Theme: Matthew’s Gospel and the Subject of Money
This week’s lessons contrast the unbelief and unrighteous behavior of the religious leaders with the humble dependence of those who came to Jesus in faith.
Scripture: Matthew 21:12-17
We’re continuing our study of these stories in Matthew’s Gospel that tell of encounters between the Lord Jesus Christ and certain individuals. So far we’ve been looking mostly at his encounter with individual people. But in the twenty-first chapter we come to a story of his encounter with a whole group of people—the money changers in the temple in Jerusalem, and also chief priests and the teachers of the law, who stood behind the practice of the money changers.
Now let me put it in the context in terms of Matthew’s outline, so we’ll understand what’s happening here and then look at it in detail. This twenty-first chapter begins what I would call the King’s final break with Judaism. Not long ago I taught the whole of this Gospel in eight sessions down in Texas, and I structured it around the announcement that is made at the very beginning of the Gospel of the coming of the King. Virtually all of Matthew can be understood that way. There’s the coming of the King himself. Then there is an announcement of the principles of the kingdom, which you have in the Sermon on the Mount. There’s an analysis of the character of the citizens of the kingdom. There’s another section that asks the question, Is Jesus really the King? Then there’s the private teaching of Jesus with his disciples to prepare them for that time when the King is no longer going to be with them. Now we come to the twenty-first chapter, where we see a final break between the King himself and Judaism.
Now it’s been prepared for all along. We have seen earlier that he began to talk in parables, and the point of the parables was twofold: 1.) to hide what he was saying, in a certain sense, from unbelievers, which certainly included the leaders of the people; and 2.) to reveal what he had to teach in stories that would be remembered by his followers and passed down through all the many centuries of the church. Then we had examples of hostility growing between the leaders of the people and Jesus, and in the last section preceding this he begins to give private instruction to his disciples.
All of that is leading up to what we find in chapter 21. Nevertheless, in this chapter we have a break or rupture which has really not happened up to this point. Jesus precipitated it in some manner by his coming into the city on what we call Palm Sunday, being acclaimed by the people but rejected by the leaders. And then in our story of the cleansing of the temple he, as it were, drew down the curtain, finally and decisively.
Now it’s interesting that the point of concern, the issue over which all of this happened, was money. This great trade that was going on in the temple courts at the time of Jesus and had been going on for many years before. I began to think about that a little bit and began to reflect over the number of passages or stories in Matthew’s Gospel that have to do with money. You can think back over some of them yourselves. Let me just list some of them for you.
In the Sermon on the Mount the theme is introduced for the first time. There’s a whole section there in the middle of the sermon that has as its theme the truth that you cannot serve both God and money. So early on in Matthew’s account, in the Sermon on the Mount, which expresses the nature of the kingdom that the King came to bring, there is that great distinction. Money itself is not bad, but you can’t serve it and serve God at the same time.
We saw it also in our own studies of these encounters in that story of the healing of the two demoniacs and the people from the area from which they’d come. You recall that when Jesus drove out the evil spirits, the evil spirits went into the pigs, and the pigs rushed down the hillside into the Sea of Galilee and they were drowned. After that the people came and they wanted Jesus to leave the region, obviously because they cared more about pigs than they cared for people. Pigs were their livelihood. They were their money.
How does Dr. Boice structure the Gospel of Matthew?
How do the parables prepare for Jesus’ final break with Judaism? What is the twofold purpose of them?
What happens in chapter 21 to cause Jesus’ break with Judaism?