October 16, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Thursday after Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 141, 142, 2 Kings 5:1-8, 1 Tim. 5:17
Evening – Psalm137, 138, Ecc. 3:1-15, Mt. 21:1-16

Commentary, Mathew 21:1-16

The religious leaders of Israel had corrupted the Jewish faith so completely it is doubtful that Moses would have recognized it.  Even Aaron, brother of Moses and first High Priest of Israel, though he would have recognized the ritual and liturgy of the Temple, would not have recognized the attitude or doctrine of the priests and people.  They acted and believed as though it was only important that the liturgy be done, not meant.  Thus, they allowed the Court of the Gentiles to be transformed from a place for Gentiles to pray and seek God, to a place for Jews to buy and sell animals for the sacrifices.  It is probable that the chief priests and Pharisees received a comfortable fee from the vendors; the Temple court was bound to be a lucrative business location for which the vendors would pay gladly.  We can imagine the bribery and scheming involved in getting and giving the choice locations.

So, rather than being a quiet place where Gentiles could pray and talk to the priests about the faith, the Court of the Gentiles had become a noisy, smelly market and den of thieves.  This says something important about Israel. She had lost her vision.  She had lost her understanding of her calling, and of the purpose of God in calling her.  She thought her calling was only to offer the sacrifices rather than offer the sacrifices and love God.  She thought God wanted only the actions, not the actions and the heart.

Jesus, like the prophets before Him, considered this a distortion of the very essence of Israel, and a heretical perversion of the true nature and purpose of God. The religious leaders realized the wide gulf between their views and the views of Jesus.  They knew He wanted to take them back to original meaning of the Old Testament, the sacrifices, and the liturgies of the Temple and Synagogue.  To allow that would ruin the priests and Pharisees financially and socially, and it would require them to become Biblical believers and servants of God rather than mammon.  For them facing Jesus was like facing a choice; would they repent of their sin, or reject Christ?  They chose sin.  They opposed Christ at every opportunity.  They argued with Him, attempting to justify their actions and views, and discredit His.  They formed a conspiracy to murder Him, an act they would accomplish in a few short days.

In Matthew 21 Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Messiah coming to His people.  He comes to judge and set right the leaders and the people.  He comes as the Son of David ascending His throne and receiving the adoration of His people. Yet He goes not to the palace, but to the Temple where He casts out the vendors and moneychangers.  He does not stop or condemn the lawful sacrifices and liturgies of the Temple.  He does show their true purpose, which is to express the faith and love of the people, and to proclaim the grace and promises of God.  He even spends some time teaching and healing in the Temple, so that, once again it becomes a place where the Word of God is proclaimed and souls are healed.  But the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and religious leaders, “were sore displeased” (vs. 16).  Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem happened on the Sunday before Passover.  By Friday evening the rulers of the Jews accomplished their goal; Jesus was dead.

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