Lessons to leaders from Jesus, 2.

We are reading 3 parables from Jesus where he reveals to the Jewish leaders how they have failed.

If there is one leadership seminar that every leader should attend then it is to be found in these next 3 stories.

Here is the second one:

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” (Matthew 21 v 33-41)

Lesson: If you keep rejecting accountability then judgment will come and when it does it will be more severe than the accountability you rejected.

Lessons to leaders from Jesus, 1.

We are about to read 3 parables from Jesus as he reveals to the Jewish leaders how they have failed.

If there is one leadership seminar that every leader should attend then it is to be found in these next 3 stories.

Here is the first one:

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21 v 28-32)

The first son: The ‘sinners’ originally disobeyed but then through John the Baptist they repented and obeyed.

The second son: The leaders originally obeyed (externally) but rejected the message of John the Baptist and there was no repentance.

Lesson: It matters not how you start but how you finish.

The battle of authority

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. (Matthew 21 v 23-27)

The response of Jesus was masterful. If John the Baptist’s ministry was from God then that would indicate where the authority of Jesus came from. But they had rejected John. If John the Baptist’s ministry was not from God then all the people who had accepted him as a prophet would turn on these religious leaders. They were caught. People who are caught usually say “I don’t know.”

The questions came as Jesus was walking through the Temple. The building work had begun under Herod the Great approximately 45 years ago at the time of Jesus walking through the courts that day. It would be approximately another 30yrs before it was finished and it would stand for 7 years before being flattened by Titus in AD70.

The questions came from the Chief Priests and the elders. They are the ones who interpret what Moses taught, they are the intermediaries between man and what God desires and demands. They are at the top of their careers. There are many who want to be in their position. They are the authority.

The questions come for a reason. Jesus had entered the Temple the previous day and caused havoc. They had lost money that day. Jesus had prevented people carrying their offerings and goods in and out of the Temple, he had effectively shut down the worship.

I am painting the picture of the battle of authority. Can you see it?

Matthew is obviously writing post-resurrection and he is clear. He knows who wins the battle. He knows where the authority of Jesus lies. There is still a battle of authority today.

We are faced with this question today, the same question. The authority of Jesus. What is it? Where does it come from?

What do you say?

It seems to me that many want to hold his hand but not bow their knee. Many want the benefits of Jesus but not the surrender. What do we say?

If Jesus is who people like Matthew says He is then it matters not how we feel, nor our circumstances that we go through, nothing absolutely nothing justifies us not surrendering our lives to Him. The only position is the bended knee.

Churches that fall-out over whose authority is higher, who is right and wrong, are churches that have not recognised the highest authority in the universe.

Christians that hurt others are people who are not kneeling before the throne but sitting on it.

I want to see the authority of Jesus brought back into the Church. We need a move of God throughout the nation. We need the outpouring of His glory. Our position regarding His authority will create the stage for that move.

Jesus and figs

“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21 v 18-22)

First the fruit then the leaves, that is the order for the fig tree. So the fig tree has leaves so there must be fruit. Yet this isn’t the season for fruit but that doesn’t stop Jesus looking for it because he is hungry. When he looks at the tree he finds no figs so he curses the tree.

This isn’t only a lesson in lost potential it is more than that. This isn’t only a lesson in the wrongs of arrogance, it is again more than that.

It is the arrogance of displaying you have what you don’t have at a time when no one is expecting you to have it in the first place!

Confused?

The fig tree is the generation of Israel expecting the Messiah.

It is the Temple of worship built to honour the glory of God, which Jesus has just entered and found it as a den of robbers and on that day would turn the Temple into disarray.

The fig tree had no fruit because it was not the season, all that was left on the tree were the leaves.

God has punished and exiled Israel because of its waywardness and rejection of Him throughout its history, in the time when it was not the season for the Messiah. If Jesus curses the fig tree out of season what does that indicate would happen to Israel if it is in season but is not fruitful? When the Messiah is here and it is the season and there is no fruit how much more will the curse be?

This is the season now. Jesus is here. He has been in the Temple which is heralding the One to come and He is here. Now is the time for salvation. So what now if there is no response? If there is no fruit?

Will Jesus bring a bigger curse to Israel?

We know what happens.

Jesus becomes the curse.

Is Jesus at home?

“The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.” (Matthew 21 v 14-17)

Jesus had driven out those moneychangers from the temple who had been exploiting the poor and now remaining there heals people.

But see who he heals. The very people who could not go into the temple because of their sicknesses.

See who are shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ It is the children who are mimicking what they heard as Jesus rode into the city a few hours ago.

Jesus uses Psalm 8 where Yahweh is the focus of the praise and so in referring the Psalm to what the children are doing to him in bringing their shouts of praise he is identifying himself with God, the incarnate God.

Now see the response from those who have witnessed all this. The religious leaders have seen the judgment in the temple, the Messianic healings in the temple and the praise of the Messiah there in the temple. Their response is indignation.

Greed, robbery, abusive power, shunning the outcasts was more acceptable to them than letting Jesus loose in their temple. When a person is full of pride then they only want honour for themselves and cannot stand others receiving what they greedily desire for themselves. There is no sharing of praise. Jealousy is close by even for these annoying little children.

And he left them … and for some churches and temples he doesn’t return. For unless we build a community of worship that welcomes the weakest, the smallest and the most insignificant, unless we build safe places for all, unless religious leaders surrender their pride and ego positions then what we build isn’t a place Jesus is at home.

Jesus wants His Temple back.

It had become what it was never meant to be.

“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”(Matthew 21 v 12-13)

There were crowds continually arriving into Jerusalem from many parts of the world and as today they need their currency exchanging. The main money exchange seems to be at the Temple, it was convenient there as they would then go and buy animals in order to bring sacrificial worship. Jesus said they had turned the house of prayer for all nations into a den of robbers meaning that there was exploitation taking place, the Temple were benefiting hugely on the back of people’s needs. And who were they exploiting the most? Well, it was as it is today, the poor.

Jesus overturned the tables of those selling doves. Leviticus 5: 7 “Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for their sin—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.”

Jesus’ concern isn’t for the rich, for those who can afford say a lamb sacrifice, it is for those who cannot afford anything more than a dove. These exploited people are in his heart. It still is today.

Jesus caused a Black Wednesday or whatever day it was. It was an economic meltdown on Wall Street which affected nations.

Maybe He will do it again.

But pause again. You see, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We are called for prayer. Have we exchanged that? Do we pray? How long for? Does it occupy the main purpose of our life? What about how we treat others? Look behind, is anyone hurting because of the way you have treated them, unkind words, neglect of love or using and abusing them? Maybe our temples need cleansing today. Maybe we need to be hurt by Jesus coming and causing a meltdown, upsetting our whole life because we have become not what we were created for. Let Him have His way today.

Who is this Jesus?

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21 v 10-11)

The crowd are already mixed in their understanding of Jesus’ identity. Some are shouting ‘Hosanna’ for he is their Messiah and others that he is a prophet from some backwater of Galilee. The whole city was stirred and we remember His birth when the Magi came into Jerusalem following a star from the east, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him”. (Matthew 2 v 3) Herod, the self-imposed king of the Jews was afraid when he heard the gossip on the streets of Jerusalem. He was afraid of being usurped from anything from the east. He knew he was not the true King of the Jews, Rome had placed him there. His safety was in the west, his paranoia was in the east. He was stirred along with the city.

3 decades later the city is stirred again by the announcement and presence of Christ. But a prophet from Nazareth?

“Who is this?”

I believe what this generation needs to know during and coming out of this pandemic more than ever is not what the building plans of the Church are; primarily not how the Church has become digital; not even how delighted the Church are at being back in ‘fellowship’.

The world need to know who God is.

They need to know what He has done.

They need to know who they are as a result of that.

They need to know how to live.

For that to happen they need to know who Jesus is.

They need to know the centrality and supremacy of Christ in 2021.

They need to know that when you look at Jesus you look at God.

What the world needs today is to know the amazing truth that the invisible God has allowed himself to be seen and known in Jesus Christ.

Jesus enters Jerusalem, a city always known for its turmoil and even more so today. It is a reflection of our hearts, full of angst, fear and uncertainty for our tomorrow. Jesus entering the disturbance of our thoughts as we battle with our lives, jobs, families and the many sicknesses we face. As He enters He stirs up that turmoil for He comes to turn the world upside down. In His realignment of our lives we become even more disturbed as it is us who have to change not Him. We maybe want a Jesus who makes us happy and pats us on our back. But that is not Him. He has been stirring hearts and cities since He was born on earth and He is continuing to this day.

Misunderstanding what Jesus will do

“They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21 v 7-9)

So Jesus is riding the donkey on a pathway of garments and clothing. A picture of both cultural and prophetic honour.

When the Israelites are aware that Jehu has been made king in 2 Kings 9: 13, this is what happened, “They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

It seems that from the Messianic statements they were shouting, they were believing the good times were about to come. We can all honour someone if we think we are getting something from them.

You can be holy if you want something.

You can lay your life and garments down if you know you will be exalted.

Jesus was going to liberate them from the Romans.

The taxation system was going to end.

Their land would no longer be occupied.

So the crowd went wild in honour of Jesus.

However, they were honouring Jesus in line with their own preconceived ideas of who they thought he was and who they so desperately wanted him to be.

They got the right person. Jesus was indeed their Messiah. But they were wrong in what their Messiah was going to do.

There is always a time when Jesus doesn’t come and do what we expected and hoped He would do. Our agenda is a limited perspective.

Jesus the King who brings peace

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.’” (Matthew 21 v 4-6)

Matthew is writing his gospel perhaps at the time when Peter and Paul was still alive (approx. AD60) and it would seem that he has a church composed largely of Jewish Christians in mind as his gospel often cites Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus.

Here he does it again quoting Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Your king … This title is important for Matthew. Entering into this final week he makes sure that we see Jesus as the King (27:11; 27:29; 27:37 and 27:42).

Jesus didn’t ride on a warhorse but an animal representing the common people. He rode from the house of poverty (Bethany) to the oppressed and the marginalised. There will come a day when He will ride a horse of judgment. But here He rides in saying ‘I’m not that kind of hero you are looking for’. I’m here as a different king to the one you are used to. The tables have indeed turned. The true king has come and He is found in the marketplace. He has actually come from a manger not a palace; his triumphal ministry is a ransom ministry and that is his own life.

Why does Matthew mention a donkey and her colt when the other gospel writers only use the colt? Mark and Luke say the colt was so young it had never been ridden before. Therefore the picture is of Jesus the King riding this unbroken animal into a crowded noisy scene calmed by the presence of her mother next to her. Today, whatever you are facing, wherever you are going, with Jesus your King you can know the peace that He brings.

If Jesus is Lord …

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21 v 1-3)

If Jesus is Lord then success is to bring back what you were sent to get.

If Jesus is Lord then you have confidence that He knows where everything is, including donkeys.

If Jesus is Lord then behind the story there has been a moment when you have made Him so.

If Jesus is Lord then He still needs your consent and partnership.

If Jesus is Lord then obedience is as important as miracles.

If Jesus is Lord then He owns everything you have, you have no rights to your possessions.

If Jesus is Lord then perhaps you should start by saying ‘God use all I have and all I own.’