Now when the Pharisees38 heard that he had silenced the Sadducees,39 they assembled together.40 And one of them, an expert in religious law,41 asked him a question to test42 him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”43 Jesus44 said to him, “ ‘Love45 the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’46 This is the first and greatest47 commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’48 All the law and the prophets depend49 on these two commandments.”
Introduction, Set timer.
Kingdom series, last week Jesus taught about kingdom values, and the necceccity of faith in our relationship with God. today, finally everything is coming to a head. Jesus has moved his ministry down to the capitol city, the hub of all things.
and he is about to enter into Jerusalem. for the last time.
Now when they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, telling them, “Go to the village ahead of you. Right away 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 are to say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “Tell the people of Zion, ‘Look, your king is coming to you, unassuming and seated on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” So the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those following kept shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” As he entered Jerusalem the whole city was thrown into an uproar, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus and his followers have made their way into Jerusalem. They enter on the east side of the city.
The crowds have prepared this grand entrance for him, proclaiming his kingship, Proclaiming him as Messiah
The one who was prophesied for years and years had finally arrive, the one who would finally set the Jewish people free from Roman authority. He would finally liberate Jerusalem so that it could independent city.
Verse 12: Then Jesus entered the courts of the roman governor and drove out all of the soldiers.
it doesn’t say that does it.
But that’s what Matthew’s audience wants to hear. that’s the crowds want to see someone who’s going to go in to the roman occupied palaces, and drive out all the soldiers.
Because they are the enemy. And that’s what you do with enemies.
But he doesn’t drive out the Romans. Who’s he drive out?
Then Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple courts, and turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are turning it into a den of robbers!” The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourself’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.
Here’s a recap of Jesus very first day in Jerusalem.
He shows up riding a donkey
He gets a grand noisy introduction that causes a huge commotion, where he’s hailed as the king
He goes into the temple, Flips some tables over, kicks out the people who were extorting the poor
When you come to Jerusalem for the passover you need to bring an animal for sacrifice.
If you live more than a couple of days away from Jerusalem you’re not going to drag an animal with you that’s going to be a nightmare. You can just buy one when you get there.
But here’s the catch, if you wanted to buy something in the temple courts you had to use the currency. Just like if you traveled to Europe you would have to trade your American Dollars for Euros. Or if you traveled to Mexico you need to exchange your American dollars for Pesos.
If you get euros, you’re going to end up paying more. The euro is worth more than the dollar, after the exchange rate a can of coke that would cost you a $2.00 you’re going to end up paying about $2.25 for.
If you buy that same can of coke in Mexico, after the exchange rate you’ll end up paying around 60 cents.
In Jerusalem they had this habit of increasing the exchange rate to an exorbitant amount inside the temple courts, and during the festivals.
And this was condoned by the religious leadership
So Jesus goes in, has this grand noisy entrance, kicks out the money changers, heals some people, tells off the pharisees and then leaves.
The word bethany literally means poor-house. house of the poor
Bethany was the city where you went to if you were homeless, or poor, or if you were extremely sick, or if you had leprosy.
If you’ve ever been to a big city, there’s always the touristy places with attractions and big buildings and nice hotels.
But if you go a block in either direction you get into the slums. And the disparity between the part of the city they want the tourists to see and the part of the city where the sick and the homeless, and the prostitutes and the drug dealers are…it’s almost night and day.
that’s kind of what was going on between Jerusalem and bethany. I don’t think it’s any mistake that Jesus goes there instead of staying in Jerusalem.
And it makes the next passage make a whole lot of sense.
The Next day...
Now early in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry. After noticing a fig tree by the road he went to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. He said to it, “Never again will there be fruit from you!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” Jesus answered them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, you will receive.” Now after Jesus entered the temple courts, the chief priests and elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Cursing the Fig tree
Jesus wasn’t mad at the actual tree. It’s a tree. A tree doesn’t think, it doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t decide when it’s going to bear fruit.
Given what Jesus is witnessing going on in Jerusalem, the fig tree represents the nation of Israel.
Specifically it represents the Jewish Religious Leadership.
We have to be careful when we read this passage. Because Jesus is not talking to us in the year 2023 in alliance Nebraska. He’s talking to the 12 in the year 33, in Jerusalem.
When he says you’ll be able to whither this fig tree, he’s talking about what the fig tree represents: It’s the religious leadership.
When he says if you say to “this” mountain, be lifted up and thrown into the sea, he’s not talking about any old he’s talking about this mountain, the one that was right in front of the disciples. “This” mountain is mount zion in Jerusalem, the mountain the temple sits on.
He’s saying to his disciples they will overthrow and replace the religious leadership in God’s kingdom, How? through their faith.
This passage is really the crux, it’s the core central theme of Jesus’ interactions with the religious leadership.
They go into the city, and the Chief priests and elders question his authority. And Jesus refuses to engage in the conversation on their terms. He says you want to know where my authority comes from? Tell me this where did John’s authority come from?
And they couldn’t answer because they knew that whatever they said they’d be in trouble.
Then Jesus tells them three parables.
“What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.
It’s fairly obvious that Jesus criticism is with the comparison of the religious leadership and the sinners and prostitutes who followed John, and who followed Jesus.
The religious leaders would talk about being faithful, but their actions would show otherwise.
Likewise Jesus and John the baptist’s followers made absolutely no claims about how “good” they were. But through their actions, they turned around and followed Jesus’ teachings.
Faith and works.
Here’s where it gets hard for us. Last week we spent a great deal talking about the fact that our actions are never going to get us into heaven
But then here Jesus seems to be saying that it’s our actions that count. The fruit we produce is what matters.
Sometimes reading Jesus’ teachings can give us a little bit of whiplash. We just want to know, what is it that counts? is it our faith or is it our actions.
From this passage, it’s clear that “faith” is more than just a mental exercise. It’s more than just saying the right words. Saying the words out loud that we believe Jesus is the Christ is not faith. That’s just words.
Faith, true faith, looks like something.
[Example about going to the Bank]
When you go to the bank, any bank in america, somewhere in that building there will be a little plaque or sign that says FDIC—deposits insured up to 250,000 dollars
That’s basically the banks promise that if you give them your money and they all of a sudden go out of business, if someone robs the bank, whatever it is, they promise that if you show up and want your money back, they’ll be able to give it back to you.
and on that plaque, will be the words “Backed by the full faith and credit of the united states government.” Which just simply means if the bank doesn’t have the actual cash to give you, the united states government will pay you back whatever money you put in the bank.
The reason banks have that is because during the great depression, when the stock market took a dive, a bunch of people went to the bank and said we want our money out in cash. I gave you my money, and now I want it back, and the banks said “we don’t have it” We lost it in the stock market.
Implicitly, when you take your money and put it in the bank, you are saying that you have faith in the united states government to pay you back.
But how do you know if someone truly has faith that the governments going to guarantee their money? Well a pretty good indication is whether or not you keep money in the bank.
If you keep all of your money or a good portion of your money in a shoe box under the bed, it’s a pretty good indication that you don’t have faith that they’re going to pay you back.
If you take all of your money and buy gold or silver with it, and you keep it in a safe in your house, it’s a pretty good indication that you have more faith in the value of the gold in your safe than the promise that your money will be there in the bank.
And this is not a political conversation that’s neither here nor there, Thank God our salvation is not dependent on how much we trust the Banks…but your actions, where you store your treasure, are a really good indication of your faith.
If you have faith in the Kingdom of heaven, and your heart is in it, that faith is what makes you right with God. But saying you trust Jesus is not faith.
Your faith manifests itself in the way you live your life.
But Jesus isn’t done. He tells them another parable:
[INSERT MATTHEW 21:33-43]
“Listen to another parable: 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.
Landowner who planted a vineyard
When Jesus tells this parable, this is one that he’s not just making up. Here Jesus is actually adapting an old parable from the book of Isaiah.
[Insert Isaiah 5:1-7]
I will sing to my love— a song to my lover about his vineyard. My love had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He built a hedge around it, removed its stones, and planted a vine. He built a tower in the middle of it,, and constructed a winepress. He waited for it to produce edible grapes, but it produced sour ones instead. So now, residents of Jerusalem, people of Judah, you decide between me and my vineyard! What more can I do for my vineyard beyond what I have already done? When I waited for it to produce edible grapes, why did it produce sour ones instead? Now I will inform you what I am about to do to my vineyard: I will remove its hedge and turn it into pasture, I will break its wall and allow animals to graze there. I will make it a wasteland; no one will prune its vines or hoe its ground, and thorns and briers will grow there. I will order the clouds not to drop any rain on it. Indeed Israel is the vineyard of the Lord who commands armies, the people of Judah are the cultivated place in which he took delight. He waited for justice, but look what he got—disobedience! He waited for fairness, but look what he got—cries for help!
Before he even gets started telling this parable, he’s pulling up this passage from Isaiah 5. And so before he says a word, the religious leaders are already being called out here..
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. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will utterly destroy those evil men! Then he will lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his portion at the harvest.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
The people who were supposed to be stewards of God’s kingdom, Jesus says, will be removed and replaced.
The fig tree, the mountain, the vineyard, whatever one of Jesus’metaphors you want to look at: God appointed the religious leaders to be keepers of the kingdom of God and they were going to be replaced.
maybe you know this already, but the nation of Australia is still technically under the control of the British empire.
for the most part, they operate like an independent nation, but in dire circumstances the British crown is the ultimate authority.
in 1975 Australia had a government shutdown. we have those almost every year when congress cant decide on a budget, and so the government shuts down.
well in 1975 Australia had a shutdown. and queen Elizabeth when she was still alive fired and replaced the entire parliament.
that's what jesus is saying. if you're not going to steward my kingdom properly, ill replace you with someone who will.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.” ’ But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
keep in mind, in those days, when you planned a wedding, especially if you were a king, it was a lot like today. they would send out an rsvp over a year in advance.
and it was a general time frame. they didn’t opperate with the same type of precision we do today, but they would say “the kings having a wedding in june of next year. are you coming or not?
and if you said yes, you would block off the entire month of june in your schedule.
so when june rolls around they start getting the wedding and the decorations ready they send out the servants and say, ok everything is ready, come on down
and you had already said you were going to be there.
and then you say, “never mind, im not going to go”
and the king sends them out again and they’re like no seriously, we have this big cake, and theres steaks already made, and if you guys dont come its all going to go bad. seriously, come to the wedding.
they were lucky to even have gotten the second invitation.
and for whatever reason they decided that the best course of action would be not only to refuse again, but actually beat and kill the messengers.
the religious leaders had a really bad habit of killing prophets who said things they didn’t like.
So once again, Jesus is saying, hey, you, religious leaders, you’re out. And I’m going to replace you with someone who is going to produce fruit for my kingdom.
Now this might seem like a really silly question to ask, but when we talk about the “Religious Leaders” That’s a really broad vague term. Who exactly is it that Jesus is talking to in these exchanges?
We know it’s the religious leaders, but let’s get specific here. Who is he calling out?
in 21: 15 it says hes talking to the chief priests and experts in the law (your bible might say scribes)
21:23 its the chief priests and elders
21:45 its the chief priests and pharisees
later on in chapter 22 its the disciples of the pharisees along with the herodians-political supporters of the herod family.
22:3 he talks with the sadducees
There was no such thing as simply “Jews” Judaism was an extremely fractured, divided religion,
made of Pharisees they were the religious leaders who worked mostly in the synagogues.
Saducees were generally wealthier. They only believed that the first five books of Moses were inspired scripture
Zealots, they were very messianic, they were awaiting the messiah, but their main focus was military revolution
Priests, were the workers in the temple, Most of whom were Sadducees, but not all of them.
Elders, again those were Synagogue leaders. Most of them were from the Pharisees movement. But not all.
You’ve got the scribes and experts in the law, they were kind of like the lawyers who everyone consulted on scripture issues and law issues. They helped to make sure that the bible was copied and taught faithfully.
and Essenes, we don’t hear about them in the new testament, but they were a large group. We don’t hear about them because they tended to live in big communes outside of the city. They were constantly feuding with the priests in Jerusalem
Dead Sea scrolls
Their major focus was the end times, and ritual purity.
They were extremely focused on the return of the Messiahs… two.. they believed that There were going to be two seperate messiahs…one from the tribe of Judah who would be king, and one from Levi who would be priest.
During Jesus final week in Jerusalem, he is confronted by nearly all of these groups, a fairly clear indication that they are all on the chopping block in one way or another.
However, In the New testament we see Pharisees, Zealots, synagogue leaders, and a whole host of people from different groups following Jesus.
Simon was a zealot
Paul and Nicodemus were both Pharisees.
We read about synagogue leaders following Jesus
We don’t read about any Sadducees, but you’ve got to think out of all of those people surely at least one of them followed Jesus.
It’s not the groups who are being overthrown, it’s the people within those groups who fail to acknowledge the king.
If that’s who’s being kicked out, who are they being replaced with?
It’s the church, right?
Fast forward to today, God’s church sure does look a lot like Judaism did, doesn’t it? With all of the different factions and groups.
Which one of those groups is part of the kingdom? Is it all of them? some of them? Is there just one?
Let’s read the last of our parable. Remember, the king has gone out He’s gathered everyone from the streets, good and bad, and invited them all to the banquet.
But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he had nothing to say. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
for us this may seem odd, but in those days it would be unheard of to not have one clean set of clothes to go to a wedding.
it just wasnt a thing to not have a clean set of wedding clothes. even the poorest of the poor.
so this guy didnt not have a set of clothes, he just showed up and chose not to wear them.
you just didnt do that, that was a big deal. and everyone listening to this story would have instantly recognized how big of a deal it was.
like wearing your old wedding dress to someones wedding. you just dont do that ..
Even though he was part of the people who the king went out and got to come to the wedding, his “being there” wasn’t enough.
d. What denomination you are a part of has no bearing on your standing with God. Church membership isn’t an indicator of what makes you right with God.
-Regardless of what Group of Christians you’re a part of, the Group you’re a part of isn’t what makes you a part of the wedding banquet.
-I love it when people ask the question “is this denomination saved?” Whatever church it is, and my answer is always the same. I’m sure some of the people who are a part of that denomination have made Jesus lord of their life, and some of them haven’t .
e. God doesn’t check what denomination you’re a part of, he checks your faith. HE knows your heart.
God wants to know whether you’re wearing the wedding clothes. Whether or not you’re clothed in Christ. Whether you have faith in the King.
-And the trouble for us, is sometimes we just want simple 1, 2, 3 assurance in our standing with God.
-It would be easier for us if we could just say “Well I’m a member of this particular denomination, and I’ve done these three steps, so now I’m right with God.
But faith....faith is messy. Faith is sticky.
How do we know our heart is in the right place?
whats the indicator?
If we were going to give ourselves a checkup, and we wanted to know am I wearing the wedding clothes? Is my faith producing fruit? Am I Right with the king?
its not church membership.
its not our Verbal testimony
its not even our baptism. lots of people get baptized without having the necessary faith behind it. the bible makes it clear that baptism is a component of our becoming a christian, but without faith that produces fruit, its just called taking a bath.
So what is it?
Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
whats the one thing, the one indicator, that im doing the God thing right?
Jesus said to him, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Love God with all of your heart
ii. Love your neighbor as yourself.
iii. Everything we do hangs on those two commandments.
c. The religious leadership had hard hearts. They weren’t loving god, they weren’t loving their neighbor. They were mistreating God’s children, they were distorting God’s word, they were more focused on Self and less focused on God and others.
a. The order of operations is important. When we decide to follow Jesus, it starts with our faith. The kind of faith that says I’m going to keep all of my money in this bank because I have 100% certainty and trust in God.
b. We confess our sins, we turn around and we recognize that we were in a state of Not producing fruit, and now we want to produce fruit
c. We put on the wedding clothes—We’re clothed with Christ, We are baptized. That—Combined with the faith that comes first—clothes us with Christ, we become a new creation, and we receive the holy spirit who dwells within us and changes our heart.
d. And God produces fruit in our lives.