Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


Hostile Takover

Matthew 21:18-46

Last time we began to look at Jesus\' invasion of Jerusalem. Now admittedly, one guy riding on a donkey\'s colt would not constitute an army in anyone\'s playbook. But make no mistake, it is an invasion. Jesus is the real king of Israel (and the entire universe). Though He rides in in peace this time (to those who love Him), He also makes it clear that His palace (the temple) belongs to Him and that its purpose is not to make a profit but provide a way back to God.

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The religious leaders in Israel are just starting to get the idea that something is up. They confront Jesus when He throws out the money-changers but because they will not admit that something larger than themselves is happening in Israel, something they must pay attention to. Despite their attempts, Jesus will not be cornered into their trap-at least not yet anyway.

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This time it is the next day and Jesus is coming back to Jerusalem from Bethany, where He is staying with His disciples. Near the city He spies a fig tree and uses it as an illustration. What He is illustrating is very important because this living parable is often misunderstood. He is putting Judaism on notice that there is a new sheriff in town.

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18 - 19

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Notice first that Jesus experienced everything we do-he was physically hungry.

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Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest? who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been? tempted as we are,? yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In April fig trees in Israel had green leaves and edible buds. It may have been a tree younger than three years old and not ready to produce fruit. It looked promising but there was nothing nutritious in its branches.

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Jesus was not angry at the fig tree. It was a parable acted out, much like the prophets would do (like Ezekiel 4:12). The spiritual truth here is that the Jewish religious system as led by the Sadducees and Pharisees looked great on the outside but there was no fruit-nothing that could actually benefit a person.

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Israel was spiritually barren like this tree. Its system made people slaves to something they could never attain to or really benefit from: a good looking show on the outside, but continual sin and disobedience on the inside. Mark tells us that the tree was dead when the disciples came by on Tuesday.

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Jesus not only condemned the tree. He killed it. In the same way Jesus condemned hypocrisy (not just in Judaism) and legalism.

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20 - 22

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Jesus here is not giving his disciples either a magic way to get what they want or a blank check to get from God anything they want. This is not faith in faith being taught here-and somehow we\'ve got to gin up some emotional high and use big King James words and we\'ll get stuff. No. There are two ideas here: 1. Trust God (don\'t trust your position or a kingdom here on earth) and 2. Ask for God to remove mountains in your life.

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John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

So by this if we ask God to do something that will enhance our relationship with Him and provide tools for us to spread the gospel in a way that brings Him glory, then we should have no reason to doubt God will do it-his way, his timing.

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23 - 27

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Notice first that they simply came up and interrupted Jesus. I don\'t know this for a fact, but I would imagine it was pretty offensive to interrupt a rabbi while he was teaching. It certainly was rude to interrupt the King of Kings while He was teaching. Never-the-less, they are so sure of their authority that they can do anything they want. They are about to find out their true character.

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Jesus answers their question with a question. He doesn\'t answer them directly because to say His authority came from God would be blaspheme and he would have been arrested immediately. But it was time yet. To say it was His own authority (which was also true) would have allowed them to dismiss Him as a kook.

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So instead he points to the prophets who spoke of the Messiah. He specifically brings up the baptism of John, which was meant as a preparation of the heart for the coming of the Messiah. In chapter 3 John saw some of Israel\'s religious leaders coming to see about his baptism and he said:

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Matthew 3:7-10 \"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ?We have Abraham as our father,\' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.? Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

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Had they repented they would not now be seeking to kill the Messiah. As it is, John\'s prophetic word was reinforced by Jesus with the dead fig tree, symbolizing that their rule is about to end.

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The leaders are more worried about public opinion polls than in the truth so they don\'t answer. This brings up a question for us: are you after the truth or more worried about what people will think of you if you acknowledge the authority of Jesus in your life?

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Jesus doesn\'t let them off the hook. They brought up the idea of authority, but instead of taking a short cut to the cross, Jesus uses parables to bring home His point that it is by obeying the word of God, which points to the Messiah, that we do God\'s will-not by being born into a certain race.

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28 - 32

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It\'s kind of funny in a way. The religious leaders came up and interrupted Jesus, but after a brief Q&A He goes right back to teaching!

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The first son represents the \"lower\" classes among the Jews - the outcasts and \"sinners\". The second son represents the leadership. The point Jesus is making is that repentance is the key to obeying God. Upon seeing the things Jesus did and hearing the things he had to say-and what John said about Him, the religious leaders should have changed their minds about Him. It really all comes down to whether you recognize the authority of Jesus in your life as the Messiah. The leaders considered themselves good Jews (they said \"yes\") but did not follow the intent of God\'s Law, which was to point to a Savior.

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33 - 41

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The cast of characters in this parable: The Landowner (God), the vineyard (Israel), the tenants (religious leaders), the servants (prophets of God), the son (Jesus), other tenants (the Gentiles).

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This is almost a perfect picture for God\'s dealings with Israel. God chose Israel to represent Him to the world, be the receiver of His word, and birth the Messiah. This was the fruit God expected.

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When Israel went astray, God sent prophets to warn them, which they stoned, beat, and killed (Jeremiah 26:7-11, 2 Chronicles 24:21, Matthew 14:1-12).

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So God sent His own Son whom they are about to murder. Jesus is almost asking them in advance what God should do with those who should have been leading people into following the Messiah but instead sought to kill Him.

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42 - 44

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This comes from Psalm 118. The Psalm talks about how God rescued Israel when no one else could. Though David was rejected by Saul and even his own family, God used him as a champion for Israel. Jesus was rejected by His own people but will still be used as a cornerstone for a new building, a new kingdom. Just because people reject Jesus doesn\'t mean He is not the Messiah.

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Verse 44 is very sobering. If you fall upon Jesus you will be broken. We need to acknowledge our condition, repent and fall upon God for mercy through Jesus. Paul tells us that we die with Jesus and God begins a work of remodeling us. But if you reject Jesus He will fall upon you. Either Jesus bears the consequences for sin for you, or you have to bear them yourself.

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45 - 46

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Finally the religious leaders get that Jesus is basically telling them that He is taking over and that what they fear, the loss of their positions of power, is exactly what He is going to do. The only thing that stops them from killing Him right then and there were the people who loved Him. They will have to be even more evil and sly, and they will do it.

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Conclusions

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Jesus is replacing Judaism because it had been corrupted by its leaders-but it was not what Judaism was supposed to be and God has NEVER abandoned His people Israel.

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Judaism had become looking to your physical lineage or your works of righteousness as a way of relating to God. Jesus is replacing that with clinging to a new lineage through a new leader, one who died to save us and lives to serve us. Quite amazing, a king who is also the ultimate servant.

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Jesus said to the fig tree: \"May no fruit ever come from you again!\" No lasting fruit can come from relying on position or behavior to become pure. Yet we humans try our best to be good (or our idea of what is good) without realizing Jesus\' words are true: \"There is no one good but God\". Don\'t give into the natural temptation to let your works justify yourself. Instead fall upon Jesus and let His work do the work on your behalf. Our job then becomes enjoying our relationship with Him, giving Him way in the deepest recesses of our lives to do that wonderful remodeling work.

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By the same token, Jesus declares that anything you need to move that process forward - to become more like Him and bring His gospel into the world - is at your disposal if you but ask!

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Don\'t be afraid of the hard questions.

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Feel the hunger for real fruit that satisfies.

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Finally-fall on the Lord! You may get broken but He will heal and strengthen in ways you can\'t imagine.