Please read Matthew 21:1-11
Background: We Lutheran Christians are taught about two states in the life of Christ. His state of humiliation and His state of exaltation. In His voluntary humiliation He didn’t make full continuous use of His power and glory as the Godman. This is the part of the second article of the apostles’ creed from “conceived” until “buried”. In His exultation He makes full continuous use of that glory and power. The creed describes this from “descended into hell” through “come again to judge the living and the dead”.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
(The Apostles’ Creed is a brief statement of gospel truths taught by the apostles. It was not formulated by theologians but out of the needs of the Christian church. Christians used it to tell others what they believed and also to confess their faith with one another as they met for worship.)
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: Look carefully for signs of glory as well as indicators of humility in this reading.
Possible answers: Some signs of glory: the omniscience of Jesus – he knows the donkey and colt are tied in a specific place, that the disciples will be asked about taking them, that permission will be granted; the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy; the triumphant reception strewing His path with garments and branches; the song of praise identifying Him as the promised Messiah. Signs of humility: His gentle meek appearance; the lowliness of the animal upon which He rides; the absence of greeting from the political and religious leaders; Luke 19:39 tells us that instead of greeting Him the leaders indignantly directed Him to stifle and silence the crowd. Another thing – isn’t His very humility glorious?! That God would humble Himself in this way (and obedient unto death!) – what a God!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, we praise You for Your humble arrival in Jerusalem. Most especially we praise You for the purpose for which You came to town – to purchase our salvation with Your precious blood. May our lives be increasing praise for Your grace on our journey to the glory You have prepared for us.
Please read Matthew 21:12-17
Background: Imagine what a mess there must have been in the temple courts with the sale of sacrificial animals! Think of the thievery involved as dishonest men operated the currency exchange in that place. Consider the corruption behind the “contracts” these merchants made with the religious leaders. Jesus cleansed the temple twice; once at the beginning of His public ministry and here at the end of it. Here we see an example of “righteous wrath”, the just response of God (or God’s people) to man’s stubborn sin.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: Who should have gotten rid of this “buying and selling” in the temple grounds? Why didn’t they? What ought to have been the response of the chief priests and the teachers of the law when they “saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple area”? Why might Jesus have spent the night in “the suburbs” instead of in the city?
Possible answers: The religious leaders ought to have cleansed the temple. They didn’t stop the temple trade because they were not concerned about worshiping the God of Israel in spirit and in truth. They were the “den of robbers” who profited from it. The religious leaders ought to have been the ones leading in the praise of Jesus; at least, they should have followed the leadership of the children. Instead, “they were indignant”. Jesus may well have stayed outside of the city to prevent premature capture by His enemies.
Prayer: Savior, thank You for welcoming us into Your temple despite the pollution of sin we bring into it. As You receive us and cleanse us by Your grace, may we go forth to praise You with our lips and lives.
Please read Matthew 21:18-22
Background: At first glance, Jesus’ action with the fruitless fig tree may seem like a burst of temper such as a sinner like me would express. Neither Matthew or Mark indicate any attitude of anger or rage. Jesus was always teaching. He wasted no opportunity or words.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: The fruitless fig tree served a purpose after all, Jesus used it as a symbol. What did the fruitless fig tree symbolize? Jesus also used the incident to instruct His disciples about faith and prayer, how so?
Possible answers: Jesus saw in the fruitless fig tree a symbol of fruitless Israel. Neither Israel nor that fig tree was living up to the purpose for which the LORD had created them. Any aspect of creation, especially man the crown of God’s creation, that doesn’t serve its Creator’s purpose is only fit for destruction. Disciples then and now need to realize that their faith connection to God aligns them with His infinite power. When disciples’ faith prompts them to pray and seek God’s will, they will graciously receive that for which they pray.
Prayer: Thank You for Your patience with me, Dear Savior. The returns on Your investment of love for me ought to be much greater. Don’t eliminate me from Your portfolio! May Your patience produce in me ever sweeter and more abundant fruit.
Please read Matthew 21:23-32
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: From what blindness did the chief priest and elders suffer? What did that blindness say about them? What were their continual worries? About what should they have been concerned instead? Who do the two sons in the story represent?
Possible answers: The chief priests and elders couldn’t see the working of God in John the Baptist or Jesus. While they had Jewish blood and leadership status, they weren’t the true spiritual Israel, God’s children. As hypocrites, they were always concerned about how they looked to others. They were always posturing to try to look good. They fooled themselves and others but they didn’t fool God! They were like the second son who seemed to be obedient and true but was not. On the other hand, the people they criticized – the “tax collectors and sinners” were like the first son. At first disobedient, they came to repentance. The religious leaders should have been looking for the works of God and listening to the Word of God. Yes! they should have been like the “tax collectors and prostitutes”! Many of those people repented of their sins, believed in God’s pardon and lived new lives. Even when the leaders saw that, they still did not repent and believe John or Jesus!
Prayer: Jesus help me to see the Pharisee in me as well as the tax collector and the prostitute. Wherever such a sinner appears may my response be like that of the tax collectors and sinners who confessed, believed, and changed!
Please read Matthew 21:33-46
Background: What a Teacher is our Jesus!! Notice how clearly Jesus’ audience gets the point of His earthly story. Yet His students, in this case, although they understand the lesson, prove unwilling to apply it. Let’s be different students from them! Let’s not stop our learning just by seeing their failures. Let’s take this story to heart!
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: What is our life and all that it contains? What does the LORD have a right to expect from us? How does He seek to get what He deserves? What especially has He done that ought to result in a rich harvest for Him?
Possible answers: This world and our life and all it contains belongs to God and is entrusted to us. He has a right to expect that we will care for it according to His will and for His glory. To that end He sends His servants – people who through His Word teach us about Him, about ourselves, and about our life now and forever. Most of all, He has sent His own Son to rescue us and claim us as His own. His costly sacrifice ought to win the hearts of all sinners to believe in Him and willingly and productively serve Him! In II Corinthians 5:15 Paul said it this way: “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again”. Amen!!
Prayer: Again, O Savior, I see myself on the wrong side of this story. So little fruit compared to Your love investment in me. Keep talking to me through Your Word. Continually change my heart so that it results in more fruit for You in my life!
Please read Matthew 22:1-14
Background: It is important for us to understand that people hosting a wedding banquet in Jesus’ day would not only provide festive food but also festival garments for their guests.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: Take a good look at this King. What qualities do you see in Him? What comes to mind when you think about the King’s guest list and the persons who eventually do attend his banquet? What sad facts about this feast come to mind? Where do you find cause for hope and joy in this earthly story with its heavenly meaning?
Possible answers: The King loves His Son. The King desires fellowship with all others. He is generous and gracious. He is also patient; but, not patient to a fault. He will not permit people to trifle with Him endlessly. He is almighty and His opponents will be destroyed. On the other hand, the King’s invited guests are not worthy of Him. They don’t grasp the honor in being invited by Him. They are not merely passive, failing to respond; viciously and wickedly they oppose Him and those who serve Him. Those who end up at the banquet are there by pure grace; but, sadly, even among them there is an imposter. He wants to be there on his own merit, “dressed” in his own righteousness instead of being clothed with the garment of righteousness graciously supplied by the King. He too will be destroyed by the King’s righteous anger. Still, the guests clothed by the King will enjoy His feast in the presence of His Son!
Prayer: Father, the generosity of Your grace to me through Your Son is absolutely unbounded and magnificent! Thank you! I look forward to being in Your presence forever clothed in His righteousness. Until then, use me as Your servant to invite others.
Please read Matthew 22:15-33
Background: With astonishment watch your Teacher today as He deals with His tough “class” – the combined “class” of the arrogant, clever, and hateful Pharisees and Sadducees. Listen in amazement as He clearly and forcefully presents the truth of God.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: What was the trap with the Pharisees’ question about taxes? What did the Sadducees not believe?
Possible answers: Understand that pagan Romans ruling in the land of Israel was especially hateful to the Jews. The trap set by the Pharisees was designed to get Jesus in trouble – either with the Jews by siding with the Romans or with the government by resisting their rule. Jesus shows Himself as someone governed by God and respectful of the rulers that God has ordained. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Nor did they accept any Scripture other than the first five books of the Bible. In answer to their mocking, Jesus exposes their ignorance of God’s Word and God’s power. From the very words of Moses that they claimed to accept, He proves the power of God and affirms the resurrection of the dead.
Prayer: Savior, preserve me by Your grace as a person who increasingly learns and loves Your Word so that I may grow in faith and knowledge and in usefulness to Your kingdom.
Please read Matthew 22:34-46
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: What is the goal of the two commandments which Jesus says are most important and fundamental for all other commandments? Do you know the answer to Jesus’ question: “If then David calls Him ‘LORD’ how can He be his son?”
Possible answers: Love is the goal of the commandments. God is love, therefore His people will love. They will love God and love their neighbor. The Christ (Hebrew: Messiah) can be David’s LORD at the same time as He is his son because He has two natures – divine and human. According to His nature as God, He is David’ LORD. According to His human nature, He is descended from David and therefore David’s son.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, You have taught us what love is by laying down Your life for us, the needy but undeserving. Help us to show that we have learned love’s lesson by loving God who deserves it and our neighbor who needs it.