Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily Bread for Oct 10, Mat 20-21

Today’s readings are Mt 20-21.

Mt 20:1-16 is about the reward believers find in salvation. Everyone gets the same salvation. There are none who get more saved, more of the Spirit, more privileges, more power, loftier callings, etc. The crucial factor in salvation is a contrite heart, a repentant spirit, and a transformed life, not longevity in the church, status or role.

Ironically, immediately after relating this lesson, two of the disciples, rather than processing the startling news that Jesus is about to die at the hands of the Scribes and Pharisees, try to jockey for a prime position in heaven (Mt 20:17-28). After a sobering response to their request, Jesus heals two blind men (Mt 20:29-33), as if to say, "You're not getting it yet! Both of you are blind and need to see just as these two blind men need to see!"  Jesus implies that the disciples should be seeking Jesus rather than lofty positions. The disciples are about to get a somber lesson on lofty positions and what they can produce in the heart of a man.

Jesus enters Jerusalem to the praise of the crowds gathered there for the Passover (Mt 21:1-11). His entry fulfills prophecies from Isaiah (Is 62:11) and Zechariah (Zec 9:9).

In another move that defies expectations, rather than addressing the circumstances of the Jews, He cleanses the temple! The Jews believed the Messiah would deliver them from their oppressors and vindicate them before the entire world. Instead, Christ sends the clear message that He is here to sanctify and clean those who are His (1 Pet 4:17).

As evidence of His authority in the temple, after he cleanses it of thieves and robbers, He heals the blind and lame and little children begin to praise Jesus fulfilling yet another prophecy (Ps 8:2). The same priests who saw nothing wrong with unsavory vendors in the courtyard of the temple now condemn the children for praising God and calling Jesus "Son of David." Jesus reminds the priests that Scripture says God ordains praise for Himself from "babes and infants" (Mt 21:14-17).

Jesus' response to the concerns of the chief priests and scribes is brilliant (Mt 21:15-16). He insists the children be allowed to continue in their praise. Furthermore, He claims that the children, who are praising Jesus, are also praising God. Jesus is trying to tell the priests that He is God. The answer Jesus gives also affirms the spirituality and faith of the young ones, despite their age. This is intended to be a rebuke to the priests who consider themselves not only older and wiser than the children but older and wiser than Jesus.

Having challenged the spiritual leaders and posed a threat to their lofty positions, Jesus now condemns the fruits of their ministries (Mt 21:18-22) due to their evil hearts. They respond by challenging Jesus’ authority and are once again embarrassed and humiliated by the Lord (Mt 21:23-27).

Jesus relates two parables, both of which are metaphors for how the Jews have treated the prophets and will treat Him (Mt 21:28-46). 

It’s not always easy gazing into the mirror Scripture sets before us. The priests, scribes, Pharisees et al. have been laboring under an altered perception of the truth concerning the history of the Jews and their relationship with God. They fell victim to the idea that they were more spiritual and closer to God because they were Jewish and occupied a position of authority and influence. When Jesus shows up and begins the Passover week by cleaning out the temple, instead of repenting and expressing some humility, they get angry and allow the anger to fester. This only causes them to experience more humility which fuels further outrage. The way to defuse their anger was repentance and a surrender to the word of God. Instead, they stubbornly held on to the notion that they were right and justified in their actions. As we are learning, this type of self-righteousness and self-justification can be deadly.

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