Entering into the second day of Jesus’ Passion Week, we find Him engaging the religious leaders in a series of confrontations. Some were initiated by the religious leaders. Some were initiated by Jesus. But in all, the religious leaders seem to respond to Jesus out of a heart focused on self preservation. They do not listen to His teaching. They are not concerned about learning or growing. Instead, their concern is winning. Read through the larger portion of Scripture, remembering that over the course of this week we are making our way from Jesus’ Triumphal Entry in Matthew 21 to His Resurrection in Matthew 28. After reading through the larger portion, come back to the focused passage for a deeper reflection.
TUESDAY, APRIL 16th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Matthew 21:23 - 23:39
Focused Passage for Reflection - Matthew 21:28-32
Reflecting on the Text:
“What do you think?” These are Jesus’ opening words in verse 28. In His asking, He is drawing out. He is teaching, and in His teaching there is wisdom, compassion, and boldness. So will we listen? And as we listen, will we remember we are not merely listening to words on a page? We are listening to Jesus.
He tells the story of two sons. One son gives the right answer to the question, but his answer is meaningless. A second son gives the wrong answer, but over time, he saw his error. Then he changed his mind…and his ways. In Jesus’ parable, the religious leaders are represented in the first son. They give good answers, but their heart is not with the Lord. The second son represents the tax collectors and prostitutes, or at least the ones who came to believe. They heard John the Baptist’s preaching, believed the Word, and turned in faith and repentance. Their stories were messy. They didn’t fit in with polite company. But when they heard the Word of Truth, they embraced it…embracing their need of the Savior. The religious leaders, on the other hand, heard but would not change their minds and believe.
In His last week, Jesus confronted those who would try to define salvation on their own terms. He spoke out against those whose outer facade didn’t reflect their inner heart. Later, in Matthew 22:37, Jesus would summarize all of the law in this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In these interactions, He seems to be saying there is no sin beyond His grace. There is no past too messy for His love. But, He wants the entirety of our being. He will not settle for our carefully crafted image or our empty words of praise. The tax collectors and prostitutes understood that message while the religious leaders opted to trust in their own goodness.
Questions for personal reflection:
From this text, what do we learn about the person of Jesus and the priorities of Jesus?
What does this text stir inside of you? Do you find it drawing you closer to him, or do you find yourself offended?
Are you more inclined to side with the religious leaders, or with the tax collectors and prostitutes in your response to Jesus? Why?