The Right Ways to Respond to Jesus Christ

The Gospel of Matthew  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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1. Accept the Lord's authority. 2. Answer the Lord's questions. 3. Apply the Lord's lessons.

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The Right Ways to Respond to Jesus Christ

The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 21:23-32

Sermon by Rick Crandall

(Prepared December 29, 2022)


*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 21. Here we are less than a week away from the cross of Jesus Christ. This chapter opened with Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And in Matthew 21:9, "The multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' Hosanna in the highest!''' That word "hosanna" was an emotional expression that means, "Oh save us!" They were crying out for Jesus, the promised Son of David, to save them.

*But many of the people lining the streets of that crowded city were crying out for Jesus to save them from their cruel Roman conquerors. Those people did not understand our urgent need for Jesus to save us from our sins. So, they cried out, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" But later that week, many of those same people cried out, "Crucify Him! -- Crucify Him!"

*They did not know that Jesus is the eternal, only begotten Son of God, who humbled Himself to become a man and die on the cross for our sins. They only thought He was a prophet. That's why vs. 10-11 say, "When He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?'' So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.''

*Then in vs. 12-13, Jesus went into the Temple of God and drove out all the money changers and merchants. Jesus told them, "It is written, 'My House shall be called a House of Prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" Next in vs. 14-15, Jesus healed the blind and lame people who came to Him in the Temple. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things Jesus did, they were greatly offended. Their anger over people being miraculously healed was awful, but it helps us understand how much they hated Jesus.

*A day or two later, the chief priests and elders confronted the Lord again in the Temple. Let's read about it in Matthew 21:23-32. And as we read, please think about the right ways for us to respond to Jesus Christ.


*We all respond to things hundreds of times a day. For most people, it starts with the alarm clock every morning. Then we respond to text messages, phone calls, email, and all kinds of conversation. We respond to heat, cold, hunger and pain. We respond to humor, anger, love, respect, and fear. We respond to victories, setbacks, and defeats. But how we respond makes a big difference. Chuck Swindoll once said, "I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me, and 90 percent how I react to it." (1)

*How we respond makes a big difference. And this is especially true when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important than how we respond to Jesus, so how should we respond to the Lord?


*We must not be like the Jewish rulers we see in vs. 23. Rebellion and rejection of Christ dripped from their lips: "Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, 'By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?''' In other words: "Who gives you the power and the right to do all the things you are doing?"

*In vs. 24-25, Jesus answered their question with another question. And He did that, because it wasn't quite time for the cross. Jesus had more to do, and more to teach His followers. But these hard-hearted, Christ-haters defiantly questioned the Lord's authority. That was an amazing thing for them to do, considering the previous 3 years.


*For example, in Matthew 7:24-27, the Lord closed out His Sermon on the Mount with these words:

24. "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

25. and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:

27. and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

*Then in Matthew 7:28-29, the Apostle closed out this passage by writing:

28. And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,

29. for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


*Think about how many miracles Jesus worked during His earthly ministry. In John 20:30-31, the Apostle tells us that "truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Then in John 21:25 John wrote that "there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

*Only 39 separate miracles of Christ are reported in the four Gospels, and that includes His resurrection from the dead. But Jesus actually worked countless more miracles here on earth, so it's hard to understand why the chief priests and elders refused to accept His supreme authority. (2)

*That fatal mistake doomed them for all eternity. And God forbid that any of us would be like those stubborn people! We must accept the Lord's authority.

*And Matthew 8:5-13 tells the story of a Roman soldier who did accept the Lord's authority. Please listen to it today from the Living Bible paraphrase:

5. When Jesus arrived in Capernaum, a Roman army captain came and pled with him to come to his home and heal his servant boy who was in bed paralyzed and racked with pain.

7. "Yes," Jesus said, "I will come and heal him."

8. Then the officer said, "Sir, I am not worthy to have you in my home; [and it isn't necessary for you to come]. If you will only stand here and say, 'Be healed,' my servant will get well!

9. I know, because I am under the authority of my superior officers and I have authority over my soldiers, and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave boy, 'Do this or that,' and he does it. And I know you have authority to tell his sickness to go -- and it will go!"

10. Jesus stood there amazed! Turning to the crowd he said, "I haven't seen faith like this in all the land of Israel!

11. And I tell you this, that many Gentiles (like this Roman officer), shall come from all over the world and sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

12. And many an Israelite --those for whom the Kingdom was prepared -- shall be cast into outer darkness, into the place of weeping and torment."

13. Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, "Go on home. What you have believed has happened!" And the boy was healed that same hour!

*That soldier responded to Jesus with great faith. He accepted the Lord's authority, and that's what everyone should do.


*Please listen again to what happened in vs. 23-27:

23. Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?''

24. But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:

25. The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?'' And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'

26. But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.''

27. So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know.'' And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

*These religious politicians remind us of far too many of our own politicians. They didn't care about what was right. They only cared about what was going to further their own selfish agenda. So, they went where they thought no one could hear them, and they plotted for a few minutes. Then they came back out and refused to give an honest answer. Them saying, "We don't know" was certainly a lie, because they rejected John the Baptist just as strongly as they rejected Jesus.

*Of course, Jesus knew what was in their hearts. And we surely don't want to be like those defiant unbelievers. But we have to understand that the Lord has some questions for us too.

*Jesus loves to ask questions. Tom Gilson said the Lord's favorite question was "Why?" And Tom gave examples:

-In Matthew 6:28 Jesus asked His disciples, "Why are you anxious about clothing?"

-In Matthew 7:3 He asked, "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

-In Matthew 8:26 Christ's question was, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?"

-Then in Matthew 9:4 Jesus met some of his enemies, and "knowing their thoughts, asked, 'Why do you think evil in your hearts?'"

*Tom Gilson explained, "Jesus was not asking out of confusion or even curiosity. He knew their thoughts. He knew what was going on under the surface. He wasn't asking because He needed to know. Jesus asks questions to help US think about who we are, what we believe, and what we should be doing with our lives." (3)

*Of all the Lord's questions, the most important must be the question that Jesus asked Peter three times in John 21: "Do you love me?" Church, I have been around you long enough to know that you do love the Lord. But before we answer the Lord's question, we must understand that there is only one measuring stick for our love, and that is our obedience to the Lord's commands.

*Jesus gave us this standard at least four times in the hours before He died on the cross. In John 14:15 Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." In John 14:21 Jesus said: "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me"

*Then in John 14:23-24:

23. Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

24. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me."

*And in John 15:9-12, Jesus said:

9. "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.

10. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

11. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

12. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

*Also remember that in 1 John 4:20-21, the Apostle wrote:

20. If someone says, "I love God,'' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

21. And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

*There is only one measuring stick of our love for the Lord: Our obedience to the Lord's commands. And Jesus asks us, just as He asked Peter, "Do you love Me?"

*But the Lord has some other questions for us today, like: "Do you trust Me?", and "Will you follow Me?" How should we respond to Jesus Christ? By answering His questions in the right way.


*Jesus knew the hearts of those stubborn leaders, and He had vital lessons to teach that day. So the Lord began to teach through a parable. And in vs. 28-31 Jesus said:

28. "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'

29. He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.

30. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.

31. Which of the two did the will of his father?'' They said to Him, "The first.'' . . .

*It was really surprising that the first son wound up doing his father's will. After all, he was determined to be rebellious at first. In a modern version of this parable, King Duncan imagined the first son saying, "No. -- I'm not going to go work in the vineyard! My friends are coming over," or "We're going fishing, we're going hunting," or "we're going to play golf. Working in the vineyard is a pain. Why are you always picking on me?"

*But then, a funny thing happened. That son changed his mind. He felt bad about his disobedience, and he decided to obey his father. The first son actually went and did the work. (4)

*On the other hand, the second son must have made his father feel proud in the beginning. He sounded obedient, but he wasn't obedient. The second son started right, but he finished wrong. And the Lord has 3 lessons for us today in this parable.


*Unfortunately, sometimes we Christians are at least a little bit like that second son. King Duncan explained: "This is an important parable for us because we are those who have said, 'Yes, Father, I will go.' There was a time when we got saved, and we said that Jesus would be the Lord of our lives. 'Yes, Father, I will go.' There was a time when we said we would be faithful to God's Church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service." (5)

*We have said, "Yes, Father, I will go." But have we kept our commitments? Actions speak louder than words. It's not enough to have good intentions. It's not enough to sound good and look good. We have to be good. So, James 1:22 says, "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." And 1 John 3:18 says, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

*God wants to see love in action from us. This includes all of our loving service in the Lord's Church, and the way we reach out to lost people around us. This time of year, love in action also includes our gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. But love in action also includes the way we treat each other, our families, and our co-workers. It also includes the way we treat the strangers we meet almost every day.

*God wants us to have the kind of life-changing love Lee Strobel found in Jesus Christ. This author and pastor was once an atheist. But he became a follower of Jesus when his daughter Allison was 5 years old. Lee said that all she had known in her 5 years was a profane and angry dad. He remembers coming home one night and kicking a hole in the living room wall just out of anger with life.

*And he said, "I am ashamed to think of the times Allison hid in her room to get away from me. But five months after I gave my life to Jesus Christ, that little girl went to my wife and said, 'Mommy, I want God to do for me what he's done for Daddy.' -- At age five! What was she saying? She'd never studied the archeological evidence (on the truth of the Bible). All she knew was her dad used to be hard to live with. But more and more her dad was living in a new way. And if that is what God does to fathers, then sign her up."

*Just 5-years-old, but even at that young age, she could see the rich life God was giving her dad! And little Allison gave her life to Jesus too. Lee Strobel says: "God changed my family. He changed my world. He changed my eternity." (6)

*Christians: We also need to live with love in action, because what we do speaks a lot louder than what we say. That's the Lord's lesson of heartfelt obedience.


*In vs. 31-32, Jesus said:

31. "Which of the two did the will of his father?'' They said to Him, "The first.'' Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.

32. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent (or repent) and believe him.

*John the Baptist came "in the way of righteousness" because he was the forerunner of the promised Messiah, and he pointed people in a new direction. He pointed people away from sin and death to Jesus Christ, because Jesus is our only hope for righteousness. As John the Baptist said in John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

*Jesus Christ is the only way to have true righteousness and eternal life. That's why Jeremiah 23:6 calls the coming Christ "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." And in John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." This is the Lord's lesson about living forever with God in Heaven.


*Jesus wants us to know that there is hope for the hardest cases! So please listen to the Lord again in vs. 31-32: "Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him. . .'"

*There is hope for the hardest cases! And Zacchaeus is a perfect example for us today, because that wicked tax collector had only been saved a few days before this incident in the temple. Zacchaeus' salvation happened in Jericho, as Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Luke 19:1-10 gives the report and says:

1. Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

2. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.

3. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.

4. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.

5. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.''

6. So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.

7. But when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.''

8. Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.''

9. And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

10. for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.''

*Don't miss the fact that Zacchaeus had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. This notorious sinner's life was changed forever when Jesus got to that tree, looked up, and said, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."

*Imagine what Zacchaeus must have thought: "He sees me. He knows me. He knows my name. He knows all about me. But He is calling for me! And He wants to be with me!" When Zacchaeus had this personal encounter with Jesus, he opened his house to receive the Lord. But much more important, he opened his heart to receive Jesus.

*The greatest thing that can ever happen in your life is to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ! -- To come to the point where you can say: "He sees me. He knows me. He's calling for me! He wants to be with me!"

*And now we know something that Zacchaeus could not have known that day: Jesus died for me! He died on the cross for our sins. He took all of our guilt and shame. Then Jesus rose again from the dead, and sent His Holy Spirit into the world, so that we can know Jesus today just as surely as Zacchaeus got to know Him 2,000 years ago! You just need to open your heart to receive Jesus just like Zacchaeus did.


*There was hope for thieving tax collectors like Zacchaeus. There was hope for the harlots. And through Jesus Christ, there is hope for the hardest cases today! There is hope for us all in Jesus Christ!

*The question is: How will we respond to our crucified and risen Savior? Now is the time for you to respond the right way by opening your heart to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Believe in His death on the cross for your sins. Believe in His resurrection from the dead. Trust in Jesus to forgive all of your sins and give you His eternal life. Then start following the Lord and learn to live in obedience to Him. Call on Jesus to save you right now, as we go back to God in prayer.

(1) Charles R. Swindoll quote - thinkexist.comquotescharles_r._swindoll

(2) Sources:

"The Bible Readers' Aids" edited by Charles H. H. Wright

(3) Adapted from: daily - "Jesus asked questions to teach" by Tom Gilson - February 8, 2009 - Veteran of 34 years of ministry with Cru, founder of the Apologetics Leadership Group, and now a writer/editor with The Stream




(4) Adapted from sermon "Good Intentions" by King Duncan - Matthew 21:28-32

(5) sermon "A Tale of Two Brothers" by King Duncan - Matthew 21:28-32 - 2005 - Originally preached just over a year after 9-11

(6) Lee Strobel from sermon "The Case for Christ" - Source: SermonCentral sermon "First Things First" by Bruce Emmert - John 10:1-10

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