The Passion Week (Part 2)
4. Christ’s Authority Challenged
References: Matt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8
The chief priests and elders of Israel confronted Jesus even after He had the day before chased all of the merchants and money changers out of the temple, overturning their tables and spilling the coins all over the floor and rebuking them for making His Father’s house a den of robbers. It seems that these rulers were baffled to discover a means of coping with this Jesus, of getting rid of Him before He got rid of them. Their approach of this occasion was to ask Him: “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” Truth is always consistent, and error is always inconsistent. All Jesus needed to do was to ask them the right question to put them on the horns of a dilemma. So, He said He would answer their question if they would His first answer His. “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men?” After putting their heads together and analyzing the question, they realized they would lose regardless of how they answered. And after what must have been a long, embarrassing pause for them, as the multitude stood silently waiting to hear their answer, they replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus silenced them by saying: “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
Preachers and teachers of the Word would do well to cultivate the art of questioning. Jesus, of course, was a master at it, as He was of all teaching techniques. Instead of getting into involved arguments the use of the right question will often clinch the truth and stop the mouth of the opposition.
5. The Parable of the Two Sons
Reference: Matt. 21:28-32
This parable was spoken against the chief priests and elders of Israel. They had just been questioning by what authority Jesus had cleansed the temple and Jesus had caught them in their own trap by His question which they were afraid to answer. Although He did not tell them by what authority He did these things, He did give them this parable about the two sons, and again they were confronted with a question: “Which of the two sons did his father’s will?”
Of course, they had to answer that the first one did, who at first refused but later repented and did his father’s bidding. And again, they judged and condemned themselves by their own words. The publicans and harlots had at first said, “no” to God, but later repented at John’s preaching and did the Father’s will, but the chief priests and rulers who offered lip service to God refused to believe John, and even after John had shown them their true heart condition before God they refused to repent.
They had refused to answer Jesus’ previous question of whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from man, for they knew if they said from heaven, Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe him. But Jesus was not going to let them get off the hook so easily. This parable brought out the truth that they didn’t believe John’s message was from heaven and they therefore were rejecting the council of God against themselves.
6. The Parable of the Vineyard
References: Matt. 21: 33-46; Mk. 12:1-12; Lk. 20:9-19
It is still Tuesday of the Passion week and Jesus is still being confronted by the rulers of Israel. Immediately after relating the parable of the two sons, He follows up with this one about the householder who sublet his vineyard to husbandmen (tenants). At harvest time he sent a servant to collect his share of the crop, but the tenants beat him and sent him back empty handed. The owner then sent one after another of his servants, all of whom they treated shamefully, even killing some of them. Finally the owner decided to send his well-beloved and only son. Surely, they will reverence him.
It is easy to see that Jesus was reviewing the whole history of Israel. God has sent them one prophet after another whom they rejected and mistreated (cf. Heb. 11:35-38). Think of Jeremiah, thrown into the dungeon, Isaiah sawn in two, John, the last of the prophets, beheaded! And now God has sent His beloved and only Son to them. As Jesus was telling this parable these very rulers were plotting how they might kill Him. And so, Jesus continued with His parable. What did the tenants do to his son? They said: “This is the heir to this property. Let us kill him and the vineyard will belong to us.”
Again Jesus asks His question: “What will the lord of the vineyard do to those tenants?” The Jews replied, “He will come and destroy these husbandmen and will give the vineyard to others.” Luke alone tells us when they heard it they said: “God forbid – may it not be so.” They knew that they were the wicked tenants in the parable, but they couldn’t face up to the punishment. Sinners who know the just judgment of God live in the vain hope that it won’t happen to them. And then Luke tells us that the Lord “looked upon them,” no doubt in pity and in hopes of seeing some sign of relenting, but He saw none and said, “What then is this that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner? Every one that falleth upon that stone shall be broken to pieces, but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Ps. 118:22,23). How could they escape destruction? It was written in the Scriptures that the Stone they were rejecting would become the Head of the corner and would crush them to dust.
Matthew ends with the additional words of Christ: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” This statement is usually taken to mean that God will take the Kingdom away from the Jews and give it to the Church. There are only two things wrong with this idea. The first is, that the truth about the Church which is the Body of Christ had not as yet been revealed at the time, and the second is that the Church is not a nation. If one thing characterizes the Church it is that it is made up of all nationalities.
The Church of this dispensation is never called a nation, although Israel, as called out of Egypt, is called a church (Acts 7:38). No, the nation Christ speaks about is the New Israel, the nucleus of which was His little flock, for did He not say to His little group of Israelites: “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom?” (Lk. 12:32). There will be a nation of Israel in the future to whom the Kingdom will be given.
7. The Parable of the Marriage Feast
References: Matt. 22:1-14; cf. Lk. 14:15-24
This is the third of the series of parables of warning which Jesus spoke on that Tuesday of the Passion week. It was about a certain king who made a marriage feast for his son and sent out invitations to the guests, and they would not come. He then sent out a second invitation, stating that “All things are ready.” But they made light of it and some even manhandled and killed the king’s servants. So the king sent his army and destroyed these murderers and destroyed their city. He then sent his servants out into the highways, who gathered as many as they could find, and brought them to the feast. But when the king arrived he spotted a man without a wedding garment and asked how he got in without a proper garment. The man was speechless and was bound hand and foot and cast out into outer darkness. And the parable ends with the same words as did the one about the laborers in the vineyard, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The parable in Lk. 14 is very similar to this one, but it was given on a different occasion and is in several respects different. In Matthew it is a wedding feast; in Luke a great supper. In Matthew the rejectors are destroyed and their city burned; in Luke there is no mention of punishment. In Matthew there are two invitations sent; in Luke there is only one. In Luke the excuses are enumerated; in Matthew they are not. However, both parables nave the same general interpretation.
At the first invitation the message is simply, “Come to the wedding feast.” But at the second invitation the message is, “All things are ready.” Both of these invitations went out to the rulers of Israel. The first invitation doubtless refers to the ministry of John the Baptist and the earthly ministry of Jesus, when the Kingdom was near at hand. But it was impossible that all things could have been ready at that time for the establishment of the Kingdom, for Christ made it plain, as did the O.T. prophets, that Christ must first suffer and rise from the dead before the Kingdom could be “ready” (cf. Lk. 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:10,11).
Therefore, there could have been no legitimate offer of the Kingdom until after Christ had suffered. All things would then be ready, and this is doubtless what the second invitation refers to. This invitation was extended at Pentecost and during the early Acts period. In keeping with the parable, this second invitation was rejected by Israel and Christ’s servants were persecuted and slain. The next thing in the parable was the destruction of these murderers and the burning of their city, and we know that the Roman Titus carried this out in 70 A.D.
But from Paul’s epistles we learn that instead of the Kingdom program going on and the marriage taking place, God has suspended this whole prophetic program and has begun a new, secret dispensation of the mystery (Eph. 3:1-9). Most commentators see the fulfillment of this parable in the present dispensation when Gentiles are being saved, and of course, there is a parallel. But the real fulfillment belongs to the future when the marriage of the Lamb will take place (Rev. 19:7-10).
Comment must be made on two details in the parable. It is stated that both good and bad were brought into the feast. This shows that the invitation was not based upon human character, but purely upon the grace of God. After man had so miserably treated God’s servants, any favor shown had to be pure grace. The other detail concerns the man who came in without a wedding garment.
It must be remembered that the King provided everything for the guests, including the proper attire. This fellow apparently liked his own suit better than the one the King provided. But when confronted by the King he was speechless. It reminds us of Paul’s statement in Rom. 3:19: “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” So this man who was clothed with his own self-righteousness was cast out into outer darkness. The Gospel provides a garment of perfect righteousness as a free gift. Those who reject this garment and insist on appearing before God in their own goodness will surely suffer the fate of the man in the parable.
8. Three Questions by the Jewish Leaders
References: Matt. 22:15-40; Mk. 12:13-34; Lk. 20:20-40
There were three religious-political groups in Israel. The Herodians were the supporters of King Herod and his government. The Sadducees were the religious liberals who denied the existence of angels or spirit or resurrection. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives who had added to the Word of God many traditions and ceremonies. They were the ritualists. All three groups though otherwise opposed to one another, united in an effort to trip Jesus in His words and find some cause whereby they might condemn Him. Perhaps they were aware of how successful Jesus had been in stumping them with His questions, so they decided to use the same tactics on Him.
The Herodians framed their question to try to get Him in trouble with the government. “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” If He said, “No,” they could claim He was a rebel against the government. If He said, “Yes,” then He would have to deny His claims of being the Messiah. They thought they had Him either way, but He didn’t answer yes or no, but asked to see a coin which bore the image of Caesar, and replied: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This is, of course, a principle which Paul upholds for our present dispensation (cf. Rom. 13:6,7).
Then came the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection and they thought they had figured out a question about the law of marriage which would cause Him to say something whereby they might accuse Him of breaking the Law of Moses. And so, they related the story of seven brothers who carried out the instruction of Moses in Deut. 25:5, all having had the same woman as wife. “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” Jesus’ answer to them was that they were ignorant both of the Scriptures and the power of God. Marriage is a relationship in this life only. There will be no such relationship as marriage in the resurrection. There will be no children born in heaven. Resurrection saints will be equal to the angels; that is they can’t be born and they can’t die.
Then Jesus reminded them that at the burning bush Moses called God “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The Sadducees accepted only the books of Moses and chimed that Moses did not teach resurrection. But Jesus here quoted from Moses to show that although these patriarchs had been physically dead for years, Moses spoke of them as living.
“God is not the God of the dead but the living.” So, there must be life beyond the grave. If the patriarchs had become non-existent there was no possibility of a resurrection. But they did exist and therefore could be resurrected.
The Pharisees believed in angels and the resurrection and they seemed happy that Jesus had confounded the Sadducees, their religious antagonists. And so, they got together and one of them, a lawyer (Mark calls him a scribe), asked Him a question, tempting Him: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered by quoting Deut. 6:5, and stating the two most important commands, Love for God with one’s whole being, and Love for neighbor as for self. The scribe replied that Jesus had given the right answer and that the fulfilling of these two commands was more important than all of the entire burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus heard his answer, He said: “Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God.” And we read, “after that no man dared to ask him any more questions.” There were doubtless a few Pharisees who were an exception to the rule, who were honest enough to agree with Jesus as this man did.
9. Christ’s Unanswerable Question
References: Matt. 22:41-46; Mk. 12:35-37; Lk. 20:41-44
We have called this an unanswerable question, not because there is no answer, but because the Jewish leaders found it impossible to answer without admitting the Deity of Jesus Christ. After the Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees had exhausted their questions on Jesus, and while the Pharisees were still gathered together, Jesus asked them one more question. When Jesus asked, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” He was not asking, “What do you think of me?” He was asking, “What do you think of the Messiah?” Of course, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, but the Jews as a whole did not believe Him.
The Pharisees answered that the Messiah was to be the son of David. Then came the further question, “How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Ps. 110:1).
Not only did Jesus attest the fact that David wrote the 110th Psalm, and that he wrote it under inspiration, “in the Spirit,” and not in the flesh, but what is most important, he stated that a man who should be born of his seed would also be his Lord. The Messiah, according to David, was to be both man and God. In spite of the compelling evidence of this assertion, not one in the crowd of Pharisees answered a word, which was a clear indication that they had closed their minds to all reason and were determined in their hatred of Jesus to destroy Him by whatever means they could find.
10. Woes Pronounced Upon the Scribes and Pharisees
References: Matt. 23; Mk. 12:38-40; Lk. 20:45-47
Both Mark and Luke give a very abbreviated account of this incident, each devoting only three verses to it, whereas Matthew takes a whole chapter of 39 verses.
The first three verses are important in showing that Jesus recognized that He was still living under the Mosaic dispensation. He plainly told His disciples to obey everything commanded by those who sat in Moses’ seat. This is a very important principle in correctly understanding the earthly ministry of Christ. The New Testament, technically speaking, had not even begun as late as Matthew 23.
Then Jesus warned His disciples, that although they were to obey the Scribes and Pharisees as they dispensed Moses’ Laws, they were not to imitate their lives, for they say and do not. And then follows the long list of grievances against these leaders. The first twelve verses are addressed to the disciples and bystanders; the remainder of the chapter to the Scribes and Pharisees. The character of these leaders can be summed up in two words: their love for authority to lord it over others, and their love of popularity, to make a great show of their piety before men. The disciples of Jesus were to be just the opposite: none were to lord it over others as Rabbi, or Father, or Master. Father in this context has nothing to do with the family relationship of father, but with the spiritual relationship. They were to recognize only One Master, Father, Teacher, and to make themselves servants of all.
Then turning to the Scribes and Pharisees He pronounces eight woes upon them.
- They shut the door of the kingdom in men’s faces; they didn’t enter themselves, and they wouldn’t let those enter who were trying
- They took advantage of widows and foreclosed on their
- They went to any length to make a proselyte and then made him twice as deserving of going to hell as
- They made the gold in the temple and the gift on the altar more important than the temple and the altar, by saying that a man is not bound by his oath if he swears by the temple or the altar, but is bound if he swears by the gold or the gift. They were thus demeaning God, for putting the gold before God who dwelt in the temple.
- They were careful to give a tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin to God, but neglected the more important matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. They strained out gnats but swallowed
- They scrubbed the outside of the cup clean, but inside they were full of greed and self-indulgence.
- They were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones and every kind of
- They built tombs and monuments for the prophets who were killed by their ancestors, saying that had they been in their father’s shoes they would not have done such deeds. Jesus said,
“So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending to you prophets, and wise men, and teachers. Some you will kill and crucify, others you will flog in your synagogues, and chase them from town to town. As a result the punishment for all innocent men will fall on you, from the murder of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”
Then Jesus turned His gaze upon the city of Jerusalem and wept: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not let me. Now your house is left unto you desolate, for I promise you will not see me any more until you say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
The house which is left desolate refers primarily to the Temple of God, for God was to forsake it and as we shall see from the next chapter, not one stone would be left standing upon another.
Here too we see the mystery of the will of man working against the will of God. Jesus said, “How often I willed to gather your children, but you willed the opposite.” The same verb, “thelo,” to will, is used in both cases. God does not will any to perish, but some will to perish and they will perish (2 Pet. 3:9; cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)