Harmony of the Gospels

 -Tuesday-
Jerusalem
(5) Sanhedrin Challenges Jesus: Answered by Parables: Two Sons, Wicked
      Husbandmen, and Marriage Feast
(Is. 5:1, 2) Mark 11:27-12:12, Matthew 21:23-22:14(focal passage), Luke 20:1-19


                                                            Matthew 21:23-22:14

23 Now when He came 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?”
24 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:
25 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?’
26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
27 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.
28 “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.’
29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 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.
32 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.
33 “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.
34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41 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.”
42 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 it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

 
1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:
2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’
5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.
6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.
7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’
10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”


They Rejected God the Father (vv. 23-32)

23 Now when He came 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?”
24 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:

On Jesus’ third day of successive visits to the temple (to be precise, Herod’s temple), Jesus returned to the courts He had just recently claimed for His Father. There, His authority was challenged by the ever-threatening chief priests, including the High Priest, who was also president of the Sanhedrin, and elders, who were nonprofessionals or scribes and served as members of the Jewish high court. These religious leaders came to Christ in their official capacity. They had spies watching Him that had heard His teaching, had seen His miracles, and had recently seen Him come into Jerusalem hailed as a king. They thought He was a real threat to their leadership. In their own view, they were attempting to protect their laws and traditions against one who appeared to be a *usurper who reinterpreted the law, rejected tradition, and overthrew the moneychangers.

Jesus had spoken with authority on matters, which they considered their responsibility. He did not challenge their right to question Him, but He did oppose their hypocrisy and insincerity in such questioning.
They understood that Jesus was claiming authority as Messiah. They had to acknowledge that He had some source of indisputable authority, therefore they asked by what authority He had done these controversial things (that is, to cleanse the temple, to curse the fig tree, and to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem). He certainly had not received His authority from them. They hoped to trap Him, no matter how He answered. If He claimed to have authority in Himself as the Son of God, they would accuse Him of blasphemy. If He claimed authority from men, they would discredit Him. If He claimed authority from God, they would challenge Him. They considered themselves the guardians of the faith, professionals who by formal training and human appointment were authorized to direct the religious life of the people. But did you notice that they did not question what the Lord was doing. They have no basis on which they can deny the miraculous things he does; they can only question his authority. Jesus had no formal schooling and certainly no credentials from Israel’s rulers. Their challenge reflected the age-old resentment felt by professional religionists against men with the power of divine anointing. Knowing that they would never recognize any authority but their own, He refused to answer them. Instead, He offered to explain His authority if they would answer a question for Him.

This incident forms the setting of the all-out attempt by the various religious authorities to expose and humiliate Jesus, which ends in their total frustration and embarrassment. The beauty and dynamics of these incidents reveal Jesus’ mental prowess over the greatest minds of Israel. The divine Savior is a genius, with no human peer. He can stump the Jews, mystify the Romans, and challenge the mind of any mortal man! Jesus has authority because He is the Son of God! The nation rejected the Father when they refused the witness of John, and now they were about to reject the Son.

Usurper     Four definitions are found in the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon: 1 one who with his own hands kills another or himself. 2 one who acts on his own authority, autocratic. 3 an absolute master. 4 to govern or exercise dominion over one.

 

25 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?’
26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”

Instead of answering their question, He turned the tables on them. He asked them about the authority of the baptism of John, which they had never officially sanctioned. John’s baptism should be understood as meaning John’s ministry. Therefore the question was, “Who authorized John to carry on his ministry? Was his ordination human or divine? What credentials did he hold from Israel’s leaders?” The answer was obvious: John was a man sent from God. His power came from divine endorsement, not from human consent.

When John came ministering, the religious crowd showed great interest in his work, but they would not humble themselves and be baptized (Matt. 3:7-12; Jn. 1:19-28). The nonreligious crowds, however, confessed their sins, obeyed John’s words, and were baptized. But, of course, the leaders felt that they had no need to repent.

The priests and elders were in a dilemma. If they said that John was not commissioned by God, they adopted a position that would be ridiculed by the people, most of whom agreed that John was a prophet from God. On the other hand, if they had correctly answered that John was divinely sent, they were trapped, because they would have had the answer to their own question: Jesus was the Messiah of whom John had been the forerunner. Jesus could then have asked why they had not repented and believed Him.

 

27 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.

You can sense the tension developing in this situation. To acknowledge that His authority was from heaven would condemn them for not receiving it and to claim it was from men (that is to say, of human origin) would upset the people. These were weak men, who always tested public opinion before making a decision. They refused to face the facts, so they pleaded ignorance. Their reply “We do not know” was begging the question and brought His clever response: “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Why should He tell them what they already knew but were unwilling to admit? Besides, if they could not tell that much about John, why did they question the authority of One who was greater than John was? This passage shows that the great essential in teaching God’s word is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. One who has the Spirit can triumph over those whose power is wrapped up in degrees, human titles, and honors.

Jesus continues the dialog with the religious leaders by telling a parable that is called The Parable of the Two Sons.  

 

28 “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.’
29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’
but he did not go.
31 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.
32 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.

The Parable of the Two Sons has a three-fold message; it is an exposé of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, a vindication of John’s ministry, and a substantiation of the true work of God in general.
The first son initially said I will not go, representing the immoral disobedience of the tax collectors and harlots (This group were the outsiders of Jewish society and were publicly despised by the chief priests and elders.) who later repented and believed under John and Jesus’ preaching. Notice the connection between genuine repentance and changed action in verse 29 (regretted it, and went). No one who truly repents fails to show clear evidence of his inner heart change by his outward obedience. The second son promised to go but did not follow through with obedience. Jesus asked, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” By answering, “The first,” the religious leaders had condemned themselves. This very effective teaching method is commonly used in the Bible as a judicial parable, whereby the answerer condemns himself by the obviously implied answer (that is, Nathan’s parable to David about the lamb; the Parable of the Good Samaritan, answering the prejudiced question, “Who is my neighbor?”).

The expression “John came to you in the way of righteousness” means that he came preaching the necessity of righteousness through repentance and faith. John had preached the way of righteousness (*II Pet 2:21) and the leaders had rejected him, even while claiming to be God’s obedient servants. Thus, repentant sinners are more ready for the kingdom of God than disobedient religious leaders. It is the same today. Declared sinners receive the gospel more readily than those with a veneer of false piety do.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes, “The shock value of Jesus’ statement can only be appreciated when the low esteem, in which tax collectors were held, not to mention prostitutes, is taken into account. In our day of soft pornography on TV, we are not shocked by ‘prostitutes.’ But Jesus is saying that the scum of society, though it says no to God, repents, performs the Father’s will, and enters the kingdom, whereas the religious authorities loudly say yes to God but never do what he says, and therefore they fail to enter. Their righteousness is not enough (*Matt. 5:20). Thus the parable makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile, but it does between the religious leader and public sinner.”

The religious leaders did not recognize the right way to God, even though they saw how others were changed by responding to John’s message of repentance. (Jesus is indirectly stating that rejection of John is rejection of Him.) As with the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is emphasizing conduct over empty confession. Jesus taught that the outcasts of society could enter His kingdom if they would repent, while those who had lived a “religious” life but would not repent were the real outcasts.

2 Peter 2:21          "For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them"  The greater a person’s privilege, the greater his responsibility. The more a person knows of Christian standards, the more obligated he is to live up to them. It would be better never to have known God’s holy requirements, than having known them to turn back to the filth of the world.

Matthew 5:20      "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Because of the necessity of righteousness as a requirement to enter heaven, Jesus declared that except their righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees they could not enter heaven. The significance of this is seen in the fact that the Jews of Jesus’ day considered these people to be the most religious in all Israel. However, their religion was merely an outward show of self-righteousness. What the Savior demands is a kind of righteousness that is so godly that it cannot be the product of human effort but must be the gift of God. This righteousness Christ would establish in His life and death, and would be made available as God’s free gift. This is the righteousness that would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.

 


They Rejected the Son (vv. 33-46)

33 “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.
34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’
39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Jesus quickly gave another parable, the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Again, Jesus makes clear His divine authority by presenting Himself as the Son sent by the Father. The landowner represents God the Father and the vineyard is Israel, a symbol of the theocracy, which was familiar to the Jewish leaders (*Isa 5:1–7). The vinedressers have attempted to usurp the authority of the owner and make the vineyard their own—the essence of the parable is rebellion against God. To do so they must kill the son. Jesus had been telling His followers that their leaders would kill Him; here He confronted the leaders with the same message. The vinedressers were the religious leaders and the far country is heaven.  The hedge is the Law of Moses, which separated Israel from the Gentiles and preserved them as a distinct people for the Lord. The tower suggests Jehovah’s watchful care for His people.  The anticipated fruit represents spiritual evidence of true conversion, which was to be the end result of the work of the vinedressers. Instead, the religion of Israel had degenerated into a formal system for the benefit of the priests who were now more concerned about perpetuating their own interests. The servants sent by the owner represent the Old Testament prophets (including John the Baptist); who came to correct religious abuses in the nation and were also rejected by their contemporaries (though highly thought of by subsequent generations. In the parable, the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. It seems hardly possible that a landowner would continue to send small parties when he could have sent a large band to forcibly take the land, or that servants would obey such dangerous orders. These facts not only are included for the purposes of the story, but they illustrate God’s long-suffering with His people in the Old Testament. .Last of all indicates that Jesus was God’s final emissary to Israel. None has ever appeared since Him and none ever will until the Jews recognize Christ as their final Prophet and Messiah! The desire to kill the rightful heir of the Father had already been expressed by the Jewish leaders (*Jn 11:47–53), they are quoted as saying; “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance” (v. 38). In real life they said, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48). And so they rejected Him, threw Him out, and crucified Him. 

It seems clear that this parable is speaking of the nation of Israel that had been carefully prepared by God to be His fruitful vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7). The care of the vine had been committed to the nation’s religious leaders. But they had failed to acknowledge the Master’s right over them, and had treated His messengers and prophets badly.

Jesus clearly foretold His coming rejection and death with the statement they cast him out (Jesus was crucified outside the city) and killed him. It was the ultimate act of violence, and that brought swift and final judgment upon those greedy men. Likewise, God endured the rebellious actions of His people for centuries. Their leaders had drifted so far from the truth that when the Son of God appeared, they rejected and murdered Him.

When in the parable He said, “Then last of all he sent his son to them,” the Son was standing before them, giving them the parable. It was His final warning to the religious rulers.

Isaiah 5:1-7     1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill.
2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.
3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.

These verses comprise a parable of the vineyard, which symbolizes the nation of Israel (this figure also appears in Jer 12:10). It is called the song of my beloved. It resembles the same concept as the Song of Solomon, only in this passage it becomes a song of lament. The beloved one is the Lord Himself. Israel is the vineyard, which has been properly cared for and yet has brought wild grapes. Fitch (p. 566) notes that the setting is one of a fertile vineyard set on the sunny slopes of a rocky hill, with the winepress hollowed out of the rock and the walls and towers of defense built about it. Yet, in spite of this preparation, it still becomes unproductive. The imagery is illustrative of the idea that spiritually God has prepared Israel to bring forth fruit unto Himself and yet she has only brought forth the wild grapes of sin.

John 11:47-53      47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.
48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”
49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all,
50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”
51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,
52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death
.

Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead caused many of the Jews to believe in Him. Jewish authorities felt they could no longer allow Jesus to work miracles and convert the Jews. The Sadducees and Pharisees quickly called a meeting of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish supreme court) to discuss the problem. The Jewish nation held a privileged status within the Roman Empire, and the Sanhedrin feared that Jesus would gain a large following, cause a civil uproar, and anger the governing Roman Empire. If that happened, these religious leaders would lose their positions and political power. The high priest Caiaphas suggested that Jesus should be killed.

 

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 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 it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Verse 40 represents the condemning question of The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers; what will he do to those vinedressers?” Their reply again unwittingly condemned their own attitude of rejection toward Jesus. The other vinedressers will become the Gentiles (vs. 43). Jesus quoted *Psalm 118:22–23 exactly, relating His present rejection to His ultimate triumph. In Acts, Paul quoted the same Psalm—“This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” (Acts 4:11)—where the stone, which the builders rejected, is Christ. The Sanhedrin represents the builders of Israel’s religion, who rejected the real cornerstone of God, i.e., Jesus the true cornerstone of the foundation of the church, which will be that nation bearing the fruits (*I Peter 2:7–9). Equating the vineyard with the kingdom of God, McClain (The Greatest of the Kingdom) notes that this clearly shows the kingdom as mediated to Israel through divinely appointed kings and now being transferred (mediated) to the church during the interval between Christ’s First and Second Coming.

When Christ, the Stone, presented Himself to the builders—the leaders of Israel, they had no place for Him in their building plans. They threw Him aside as useless. But following His death He was raised from the dead and given the place of preeminence by God. He has been made the topmost stone in God’s building: “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name ...” (Phil. 2:9).

I Peter 2:7–9     7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,”
8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
9 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;
God is building a temple out of living stones (Eph. 2:19–22), and we are privileged to be part of it. We are built on Jesus Christ, so there is no way the temple can be destroyed.

Psalms 118:22-23      22 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. Although this verse may refer to Israel or the Temple, it undoubtedly has as its primary referent the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is the living stone, the precious stone. The Messiah that the Jews rejected will one day be anointed King on the throne of David. The Savior that the world rejected will one day be “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16). Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of His church, that which holds it together, and that upon which it is built. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. The resurrection and exalted position of the Lord Jesus were not the work of men, for they had rejected Him. It was the work of Almighty God.

 

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

In verse 43, Jesus bluntly announced that the kingdom of God would be taken from Israel and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And so, it happened. Israel has been set aside as God’s chosen people and has been judicially blinded. A hardening has come upon the race that rejected its Messiah. The prophecy that the kingdom of God would be given to a nation bearing the fruits of it has been understood as referring to: (1) the church, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles—“a holy nation, God’s own people” (*1 Pet. 2:9); or (2) the believing portion of Israel that will be living at the Second Coming. Redeemed Israel will bring forth fruit for God.

Verses 42 and 44 allude to *Isaiah 8:14–15 and *Daniel 2:34, 44–45. Leon Morris explains their meaning: “To fall on the stone, or have the stone fall on one, in either case means destruction. People may reject and oppose Jesus but it is they, not he, who will suffer. The second part of the saying will refer to the future judgment. It will be their attitude toward Jesus that will mean the final destruction of the people of his day.”

The line was clearly drawn and supported by the Old Testament (*Ps. 118:22, 23). To reject Jesus was and is to reject God (*Acts 4:11, 12).

Daniel 2:34, 44–45      34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”

A stone was cut out without hands must indicate a supernatural origin for the stone. It is not manufactured in any way. Of course, it represents Christ and His millennial kingdom, which succeeds all earthly kingdoms after the Great Tribulation. Which smote the image upon his feet … and break them to pieces?

Nebuchadnezzar was no doubt stunned when he saw such a glorious structure completely smashed by the strange stone. He may have feared that it might have something to do with his own kingdom. In the days of these kings, points to the future when the Roman Empire will be reassembled during the Tribulation period after the rapture of believers at Christ’s return. The God of heaven would then set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed. God’s kingdom is that referred to in Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5–6; Micah 4:1–8, and predicted at Christ’s birth in Luke 1:32–33. This kingdom was never established during Christ’s earthly ministry, as can be seen from the statements in Matthew 19:28; Luke 19:11; and Acts 1:6–7. God will set up this kingdom on earth at his return from Glory at the conclusion of the Battle of Armageddon. Revelation 20:4–6 describes Christ ruling and reigning over the earthly kingdom predicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The great God refers to Jehovah, Creator of heaven and earth, as distinguished from King Nebuchadnezzar. What shall come to pass hereafter is a dream presented as a preview of the entire panorama of gentile world history. The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure speaks of the absolute authority of God’s revelation of these matters. There need be no squabbling over millennial issues. Amillennialism, which suggests that the one-thousand year kingdom of Revelation 20 is occurring in a spiritual form today, ignores the fact of a cataclysmic event to come that will completely obliterate all man-operated kingdoms and divinely and literally fulfill the Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom, even as the Jews anticipated in Christ’s day (Mt 19:28; Lk 19:11; Acts 1:6–7).

Isaiah 8:14–15     14 He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many among them shall stumble; They shall fall and be broken, Be snared and taken.”

God is described as either a sanctuary or a stumbling stone (v. 14). To those who reverently feared Him, He would be a sanctuary. To those who feared men and rejected the Lord, He would be a stumbling stone, a trap, and a snare. Everyone has a choice regarding how he or she will respond to God’s revelation, but each is responsible for the consequences of their choice. Without faith, no victory is possible.

Acts 4:11, 12      11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ The cornerstone of the building, which symbolized strength, held two walls together. Here Peter quoted Psalm 118:22, naming Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone, the very foundation of the Christian faith, which the “builders” (Jewish rulers) had rejected.
12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Healing, tongues, the church, the Spirit of God, even God the Father Himself is not the point of contact with sinful man. Jesus Christ alone is the One by whom salvation comes to mankind.

44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.
46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

“Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” In the first part of the verse, the stone is on the ground; in the second part, it is descending from above. This suggests the First and Second Coming of Christ. When He came the first time, the Jewish leaders stumbled over Him and were broken to pieces. When He comes again, He will descend in judgment, scattering His enemies like dust.

The warning contained in verse 43—the kingdom of God shall be taken from you was fulfilled at Pentecost when the “kingdom” was transferred to the church (see Romans 9–11 which clearly promises Israel’s restoration at the time of the Tribulation Period and the millennia! kingdom). Yet within this warning of judgment, Jesus offers mercy by falling on this stone, that is, falling upon Him in repentance and faith. But, His falling upon man in judgment will grind him to powder.

Finally, the Pharisees and chief priests perceived that He was speaking of them and wanted to kill Him but feared the multitude because they looked on Him as a prophet.


They Rejected the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-14)

The Holy Spirit came upon the early believers and they witnessed with great power that Jesus was alive and the nation could be saved (Acts 2:32-36; 3:19-26). The miracles they did were proof that God was still at work in and through them.

But, Israel also rejected the Holy Spirit! This was Stephens’s indictment against the nation: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51). With the stoning of Stephen, God’s patience with Israel began to end, though He delayed the judgment for almost 40 years. In Acts 8, we read that the message went to the Samaritans, and in Acts 10, we read that it even went to the Gentiles.

The first rejection is, to me, the awful “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 12:22-32. This was a national sin committed by Israel. When they rejected John, they rejected the father who sent him; but there remained the ministry of the Son. When they rejected the Son, they were forgiven because of their ignorance (Lk. 23:24; Acts 3:17). No sinner today can be forgiven for rejecting Christ, for this rejection is what condemns the soul (Jn. 3:16-22).

But there remained the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came on the church at Pentecost, and the apostles performed great signs and wonders (Acts 2:23; Heb. 2:1-4). The rulers rejected the witness of the Spirit, and this brought final judgment. They had rejected the Father, Son, and the Spirit, and there were no more opportunities left.

This “sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be committed today in the same way Israel committed it, because the situation is different. The Spirit of God is bearing witness through the Word of God to the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the Spirit who convinces the world of sin (Jn 16:7-11). The Spirit can be resisted by unbelievers (Acts 7:51), but nobody knows that crisis hour (if there is one), when the Spirit stops dealing with a lost sinner.

 

1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:
2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’
5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.
6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.
7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Jesus was not through with the chief priests and Pharisees. In preparation for the major confrontation, which was coming, Jesus gave the Parable of the Marriage Supper, where He again pictured favored Israel as set aside and the despised Gentiles as guests at the table. He likened the kingdom of heaven to a certain king who arranged a marriage feast for his son. The invitation was in two stages. First, an advance invitation, personally conveyed by servants, which met a flat refusal. This invitation pictures John the Baptist and the twelve disciples graciously inviting Israel to the wedding feast. But, the nation refused to accept. The words, “they were not willing to come” (v. 3), were graphically dramatized in the crucifixion.

The second invitation announced that the feast was all set. It depicts the proclamation of the gospel to the Jews in the book of Acts. Some treated the message with contempt. They were too busy with their farms and businesses. Others reacted violently. They seized, abused, and killed the servants; most of the apostles were martyred.

As to the meaning of the parable, the king is the Father and Christ is the son. The wedding feast is an appropriate description of the festive joy, which characterizes the kingdom of heaven. The church would be the bride of Christ in this parable. The main thought is the setting aside of Israel. The marriage must be taken within the full expression of salvation, including union with Christ, culminating in glorification at the marriage supper. Rejection of the invitation to attend constitutes disloyalty to the King, as well as discourtesy to the Son, and accounts for the severe treatment of the rebels (vv. 6–7) which included their city being burned up, an obvious reference to the coming destruction of Jerusalem. That happened when the King, who was justifiably angry at Israel, sent “his armies,” that is, Titus and his Roman legions, to destroy Jerusalem and most of its people in A.D. 70. They were “his armies” in the sense that He used them as His instruments to punish Israel. They were His officially even if they did not know Him personally.

This parable shows the contempt which Israel, especially her leaders, had for God’s grace; however, they could not escape the past. They had rejected the ministry of John the Baptist, and that led to their refusal to trust Jesus Christ. You may forget your decisions, but they will not forget you. You may even try to bury them, but they will be resurrected to accuse you.

Though the primary purpose of this parable is to teach what will be involved in the completion of the kingdom, we must remember that the kingdom is already here and attracting both good and bad (those who repent and reflect kingdom righteousness and those who do not but claim to).

 

8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’
10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The invited guests are the people of Israel, whereas those in the highways are the Gentiles. The instruction, as many as you find, invite to the wedding, illustrates the offer of the gospel freely to everyone indiscriminately (Rev 22:17). Both bad and good refers to moral and immoral sinners who in the same way need God’s gracious invitation. The “highways” implies crossroads, as opposed to backroads. History has revealed the success of urban evangelization, which may be implied here.

Scrapping the first guest list, he issued a general invitation to all who would come. This time there was not an empty seat in the wedding hall.

 

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Among the guests, was a man who did not have on a wedding garment. When challenged on his unfitness to attend, he was speechless. The king ordered him to be cast out into the night, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The man without a wedding garment is one who professes to be ready for the kingdom but who has never been clothed in the righteousness of God through the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Actually there was (and is) no excuse for the man without the wedding garment. As Ryrie notes, it was the custom in those days to provide the guests with a garment if they had none. Since these guests came directly from the streets, they needed clean clothes.  The man obviously did not take advantage of the King’s offer. A wedding garment is not a special type of garment, but the clean clothes (preferably white) which would normally be worn on a special occasion; to come in dirty clothes, and then to refuse the clean clothes offered by the Father is an insult to the host. The lesson is that, though entry to God’s salvation is free for all, it is not therefore without standards, or to be taken lightly.

Notice that he was speechless. I have heard some people say that they do not need to receive Christ, that they will take their chances before God that they intend to argue their case. Well, our Lord said that this man without a wedding garment was speechless. Whether or not you accept a wedding garment is up to you. The invitation has gone out to everyone, but you will have to come on the King’s terms. Just be sure not to wear your self-righteousness (Isa. 64:6); let Him provide the garment of His righteousness (Isa. 61:10; 2 Cor. 5:21).
Someone may want to know why there is so much emphasis on the wedding garment. That wedding garment is a representation of the righteousness of Christ, which is absolutely essential for salvation, and it is supplied to all who believe. The apostle Paul speaks of this imputed righteousness: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference” (Rom. 3:21-22). All have to have a wedding garment.

The mention of the wedding garment seems to point to the “robe of righteousness” which we must receive from the Lord in order to enter the marriage feast. Casting the unclad guest into outer darkness symbolizes the eternal judgment of the lost.

And he was speechless. Without Christ, anyone would be speechless when challenged as to his right to enter the kingdom (Rom. 3:19). His doom is outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The weeping suggests the suffering of hell. Some suggest that the gnashing of teeth signifies continued hatred and rebellion against God. If so, it disproves the notion that the fires of hell exert a purifying effect. Israel would not escape future judgment. They would reject the Son and the Stone, and that would bring about their ruin. Christ either saves you or judges you; there is no middle ground.
Now Israel is set aside nationally and the gospel goes out to the Gentiles, both bad and good, that is, of all degrees of respectability (Acts 13:45, 46; 28:28).

 

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Our Lord concluded the parable with the words, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Verse 14 refers to the whole parable and not just to the incident of the man without the wedding garment. Many are called, that is, the gospel invitation goes out to many. It is a general call of God to sinners which invites them to the joys of salvation (11:28), but it can be resisted and rejected. This call is the great “whosoever will” of the gospel (Rev. 22:17). Here then is the perfect balance between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty: the “called” that reject the invitation do so willingly, and therefore their exclusion from the kingdom is perfectly just. But few are chosen. Some refuse the invitation, and even some of those who respond favorably are sometimes exposed to false teachers. However, all who respond to the good news are the chosen, the “elect.” Scripture clearly indicates a divine election that brings sinners to God. Yet, scripture also indicates that man is held responsible for his indifference (v. 5), rebellion (v. 6), and self-righteousness (v. 12). The ‘chosen” enter the kingdom only because of the grace of God in choosing and drawing them. The only way a person can tell whether he is chosen is by what he does with the Lord Jesus Christ. As Jennings put it, “All are called to enjoy the feast, but not all are willing to trust the Giver to provide the robe that fits for the feast.”

What is the concluding application of all three parables? (v. 14) Jesus’ parables further infuriate the unrepentant scribes and chief priests. As the final Tuesday continues, “they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude … so they left Him and went away” (Mark 12:12). Meanwhile, “the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk” (Matt. 22:15), “in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor” (Luke 20:20). Their plan? Link up with the Herodians (Matt. 22:16) and send “spies who [pretend] to be righteous” (Luke 20:20). Jesus is unmoved, using the situation to give us some of His most famous instruction.

 

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