March 10



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Matthew 20-21

Today we are in the Christ Stream and read about Palm Sunday. Jesus has so much to share with us as we read from the New English Translation.

The first story today is of the workers in the vineyard.  Matthew is the only one of the gospel writers who has this piece. Remember he wrote his account of Jesus to the Jews living in Israel and was very intent on letting them know that those who come to God later in history are not going to be marginalized or 2nd class citizens in the Kingdom.  They would not be “paid less”. Heaven and God’s blessings were open to them too.  This is a great shift from Jewish thinking that was prevalent for 1400 years.  They thought they were “the only”; the chosen.  They were (and still ARE)  the Chosen. They were the first to encounter God. They just were not going to be the ‘only’ for much longer. Others will be welcomed into the Kingdom.  And the new converts were not to be treated as “noobies” for the rest of history.  God loves them too, and just as much even though they arrive much later in the “vineyard of the Kingdom.”

Jesus next tells of His Passion again.  The disciples do not hear it this time either.  Matthew doesn’t describe their oblivion, but Luke, in 18:34, where this same story is being told, says “but the 12 understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what Jesus meant.”
The first first/last – last/first ethic gets further ingrained when a gentle request for James and John to be closest to Jesus in his glory surfaces. This scene is further proof that they did not comprehend Jesus’ prior explanation about his death.  If Jesus were not so gracious, he could have said, “uh, I am to be crucified! Do you want to be on my right and left there too? like thieves?” No they didn’t. When he asks them if they were able to drink the cup he was to drink the intention is that we remember his Gethsemane prayer (yet to be uttered), “Father if it be your will, let this cup pass from me.”  He talks of the great shift in His Kingdom: it will be advanced through serving, not lording.
The final story of Matthew 20 is the healing of the blind men near Jericho. Matthew and Mark mention two men, while Luke specifies Bartimaeus in this identical story. John also focuses on just the one.  In case anyone has done extra digging and noticed that Matthew says Jesus is leaving Jericho while Mark and Luke says he is entering Jericho – this is not an error or discrepancy. There were three Jerichos in the area. The one that Joshua leveled [1], the Old Testament setting [2] and the New Testament era setting [3]. So Jesus can be exiting Jericho and entering Jericho during the same walk, for they are different settings of a city with the same name.  They are near each other and were simply developed 1,000 years apart.  Maybe this is being over explained but there have been scholars who insist that this is testament to the Bible just being made up and filled with casual errors because it is all fabricated.  No, this verifies the facts, It just requires a little extra digging.  My husband and I have been to this region and it is obvious to locals that one can be leaving AND entering “Jericho” while being at the same place. Remember that Jesus is about 2-3 weeks away from being crucified. He is doing a prominent miracle here that becomes high profile.  He heals Lazarus shortly thereafter and this is why he is exuberantly welcomed into Jerusalem with such rapturous applause, chanting and cheering on a day we have come to call “Palm Sunday”.  Between this healing of the blind and the Triumphal Entry that Matthew lists back-to-back, there are three other incidents that are left to others to fill in.  Luke 19 tells of Zacchaeus, Lazarus is raised; Jn. 11, and Jesus’ feet are anointed in Bethany in Jn. 12.  Those all happen [chronologically] between Mat. 20 and 21.
Mt. 21 – Jesus enters Jerusalem to the greatest of welcomes.  All four gospels include Jesus’ activity this day. It is miraculous in its own way. Jerusalem hadn’t seen such rhapsody. Prophecy is fulfilled and Jesus doesn’t hang around to “take selfies” and kiss babies (forgive the anachronism), he goes right to work and drives out the money changers who were charging people to enter the Temple.  He was furious that God’s house of prayer had become a zany market of cashing in and social casting where the richer could buy a bigger sacrifice. The leaders are incensed at his actions. He does a number of healings; [v. 14,] the blind and the lame came to him and he healed them.  The leaders were then even more indignant. So he leaves back for Bethany; a town where he is greatly revered to lodge for the night.  On his way back to Jerusalem, he is hungry, checks a fig tree, it is empty of figs so he curses it and it dies. This subtle event insinuates that we are to be productive and fruitful people not just “gold bricks” for show, like the leaders had become.  Jesus wastes no time in turning this into a lesson that the disciples were to have prayer lives that would shake the earth in an apostolic manner.
When the authorities in Jerusalem question Jesus’ authority to do what He does, he replies with such stunning brilliance that this tale and brilliant reply is taught in law schools even today!
In his tale of two sons he is using a parable to teach us to not just make promises, keep them.
The parable of the tenants is told and the leaders of the city realize he is talking about them! God has sent so many prophets to them and they didn’t want to hear the prophets. They wanted profit – not a prophet. And their forefathers killed the prophets whom God had sent to them. These leaders insist they were different than before but they are not.
The cornerstone theme Jesus is talking about refers to the building of the Temple 950 years prior where the masons who were assembling the Temple (in perfect silence!) had been sifting through stones as is typical. and what would eventually become the cornerstone of the Temple. Cornerstones must be perfect, be laid perfectly and be perfectly level.  All angles “string” back to the cornerstone E &W-N& S. Higher elevations must be perfectly plumb above this or the building will tip (like Pisa in Italy). The cornerstone was passed over when stones were being originally selected.  It was later discovered and then used as the most vital piece of the Temple. Then it hits: They symbolically reject Jesus and thus theyyyy will be rejected. They were not fruitful leaders. [remember he fig tree?!] They were judged against Jesus – and their structure was to be crushed.           All this made them so angry they wanted to dispense with Jesus but the whole city reverenced Him.  So now what?  Shall we kill him? How? When?
“Heavenly Father,   teach us to be your servants and not demand that we be served. May we worship you in spirit and truth – not in any other way nor for any other reason.  Let us always test our hearts and activities [that we claim is for you] so that it truly is for you and for your glory.  Amen.”

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