"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

The GOSPEL of MATTHEW: Ch. 21 – The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE:

By James Fire

Let us remind ourselves of the perspective of the four Gospel accounts, as we laid it out at the very beginning of this study; each expresses a particular view of the Person of Jesus Christ. Mark’s Gospel expresses Christ as the Servant, and represented by the Ox; Luke’s Gospel expresses Christ as the Son of Man, represented by the Man; John’s Gospel expresses Christ as the Son of God, represented by the Eagle, and our Gospel of Matthew expresses Christ as the King of Israel, represented by the Lion (of the tribe of Judah).

Indeed, Jesus or Y’shua is the Messiah, the King of Israel, the “Son of David” as the two blind men who were healed in the previous chapter called Him.
The LORD Jesus manifested the power of the Spirit, under Whose anointing He performed many miracles and healings that were foretold to be accomplished by the Messiah. The LORD pointed to these very works as evidence of His rightful claim and incontestable authority as God the Son and the Messiah-King of Israel (LUKE 7:19-23; JOHN 14:10-11). We will see many examples of His authority in this chapter, and yet for all this, He was still rejected by His people, Israel (this time), just as prophecy indicates (See ISAIAH 53:3)!
And now the saga continues, for in this chapter, Jesus of Nazareth is hailed publicly as “the Son of David” – the Messiah of Israel (His lineage at the beginning of this account proves indeed that He is of the Royal Line of David, both legally through His step-father Joseph and by the Royal blood line through His mother, Mary; and this is a pivotal event in His relationship with the nation. Let us venture to Jerusalem and see this awesome sight . . .


MATTHEW 21:1-31And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

The LORD goes from Jerusalem to the little town of Bethphage – why did the Holy Spirit see fit to make mention of this little town’s name, which means “a place of young figs”? We shall get to that later on in this study!
For now let us follow the LORD’s direction for these two disciples: he sends them into the village to find a donkey along with a colt and bring them to Him.
Further, He instructs that if any question them, they were simply to say that “the LORD has need of them”.

Whenever the LORD expresses His will, all of heaven will move to fulfill His command; so also those who are born of the Spirit, children of the Kingdom of God. Whether our friends or our family members are called of God, we may be reluctant to let them go, but since it is the LORD Who calls, and has need of them, we ought to release them freely, just as the master of this donkey and her colt did, when he questioned these two disciples.
Or if the “LORD hath need” of our finances, or our time, or our short-sighted plans – and transform and transfer them to use in His Kingdom, for His great glory, and again, we should freely surrender these things to Him, as we are only stewards of them, these gifts that came from God anyway, Who is the owner not only of our souls, but of all that we have!

MATTHEW 21:4-9
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest
.

The passage quoted is from ZECHARIAH 9:9; this event – or something very like it – is referred to in ISAIAH 62:11. In both passages “the daughter of Zion” is mentioned as is salvation coming from the King (of Israel):

ZECH 9:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass
.

ISAIAH 62:11
11 Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him
.

Here is the great introduction of the King of Israel – usually when any King came riding into a city in peace, he would ride a donkey – a lowly beast, not suited for war. If the King intended to wage war, he would instead ride a horse. Of course, here, Jesus is riding a donkey and He is coming as the Prince peace (ISAIAH 9:6).
There will come a day when the LORD will be riding on a horse, a white horse, and waging war upon those who would challenge His authority as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords (REV 19:11). Yet here in this passage of Matthew – He approaches meekly, offering salvation.

And it would seem that He is well received: palm trees are strewn along his path – people even spread their garments out for Him to make His way.
This passage in Isaiah is similar to what Zechariah said, but with a distinction: in Isaiah, “His work is [behind] Him” and “His reward is with Him” The Cross at this point is a finished work, and as the coming Judge to preside over the Coming Judgment, His reward (for good or for evil) is with Him. He is coming to rescue Israel, His people from those who would destroy the nation.

MATTHEW 21:10-11
10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee
.

Even now, the people of Israel underestimate Who it is that is in their midst; they think of Him as merely a prophet – one who declares the Word of God to Israel. Yet He is the very Word of God made flesh, declaring the Truth that is He Himself – and thus, THE Prophet of all prophets! He is THE Apostle and THE High priest and THE Lamb of God, as well as THE Redeemer of Israel.

Yet our humble King does not rebuke them at this point for their short-sightedness, in not recognizing Him for Who He is, though all Scripture testifies of Him (JOHN 5:39). Even so, they express a hope that this prophet could well become their King, no doubt, with an expectation that He would overthrow the Roman rule over the nation, and declare Israel as a sovereign state (and they sought to make Him their King before, but He had nothing to do with it!).

Yet the LORD, the Messiah of Israel had in His view a mission far, far exceeding the narrow parameters of setting free a single nation. His was the mission to sacrifice Himself, to lay down His life (JOHN 10:15-17; MATT 20:28) as a ransom to purchase the sinful souls of man from ALL nations the world over, throughout the halls of ALL time and redeem them with His own blood (REV 5:9)!

And on this day appointed, He not only allows the people to hail Him as their Messiah-King, the Son of David, he orchestrates the whole thing! Why this time, and not previously? 
He was fulfilling prophecy as spoken by the prophet Daniel, who announced when the Messiah would visit His people Israel! Let us look at the significance of this Prophecy found in DANIEL 9, as taught by Chuck Missler of Koinonia House in this 13 minute presentation (NOTE: TTUF does not necessarily agree with everything that is taught by Dr. Missler, but agreed on what is taught here):
DANIELS 70th WEEK PROPHECY - THE ARRIVAL of the MESSIAH




MATTHEW 21:12-13
12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves
.

Here we have the LORD Jesus repeating near the end of His ministry what He did at the beginning of it all – the cleansing of the Temple (see JOHN 2:13-21). As He was much displeased then, no doubt He was just as angry this second time, cleansing His Father’s House. Angry enough to overturn the tables of the money changers – those tables full of heavy chests of gold and silver coin! Is He any less displeased, when those who are called His own, defile the temple of the Holy Spirit – our very bodies and minds who claim to be Christians – with the stains of the things of this world?

Those who truly desire to please the LORD and struggle against sin, and have willing hearts for repentance and surrender may have hope however: for just as Jesus our LORD cleansed the Temple at the beginning and at the end of His earthly ministry, He will most assuredly cleanse us of defiling sins at the beginning of our walks (point Alpha) all the way to the end of our walks with the LORD on this Earth (point Omega):

PHIL 1:6
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun
[Alpha] a good work in you will perform it until the day [Omega] of Jesus Christ: (See also 1 JOHN 3:2)
Now note the following carefully:

MATTHEW 21:14
14 
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

These people were aware of what the LORD had just done; I don’t know about you, but if I ever saw anyone angry enough to overturn such tables, causing the money changers to scatter – that’s a person I would think twice about approaching! I would definitely be inclined to give him time to cool off: say a week or three! Yet there is something about Jesus, while expressing His anger – tempered anger mind you, that these felt safe enough in approaching Him with their needs.
Yet another thing that I love about the LORD: He is ever approachable – even in judgment, so long as that approach is in humility and meekness, as it should be! “. . . and He healed them.”
Thank You LORD!

And as always, in the midst of such miraculous works, there came the ridged religious and the pompous priests of pride, the skeptical scribes – and questioned Him regarding those that rightly worshiped Him:

MATTHEW 21:15-17
15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,
16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
17 
And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

“. . . the Son of David” as we have seen already countless times is a title for the coming Messiah; and here we have children shouting this appellation with adoration and joy – and the chief priests question Jesus about it, obviously offended – and yet the LORD replies with a verse from PSALM 8 (verse 2) – and if you read the entire Psalm, it’s an offering of praise to the Creator God – I suspect the significance of His quoting this verse was not lost on these religious leaders! He was indicating His own Deity, as One worthy of worship! But before they could engage Him in yet another argument, He leaves them, and goes to Bethany for the night. . .

MATTHEW 21:18-22
18 
Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive
.
In a parallel passage, MARK 11:12-14, the LORD sees this fig tree, looking for some fruit to eat but found nothing – and here Peter remarks, with John Mark recording his words in that Gospel account, that “the time of figs was not yet”. This would seem rather unfair – why would the LORD curse a fig tree for not having figs, if the time of harvest was “not yet”?

This fig tree was growing in the town of Bethphage – and remember what the name of that town means? “The place of young figs” – this area must have been famous for its production of figs! And yet, for all of that, what did the LORD find?

What I discovered is that fig trees would carry their fruit all season long, and while most would fall or be harvested, there would remain a handful, all the way up to the following spring when those trees would only have leaves and no flowering fruit apparent.

This speaks of fruitfulness in the lives of the believer – that while we may be in the season of spring, we ought to have “abiding fruit” in our lives as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit – and because it’s HIS fruit, not ours – it shall endure.
But as with this tree – if there is no abiding fruit apparent, such a tree not bearing the fruit of the Spirit will be cursed and cast away.

Thankfully, if we are truly God’s children, with His abiding Spirit in us, regardless of what season we may be in, we have the promise of bearing precious fruit, in its time (read JOHN15; also LUKE 3:9).

The disciples marvel at the Word of the LORD, and He remarks that by faith, we shall also work the miraculous – if like the LORD Jesus, we conduct ourselves in accordance to the will of God (1 JOHN 5:14; 2:6).
He Who had authority to curse the fig tree, is now being questioned – again! – by the chief priests and elders:

MATTHEW 21:23-27
23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things
.

These religious leaders did not forget the reception of praise that the LORD found acceptable, even to being called “the Son of David” – the Messiah King of Israel, the highest authority that could possibly be claimed! So they wanted to know, by what authority did Jesus do these things; everything from cleansing the Temple, to healing the sick, to receiving praise and even worship.

The LORD turns the question around and promises to answer theirs IF they first answer His – “where did the authority come from for John to baptize people?”
Now, rather than seeing this as an opportunity for truth and truly consider the possibility that the Baptist’s authority did indeed come from heaven, their only concern is on how to win this debate without getting into trouble – they reasoned that if they said John’s authority was his own, the people would stone them, because they all considered John the Baptist as a legitimate prophet – and that he truly was!

The LORD Himself commended John as “the greatest among those who are born of women”! 
Yet if they admitted that John’s authority came from God, they knew Jesus would then say, “Why didn’t you believe him?” They then realized that they were at an impasse and couldn’t answer the question either way without indicting themselves. When they admitted that they had no answer, the LORD simply said that He also would not answer their question.

Truth be told, had they admitted the truth and said that John’s authority came from God, He could have rightly asked them, “Then why do you have such trouble believing that My authority likewise comes from heaven?”

MATTHEW 21:28-32
28 But what think ye? A certain 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 repented, and went.
30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
32 
For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Now here the LORD is issuing a strong rebuke to these religious leaders and we could even say, to the religious people of the world.
These sort, for all of their piety and presupposed intentions of believing and following God in righteousness, are actually doing nothing of the kind, for righteousness that is acceptable to God, indeed the ONLY righteousness that He will accept is that which comes from Himself.  All of our own brands of righteousness are as filthy rags (see ISAIAH 64:6; note that righteousness there is in the plural form: “righteousnesses”).

For all of their talk of living holy lives, the religious are actually in rebellion against God, if they claim any other righteousness than that which comes by God’s grace alone, by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, it is the sinner – who is well aware of their sinfulness and their need, who upon hearing the Gospel – even after a life time of rebellion and denial of God, will humble themselves in repentance and believe the Gospel.

MATTHEW 21:33-46

33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
.

Here is the scenario – the householder, the authority of the house, plants a vineyard, protects it with a hedge and builds a wine press and a tower; he provides everything necessary for fruitful production, and then commits the same to husbandmen (farmers) to do the labor, and when due, the householder would receive the harvest. The time came for him to do so and the farmers rejected, hurt, even killed the servants that the householder sent to collect his profits!

The householder then would send the one man, who could speak with equal authority as himself: his son! “They will reverence my son,” he said. But they didn’t: they saw this as an opportunity to usurp the householder’s authority by killing the son! The religious leaders probably didn’t realize it at this point, that the LORD was speaking prophetically through this parable – that He would be the One that they would kill and from Whom they would desire to wrench the kingdom, and have the authority for themselves – and later in MATTHEW 23 He lambastes them for such lusts for power, position and prestige.

Yet after the parable, He asks His listeners what sort of response the householder will have as a result of their heinous misdeeds and transgressions, particularly against his son. And they get this right:

MATTHEW 21:41-46
41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet
.

And here is where the LORD brings in the prophetic content of this parable – that the Stone – the Cornerstone, the LORD Jesus Christ Himself which was to be rejected by the nation, would be established as “both LORD and CHRIST” (ACTS 2:36). He is the Cornerstone and Foundation of the Kingdom of God in the church (that [other] “nation that brings forth the fruits thereof”; see 1 PET 2:9), as well as Truth and Grace. And Judgment as well, for He will indeed grind the rebellious insurrectionists against His authority to powder, and all who fall upon Him shall be broken of pride and sin, and find in Him the Rock of their salvation (2 SAM 22:47), and rest for their souls (MATT 11:28).
Though the Pharisees and chief priests realize that He spoke of them, and they wanted to arrest Him then and there, they were still afraid of the people’s reaction, were they to seize upon one that they esteemed as a prophet.
As indicated at the beginning of the study of this chapter, the theme presented here throughout is the authority of the King of Israel, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, as well as the Lamb of God – the Supreme Servant and the Glorious God all in the One Person of the LORD Jesus Christ. His authority is unquestionable, His position unrivaled, His mission unassailable and His love for His own undeniable.
In the next chapter we will examine more parables that the LORD gave, the issue of ownership and earthly law vs. heavenly law is brought up, as well as the doctrine of the resurrection and further treatment of the Christ – the Messiah – which is the LORD Jesus. Long His reign shall be: in fact, as Handel stated, “FOREVER, AND EVER, HALLELUJAH, FOREVER!

The LORD Bless and Keep us all, His beloved!

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