Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Testament Lessons 141-150

New Testament- Lesson 141

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 3B

Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree and it withers; lessons on faith for the disciples- Read (Matthew 21:18-22)(Mark 11:12-14, 20-24)

Matthew's version.........When the disciples saw that the fig tree had withered when Jesus cursed it, they marvelled and said, "How did the fig tree wither away so fast?" Jesus answered, "Truly, I say to you, If you have faith, and do not doubt,  you shall not only do what has now been done to the fig tree, but also if you will say to this mountain, "Be removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be done. All things, whatsoever you ask in prayer, believe, and you will receive it."

Mark's version....On seeing that the fig tree had withered when Jesus cursed it......Peter said to Jesus, "Master, the fig tree which you cursed has withered away." Jesus answered, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, "Whoever shall say to this mountain, "Be removed, and be cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he says. Whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them."

"Why are you so surprised at what has happened, even mountains (impossible situations) will obey your commands if you pray and believe" was Jesus' response to the disciples' awe at the withering of the fig tree.  Jesus would not have at that moment cast the mountain in to the sea even though he had the power to do it for that would not have brought glory to his Father nor would it have been his Father's will. The gist of what Jesus told his disciples was this...."Any righteous desire which is within the Father's will, if prayed for, believed and thanked for till the answer comes forth, will surely see the answer."


New Testament- Lesson 142

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 4

The Authority Of Jesus Challenged- Read (Matthew 21:23-27) (Mark 11:27-33) (Luke 20:1-8)

When Jesus came to the temple at Jerusalem, the chief priests, scribes and the elders of the people confronted Him as he taught, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority?" Jesus answered, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell me, I will tell you by what authority I do these things; The baptism of John: where was it from? from heaven or from men?" They reasoned among themselves, "If we say, "From heaven," he will say, "Why then did you not believe him?' but if we say, "From men," we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

Divine wisdom was needed to counter the verbal challenge regarding the authority with which he taught and did miracles and Jesus did not fail in silencing his critics. The recent cleansing of the temple by Jesus had infuriated the authorities and they were out to trap him in one way or the other. He was neither priest, nor scribe, nor a Levite, then where from the authority? was the question of the chief priests, scribes and the elders of the people. Jesus, in turned asked them a question and silenced them (The baptism of John: where was it from? from heaven or from men?"). John was esteemed as a prophet from God, though not commissioned by the people, so why not he himself, was what Jesus  asked? Did not the people listen to John, did not they get baptized by him, did not John say that He, Jesus was the Messiah; then why question his authority? Though they knew the answer, they chose not to answer him, saying, "We do not know."


New Testament- Lesson 143

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 5

The Parable Of The 2 Sons- Matthew 21:28-32

After Jesus had temporarily silenced the chief priests, scribes & the elders of the people who questioned him regarding his authority, Jesus spoke a parable to them and his followers. He said, "What do you think? A man had two sons; he called the first and said, "Son, go, work today in my vineyard. He answered, "I will not, but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he called the second and said likewise. He answered and said, "I will go", but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to Him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, that tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not relent and believe him."

The man in the parable can be placed in the position of God and the two sons as two groups of Jews; one, those who were the vile ones i.e. the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the second, the elite i.e. the chief priests, scribes & the elders of the people. The first son on being told by the father to go work in his vineyard, rejected at first, but later regretted and went to work. These were the tax collectors and prostitutes who earlier rejected the call of God, living a vile life, but later they repented when John the Baptist preached righteousness. The other son, though he agreed verbally to his father's call, did not do the father's bidding. These were the chief priests, scribes & the elders of the people who professed religion, showing themselves to being obedient to the call, but not really doing the Father's bidding as they lived for themselves and were deceitful hypocrites. On being questioned by Jesus as to who did the will of his father, his listeners responded by saying that it was the first son. The tax collectors and prostitutes who repented of their sins were the ones who were doing God's will rather than the ones who only verbally professed religion.


New Testament- Lesson 144

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 6A

The Parable Of The Landowner And The Vinedressers- Read (Matthew 21:33-46) (Mark 12:1-12) (Luke 20:9-19)

The Synoptic Gospel writers have only minor differences in their accounts regarding this parable spoken by Jesus.

Jesus said another parable to his disciples, the chief priests and Pharisees: A landowner planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. He then leased it to vinedressers and went away to a far country. When harvest time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might collect its fruit. The vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants and they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them thinking that they will respect his son. But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, "This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance. So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. "

After speaking the parable, Jesus asked his listeners; "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" They said to him, "He will destroy those wicked men and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."
Jesus then said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

When the chief priests and Pharisees heard the parable, they knew that he was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes, because they regarded him to be a prophet. So they left him and went away.

Luke adds, "So they watched him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might catch him in his words, in order to deliver him to the hands of the governor. "

Meaning of Parable- Landowner (God), Vineyard (Israel), Hedge & Tower (God's divine protection & shelter), Winepress (Promises of blessings & fruitfulness on obeying the Law), Vinedressers (Jewish leaders including the religious ones), Fruit (Consecration, Holiness & Obedience), Servants (Old Testament Prophets), Son (Jesus Christ), Other Vinedressers (Gentiles)

To be continued in next lesson...


New Testament- Lesson 145

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 6B- Continued from previous lesson

The Parable Of The Landowner And The Vinedressers- Read (Matthew 21:33-46) (Mark 12:1-12) (Luke 20:9-19)

After speaking the parable (Lesson 144), Jesus said, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." 

Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22, 23 while speaking of the attitude of a nation that was called out by God Almighty. David , the most probable author of the Psalm, sings of how he himself was not even thought of as an initial choice to be the anointed of the Lord as Samuel made all the sons of Jesse come to him to anoint them as the future king of Israel (but they were rejected by God). Finally he was called from the fields and was anointed by Samuel to be king in place of king Saul. Now as king of Israel, he sang ,"The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." It is also a prophecy by David as to how the Messiah Jesus (the stone of Israel)would be rejected by his own people, but become the chief cornerstone of salvation for all who believed. Jesus also said, "the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it" meaning that since the majority of Jews had rejected God's offer of salvation through his Son, the Gentiles would be blessed with salvation and eternal life when they accepted Jesus as Savior. 

Jesus ended by saying, "Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder." Jesus makes a possible reference here to Isaiah 8:14,15 which says, "He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken." Both groups mentioned here could point to rejecters of Christ and his Gospel. The first group i.e.Whoever falls on this stone will be broken refers to those who reject Jesus because of his unassuming character; not befitting a king; a carpenter's son; riding a colt, failing to take advantage of opportunities to be a king. Their hurt was not as severe and could be reversed with repentance, but the other group i.e. "On whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder" refers to those who vehemently opposed him and challenged his authority as Son of God and for them eternal judgment was the end result. 


New Testament- Lesson 146

Matthew Chapter 22- Part 1

The parable of the wedding banquet- Read (Matthew 22:1-14)(Luke 14:16-24)

After his triumphal entry in to Jerusalem as the Messiah and his authority being questioned when he cleansed the temple, Jesus spoke three parables and this was the third : "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding but they were not willing to come. Again he sent out other servants saying, "Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle and all things are ready. Come to the wedding." But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. The rest seized his servants and killed them. When the king heard about it, he was furious. He sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were found  unworthy; therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding." So the servants went out into the highways and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. The wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, "Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?" The man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him hand and foot, take him and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 

After Jesus finished the parable he said, "For many are called, but few are chosen." 

Luke has a few variations in his account. Instead of the king who arranged a wedding banquet, he writes of a certain man who gave a great supper and invited many. The excuses given by the invited were...."I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it.".... "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them."......"I have just married and therefore I cannot come." The servant came and reported these things to his master. The master of the house was angry and said to his servant, "Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind." After a while the servant reported, "Master, it is done as you said, and still there is room." Then the master said to the servant, "Go out into the highways and compel many to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper." 

The accounts are almost similar till this stage, but Matthew had more to write. 
The interpretation of the parable being....God Almighty arranged a wedding banquet which was the offer of salvation through his son Jesus Christ and this was primarily given to his own chosen people (the Jews/Israelites) who rejected the invitation citing worldly reasons. There were also the wicked ones among the invited who killed the servants who went to call them and these represent the ones who killed the Old Testament prophets who gave the people counsel from the Lord. They did not spare John the Baptist or God's son Jesus Christ either and suffered punishment for their rejection with eventual destruction coming to them. The offer was then given to them who did not deserve it, the Gentiles. The wedding banquet was now overflowing. Yet we see something very important pointed to by Jesus in this parable. In eastern cultures, the invited were given a wedding garment by the host and they were supposed to wear it at the banquet. When the king came to see the guests, he saw a man not wearing the wedding garment and as we read in the parable, he was punished severely, Jesus subtly saying that eternal torment awaited him. So are many who profess their faith in Jesus Christ even now. They neither have the righteousness of Christ nor the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and don't care about it either. What would be their end is a foregone conclusion when one reads this parable. As Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen"


New Testament- Lesson 147

Matthew Chapter 22- Part 2

Let's trap him in his words- (Matthew 22:15-22) (Mark 12:13-17) (Luke 20:20-26)

The Pharisees plotted to trap Jesus in his words. They sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for you do not honor men but God. Tell us, therefore, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" Jesus perceived their craftiness and said, "Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money." So they brought him a denarius. He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said, "Caesar's." He then said, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

All 3 synoptic Gospel writers agree on this account. The Pharisees were out to catch him in his words to deliver him in to the hands of the Governor Pontius Pilate. But the wisdom of Jesus was unparalled because of his close fellowship with the Father. He rebuked them for testing him, calling them hypocrites and answered their question with heavenly wisdom. All 3 Gospel writers end their accounts by penning that the ones who came to test him in his words, marveled at his answer and went away.

Moral: God sees through every mask the hypocrite wears.


New Testament- Lesson 148

Matthew Chapter 22- Part 3

The Sadducees question Jesus- Read (Matthew 22:23-33) (Mark 12:18-27) (Luke 20:27-40)

After the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in his words by asking whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, the same day the Sadducees (who do not believe in the resurrection), came to him and asked him: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, without having children, his brother should marry his wife and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers with us. The first died after he had married, and having no children, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman also died. Therefore, in the resurrection, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her." Jesus answered, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven; also, concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that God said, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
We read of almost similar accounts by all 3 Synoptic Gospel writers, except for Luke who adds a few more lines......The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are counted worthy to reach that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor do they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called God "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

The Sadducees believed that when the body dies, the soul dies with it; there is nothing further; no rewards, no judgment, no resurrection. They neither believed in the existence of demons or angels. Here they were referring to the levirate law (levir in latin means brother-in-law) which was given to protect any widow and see that her family line continued (Deuteronomy 25:5, 6). They were trying to prove that the doctrine of resurrection was erroneous by citing an example (?hypothetical) of a woman having 7 men as husbands and all having died with the woman dying later on. They questioned Jesus as to whose wife she would be in the resurrection. But Jesus silenced them by telling them that it was because of their inadequate knowledge of the scriptures that they were talking thus. He told them, "In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven." He also proved to them, that the scriptures they themselves had high regard for, spoke of the resurrection, right from the days of Moses.

Towards the end of his earthly ministry, opposition rose up against Jesus from all quarters and the days were near when the verbal assaults would turn physical, leading to his brutal crucifixion. Nevertheless that would be time for him to prove that the doctrine of resurrection was true, when he himself rose up from the dead with a glorious body.

New Testament- Lesson 149

Matthew Chapter 22- Part 4

More questions- Read (Matthew 22:34-40) (Mark 12:28-34)

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.... "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." And the second is also like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang everything in the Law and the Prophets.

Mark's version is  a bit different. He writes....One of the scribes came, and seeing that Jesus had answered his detractors well, asked him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"  and Jesus having answered correctly (as Matthew writes), the scribe said to him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but him and to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

Other than the Law and the Prophets, the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, has a third section called the Writings. What Jesus meant by saying, "On these two commandments hang everything in the Law and the Prophets" was that "Loving God and loving man fulfils the requirements of God."
Jesus' detractors thought they loved God by being religious but their hearts were far removed from him. Another common factor among most of them was the lack of love for their fellowmen. They failed in both requirements of God.

According to Mark's version, Jesus commended the scribe who acknowledged the truth in his statement. Jesus knew that the man had a heart to accept the truths that would let him be a part of the kingdom of God.

New Testament- Lesson 150

Matthew Chapter 22- Part 5

Whose son is Christ?- (Matthew 22:41-46) (Mark 12:35-37) (Luke 20:41-44)

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The Son of David." He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord", saying: "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool". If David then calls him Lord, how is he his son? None of them were able to answer him and from that day on no one dared question him.

Matthew, Mark and Luke give similar accounts with negligible variations. Luke writes of Jesus saying that David spoke in the Psalms regarding the same matter. That's true, for, Jesus was quoting Psalm 110:1.

The Pharisees thought themselves to be well versed and knowledgeable of their Scriptures, but here they were without an answer to Jesus' question. David called Christ Lord, so how could Christ be David's son as he was called by the Jews? Jesus showed them that they were ignorant of the prophecies that were in their Scriptures and thus they were humbled in the process and dared not ask him any question thereafter. The truth regarding the Messiah was that he was a descendant of David yet he was greater than the greatest king of Israel, David, thus inspiring David to call him Lord.