Having exultantly entered Jerusalem and come into the temple as though he owned the place (he did!), Jesus will now face off with each constituent element of the cultural leaders of Israel. Each contingent will try to trip him up in front of the people, so that the leaders will have a pretext to arrest Jesus, shut him up, and get rid of him. The first group to confront Jesus is the chief priest and the elders—the representatives of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel (Mat 21.23). As usual, Jesus turns the tables on them by shifting the focus away from their baited question to the real question—why haven’t the rulers believed and repented? (Mat 21.24-32.) The rulers harden themselves yet again, and Jesus declares that harlots and tax collectors will enter the kingdom before the rulers. Why? Because harlots and tax collectors believed and repented. (Mat 21.31-32.) And here we see the first fruit of faith and the first fruit God desires from his people—repentance. Repentance simply means turning—turning toward Christ, which necessarily means turning away from everything contrary to Christ. Thus, repentance is not a one time event for Christians; it is a way of life. As Martin Luther said in the very first of his ninety-five theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.” (Mat 4.17.) I hope you enjoy the sermon. Thanks for listening. —Alan Burrow* What earlier claim by Jesus factors largely into Mat 21?* How was this prefigured early in the life of Jesus?* What is the significance of that claim?* How does that theme play out in Mat 21?* What is the big question in Mat 21?* Why does Jesus pronounce doom upon the temple?* Whom is Jesus reflecting from the OT?* What new thing does Jesus promise and bring about?* What was Jesus saying by healing the blind and lame in the temple?* Whom or what does the fig tree represent?* Why isn’t Jesus harsh in cursing the fig tree?* What OT passage provides the background to this passage?* What do the disciples marvel at?* What does Jesus promise the disciples here?* What does casting “this mountain” “into the sea” refer to?*Who comes to oppose Jesus, and who opposes him first?* What do they ask Jesus about, and why?* What are the rulers trying to do?* How does Jesus respond?* What issue does Jesus force the rulers to face?* An opportunity to repent is also an opportunity to do what?* How are the rulers exposed?* In Jesus’ parable, what are the two sons pictures of?* Why will harlots and tax collectors enter the kingdom before the rulers?* What is the first fruit God’s people must bear to him?As noted in the sermon, Jesus in Matthew 21 condemns the rulers of Israel for their failure to believe and repent, and in doing so Jesus presents repentance as the difference between true faith and hypocritical faith (Mat 21.28-32). To apply the theme of repentance to ourselves, let’s consider the fact that in Revelation, Jesus writes to seven first century churches, telling five of the seven to “repent.”1. What did Jesus tell the five churches to repent of? (See Rev 2.4-5, 14-16, 20-23; 3.1-5, 15-19.)2. Do those same sins afflict the modern church?3. Which of those sins do you think we are most guilty of or in most danger of being guilty of?4. Take the twin sins of leaving our first love (Rev 2.4) and of being lukewarm (Rev 3.16), how do those sins happen to us? (I say “happen to us” because no one intends to commit those sins; they just “happen.” You may find it helpful to think of how those sins “happen” to us in marriage.)5. How do we repent of those sins? (Consider Eph 3.17-19; 5.1-2, 18-20; Col 3.14-17; Heb 10.24-25.)
Click the play button to listen to 'The First Fruit God Desires' by Alan Burrow.