66. Jesus’ authority challenged
ON one of those days, as Jesus was walking in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests, and the scribes came with the elders, saying, By what authority doest thou these things? Jesus answered,
I also will ask of you one question, which if ye will tell me, and answer me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John, whence was it? was it from heaven, or of men? Answer me.
They reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But and if we shall say, Of men; the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was indeed a prophet.
They feared the people. And they answered, We cannot tell.
Jesus saith unto them,
Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
¶Then began he to speak by parables:
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
Whether of them twain did the will of his father?
They say, The first. Jesus saith,
Verily I say unto you, That the publicans 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 publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
¶Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and set a hedge round about it, and digged a place in it for the winevat; and digged a winepress in it; and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.
And at the season when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that he might receive from them of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty.
And again he sent unto them another servant; they beat him also, and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and handled him shamefully, and sent him away empty.
And again he sent a third: and him they wounded also, and killed, and they cast him out: and many others, more than the first: and they did unto them likewise, beating some, and killing some.
Having yet therefore one son, his well beloved, then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, It may be they will reverence him, my son, when they see him.
But when those husbandmen saw the son, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance, and the inheritance shall be ours.
So they caught him, and slew him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? He will come and miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
When they heard it, they said, God forbid. Jesus beheld them, and said,
Did ye never read in the Scriptures?
What is this then that is written? Have ye not read this Scripture: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The chief priests and Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables: they perceived that he had spoken the parables against them. And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people, because they took him for a prophet; and they left him, and went their way.
Scripture: Matthew 21:23-27
Meditation 1 of 3:
Are you willing to take a stand for the truth, even when it costs? Or do you look for the safe way out? Jesus told his disciples that the truth would make them free (John 8:32). Why were the religious leaders opposed to Jesus’ and evasive with the truth? Did they fear the praise of their friends and neighbors more than the praise of God for those who stand up to his truth? The coming of God’s kingdom or reign on the earth will inevitably produce conflict — a conflict of allegiance to God’s will or my will, God’s way of love and justice or the world’s way of playing fair, God’s standard of absolute moral truth or truth relative to what I want to believe is good and useful for the time being. Why did the religious leaders oppose Jesus and reject his claim to divine authority? Their view of religion did not match with God’s word because their hearts were set on personal gain rather than truth and submission to God’s plan and design for their lives. They openly questioned Jesus to discredit his claim to be the Messiah. If Jesus says his authority is divine they will charge him with blasphemy. If he has done this on his own authority they might well arrest him as a mad zealot before he could do more damage. Jesus, seeing through their trap, poses a question to them and makes their answer a condition for his answer. Did they accept the work of John the Baptist as divine or human? If they accepted John’s work as divine, they would be compelled to accept Jesus as the Messiah. They dodged the question because they were unwilling to face the truth. They did not accept the Baptist and they would not accept Jesus as their Messiah. Do you know the joy and freedom of living according to God’s truth?
“Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let your light shine in my heart and mind that I may know your truth and will for my life and find freedom and joy in living according to it.”
Scripture: Matthew 21:28-32
Meditation 2 of 3:
What kind of future are you preparing for? Jesus encourages us to think — to think about the consequences of our choices, especially the choices and decisions that will count not just for now but for eternity as well. The choices we make now will affect and shape our future, both our future on earth as well as in the life of the age to come. Jesus tells a simple story
of two imperfect sons to illustrate the way of God’s kingdom. The father amply provided for his sons food, lodging, and everything they needed. Everything the father had belonged to them as well. The father also rewarded his sons with excellent work in his own vineyard. He expected them to show him gratitude, loyalty, and honor by doing their fair share of the daily work. The “rebellious” son told his father to his face that he would not work for him. But afterwards he changed his mind and did what he father commanded him. The “good” son said he would work for his father, but didn’t carry through. He did his own pleasure contrary to his father’s will. Now who was really the good son? Both sons disobeyed their father; but one repented and then did what the father told him. Jesus makes his point clear: Good intentions are not enough. And promises don’t count unless they are performed. God wants to change our hearts so that we will show by our speech and by our actions that we respect his will and do it. God offers each of us the greatest treasure possible– unending peace, joy, happiness, and life
with him in his kingdom. We can lose that treasure if we refuse the grace God offers us to follow in his way of truth and righteousness. Do you respect the will of your Father in heaven?
“Lord Jesus, change my heart that I may only desire that which is pleasing to you. Help me to respect your will and give me the strength, joy and perseverance to carry it out wholeheartedly.”
Scripture: Matthew 21:33-46
Meditation 3 of 3:
What is the point of the parable of the vineyard? Jesus’ story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have made sense to his audience. The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, and it was quite common for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. Many did it for the sole purpose of collecting rent at the right time.Why did Jesus’ story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees? It contained both a prophetic message and a warning. Isaiah had spoken of the house of Israel as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7). Jesus’ listeners would likely understand this parable as referring to God’s dealing with a stubborn and rebellious people.
This parable speaks to us today as well. It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he deals with his people. First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants. God, likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose. This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not once, but many times he forgives the tenants their debts. But while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, his judgment and justice prevail in the end.
Jesus foretold both his death and his ultimate triumph. He knew he would be rejected and be killed, but he also knew that would not be the end. After rejection would come glory — the glory of resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. The Lord blesses his people today with the gift of his kingdom. And he promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him (see John 15:1-11). He entrusts his gifts and grace to each of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard — the body of Christ. He promises that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (see 1 Cor. 15:58). We can expect trials and even persecution. But in the end we will see triumph. Do you labor for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in his victory?
“Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us; for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, for you own sake.” (prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, 13th century)