February 21, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Matthew 20-22
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Context: Chapter 20 is divided into four parts, but there is a running theme throughout all four: the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The parable of the vineyard shows this quite literally. When reading, it can be hard to read the parable and not agree with the workers hired first. It highlights a problem we often experience when reading the Bible. We insert our ideas into the stories, often without meaning. In this case, we insert our idea of right and wrong. Well, our idea of fairness is not the same as the Lord's idea of fairness. In chapter 21, Jesus is no longer hiding. His entry into Jerusalem announces who He is. It is a royal procession, a red carpet event. Previously, Jesus chose to avoid conflict. Now, He initiated it. He threw out the money lenders from the Temple, which represented the financial corruption within the Temple. The following day, Jesus is questioned by the Sanhedrin as to the origins of His authority. Jesus refuses to answer them when they refuse to acknowledge that John the Baptist's authority was given by God. In the following three parables, Jesus is represented as the son in each. The religious leaders are represented as the second son, the tenants, and the guests, in the respective parables. Jesus is set up to fail by opposing factions when questioned about paying taxes. The Pharisees were a religious sect opposed Roman rule, while the Herodians were a political party supporting Roman rule through Herod. If Jesus had agreed that taxes should be paid, it could have discredited Him, as it was an unpopular opinion for the Jews. If Jesus had spoken out against paying taxes to Caesar, he could have been arrested for treason. The Sadducees were next to try and trick Jesus. They attempted to use scripture and, in the process, demonstrated their own lack of understanding. After the Pharisees attempted to trick Jesus again, He had a question for them, which silenced them. The Pharisees refused to acknowledge Jesus was not only the Son of David, but also the Lord; He was not your average Man.
World History: When Jesus entered Jerusalem, there was an exceptionally large crowd, as many had made the trek from their hometown to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Passover. These same crowds, which welcomed Jesus with open arms, would, in just five days, turn against Him and call for His death. Jesus was upset with business being performed inside the Temple, of which the Pharisees likely received a cut of the profits. The Sanhedrin were the executive, legislative, and judicial branch of the Jewish government. The Sadducees were the majority sect within the Sanhedrin.