Matthew 21:23-46


“And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.  The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?  And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not believe him?  But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.  And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell.  And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.  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 him 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 unto him, The first.  Jesus saith unto them, 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 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 hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:  And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.  And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.  Again, he sent other servants more than the first:  and they did unto them likewise.  But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.  But when the husbandmen 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.  And when the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?  They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.  Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read 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 thereof.  And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken:  but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.  And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.” 


The Fruit of the Religious Leaders


“We’re picking up this morning in Matthew chapter 21, that’s where we left off last week, so if you could open in your Bibles to Matthew 21.  If you don’t have a Bible some of the chairs in front of you, some of the seats have Bibles that you’re welcome to use one of those…I was looking at these passages, studying, which we are going to look today a little bit more on, just focusing on the result of the fruit of the lives of the religious leaders.  And in these passages, there is this word “vinedressers”, in the New King James, verse 33, maybe you have a different translation, “husbandmen”, basically the word means “farmer.”  The Greek word is, I was looking doing my word-studies, it tood out to me a little bit, and the Greek word for that word georgos [Strongs #1092, “land-worker”, i.e. farmer:--husbandman], and it caught my eye because I know that the name “George” is derived from that word, that word that means “farmer.”…I love George Whitfield’s biography, life.  Whitfield really means Whitefield, and of course that really was his ministry, God used him in the early-mid 1700s to influence an incredible number of people for Christ.  He was the spark that God used for the First Great Awakening, him and John Wesley [see and the history and prophetic history of the Methodist revival].  George Whitefield, I would have picked that one if I had to pick…But then on the other side, when you read passages like what we’re going to read today, then maybe “little farmer” isn’t so bad, because here we are reminded of the responsibility, as men and women, as Christians, we’ve been given and entrusted certain things, and that obviously includes ministry too.  And with ministry is accountability, and with the things I have been given as a believer, there’s responsibility.  We even saw last week, God comes and he looks and he inspects.  We’ve been given much, and what is there now hanging on that tree for fruit?  As a Christian, each and every one of us, we have been given an incredible amount of spiritual light, we’ve been given an incredible amount of spiritual power.  And so then the question, and Jesus is dealing with these religious leaders, they think one thing about themselves, but really, life for them is one thing, but for God what he sees is something very different.  And that’s true for the entire nation of Israel [Judah] at this time, by and large.  When you and I are studying these things, thinking about our own lives, and we’ve been given so much, like the nation of Israel at this time.  And based on the spiritual light and spiritual power, what has it done in my life?  What can God see in my life?  What can I see in my life?  And not only about that, what about through my life?  I have been given so much in Christ.  And so therefore then, what has it done, what has it meant?  You know, we just sang a song about the cost of Christ, and I’m just blown away by the words there…but you know, just the cost, what it cost, Christ to be on the cross.  And we talked about that in the song, that it cost so much, hard to believe what it cost.  And it did cost a lot for me to be a Christian, the price was so high that was paid.  And yet what is the result then in my life?  And so these are the sort of things that we’re seeing now as Jesus is dealing with the people of Israel that have been given so much at this particular time.  Let’s say a word of prayer.  ‘Lord we thank you for your Word, we thank you that we can study these things together, and we just ask simply that you would be upon all of us as we go through these words together.  It’s true, the price that was paid for us to be Christians, the price that was paid for us to know you, and to be forgiven of our sin is so great.  We’ve been given as Christians in America a lot of spiritual light and spiritual resources.  We’ve been given in Christ spiritual power, so much so that it’s hard to even fathom the amount of that power.  And yet in the end, based on the condition of our heart, what has it meant in our lives?  What has it meant through our lives?  So Lord, you ultimately know, and we just pray, we desire as your people, we want to be more fruitful, Lord.  And so even now as we go through your Word, stir in our hearts, maybe it’s just a simple word from you, maybe it’s just one little verse, part of a verse or word that will go so far in our hearts and minds and lives.  So be upon all of us, and even upon myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, amen.’ 


Jesus goes toe to toe with the religious leaders


Verse 23 of Matthew 21, that’s where we left off from last week. Matthew 21:23-27, “Now when he had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?’  But Jesus answered and said to them, ‘I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:  The baptism of John---where was it from?  From heaven or from men?’  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, From heaven, he will say to us, Why then did you not believe him?  But if we say, From men, we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.’  So they answered Jesus and said, ‘We do not know.’  And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”  Now you remember, Jesus has repeatedly told them, the disciples on the way to the city of Jerusalem, that last trip there, he told them repeatedly, he was preparing them for what was about to happen.  And we’re just a couple days away.  But he told them that they would get there, and he would be betrayed, first of all, and then suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders.  They would even condemn him, they would turn him over to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles would then deliver to death.  They would mock him, scourge him, crucify him, and kill him.  And he would then be raised to life the third day.  So he’s told them these things.  And now it’s been about two days since they showed up in Jerusalem, and we’re beginning to see the ground here get set for what Jesus prophecied would actually be accomplished.  There is this growing confrontation that we’re going to now get into, and it’s going to continue for a couple chapters, this growing confrontation with the religious leaders.  Now, remember maybe the traditional calendar, you may remember it last time, about a week [yes, and because this traditional calendar came from the Roman Catholic church, which is not Jewish, it is not accurate, as explained in the last chapter.  See to see this whole thing played out, day by day, according to the Jewish calendar, and the days of the week properly listed for the last six days of Jesus’ life on earth as a human being.].  Traditionally we say he came on Sunday, there with the triumphal entry, and now it’s about Tuesday [no, actually it’s Sunday, 30AD], these events are considered to be Tuesday, Tuesday is a day of confrontation.  It takes up a couple chapters here in Matthew, but it’s a day of confrontation.  And it finally culminates in chapter 23.  I mean, he’s going toe to toe with the religious leaders, they confront him, he confronts them.  It goes back and forth.  And then in chapter 23, Jesus, publicly, before all the people, vehemently rebukes the religious leaders, in an incredible way.  Just the heart of God speaks about these men that are so religiously prideful, and yet so blinded to what really the truth and life of God is all about.  He rebukes them, because they, these religious leaders have had much to do with the state of things in Israel, the state of things in Jerusalem, with the [physical] people of God.  You know, the last passage we saw, Jesus curses the fig tree. 


Condition of Judah then, and even the Church in America now---one of no fruit


We said, and we noted that it was symbolic, the fig tree was symbolic of the nation of Israel, he came to partake in some fruit from that fig tree.  It had leaves, in that season, that time of year, that would be indicative, good chance there might be fruit on that tree.  But he came to this particular tree and there was no fruit, and so he cursed it, representing ultimately, what is happening with the nation of Israel [Judah].  We know it’s just a short time.  It’s just a couple decades, less than 40 years, and this entire nation will be destroyed by the Romans, and the nation of Judah didn’t exist again until the mid 1940s, in the last century.  Well, this nation, though, given so much, given so much.  Yet it’s barren, the reaper of the harvest has come, yet it is barren.  It would be like you.  A lot of folks in New England, we like to have gardens, tend gardens.  It would be like you getting the most expensive, the choicest of seeds, and going out in the spring and really preparing the ground, you get the manure, you get the high potency fertilizer, you make sure that soil is so nutrient rich for the plants, and you’ve got the best irrigation and watering system, and you water and water, and you’ve got the garden in just the right location, trees cut out of the way so the sunlight can come in, it’s the perfect summer, and you’ve just worked it and worked it.  And you come, and yet where there should be green beans, there’s just plants.  [I’d be looking for that real fat ground-hog and healthy looking bunny rabbits with my bow and arrow.]  And where there should be tomatoes, there’s just plants.  And where there should be corn, there’s just plants [I’d be looking for the raccoons].  Everything has grown, but there’s no fruit.  You’d think it was kind of bizarre, I mean, I did everything, why isn’t there any fruit?  And that’s the state of the nation of Israel indeed.  I think of the Church in America.  I think of the Church in America in this case, because it’s a lot like that in the Church in America.  You could say, in the nation as a whole too.  I mean, there’s never been a nation like this nation, that’s been given such privilege, we’ve been given such resources.  But also as a nation, such access, like never before, to the Word of God.  We can have it even on our little PDAs and our iPods and our TVs [and the Internet, don’t forget that], and our church not long from now, you know, we are blessed with radio and putting other stations on the air.  And keep praying, because some cool stuff has been happening.  But now even we’ve got a little TV deal that, that’s why we have the camera’s and we’ll be going on the TV, cable access TV.  But in our country you can even as a church right now, I don’t know how much longer it will last, but you can go on public access and have a TV program, and folks can watch it at home.  You can listen to this service, maybe some are, right now over the Internet [or reading this right now over the Internet], and in other places in the world.  Maybe listening to it live on the radio.  We have so much access to the Word of God as a nation.  But then with that, the question comes up, what does God see when he looks down.  I mean there’s a high expectation indeed, but what does he see?  And what does he see in the Church in America, given all that we’ve been given?  Is there the abundant fruit in proportion to what we’ve been given, in proportion to the privilege?  [The fruit Jesus is looking for in the Church in America was given in the last sermon transcript.  If this message has frightened you sufficiently, go back and review that previous sermon transcript, Matthew 21:18-22.]  Or is it lacking, is the fig tree lacking?  I fear, I think probably all of us do to a degree, I fear when God looks in America he doesn’t like what he sees.  And so then if that be the case, what does the future hold?  [The answer to that question is coming soon, as I am working on a commentary for the Book of Ezekiel.  Couple that with the commentary on Kings & Chronicles already up on this site, and you will have your answer to this question the pastor is posing.  Start reading the commentary on Kings & Chronicles now, and in about three months check for the commentary on Ezekiel and read it.  You will have your answer.]  I wonder, you know, there’s things that are going on in our nation that are kind of strange and I wonder ‘How’s this happening?’.  I was called yesterday by Randy, he pastors another local Calvary Chapel, he was calling me ultimately trying to get a phone number of another Calvary pastor, a cell-phone number, but also related to this whole legislation that’s presently before our state house, it’s called the Act related to charities in this state.  I’ve mentioned it, maybe you’ve been here when I’ve mentioned it.  But right now its close to being passed, but it will then require, if it is, that churches in the state will have to start reporting to the state their finances.  And in order to do that, there are forms that you have to have sent in every year, and of course they’re expensive, they require a CPA audit.  And for a church our size, the estimated cost would be from 10 to 15 thousand dollars a year.  But to me it crosses a real dangerous line that our forefathers put there, that there would be this separation between the churches and state.  Because the way the legislation lays out, that now, financially, we would be accountable how we use the money here to the attorney general.  He would have the final ultimate say, in this state.  That’s strange to me.  There was a barrier put there long ago to keep the State separate from the Church.  Well Randy was calling me, and is concerned.  But then he mentioned, he says, he was talking to some folks that were in a meeting with some of the people who have actually written this legislation that are trying to push it through, and they are actually discussing maybe revising it, or later, or completely eliminating the 501c3 status, the nonprofit status of churches in general in this [horrible] State.  Now that obviously creates a whole situation.  In Randy’s case he’s got a huge facility, and it’s worth millions of dollars.  The taxes on that each year would be quite a burden to that church.  And even a lot of churches around this state that have huge facilities, where even little dinky churches are inside of it, just historically what’s happened.  But not only that, the question then comes up, if you’re [as a church] going to be treated like a regular corporation, there are all kinds of laws that are right now separated from the Church, including the Equal Opportunity Employment Act, which we don’t have to adhere to.   When we hire people, we hire born-again believers that love God and fear God and we have certain criteria.  And if you don’t meet that criteria, we’re not going to hire you.  You know, that’s just the way it works.  But now if we’re a corporation, that certainly would violate the EOE thing, you could just lay it out, and I won’t go down that road.  So why are these things happening, what’s going on?  So Randy had called Chuck Smith and Joe Focht, and tried to get ahold of Jay Sekulow and all these things, and trying just get some help.  [see you or your church is having a problem, or you would like to make a donation to help slow down the erosion of our religious rights.]  There are meetings going on, and maybe you’ve been reading about it.  I’ve heard it in the secular press, but always in a very small quick way, and not in the real truthful way, the way the legislation is written out.  Anyway, religious freedom seems to be eroding, or at least there are folks seeking to erode the freedoms that we have in America or have had for a long time.  And I wonder what the future holds, if there’s not revival in the Church.  I wonder, and there needs to be at this time revival in the Church [Body of Christ]. 


The reason for no fruit, spiritual blindness


Well, in America, as in Judah we see in our text, that one of the big reasons that the fig tree, the spiritual fig tree was barren, not bearing fruit, was due to those who were keeping charge of it, and that was ultimately the religious leaders, the spiritual farmers.  And as we see in verses 23 to 27, one of the issues of the spirituality of these men was they were blinded, spiritually blinded.  And it was because of their pride.  They were blinded to the real work of God.  The things that they thought they were doing, they thought they were accomplishing and doing the work of God. but the reality was, they were blinded to the work of God.  They struggled in really recognizing what was from God and what was not from God.  And as a result, they don’t even recognize who Jesus is, he is the Messiah, they don’t recognize his ministry, and they don’t recognize his authority.  They do not see his authority as coming from God.  So they’re threatened by him.  And so they come here in verse 23, they come and confront him.  They’re threatened by him, threatened by the things that he’s already done.  He’s come to Jerusalem, he’s cleansed the Temple.  They’re of course coming in, there were huge crowds, and they were even worshipping him.  He healed people in the Temple, which you weren’t supposed to do.  And then there were young people, young boys singing praises to him in the Temple.  All these things are really upsetting to them, and they also are threatened by that, by his popularity.  But they’re blinded, they’re blinded to the very work of God that’s going on before them.  And that’s often the case with lots of people.  You know, people are often blinded to the work of God, and because they’re blinded, because of the condition of their heart, they don’t see Jesus for who he really is.  And you hear today all kinds of debates about who Jesus is or isn’t.  They’re blinded about who he really is.  And because they’re blinded about who he really is, they don’t put him in the proper place in their lives, or in their families, or even want him in that proper place of just leadership, even in our nation. 


This is an official delegation confronting Jesus


They come, verse 23, it says they come, the chief priests and elders of the people come, and we know in the other Gospels, the scribes come too.  That is a representation, this is a high profile delegation, this is representation of the Sanhedrin, this is the religious government.  They determined what was going on in the civil sense, but also the religious sense.  So this is a delegation that comes to him.  He’s on their territory, of course, in their eyes, in the Temple.  And they come and they ask, ‘Jesus, by what authority’, he’s teaching at this time, as you hear in the other Gospels, he’s actually teaching the Gospel too.  They say, ‘By what authority are you doing these things?  Whose giving you the authority?’  Now they’re the ones that think they have the authority.  This is their responsibility.  Nobody has allowed him to do these things.  So they’re asking him whose given him the authority to do that.  Well he replies, as you see, he doesn’t reply directly by giving them the answer, he actually puts them to the question.  He says, ‘Tell you what, I’ll give you the answer if you answer this question, and my question to you is ‘Where did John the Baptist get his authority from?’.  Now we’ll see in later studies, man, they try to corner him at times, they try to pit him against the crowd, and they never can.  Here’s another example of his wisdom, the way he replies.  He really puts them in a predicament here in the way he replies.  He really puts them in a predicament here in the way he replies, because he knows that with John the Baptist, John the Baptist, the multitudes saw him as a prophet.  [Comment:  He actually was the last, the very last prophet of the Old Testament, heralding the arrival of the Messiah for all who would listen.  And the multitudes basically listened to John.  He was used to lay a foundation in the public’s minds for the coming ministry of Jesus.  And Jesus’ ministry would lay the foundation for the coming Church Jesus would found via the coming Holy Spirit and on the shoulders of his apostles.]  They went out there to the Jordan to be baptized by him, they saw John in a certain light.  But the religious leaders, they did not see John the Baptist in that way, they didn’t see him as having authority from God, having come from God, they didn’t recognize his ministry.  Yet they feared the people.  [Comment:  Any dictator or dictatorship fears the people, and what they know.  Politicians fear the people and what they know as well.  A dictator knows that even he can only go as far as his people allow him to.  So he through propaganda must make sure the people are behind him.  This often comes by promoting lies.  Our founding fathers guaranteed freedom of speech under the First Amendment, which is also a guarantee for the Freedom of the Press, newspapers, radio, and yes, religious freedom to preach the Truth of the Word of God.  All who are dictators, out of this fear, know they must control the flow of information and what the people are allowed to know and believe.  Most dictatorships have huge propaganda ministries to control this flow of information.  They all, to a man of them, fear the real truth.  John and Jesus came proclaiming The Truth, the truth of God’s Word, the truth about God’s coming Messiah, that he was coming, and that yes, he is actually here.  Most of the prophets of God were killed for their preaching, some few escaped that fate.  John was killed by Herod.  Jesus, in a puppet trial was set up by the Sanhedrin and killed by the Romans under Pilate.  It seems to be the fate of most prophets of God who proclaim the truth of God.  There is a Ukrainian proverb I love, saw it on a college professor’s door when I was taking night courses for electronics, it reads “A man who tells the truth should keep his horse saddled.”]  So they never would really take an official stance about John the Baptist.  They had their convictions, they confronted him, they talked to him, but they never took an official stance, because of the people.  So the people just looked at John, he was a prophet of God, he was this messenger who came to prepare the way before the LORD.  Well now, Jesus has put them in a predicament, because of what they say, and that’s what they reason in verse 25, ‘If we say he’s from heaven [i.e. John the Baptist’s authority and ministry is from heaven], we’ve got a problem, because of course we do not believe in him, and so that kind of puts us with a problem.’  And John the Baptist also endorsed Jesus very clearly.  In the book of John, twice he says ‘This is the Lamb of God, I’m not worthy to even untie his shoes.’  So that puts them in a predicament if they say he’s from heaven, if his authority was from heaven, that is, John’s.  ‘But if we say he’s from men, we’ve got a problem, because of the multitude, that’s just not going to go over well, and we fear them.’  So he’s put them in a predicament.  Well, since they don’t have the backbone to answer the question, Jesus is not going to answer their’s either, that’s what he says.  Well, they come to him, they say ‘We don’t know’, and he says “Well then, neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” 


The Religious Leaders Were All Promise, No Performance


He now shares with them in a series of parables.  You remember parables, he uses parables because in one way it’s a rebuke to a hard heart.  He goes to a parable because they won’t listen directly, so he’s going to use a story to bring out the light, so that maybe the light will, the illustration will catch their attention and some light will get through to them [or in reality, some light will get through to Jesus’ audience which was always standing around during these confrontations.  Jesus at this point cares far more about his audience than he does about the religious leaders].  So he shares these two parables.  And these parables, as they do begin to understand what is being said here, only takes this confrontation, the intensity of what’s going on here, and really just takes the temperature and heads it really high.  The first is the parable about  these two sons and his father.  Verses 28-32, “‘But what do you think?  A 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 regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise.  And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?’  They said to him, ‘The first.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.’”  So we have this parable of the father with his two sons.  The father owns a vineyard, and there’s this theme of the vineyard here as we go on.  This father says to two different sons, asked them to go work in the field.  Well the first one, as you see, says ‘Ah, I don’t want to go, I’m not gonna go.  No dad, I’m not going to do it.’  But then later, he thinks about it, he’s burdened by it, he regrets it.  It bothers him.  So he says ‘Ah,’ heavy-hearted, convicted, he goes and does it after all.  He goes and works in the field.  Now if you have the King James, in verse 29 it may say “he repented”, and the word is definitely more than just being “sorry”, it’s not just that he was sorry, ‘Ah, man, I wish I hadn’t said that to dad.’  Obviously it’s a much deeper conviction, in a sense it’s a repentance, it’s a regretting in that he then did something about it.  And that obviously is important throughout the Scripture, that I can be sorry about what I’ve done wrong, and I can be sorry over bad choices and sin, and that’s good, shame is good, but what’s even more important is that I do something about it, is that I make a change where change is needed.  [In the Jewish religious mindset, repentance means to turn around and go in the opposite direction.  It is action oriented, not feeling oriented.]  That there’s that repentance, where ‘Well, this is not right, so I’m going to make it right.’  Or ‘I’ve done wrong, and I’m going to go straighten this out.’  To be sorry is good, and that’s having a sense of shame, but that’s not enough.  There has to then be the sense of making it right and making change.  And that’s the example of this guy too.  But the other son says ‘Hey, I’ll go, I’ll go dad, no problem dad, I’m your good son, no problem’, and then doesn’t even go, I mean.  Poor dad if he came back later to check out the work in the field, he’d find that it wasn’t done, this other son was completely just giving verbal profession and he wasn’t reliable.  [That type is weeded our real fast in the military under combat situations.]  Well Jesus of course is illustrating a point, and then he goes right to the main point in verses 31 and 32, he helps them understand what he’s saying.  It’s not just what you say that counts, it’s what you do, obviously.  You see that over and over, we know that, it’s what you do that counts, in your life.  And the challenge with these religious leaders and their spirituality is that it was all promise, man, they had the promises, they spoke the promises to God, but man, there was no performance.  They professed so much, ‘I love you God, I’m all about you, I am dedicated to you, God, I follow you with all my life, God.’  That was the promise, that came from the religious leaders, over and over.  But yet when God honestly looked into their lives, there was no performance.  The real heart wasn’t there, the heart of love towards him and the fear of God.  That was not there.  Instead there were other things in their hearts and lives [like making money, having prestige]. 


So many professing Christians, so few real ones


And you know, that’s the challenge so often with people, and even in our country.  You know, statistically, I don’t remember the statistics, I’m sure you’ve heard them, but the percentage of Americans that profess to be born-again [i.e. having the Holy Spirit in them] is really high.  The percentage that profess to be Christian is like way, way high.  It’s just about to the top.  And not far below it is those claiming to be ‘born-again’, it’s amazing in our country.  We Americans profess to be Christians.  But yet, it’s not the profession, it’s not the promise, it’s what’s going on in the life, the performance.  And indeed there are many people even in this nation who profess, yet when it really comes down to a heart that you can see loves God, and follows God, it’s very different.  You know I can tell the world that I know God and that I love God, but what does my life say?  I can be all excited and say I’m all excited about the things of God, but what is my performance like?  That’s one of the traps, even as believers.  We can as true born-again believers, we can fall into that trap.  We can come and the worship can be really exciting to us, and we’re excited about the things of God, and we’ve got the books and we’ve got the music, we’re excited about God.  Yet when it really comes to following and fearing him and obeying his Word, is the performance the same as the excitement?  [see to learn more about the performance end of true Christianity, and what it should be.]  Is the performance the same as the excitement?  It is interesting, the example he gives of being the one who follows God is one that initially isn’t very excited.  It’s the guy who says ‘Nah, I don’t want to do that, come on, the Patriots are on, I don’t want to go serve at the church, come on, you’re kidding me, it’s Saturday night.’  And yet, ‘Ah, Lord, alright’, and then you go and do it.  And he says to the religious leaders, ‘Which one obeyed the Lord?’.  It was the first one, who said initially he wasn’t going to go.  That could be encouraging to you.  You know, if you look at the two groups, he says the first guy that had that kind of heart, represented the harlots and represented the tax collectors.  That would be those that lived completely against God.  I mean, the harlot, the prostitute, the people that just lived for the world.  But yet then, when they heard and were confronted with the Gospel, they wrestled with it, and there was that sense of repentance.  Like, ‘Ah, I regret what I’ve done, I don’t want to be that way anymore,’ and they changed, and they followed God.  And so that can be encouragement for you, if you’re here today, and you don’t like the way that you’ve lived, and God has spoken to your heart, and maybe you’re ashamed and wished it had been different, I mean, the good thing is, the example is, like these guys, they regretted it and they went out and lived differently.  And you can yet do the same thing, and he highlights that as the one who did the will of God.  That’s the great thing about God, there’s always that room for change.  Even this week, I have been with folks, I was in this situation where I was in a courtroom this week, and I heard somebody I care about, I didn’t know their past before, and recently became aware of it, and they just had legal challenges, and I was so grieved and sad to hear the sentence that came down by the judge.  I was just so sad to hear it, that’s such a heavy sentence to have to pay.  And yet, their whole life, if these things are true, they committed these crimes, now they are in Christ, they are forgiven.  They’ve reaped what they’ve sown, they’re going to jail for a long, long time.  And that just broke my heart to be in that courtroom and to hear that.  Oh, for this person, it just broke my heart.  But yet, in Christ, they’re forgiven, and there’s new life.  So this person, man, they may live the rest of their life in jail, at their age, it’s a long time, maybe.  But yet, when they die they’re going to be in the kingdom of heaven [at the first resurrection to immortality, see].  Right?  So there is that incredible thing about Christ and God and changing.  So you may have regrets over the way you’ve lived.  God may have given you his truth, and you may be aware of his instruction and you’re not living according to it, but you can change the path, man.  Now just to be sorry though, just to be sorry doesn’t really cut it.  Esau cried, we have the cry of Esau in the Scripture, where he cried, and he wanted it to change, but because of the condition of his heart he never changed.  And even God said “I loved Jacob but hated Esau.”  The cries of Esau, that kind of cry where you’re sorry about it, but you’re not going to change, really make a difference and change.  But the good thing is, you and I, and there’s testimonies that are all through this church, of people, so many of us, we changed, we’ve gone in a different direction.  And that’s just really nifty. 


‘The harlots and tax collectors will enter God’s Kingdom before you guys’


Well, but the religious leaders, all promise, but no performance.  And they despised these harlots and they despised these tax collectors, to them these guys are like so far from God.  But Jesus is showing it’s really the other way around.  You’re the ones who are far from God.  He says, “They enter the kingdom of God before you.”  They have changed, they have come to him, and they…[tape switchover, some text lost]…amen.  Well he says, these tax collectors and harlots, with the ministry of John the Baptist, they believed in him.  And he came in the way of righteousness and they believed him, and he says “But you do not believe.”  ‘I mean, he came, and clearly the things that he spoke were true, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the hearts of the fathers, and he came as that messenger, but you didn’t believe him.  And then they, these harlots and tax collectors, believed him, and then you saw that they believed him, and not only that, you saw what happened in their lives, you saw the power of what was going on.’  Again, Jesus is saying to these religious leaders, ‘I mean, these people were changing.  [Proof of that is that you had believers who had only been baptized with John’s baptism scattered north of Judea, some even in Asia Minor, who were still with it spiritually, but knew something was missing, and then the apostles laid hands on them and they too received the Holy Spirit.  But they had changed as best they could on their own, due to their belief in what John  the Baptist had said.  Look in the book of Acts, see if you an find it, it’s there.]  They were going from the gutter to becoming somebody who contributes to society.  You watched, you religious leaders, you saw these people see and hear and believe, and what it did in their lives.’  And yet, he says, ‘You did not afterward relent, and believe still as a result.’  So these religious leaders, their spirituality, all promise, but no performance. 


Pride can blind you, make you unwilling to accept Christ


But also we see, they had the sense of unwillingness, that sense of reluctance to believe.  They weren’t going to believe.  And that’s so like so many.  There are many people, doesn’t really matter what they see and what you do, they yet are reluctant and unwilling.  There are people, maybe you even know today, maybe there are people listening in right now, people who are part of this, where you’ve watched Christ work, you’ve seen God work in a life in your family, you’ve seen God touch your spouse and change your spouse, you’ve noted, you’ve seen the change.  You’ve watched God change your children or your parents, and you’ve noted that, but yet, you’re still reluctant, you’re still unwilling, you’re still resistant.  And that was the spirituality of these religious leaders too.  When the real deal was there, the real work of God, they were still reluctant.  And it had to do with pride.  It was pride that made them unwilling.  And you know even today it’s that way too.  There are lots of people, they’ll say ‘Oh, I’m not going to believe, give me more evidence, I need more evidence.’  And yet, it isn’t evidence that they need, they already have enough evidence.  The real issue is an unwillingness.  It’s a reluctance, it’s the pride, that’s the same heart of these religious leaders.  You may remember, I believe I shared it not too long ago, but coming back from the retreat that I was part of in France, flying on the flight from Germany to the States, coming back I sat next to a guy, and we were talking, he was a researcher, University of Massachusetts, we got talking, and he learned I was a pastor, so we got talking about spiritual things.  And he made that statement to me, because I was asking what he thought about God and church.  And he looked out the window of the plane, and he says, “You know I look out there,” and he says, “I say intelligent design, I look at all that stuff out there, I say intelligent design.”  But then he turned towards me and he says, “But, I’m not going to believe intelligent design.  So I’ve chosen to believe that none of this exists.”  And so you remember, I shared that.  But he says ‘I look at the evidence, intelligent design’, ‘nope, but I’m not going to accept that, so none of this exists.’  ‘So none of this exists, huh?  OK.’  Well anyway, maybe you’re here today, and you’ve been reluctant.  And the question, ‘Why are you reluctant, when it comes to Christ?’  You’ve been unwilling.  Why are you unwilling?  Why are you unwilling?  Why are you reluctant?  You may say, ‘Well, I need more evidence, or you may have these excuses, but the real issue really ultimately is a form of pride in your heart, and a form of carnality.  [Professor with a good job, he’d lose it if he admitted ID, pride of position, fear over losing a job.  Hey, I lost some jobs for following Christ.  God always blessed me with another one, almost right away.  Matter of where your heart is.] 


Parable of the Landowner & the Evil Vinedressers


Well verse 33, in this last parable we’ll look at. verses 33-46, “Hear another parable:  There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.  And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.  Now when the vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.  And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.  Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.  Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’  But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’  So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?’  They said to him, ‘He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the LORD’s doing, and is marvelous in our eyes’?  Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.’  Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes, because they took him for a prophet.”  So he shares another parable, and very interesting, it’s about a man who owns a vineyard.  He actually plants this vineyard, he digs a winepress, not very easy to do, generally those were chiseled out of stone.  You know, you’d crush the grapes in this area that was chiseled into the stone.  It says he does that, and then he leases it and he then goes to a far country.  Luke chapter 20 says he goes for a long time.  Jesus added that, chapter 20, verse 9 of Luke, he went for a long time.  Now it was, to plant a vineyard is a big work, it’s quite an extensive work, and it’s also not cheap, a lot of investment, and it also takes quite awhile to get any return on it, a least four years.  But he leases it to vinedressers.  And so at vintage time in this parable, this owner comes back [through his servants] to obtain some fruit of the vineyard.  Basically, to collect rent.  Now in Israel today, that’s not uncommon for a Jewish person to, if you go to Israel today, even the large companies that own the large vineyards, they often will lease them to the Arabs and have them work in and take care of their vineyards, that’s not uncommon today.  But it’s interesting, even in Israel today there’s, this is not uncommon to find, even in the smaller vineyards, there is the understanding that the law says, God said in the Old Testament Law, on the Seventh Year the land was to rest, [they call that The Land Sabbath] and you weren’t to work the land.  So today in Israel it’s not uncommon for a Jew who owns a small vineyard, to work it six years, and then on the 7th year, to lease it to an Arab, let him work it, and then get a percentage of what he does, and then of course later to pick it back up and work it himself, as if they’re fulfilling the Law.  That wasn’t the point.  But anyway, so he leases it, not uncommon.  He comes back, looking for some fruit.  Initially he sends his servants, and the vinedressers take the servants, they beat one, they kill another, they stone another.  And just imagine, there were all these stories coming back.  So he sends even more.  And they continue to do the same.  And then eventually, he says, ‘Alright, I’ll send them my son.’  It says in Mark and in Luke, that word “beloved”, he says “I’ll send them my beloved son”, interestingly.  ‘They’ve got to respect my beloved son, and it’s my vineyard anyway.’  So he sends his beloved son.  When they see the son coming, maybe they start thinking, ‘Hey, the son’s coming, dad must be dead.’  And they say ‘Hey, this is the heir, let’s kill him, let’s seize his inheritance and take it for ourselves.’  So they actually take the son, cast him out of the vineyard, and they kill him.  Jesus then poses the question to them, ‘What do you think the owner of the vineyard is going to do to these vinedressers that have treated him in this way?’  Well what’s the meaning of the parable?  It’s pretty clear, isn’t it?  I mean this is one that Jesus even brings it out a little bit later, the vineyard owner, obviously, is God [the Father], the vineyard itself is the house of Israel [in the time of Solomon, it would have been all 12 tribes.  Now when Jesus is speaking, it is only the house of Judah, made up of Judah, Benjamin and the priestly tribe of Levi].  Psalm 80, again we noted this before, but often in the Old Testament “You have brought a vine out of Egypt, you’ve cast out the nations and planted it, you prepared room for it, caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land.  The hills were covered with its shadow, and the mighty cedars with its bows.  She sent out her bows into the sea and the branches to the rivers.”  So, vineyard, house of Israel, the vineyard planter, the owner is God.  The vinedressers are the religious leaders.  And the servants that are sent here repeatedly are the holy prophets that were sent to the nation of Israel and Judah, and of course the beloved son is Jesus.  And that is interesting, because this would be potentially the first time in Matthew where he actually acknowledges himself, not directly, but indirectly as the Son of God.  And maybe because of what he says here, Caiaphus later will question him in just a couple days.  He will say “Are you the Christ?  Are you the Son of God?”.  He’ll question him and say that, very possibly because of what he says right here in this parable.  So, God plants this vineyard, plants this nation, gives it all kinds of wonderful blessings, gives them the Law, gives them the Promised Land, I mean, he just gave it to them.  I mean, they just came in, he destroyed the nations before them, he gave them the nation, gave them the priesthood, gave them the Temple, gave them the relationship with him.  And yet the religious leaders, over time, got distracted, got selfish, and the people in general began to serve other gods and went after idolatry, so he sends the prophets, waking up early, his representatives, to go and admonish and to encourage, to seek to turn their hearts back to him.  And yet they did repeatedly, repeatedly they beat the prophets, they treated them shamefully, they rejected the prophets, and in some instances even killed them [See and read through that six part series to read about this history of Israel].  You look at Jeremiah, all the abuse that he endured  [See read about all of that].  You look at guys like Urijah (a holy prophet in Jerusalem during Jeremiah’s time) who was killed, and of course others who they tried to kill, and we have the historical testimonies of guys like Isaiah who were sawn in two.  The author of Hebrews, writing about these men, said “they were stoned, they were sawn in two, or slain with the sword”, so he says, that’s exactly what happened, he’s just given them a little lesson on history here, about him with them, and them, especially these religious leaders, these vinedressers.  Well he was longsuffering, sends his own son, his own son’s come now, they don’t even recognize the Messiah, all the prophecies of the Old Testament, all the promises, they don’t even recognize him because of their pride, their blindness.  [to see those prophecies, log onto:]  They’re even threatened by him, so they reject him.  And it’s interesting, he says that they took him and cast him out of the vineyard.  That’s exactly what they did, they took him out of the city, out of the camp, and they crucified him.  As Paul says in Hebrews chapter 13, verse 12, “Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify a people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.”  And they’re going to do that in just a couple days.  He’s telling them what they’re just about to do. 


Another trait of fruitless religious leaders---they’re threatened by others and the spiritual works of others


Well this parable here illustrates again their spirituality, and their spirituality, for one, these religious leaders were threatened by others.  They were threatened by any other possible spiritual worker, spiritual person.  There was this religious pride.  When there’s religious pride, that’s so often the case, you’re often threatened by others, threatened by the work of God being done by others, threatened by the work in the Church [Body of Christ].  And I wonder if even some of that is going on in our State House, in our country.  It seems there is.  I was reading a little while back, this gal in our local newspaper had an editorial, and boy she really was harsh on the Church.  But in some ways, I thought, ‘You have a good point’, this is true of the Church.  And I was going to write her a letter.  And it had been a couple days, and I was going to be kind and just say ‘You know what, what you say is true,’ although I sense some poison there, ‘But what you say is true,’ and I was going to surprise her, and maybe say ‘Pastor’ on there, you know what I mean?  And then a couple days later, and here’s this editorial of this gal again, and there’s her picture, and she was really brutal again against the Church.  And then I noticed a few times right in a row, what she’s writing might not even be about the Church, but somehow she brings the Church in there, and just kind of comes with a poke.  She seems to be threatened by the Church [Body of Christ].  Seems to be a statement of pride in her life.  Hey man, the Church in some ways in America is a mess, I’d have to attest to that.  But yet there’s a poison in that gal’s pen,  kind of like these religious leaders, just being threatened by where there is yet a work of God, and that religious pride.  And that same type of thing, that carnality, that same spirit to it can yet even be in the Church [Body of Christ] today.  That’s why the Church is divided in so many cases, that’s why we historically have stayed apart.  [Comment:  There is a prime example of this taking place within the Sabbatarian Churches of God.  There is one reason the Body of Christ needs to have various divisions, it’s a proper reason. And that is where in the secondary areas, there are doctrinal differences of belief.  That’s ok.  You need differing denominations and churches who represent the various differing secondary doctrinal beliefs.  What follows is an example were having differing denominational barriers is totally unnecessary, and is actually very unhealthy spiritually for their members.  There are a number of Sabbatarian Churches of God that all more or less share identical doctrinal beliefs, but are divided up into many separate organizations, and it is solely out of religious pride and wanting to control the flow of tithes, quite similar to these religious leaders who were confronting Jesus in this passage of Scripture.  Now not all the Sabbatarian Churches of God have this problem, and they’re not all hungry for people’s tithes, and they are not all what I would classify as “toxic churches”, but the others are filled with this pride, and I would most definitely classify them, to one degree or another, as  being “toxic churches.”  One of these Sabbatarian Church of God denominations just recently divided in half, where there are now two denominations instead of one, and this division was not done over doctrine at all, but over ‘leadership’ issues, again, “whose going to be the Big Leader, whose going to call the shots, whose going to make the executive decisions.”  That kind of stuff is not of God, and it saddens me, because the poor sheep in those sheepfolds do have the Holy Spirit, and they are being hurt, and starved spiritually, in these toxic environments.  My prayer, and you might consider praying this as well, but my prayer is that the Lord would deal with these toxic churches (deal with their leaders, that is), and gently guide the sheep within them into the few non-toxic Sabbatarian Churches of God that are around.  Check out this site’s blog for more details of this situation, not posted for gossip’s sake, but that genuine believers might pray about the situation, and that those unfortunate sheep caught up within those toxic churches might find their way out and into better church environments that still suit their doctrinal belief systems.  So see more information on this sad situation.]  And one church starts to do too well, and the other churches start to get threatened.  But when there really is the love of God, and this is the spirituality of these guys, they’re threatened by others, but when there is really the true love of God, that doesn’t exist anymore.  You see the Body of Christ for what it is.  It’s now us, it’s now we, it’s not Baptists, it’s not Pentecostals, it’s not Calvary Chapel, it’s not any other orthodox or non-orthodox, it’s just we love Jesus, we’re Jesus people, it’s us, it’s we.  Another thing about their spirituality that we note, it was very self-serving, these religious leaders.  It’s given, I mean, they look for the opportunity, they’re taking the fruit to themselves, they’re not letting the owner have any.  And then when he comes by sending servants, they don’t allow that [honor that], and then when the son comes they actually kill him and take the inheritance.  Their spirituality, their religion was very self-serving and self-gratifying.  And that’s true of man’s religion, that’s often true of  people who think of themselves as spiritual, but their spirituality is just “me focused”, “what can I get out of it, what can I seize, how can it benefit me?”  There isn’t that real spirituality of God in them, that love of God in them, that love of fellow man in them.  Their spirituality doesn’t exist to be a blessing to others, to be used by God and the lives of others.  It’s all “me, me, me, and what I get, and what I don’t get.  And if this church doesn’t cut it, I’ll go to anther church, and if this church doesn’t give me what I want, I’ll go to the next church.”  [And heaven help the churches people like that go to.  For such are tares sown within the wheat of God’s coming harvest.]  And they do that, and they do that, and they do that.  Self-serving, that’s the religion of man without the Spirit of God. 


The Fate of Evil Vinedressers


Well that was these religious leaders, and as a result, the result of that sort of religion and spirituality is destruction, and that’s where they’re headed, as you can see here.  They are, the nation is, their religion is headed for destruction.  “When the owner of the vineyard comes,” verse 40, “what will he do to those vinedressers?”  They said to him, “He will kill those wicked men miserably.”  That is a Greek idiom, it’s in literary Greek often, meaning basically he will “put the wretches to a wretched death.”  Meaning, ‘These terrible people will get a terrible death’ is basically how that Greek is.  Now in this passage here, they answer the question, which is real interesting.  It would seem then from the other Gospels, because in the other Gospels, Mark and Luke, he answers the question, it would seem they probably answer it, and then he then comes and answers it.  But they answer it.  Kind of like Nathan, when Nathan came to David and said ‘David, here’s a little story’, and David said ‘Oh man, that guy should should be killed.’  And then Nathan said, ‘That guy is you, David.’  You know, same kind of thing.  ‘You answered the question, you gave the verdict.’  And they gave the verdict, and it’s a verdict about themselves.  It would then seem that Jesus then responds, after, and I would think he probably did that and when he says it in a certain way, and says, ‘You’re right.  It’s exactly what will happen, to the vinedressers, the vineyard will be taken from them, and it will be given to others, he’ll destroy those vinedressers, and he will give it to others who will bear fruit, and he’ll be able to partake in the fruit.’  Because we read in Luke, chapter 20, verse 17, that they actually then say “Certainly not.”  So he probably then looks at them, and they began to realize he’s speaking about them.  Well Jesus then says, quotes from Psalm 118, “Have you never read in the Scriptures”, ‘don’t you understand, this was all there before.’  I mean, those guys know these passages, this is something that they know well, part of their Feast which they say every year, they know these verses, I mean, this is something that was part of their Passover Feast they would say every year.  But they didn’t know what it meant, they were blinded to it.  ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the builders rejected, the ones doing the building rejected it, but it has become the chief cornerstone, and this was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’  Don’t you understand?  Him being the chief stone, the capstone, the cornerstone, you’ve rejected me, but yet in the end, I still am what I am.’  And God’s doing a work here, and that’s the reality of the situation.  “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you, and given to a nation”, someone else, “bearing the fruit of it.”  You know, they might have, sometimes the Word of God will go out, and people will be saying ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah,’ scoffers and mockers will say ‘Oh yeah, oh yeah’, but it was just a short time later, the nation was gone, the whole thing was gone, and the Church Age began.  And really that “other nation” that he refers to is the Church.  [Comment:  But the Church in no way replaces all the Old Testament promises in the prophecies for the nation of Israel, which is what those who teach Replacement Theology try to teach you.  Why?  Because at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, the nation of Israel will be re-grafted back into and onto “the holy olive tree,” which the Church is grafted onto.  Paul brings this out in Romans 11.  Zechariah 12:10-14 shows that all of Judah still alive at his coming will recognize Jesus as their Messiah, and mourn for him, and what the Jewish leaders had been responsible for doing to him.  All the Jews will repent in one massive wave of repentance, and what remains of the Jewish nation, the Israeli nation, as well as all the Jews around the world, will become believers in Jesus Christ.  Then whoever make up the 10 ‘Lost’ tribes of Israel will follow suit in that repentance.  So all of Israel will be grafted into the Christ, at Jesus’ return, and then will be able to receive the promises of old, those contained in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Joel and the others.  So has the Church replaced Israel?  No!  It has not replaced Israel.  The Church itself that is part of the 1st Resurrection to Immortality (cf. 1st Corinthians 15) has it’s own set of rewards and promises, given in the Book of Revelation.  Replacement Theology shows a dire lack of real understanding of God’s prophecies in his Word, and has led Catholicism and Lutheranism to slaughter millions of innocent Jews.  So don’t even think of going down that road with me.  Also the nasty doctrine of Amillennialism is a close cousin to Replacement Theology, which in itself attempts to allegorize away the literal interpretations of all the Old Testament Millennial Kingdom of God prophecies.  See]  Even Peter says, 1st Peter 2 about the Church, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation”, his own special people, “that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  ‘Given to a nation bearing the fruits of it’, so there’s yet that responsibility.  And Paul even says that in Romans chapter 11, you know, we can say as the Church in reading this about the nation of Israel, ‘Well hey, they weren’t fruitful, so we’ve become in this sense that nation [of Israel, a spiritual Israel] in that sense.’  But then Paul warns, ‘Don’t be haughty, but fear, for if God did not spare the natural branches, he may not spare you either, if you’re not fruitful.’ 


The meaning of verse 44


Verses 44-46, “‘And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.’  Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes, because they took him for a prophet.”  Then finally, verse 44, he “Whoever falls on this stone will be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”  And so, it’s always been the case with man when it comes to Christ, you know the stone here, the stone the builders rejected, the stone in verse 44, throughout the Old Testament “the stone” was representative of God, in some cases “the stone” was used in Messianic passages to refer to the Messiah, The Stone.  The “stone” so many times, the Rock, being God himself.  And so therefore ‘Whoever falls on this stone, who falls on Christ, will be broken, but on whomever it falls it will grind him to powder.’  You know, this is interpreted in different ways, but the way I see it is this, and this is often the way it is interpreted:  ‘When you come and fall on this stone, it’s that sense of brokenness.  I see that as somebody who comes to God, somebody’s eyes are opened, and they realize who Christ is, as the Saviour of the world, that he’s come and died for their sins.  Somebody like that first son in the preceding parable who realized this isn’t right and regretted it, now comes to God, falls on Christ, that sense of being broken.  You only can come to Christ that way of being broken over your sin, as we saw even in the beatitudes, that poverty of spirit, ‘Blessed are those who are poor in spirit,’ I’m broken, I realize I desperately need the grace of God and the forgiveness of God, I need a Saviour.  “Whoever falls on this stone will be broken, but on whoever it falls will be ground to powder.”  We have the choice, we can be broken, or we can be ground.  And you can come and be broken and repent of your sin and turn to Christ and let God forgive you of your sin.  But if you choose not to do that, there is that picture in Daniel this Rock that’s going to come and destroy the nations (cf. Daniel 2:44).  And we know that ultimately in the end, Christ is going to judge the nations, and you can fall now and fall before him and be broken, but if you choose not to, later he will judge, and it will be as if you’re ground to powder.’  Well the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, and they perceived that he was speaking of them.  And that does not help at this point, so they seek to lay hands on him.  But they’re afraid of the people, because the people believe he’s a prophet, so they can’t do it.  Now, remember, Jesus told the disciples on the way there that he would first be betrayed.  And that’s what’s going to happen, because in the daylight, in the city, I mean these people think he’s a prophet, and the religious leaders know that they can’t do anything.  And they’re ticked off, they want to seize him.  They can’t do anything about it, clearly.  But, there’s the one disciple, Judas, who in just a short time will go to them, and he’ll say, ‘Listen, I know how you can get the guy, here’s how you can.  You give me some money and I’ll take care of that.  I’ll take you to where he is at night, where he is in private, I’ll take you to a private place at night.’  And that’s exactly what they do, they go at night, it’s a private place, they arrest him then, I mean, they have a midnight trial, which was illegal according to the Law, a midnight trial, in the middle of the night.  Then in the early, early hours of the morning they convict him, and it’s like 9am at the latest, they have him on the cross.  Because he’s popular with the multitudes, he’s seen as a prophet.  But Jesus said ‘I’ll be betrayed.’  And that’s what it’s going to lead to in just two days, two days and a little bit more to him being crucified.  Let’s close in prayer…[connective expository sermon on Matthew 21:23-46, given somewhere in New England]


Related links:


Christian Defense Organizations:


Wrong kind of division in the Body of Christ:


Last six days in the life of Jesus Christ:


The Performance end of Christianity:


How the Jews persecuted “the servants of the landowner”, the prophets:


Evils of Replacement Theology: