Matthew 21:18-46, September 13, 2020
21:10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred/quaking as He entered as the Messiah. He was fulfilling Daniel’s 9:25 prophecy the coming of the Anointed One in 483 years. Historians tell us it was on March 14, 445 BC that King Artaxerxes gave his command. 483 years later (Jewish years of 360 days each, so 173,880 days later) on April 6, 32 AD Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. To.The.Day. Some in the city must have also looked at Daniel’s prophecy and calculated it to the day and this was the day! And Jesus rode in on the foal of a donkey fulfilling Zechariah’s 9:9 prophecy Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. No wonder the city was stirred.
It was late in the day, as we know from Mark 11:11, so after a short visit to the temple they went to Bethany.
21:12-13 What was the first thing Jesus did upon entering the temple the next day, April 7? He drove out the money changers saying, It is written, My House will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.
21:14-17 Then the blind and lame who came to Him, He healed them. The chief priests and the teachers of the law did not comment on His healing or fulfilling prophecy. The only complained about the children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David” Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 to them and then left to spend the night in Bethany.
21:18-22 Jesus approaches the city and temple again, April 8. We know from Mark 11:12-14 and 20-21 what Matthew describes as happening altogether happened over two days – at least 24 hours.
There are two lessons to draw from these verses. Looking at what He says about prayer first. It is natural He would bring up prayer as the day before He had driven out the money changers returning His house to a house of prayer.
Many have taken verses 21 and 22 out of context treating God as some kind of celestial Santa Claus if they can just get their prayers right. They ignore the condition or requirement noted in 1 John 5:14-15 as well as the problem we often have when we pray in James 4:3. Now what Jesus is describing is seemingly impossible or is it. After all the apostles have already been doing things considered just as impossible. *
Return now to the lesson of the fig tree itself of false advertising and hypocrisy. A fig tree at this time of year if it had full leaves, it was expected to also have early green figs. A leafy fig tree without early fruit would bear no fruit that year. So when Jesus came upon this leafy fig tree with no fruit He cursed it. Put on a false show with God and this is what you can expect.
Some earlier examples in Matthew. First John the Baptist Matthew 3:7-10 where he demanded fruit with repentance and every tree (person) that did not produce good fruit would be cut down and thrown into the fire. And Matthew 7:19 where Jesus said, Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. One more, Matthew 12:33 where Jesus tells the Pharisees, Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. And He has already told us what happens to a tree that does not bear good fruit. The withered fig tree is only good now for firewood.
21:23-27 Question of Authority. Jesus takes them back to John who said they would have no fruit of repentance. They cannot answer the question because they did not repent, but many who are present did.
21:28-32 Two sons. Immediately, after refusing to answer their question on authority, Jesus addresses them in front of the people there asking, which son did what is right? The Pharisees choose the first son condemning themselves, as Jesus returns to John the Baptist and those who repented and had the fruit of changed lives.
21:33-46 The Tenants and the stone. Jesus goes directly to another parable directed at the Pharisees still in front of the people. The landowner who planted a vineyard is God. His servants are His prophets. His son is Jesus. Again, Jesus asks the Pharisees, what will the landowner do? Again, they answer correctly and once again condemn themselves as Jesus rebukes them by quoting Psalm 118:22-23. Then again bringing up people who will produce fruit. Good fruit. Finally figuring out Jesus has been talking about them with His parables they wanted to arrest Him but could not.
Question for each of us. How do we make sure we produce good fruit in our lives? First of all we avoid false advertising pretending to be a disciple when we are not as Jesus warns in Matthew 7:21-23. Instead we are to abide in Jesus as He says in John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
1 John 5:14-15 New International Version (NIV)
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
James 4:3 New International Version (NIV)
3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
Matthew 7:21-23 New International Version (NIV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’