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Explore the Bible Series

November 11, 2007

 

Background Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 19:10-22:46

Lesson Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 19:15

 

Introduction: Matthew 19:1 marks an important turning point in the messianic story.To this point in the narrative, the Synoptic Gospels have focused attention on Jesusí Galilean ministry; however, from this point, the Gospel writers record the Lordís determination to fulfill his redemptive purposes by setting his face toward Jerusalem.Furthermore, the narrative highlights the growing intensity of the hostility of the Jewish leaders and their insistence on killing the Lord.

 

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty contain a series of events that reveal a transitional period in Jesusí ministry.The miracles that characterized the Galilean period do not play as prominent a role in Matthewís account of the Lordís work in Judea.A somber tone envelopes the story, and, increasingly, Jesus focused more of his teachings on his crucifixion and resurrection. Chapters Twenty One and Twenty Two highlight the growing hostility of the Jewish religious leaders.

 

 

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   Jesusí Teaching on Divorce (19:1-15)

A.    A change of venue (vv. 1-2): As stated earlier, this passage reflects Jesusí departure from Galilee.The phrase ďbeyond JordanĒ, may be a bit misleading (the translation needs attention). The Jordan River marked the eastward boundary of Judea, and the Lord moved into this region to complete his earthly work.Large crowds followed Jesus, and he continued healing the sick and infirmed.

B.     Teaching on divorce (vv. 3-12): Pharisees came to Jesus to quiz him about the issue of divorce.Matthew gives us no insight into the Pharisees motive for asking this question, but their query may have revolved around intramural debates between the two rabbinical schools of the day.The School of Hillel took a liberal view of the Mosaic teaching (See Deuteronomy 24:1-4); that is, this school allowed divorce for almost any grounds.The School of Shimmai took a more restrictive position, allowing divorce only on serious moral grounds.Also, the ungodly marriage situation of Herod Antipas made this a volatile issue, and, if Jesus said the wrong thing, the Pharisees might have grounds for indicting the Lord before the wicked ruler.Jesus pointed out that Moses allowed for divorce because of the hardness of the human heart, but God, from the time of creation, had not designed marriage to end in divorce.According to this text, Jesus allowed dissolution of marriage on the grounds of adultery only.

C.     Jesusí relationship with the children (vv. 13-15): Mark Ten points out that this incident with the children took place in a home.The little ones came to Jesus, and the Twelve rebuked the crowd for bringing the children to the Lord.Jesus corrected the disciples and blessed the children.

 

II.                The Rich Young Ruler (19:16-30)

A.    The approach of the young man (v. 16): All three Synoptic Gospels record this story. The writers tell us that this man was very wealthy, and Luke refers to him as a ruler, probably one of the elders in the local synagogue.This man deserves some credit.He came to Jesus to get the answer to an important question, ďWhat must I do to have eternal life?Ē

B.     Jesusí response (vv. 17-20a): At first hearing, Jesus gave an unusual answer to the manís query.First, the Lord challenged the man about his conception of goodness.Ultimately, only God is truly good, and, in saying this, Jesus tacitly highlighted his own deity.Second, Jesus rehearsed the Moral Law for the young man.At this point, the manís real problem began to surface.He affirmed his belief that he was blameless before the Law.

C.     The manís reply (v. 20b): despite his elevated view of himself, the young man still sensed something was wrong with his spiritual life.

D.    A critical demand (vv. 21-22): ďGo and sell all that you possess and give to the poorÖĒSome commentators soft-pedal Jesusí response, but perhaps we should reconsider this verse.This young man broke the Tenth Commandment, ďThou shalt not covetÖĒGod calls all of his people to break their idolatrous relationship with material possessions, and modern Christians must take this directive seriously.Donít misunderstand the point. Jesus did not, in this statement, forbid the acquisition of private property; rather, he called his people to a life of heavenly-mindedness, a disposition that devalues material possessions in light of heavenly treasures.Unwilling to meet the Masterí demands, this wealthy man abandoned the Lord.

E.     Jesusí observations concerning the rich young ruler (vv. 23-30):The world sees material wealth as an evidence of divine favor, but Jesus saw this differently.Wealth poses a great impediment to salvation, and it is as difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom as a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.This observation startled the disciples, and they wondered, then, how any man could be saved.Thankfully, even a rich man may experience the Lordís grace and be delivered from the entanglements of riches.

 

III.             The Parable of the Gracious Vineyard Owner (20:1-16):This parable affirms the persistent nature of Godís grace.A land owner, according to the story, hired a group of men to work in his vineyard. The men agreed to work for a certain wage and set about their appointed task.As the day progressed, the land owner hired other men, some at sixth hour, the ninth and eleventh hours.At the end of the work day, the laborers gathered for their pay.The last men hired received a denarius for their work, and the earlier hirelings anticipated that they would receive a higher wage.Much to their surprise and dismay the men hired early in the day received the same pay as the men hired later.Instinctively, the men complained that this arrangement treated hem unfairly. The master reminded the grumblers that he had paid them precisely what he promised, and he chided them for complaining that he had shown grace to the other workers.This parable relates, it seems to me, to offer of the gospel to the Gentiles.In a sense, the Gentiles came late to the table of Godís salvation; nevertheless, they received the same mercy and promises that God had originally given to the Hebrews. God is sovereign in the bestowal of his mercies.Some come late to Christís blessings while others come early.Both receive the gracious blessings of God, according to the divine promise.

 

IV.             Jesusí Prediction of His Death and Resurrection (20:17-19): For the third time, Jesus clearly predicted his Passion.Again, he reserved this pointed teaching for the Twelve (See also 16:21 and 17:22-23).The Lord predicted four details about his death.

A.    He would be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes.

B.     He would die at the hands of Gentiles.

C.     He would suffer greatly: mocked, scourged, and crucified.

D.    He would be raised the third day.

 

V.                The Request of the Mother of John and James (20:20-28)

A.    An ambitious request (v. 20-21): This woman isnít the only mother to ever have high ambitions for her sons.Zebedeeís wife requested places of honor and responsibly for her sons, but, of course, she had no idea what her petition entailed.

B.     The Lordís response to the mother of James and John (vv. 22-28): Jesus told the woman that she didnít know what she had asked. As the Lord anticipated drinking the cup of suffering; so, James and John would know something of the hardships of following Jesus.The consistent message of the New Testament affirms the hardship of discipleship, and contemporary Christians must embrace this suffering if they want to follow Jesus.

 

VI.             The Healing of the Blind Men of Jericho (20:29-34): Mark and Luke only mention one man, and Mark tells us that one of the men was named Bartimaeus.Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus encountered the blind men as he departed from the city.On the other hand, Luke says Jesus healed these men as he left town.Recall, however, that in Jesusí day two Jerichos existed.The old city lay in ruins, and a newer town developed near the ancient site of Jericho; therefore, Jesus, not doubt, neared one city as he left the other.

 

VII.          Jesusí Ministry in Jerusalem (21:-22:46)

A.    The Triumphal Entry (21:1-11): On Sunday of Holy Week, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in a flurry of ecstatic enthusiasm.As the Lord rode on the foal of a donkey, the crowds laid their garments and palm branches in the Lordís pathway.Clearly, Jesus did this in fulfillment of the messianic promise recorded in Zechariah 9:9.This passage, of course, highlights the vacillating, erratic affection of the crowds.In less than a week the crowds of Jerusalem called for Pilate to execute the Lord Jesus.

B.     The cleansing of the Temple (21:12-17): The Synoptic Gospels date this event during the last week of Jesusí earthly ministry, while John dates it much earlier (See John 2:13-22).It is entirely possible that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice, but John may have organized his account thematically and had theological, sermonic reasons for including the story much earlier in his Gospel.Whatever the case, Jesusí actions provided a striking condemnation of the institutional Judaism of his day.

C.     The cursing of the fig tree (21:18-22): In this part of the narrative, Matthew telescopes events that happened over two days (See Mark 11:12-26).The Old Testament uses the fig tree as a symbol of Israel, and the typological action of Jesus demonstrates godís rejection of the Judaistic traditions of the First Century.

D.    The Jewish leaders challenged Jesus concerning the cleansing of the Temple (21:23-27): Jesusí actions had deeply offended the Temple authorities, and they challenged his authority for taking such drastic measures.In this case, the Lord refused to answer their questions, and he silenced them by asking a question of his own, a question he knew they could not answer.The time for patient instruction and explanation had passed, and the Lord simply refused to debate with these ungodly men.

E.     Two parables of indictment against the Jewish leaders (21:28-46)

1.      the parable of the two sons (21:28-32): Jesus told this story to emphasize the hardheartedness of the Jewish authorities.He had offered the Kingdom to them, but they refused to accept the Messiah.Notorious sinners, on the other hand, received the Lord and entered the Kingdom in places of honor.

2.      the parable of the tenants (21:33-46): According to his story, wicked tenants took advantage of the kindness of a vineyard owner, and, eventually they killed the land ownerís son.The chief priests and Pharisees understood that Jesusí parable was about them, and they conspired how they might kill him.

F.      Continued conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees (22:1-46)

1.      parable of the wedding feast (22:1-14): The parable highlights similar themes to the previous story.A man invited honored guests to a wedding feast for his beloved son, but the would be guests refused to attend the wedding and treated the fatherís servants disgracefully.In anger, the father bid the servants to invite lowly guests to attend the wedding, and the banquet hall teemed with celebrants.One disrespectful man came to the feast in inappropriate clothing, and the father had the man bound and cast into outer darkness.Again, this parable honored the lowly, faithful people who responded favorably to the Lordí message.The original invitees refused the Lordís overtures of grace and rejected the invitation of the Father.

2.      Three efforts to catch the Lord at his words (22:15-46): Three times the religious leaders tried to entangle Jesus in his words, thus discrediting him before the crowds and the political authorities.They asked him about paying taxes, the nature of the resurrection, and the greatest commandment.To be sure, these men were not seeking wisdom or guidance from Jesus; rather, they posed these questions as an effort to justify their deadly conspiracy against Jesus.The Lord, true to form, ultimately answered their questions by posing a query of his own.His question about the identity of the Messiah proved an effective method for silencing his opponents.