17 Jesus’ next action was to go into the Temple Court of the Gentiles and drive out the merchants exchanging foreign money for the obligatory Temple shekel, and the salesmen marketing animals. These were not “non-profit” operations but were easily made “tourist traps” for poor pilgrims. The animals taken from the court of the Gentiles, and supposedly sacrificed by the priests at the entrance to the Holy Place, could be recycled. Money exchange always involved a fee. Jesus had the upper hand because of the element of surprise, but also because of His personal power. He came to the Temple in fulfillment of the prophecy.
“The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight. ” “But who can endure the day of His coming and who can stand when He appears?” (Mal.3:1, 2)
He said “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples ”, (Isa.56:7) “but this house...has become a den of robbers”. (Jer.7:11)
When the dust had settled, the lame and the blind crowded around Him for healing and the children kept the song going, “Hosanna to the Son of David”. The leaders protested. Jesus quoted to them Psa.8:2:
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, you have brought perfect praise.“ (from the Greek, LXX.)
But the psalm (translated from the Hebrew) says more:
“You whose glory above the heavens is chanted by the mouth of babes and infants, have founded a bulwark because of your foes to still the enemy and the avenger.”
That is to say that the children singing were a barricade between Him and His enemies that would silence them. The scribes who knew the Hebrew OT so well could not miss the sting.
Jesus spent his nights with friends in Bethany. Jn.12:1–11
21:18–22 Jesus was hungry in the morning and went to a fig-tree with leaves to get some figs. With leaves we may expect fruit. There was none. He condemned the tree—a visual parable of Israel. The failure to “bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Matt.3:8) was going to be its downfall.
The disciples were more interested in how Jesus withered the tree than the significance of His action. Jesus said it was a matter of faith, as He had said before. Matt.17:20
Mountain-moving faith has been demonstrated in previous generations in the life of George Mueller, or Hudson Taylor, and modern leaders like Bill Bright or Billy Graham. But even when we pray for relief of our stomach-ache, or for a job, God may remove a mountain that we are unaware of.
21:23–27 Back in the Temple, the leaders demanded to know the source of His authority. He asked them whether John’s authority was from God or from men. [Jesus often answered a question with a question.] They could not decide. They had never been able to decide and this exposed their vacillation. Since Jesus’ authority was the same as John’s, they had the answer to their question. Jesus linked Himself to John the Baptist repeatedly. (Matt.3:14; 11:1–9; 17:12; 21:23; 21:32) They were a working team. To reject John was to reject God’s advance messenger, and therefore Jesus, as well. We will consider the question of Jesus’ authority in the parables He taught.
21:28–32 He did not stop there. He told the first of four parables. Think of them as representing different time periods.
Is it better to say “no” and change your mind in response to your father’s command, or to say “yes” but not obey the command? That was an easy one to answer. Jesus applied the parable at once. The prostitutes and tax-collectors had refused to obey God but under the preaching of John they repented and obeyed. The leaders saw it all happening and said yes, yes, but did not repent and obey.
21:33–46 Then Jesus told another parable--really an allegory-- of the vineyard. It is an allegory because the various parts of the story each have meaning.
The householder is God.
The vineyard is the nation of Israel, carefully groomed. Isa.5:1–4
The tenant farmers are the people of Israel.
The desired fruit is repentance, faith and loving obedience.
The servants are the prophets, who were abused and killed.
The Son is Christ, whom they dragged out of the vineyard (Heb.13:13) and killed.
The new tenants are the Gentiles.
Jesus quoted Psalm 118 from the passage just before the verse that was sung by the parade crowd.
“The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psa.118:22–23)
Then He interpreted the parable to the priests and Pharisees.
“The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”
It is stunning to realize that the rejection of Christ by Israel’s leaders, and His triumph in the end was “the Lord’s doing”. They understood what He was saying, but could not do anything to Him because of the crowds in Jerusalem.
Another example of the patience of God in dealing with Israel is spelled out in IIChron.36:15–16 at the fall of Jerusalem.
“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, till the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, till there was no remedy."
22:1–10 The third parable is similar to the second, but the intensity is raised by a king having a wedding party for his son, instead of the more earthy parable of vineyard and tenants. There was the necessary interval between the first invitation and the actual feast-day. His guests ignored the second invitation and went about their business or farm-work as usual. Some invitees abused and killed his servants. The king did away with the murderers and destroyed their city. Then he invited the common people of the streets, good and bad. The wedding hall was full of guests, the Gentiles.
22:11–14 The fourth parable is an appendix to the third. The king at the wedding found a guest without a wedding garment. We assume that a king who could afford such a banquet would provide beautiful clothing to decorate the party-goers. The unapproved guest was cast into outer darkness.
This is another word to the question of whether few are saved. The banquet hall was full of guests. On the other hand, many were called but few responded to the invitation. Of those who came, one insisted on being there on his own terms.
The four parables may be thought of as spiritual challenges that are set in different time periods.
*The parable of two sons was set in the time of Christ. Jesus was referring to the tax-collectors and prostitutes who responded to the teaching of John.
*The parable of the vineyard with the tenants displaced by those of another nation (21:44) is set at 70AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the emergence of the Gentile church.
*The Wedding Feast is associated with the consummation of the age. "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper f the Lamb." (Rev.19:7)
*The man without a wedding garment fits our present age. We shall on no account enter God’s presence in our own righteousness. We need His garments of righteousness.
“…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isa.64:6)
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal.3:27)
“He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.” (Isa.61:10)
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom.13:14)
"Put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in true righeousness and holiness.” (Eph.4:24)
Jesus did not defend His authority, as the Pharisees demanded. He demonstrated authority. That was true from the beginning: “…the crowds were astonished at His teaching. for He taught them as one who had authority and not as their scribes. “ Matt.7:28–29
The Triumphal Entry in Jerusalem is a puzzle because it was out of character. Jesus was known for His low-key approach to ministry, as prophesied in the OT. (Matt.12:15–21). Some were forbidden to broadcast their healing. (Matt.8:4; 9:30). He came to Jerusalem on other occasions, but quietly. (Jn.7:10). To form a parade was a distinct departure for His normal procedure. This was a conspicuous display, to dramatize the Kingship. The authorities would later use it against Him. (Matt.27:11)
True, the prophecy of Zechariah was to be fulfilled. But if we remember that Palm Sunday is four days before Passover, we have another dimension to this remarkable event. The Passover lamb was to be set aside on the tenth day of the first month Nisan, to be sacrificed on the fourteenth day. (Ex.12:3, 6). Christ, our Passover Lamb (ICor.5:7) in announcing His coming, is setting Himself aside in Jerusalem, four days before the sacrifice will be made. This high-lights the Passover as a type of Christ’s redemption which would only be understood years later.
Does my "Yes" to God move me to obedience?
Is my life producing the fruits of righteousness and justice?
Am I able to put aside my business to respond to Jesus' invitation, to give Him a portion of my time?
Am I wrapped in the righteousness of Christ?