THE LIFE OF CHRIST PART 75
In our last lesson, we finished up the last Monday of Jesusí life on this earth. In this lesson, we will begin looking at all the things that happened on Tuesday. While you might think it will not take long to cover one day, you would be wrong because the Bible records a lot of what went on this particular day, so it will take several lessons to cover it.
Our last lesson ended with Jesus leaving Jerusalem and spending the night at Bethany. If you will remember, He cursed a fig tree the day before, and now, we will see more said about this same fig tree as pick up in our text on Tuesday morning.
Mark 11:20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.† 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away."† 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God.† 23 "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
A shorter version of this is found in Mt. 21:20-22. Now, I have never cut a fig tree down, but I have cut other kinds of trees down. When you cut them down it take a lot longer than just 24 hours for them to wither up and dry out, yet this tree that Jesus cursed, was dried up from the roots and of course it was still in one piece in the ground as a tree is supposed to be.
In our last lesson, I
pointed out the significance of cursing this fig tree that was not bearing any
fruit, but in this lesson I just want to show the general lesson that Jesus
teaches His apostles about faith. Jesus wants them to understand that nothing
is too hard for God to accomplish for them through their faith. I have no doubt
that if it was necessary for a mountain to be moved for the
cause of Christ that it what it happen, but I also believe that Jesus was using
a figure of speech here to teach that basic lesson that all things are possible
We must also understand this was a promise that was being made to the apostles that would apply during the time of miracles. The principle of our text still applies to us because we are still supposed to pray to God with faith without doubting and we can know that God answers our prayers, but we know that God is not going to do something miraculous because the miracles ceased in the first century as Paul said they would in 1 Cor. 13. After Jesus teaches His apostles about the importance of faith, He tells them this:
Mark 11:25 " And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.† 26 "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
We have covered this teaching before in one of earlier lessons. First, Jesus is not saying that we are just to forgive everyone for the fun of it because Jesus also teaches us that we are to rebuke those who sin against us and if they repent, then we are supposed to forgive them. Second, if a person does repent, then we must forgive them or else our Father in the heaven will not forgive us. We cannot expect God to forgive us when we repent if we are not willing to forgive others when they repent. So, we always need to make sure that we are ready to forgive just as our Father in heaven forgives us.
The next event, which happens in the temple area, is recorded in Mt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33 and Lk. 20:1-8. These accounts are basically the same. So, we will look at Markís account
Mark 11:27 Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him.† 28 And they said to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?"
These men knew exactly who Jesus was at this time, and they do not waste any time approaching Jesus and asking him more questions. These were legitimate questions. They want to know two things. 1 By what authority are you doing these things? 2. Who gave you the authority to do these things? The Ďthingsí they are referring to probably included Jesusí grand entrance into Jerusalem, running the money changers out the temple area the day before, and the teaching that He was doing in the temple area, which is usually reserved for rabbis.
However, I do not believe these men were really asking Jesus these questions to discover the truth, they were hoping to discredit Him and let the people see that He was an unauthorized teacher, or at least He was in their minds, but we know that He was more qualified to teach about God than any other human that every walked the earth. So, Jesus answer the questions with a question as we see in:
Mark 11:29 But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things:† 30 "The baptism of John -- was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me."
Well, this is not the response these me were hoping for. If Jesus had answered heaven, they could have accused Him of being blasphemer or if He said Rome, they could have handed Him over to the Romans, but He asked them one question instead, and it was powerful one. Even though Jesus asked a question, His question really answered their questions. Well, letís see how they deal with Jesusí question.
Mark 11:31 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?'† 32 "But if we say, 'From men' " -- they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed.† 33 So they answered and said to Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus answered and said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Once again, we find these men who kept trying to put Jesus between a rock and hard place, but every time, Jesus ended up putting them between a rock and hard place. They realized they would be in trouble either way they answered Jesusí question. If they say the baptism from John was from heaven it would reveal even more than just the acknowledging that John was a truly a prophet of God, it would also prove that Jesus was the Son of God, which would prove that His authority came from heaven. So, they could not say heaven. If they said that Johnís teaching came from man, they were afraid the people would do something to them because the people believed that John was a prophet of God. So, their only option was to play dumb and say they did not know.
Since they would not answer, Jesus said He would not answer their questions either. Asking questions can be very powerful when done correctly. We can certainly follow the example of Jesus when it comes to dealing with people who are just trying to trap us. People are really good at coming up with what if questions about situations that have never happened or they rarely happen. Instead, of answering questions like these directly, you could ask your own what if question that will expose the weakness of their what if questions.
Next, Jesus is going give three parables that reveal how the Jews had abused the authority that had been given to them from the Father. The first parable is only recorded in Matthewís account. We will only look at this first parable in this lesson. †
Matthew 21:28 " 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." 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 and believe him.
In this parable we find the father making a reasonable request. Son, go work today in my vineyard. The fact that he addresses him as a Son indicates the fatherís loving attitude toward his son. The command to go reflects that he has the authority. The work was reasonable and not too hard for the sons, but it needed to be done today. This stresses the urgency of obedience to the father. We see two answers given to the father.
The first son said I WILL NOT! This son answered without giving much thought or concern for the father or the work. Of course, this reply would make the father sad.
†The Second son told the father exactly what he wanted to hear, he said I WILL GO SIR. This son was not sincere and paid his father lip service because we find out that he did not do what he said he would do.
We also see that there were 2 responses. After the first son thought about his fatherís request, he repented and went to work in his vineyard. Though the second son said the right thing, his response was just the opposite of what he said because he did not go and work in the vineyard.
The first son represents the harlot and the tax collectors. The second son represents the chief priests, scribes, and elders. In verse 31, Jesus gets these guys to admit that the first son was the one who did the fatherís will. Then He makes the connection that the harlots and the tax collectors will enter the kingdom before them. This would have made them really mad because these guys looked down on the tax collectors and harlots and considered them vile and unclean.
So, what did the harlots and tax collectors do differently than these Jews? Well, when they heard the Word of God spoken by John, they were obedient to his words and were baptized. Yes, they were wicked and evil people, but they repented and drew near to God.
John was sent for a specific purpose and with a specific message. His specific purposes was to prepare the way for the Lord as can be seen in Mark 1:2-3, and his message was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Mt. 3:2. He made it clear that there was one mightier than him that would come after him. So, this parable affirms that all those who had received Johnís message with an obedient faith were accepted by God. In fact, Jesus plainly teaches that those who listen to the Father and repent of their sins, and obey the Father will be rewarded.
The chief priest and the elders attitude was like the 2nd son, they liked to talk the talk but not walk the walk. For example, some of them believed in Jesus, but they would not confess Him as being the Son of God as we see in:
John 12:42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;† 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Another great passage that points out their mentality comes from Jesus quoting the following verse from Isaiah in Mt. 15:7ff. Notice what Isaiah said:
Isaiah 29:13† Therefore the LORD said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
This prophecy applied back then and it applied to the Jews during Jesusí time. Not much had changed. The Book of Amos and Malachi talk a lot about the Jews and how they were halfhearted in their worship to God. They would try to offer blemished and defective sacrifices to the Lord yet claim to be Godly people. These people were hypocrites because they would pretend to be one way but they were actually another way. Again, †Isaiah describes these Jews well in:
Isaiah 48:1 "Hear this, O house of Jacob, Who are called by the name of Israel, And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, And make mention of the God of Israel, But not in truth or in righteousness;
Many today give lip service to the Lord and say the right things, but like the second son and these opposing Jews, they do not do the will of the Father. Instead, they do things their way, yet they claim to love the Lord.
Now letís apply this parable to us today. The father in this parable represents God, and He is speaking to all Christians today and saying, Son go to work. The vineyard represents the church, and God wants us all to work in His church. The first son represents all those lost souls out there who have not obeyed the gospel. When they hear the Word, at first they reject it, but as they think about it, they become pricked in their hearts and they accept it and go to work in the church. Let us never forget that it is up to us who are Christians to get the message of salvation to others.
Now, the second son represents anyone who claims to be a Christian and will tell you what you want to hear, but they donít practice what they preach. Many today claim to be Christians, yet they call themselves by some other name. They think it is acceptable to divide the body of Christ up into denominations, but the Bible clearly declares that there is only one body (Eph. 4:4) and Paul says this in:
1 Corinthians 1:10 †Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
†Paul was pleading with the brethren to be of one mind and not be united not divided. So, all Christians need to avoid being like this second son. When we say that we love God, that means that we are going to obey His Word as John declares:
1 John 5:3 †For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
When we start doing things that are contrary to Godís Word, we become like that 2nd Son because we are supposed to be doers of Godís Word and not just hearers as James points out in:
James 1:22 †But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
I want to make a few more points about our parable.
1. The father addressed his sons individually because each one of them had to bear their own responsibility. Each son had to make a choice. In the same manner, we are individually responsible for our own obedience because no one can do it for us. Paul confirms this in:
2 Corinthians 5:10 †For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
2. The father did not force his sons to go to work. God will not force us to labor in His kingdom because He gave us a free will. It is completely up to us to decide whether we will serve our living God or serve ourselves. I would hope that we would all have the attitude of Joshua who said:
Joshua 24:15 †"And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
3. The farther gave the same command to both sons. In the same manner, the terms for obedience are the same as they have been since the death of Jesus on the cross. His Word has not changed, and it applies to everyone the same because God does not show partiality. †
So, let us learn from this lesson to have a strong faith and to be the kind of Christian that does what he says and doesnít just pay lip service to others and especially not to God.