Monday, September 22, 2008

Jesus who are you talking about? Matthew 21:23-32

Jesus in Matthew 21 is bold.
He arrived in Jerusalem as the crowd cheered, "Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." They waved palms and received him as a prophet.
His first stop in Jerusalem: the temple. Jesus walked in not in silence but burning with passion. He drove out the money changers and those who sold doves for sacrifice.
Anger bubbled up among the priests and others responsible for the temple: "Who is Jesus to teach like this?" Jesus boldly challenged the temple culture in Matthew 21. He was pushing, literally driving away the money changers and dove sellers, challenging the whole lot of them to see the temple as God's house and not a market. He left the temple and headed out cursing a fig tree.
Our story picks up when Jesus returned to the temple and started teaching.

...the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23 NRSV
Jesus wouldn't answer their question unless they would answer one of his: who gave John the Baptist's authority. The chief priests and elders couldn't or wouldn't answer. Jesus responded to the silence of the priests and elders with a story about a father and two sons. The father asked his boys to go work in the vineyard. One son said he wouldn't work and later changed his mind and did go out to help. The other agreed but did not go out and work. Jesus asked them,
Which of the two did the will of his father?”They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. Matthew 21:31-32 NRSV
There's no doubting, reading Matthew through to the end, that Jesus faced death for such words. As a person of faith this story speaks volumes. Forget what looks good or sounds good. What matters is what you do not just what you say. Jesus directly challenged everyone in the temple, as Matthew challenges every reader of his Gospel, to not just act faithful but to be faithful.

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