Grace Bible Church Expository Sermon Notes
Jesus Confronts the Disobedient Nation
cf. Matt. 21:28-46 The Lords Day 6/8/97 AM
The section of Matthew 21:23-23:39 contains the final face-off between the heavenly authority of Christ and the religious authority of the Jewish leadership. Jesus confronted the Jewish leaderships disobedience by three parables: the parable of the Disobedient Son, the parable of the Disobedient Tenant Farmers and the parable of the Disobedient Guests.
The Parable of the Disobedient Son
Matthew 21:28-32 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said the same. And he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not. Which of the two did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you that the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
The Lord obviously was setting the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees up for His rebuke of their disobedience, when He asked this hypothetical question about two sons response to their father's requests. Then the Lord applied the parable to the contemporary disobedience of the nation of Israel. The story was self evident and the "scribes and Pharisees" got the answer right. But then Jesus focused in on their own disobedience, as He tightened the noose by saying that "the tax collectors and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Jesus was referring to two groups of notorious sinners, whose lives rejected the will of God initially. The tax collectors had sold out their national birthright to collect money for Rome and extort their Jewish brothers; the harlots had sold out their souls to prostitute in fleshly immorality.They initially rejected God. In order to collect taxes for the Roman overlords, the tax collector had to turn from the privileged heritage of being a citizen under the covenant of Moses; and the harlot, in order to prostitute her body had to turn from the privileged heritage of being a child of God. They both had to become practical atheists, saying, "No, God!" to the ordering of their moral and ethical lives. But like the first son in the story, the "tax collectors and harlots" repented of their initial rebellion toward God and obeyed Him by responding to the ministry of John the Baptist. The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who initially claimed to obey God, like the second son in Jesus' story, however, did not respond to the ministry of John the Baptist. Obviously, it's not what we say, but what we do with our lives that proves if we are an atheist or a theist; a fool or a wise man; disobedient or obedient. Remember the context, where the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees came and challenged Jesus authority for teaching, causing Christ to ask them pointedly about the ministry of John the Baptist. They compromised in their answer, because their knew that the people held John to be a prophet, and said, "We cannot tell," Which was a dog-faced lie! They had rejected the ministry of John the Baptist, by not repenting of their own sins and adding the addition transgression of rejecting the Baptizer's message that Jesus was the Messiah. Their proper response was, upon watching Jesus' miracles and ministry, to repent from their previous rejection of John the Baptists' affirmation and embrace Jesus as their Messiah and Lord. They had the opportunity to repent of their previous "No" to God and follow the first sons example of obedience. But they didn't. cf. Matthew 7:21-27. Then Jesus immediately gave a second parable, reinforcing the same rebuke
The Parable of the Disobedient
Matthew 21:33 Hear another parable, There was a certain householder, who planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and leased it to tenant farmers, and went into a far country.
By introducing this parable, the religious leaders, would be all too familiar with the nation being related to an unfruitful vineyard awaiting the judgment of God. cf. Isaiah 5:1-7. And the judgment fell on the nation at the time of the exile, when God removed His protective hand and the land was overrun by predatory nations. Then the Lord continued...
Matthew 21:34-36 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the farmers took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first; and they did the same unto them.
At this point the parable takes a different turn from the Isaiah parable. The landowner had gone on a long journey, no doubt speaking of God withdrawing His immediate presence during Ezekiel's day when the Shekinah glory departed from Israel or from the temple. God left the care of His vineyard or nation to certain "tenant farmers," who represent the "chief priests and elders of the people." Tenant farmers would contract to work the land, taking some of the fruit and returning the rest of the fruit to the householder. No doubt the leaders listening to Jesus would immediately recognize that Jesus was speaking of them, so when He spoke of their unjust cruel treatment of the "servants" of the householder sent to gather the fruits, they could only conclude that Jesus had reference to the OT prophets. Then the Lord continued...
Matthew 21:37-39 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
Finally, the householder or God would send His son, who would be "cast out of the vineyard, and killed," no doubt referring to His own soon crucifixion! And at this point Jesus forces the "chief priests and elders of the people" to answer an obvious question...
Matthew 21:40-41 When the lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those farmers? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will lease his vineyard unto other farmers, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
That was the only just answer that could have been given and no doubt the religious leaders felt somewhat smug about getting the answer right! But then Jesus, as He did in the parable of the two sons, tightened the noose of incriminating judgment...
Matthew 21:42-44 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
Once again quoting from Psalm 118, which was a favorite during the Passover season, Jesus pointed out the prophecy concerning His own rejection by "the builders" or leadership of the nation of Israel. It was the Jewish leadership who rejected the "stone" which was to anchor the building of the nation, but God would place Him as the "head of the corner" regardless! God would decisively deal with the fruitless nation of Israel, and this time He would give the "kingdom of God" to a "nation," no doubt speaking of the church, which would "bring forth the fruits of it." And there would be two kinds of responses to this "stone" which the builders rejected: the first response, are those who fall on the "stone." They shall be broken or repentant; the second response, are those on whom the "stone" falls, and they shall be pulverized! And as we mentioned before, the "chief priests and elders of the people" understood the implications and indicting warning of this parable, for Matthew adds...
Matthew 21:45-46 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they regarded Him as a prophet.
This wasnt a mystery or veiled rebuke, but a clear forthright stinging indictment of the Jewish leaderships rejection of Jesus the Messiah and refusal to repent. They stood there angry and frustrated because "they feared the multitude, who regarded Jesus as a prophet."
Main Idea: Although the authority of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ was from heaven, it was rejected by the Jewish leadership on earth. Like many professing Christians throughout history, they claimed to follow God but their disobedience unmasked their hypocrisy. They remained in danger of Gods judgmental wrath!
What Should We Do About this Passage?
- Application Recommendations -
Among professing believers have always been two types of people: one who claims to be a Christian but is not obedient to the Lord; and one whose obedience validates the legitimacy of their claim.