As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:
- What does God reveal about Himself?
- How is your own heart revealed?
- How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
- Turn these truths into prayer and praise.
5 March Mt 21:18-22
The cursing of the fig-tree is an acted parable of the judgement that was coming on the temple. The tree bore leaves but no fruit (v.19). In that way, it mimicked the temple which also looked impressive from a distance but was spiritually barren. The disciples were amazed by the rapid withering of the tree, but Jesus promises them that prayer – the very thing the temple lacked (v.13) – will accomplish greater things (vv.21-22). Read Acts to see how these disciples proved it! Do you pray?
6 March Mt 21:23-27
Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who were trying to trap him. They won’t admit John’s authority because he identified Jesus as the Messiah (v.25). Yet to condemn John’s ministry would lose them all credibility in the eyes of the people who honoured him as an authentic prophet (v.26). Their answer is a cop-out (v.27), allowing Jesus to refuse to answer them on their terms (though in vv.33-46 He makes the basis of His authority plain). Sadly, they were fighting against God. Are you?
7 March Mt 21:28-32
The tax collectors and prostitutes are the son who at first refused to do his father’s will but later obeyed. At John the Baptist’s preaching they repented and believed. But the religious authorities rejected first John and now Jesus – they are the son who boasted he would serve but didn’t. Even when the evidence of God’s work was overwhelming they refused to believe (v.32). They were left without excuse. Pray that we may never harden our hearts in this way, but gladly follow our Lord.
8 March Mt 21:33-46
The vineyard is a common biblical image for Israel (e.g., Isa 5:1-7). The tenants represent the religious leaders, as they knew (v.45). Throughout Israel’s long history, they refused to give God due honour, but acted as though they owned the vineyard. With incredible patience, God pleaded with them through a succession of prophets. Finally, He sent His Son, whom they murdered, resulting in judgement on them, but – amazingly – salvation for others (vv.42-44). God’s love WILL have a harvest!
9 March Mt 22:1-14
The marriage of the King’s Son is a picture of our salvation through union with Christ (Rev 19:9, 21:2), and is the goal of history. To reject the King’s invitation, as Israel’s leaders have done, is not merely rude; it is rebellion. But the King does not cancel the banquet; He invites others to the feast. Those who come in humble gratitude find a welcome, whatever their past (v.10) but there is no place for those who try to come on their own terms (vv.11-13). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (Jn 3:36).
10 March Mt 22:15-22
Jesus’ opponents were hoping to get him into trouble either with the common people (for supporting the Roman taxation) or the Roman authorities (for opposing it). Jesus refuses a simplistic answer, but offers one that is both witty and wise. He sets out the bigger framework. Caesar’s authority is legitimate but limited – he must not claim what belongs only to God. By all means give him the coin bearing his image. But give only to God the thing that bears His image: yourself (Ge 1:26-27).
11 March Mt 22:23-33
The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife (v.23) and sought to ridicule this idea as an absurdity (v.28). Replying, Jesus rebuked their ignorance of Scripture (vv.29,31-32). Did they really think that even death could break God’s covenant relationship of love with the patriarchs? They had not grasped God’s power to create a new order of life in which marriage is no longer necessary (v.30). Still today, much of our confusion and misery stems from ignorance of God’s word and doubting His power.