Today’s reading is from Matthew 21.
Matthew 21 is a lengthy chapter that began detailing the week of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. This chapter describes the authority and worthiness of Christ to be king. It began with Palm Sunday where Jesus was praised and welcomed by the people as he ceremonially entered Jerusalem (vv. 1-11). The crowds called him “the prophet from Nazareth,” but in verses 12-13 Jesus demonstrated a greater authority than any prophet. Instead of inveighing (look it up) against the commercialization of worship at the temple as we would expect a prophet to do, Jesus started driving out the merchants and throwing out their stuff. This is what the owner of the temple would do, not a mere prophet.
He also demonstrated his healing power in the temple (v. 14) and received praise there (vv. 15-17), just as God would. This infuriated the temple’s leaders, but brought joy to the heart of God.
In verses 18-22 Jesus demonstrated his kingly authority over nature. His lesson on prayer in verse 22 is not about rearranging the topography of the earth; rather, his point was to teach the disciples that his power was available for them as they went out to advance his kingdom.
Ever the teacher, Jesus used these early days of holy week to deliver God’s word in the temple (v. 23a) but the religious leaders of the temple questioned his authority to do all the things he was doing in verse 23b. Jesus stumped them with a riddle (vv. 24-27), then taught them a lesson about who really pleased God (vv. 28-32). Finally, he foreshadowed his own death with another parable (vv. 33-42) and proclaimed judgment on those who considered themselves to be godly, religious men. Instead of receiving the kingdom that they claimed to be seeking, they would be rejected and the kingdom would be passed on “to a people who will produce its fruit” (v. 43b). This is a reference to believing Jews, of which there were many in the dawning days of the church but it also refers to believing Gentiles, including you and me. The phrase, “those who will produce its fruit” reminds us that kingdom productivity is God’s goal in saving us. Of course God, in love, wanted to redeem us from God’s wrath, but he wanted to do so much more than that. Christ’s mission was to produce people who were redeemed by Christ and were producing the fruit of the Spirit in us and the fruit of evangelism through us. As we start a new workweek today and go out into the world, remember that the world where we work is God’s field. He is sending us out there not just to be productive for our employer but to be productive for his kingdom. Let’s look for some ways to have kingdom conversations this week. Our king deserves it, his chosen ones need it, and we were redeemed for it!