Key Verse: Matthew 21:44
Big Idea: The storyline of Scripture is the tragedy of how we failed to recognize our King, and the love story of how He pursued us anyway.
Matthew 21 is packed full of important information. It begins with the Triumphal Entry of Jesus, and so begins what is commonly called Holy Week - the week in Jerusalem that ended with Jesus in the tomb, the disciples scattered and the enemies of God seemingly triumphant. In future readings we will reflect on some of the other events described in this chapter, but today we are going to pay special attention to the parable in Matthew 21:33-46.
A man built a vineyard, and rented it out to people who would bring him the profits at the end of the season. When the servants went to collect the fruit, the tenants instead beat one, killed one and stoned one, refusing to give the landowner what was his. Incredibly, the master sent another group of servants (more this time) to give them another chance to comply. Although they had rebelled and even killed a servant, they were given another chance. But they chose the same path of rebellion again. Finally, the landowner decided that he would send his own son - at least they would respect him. Instead, they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Jesus had just given them a thumbnail sketch of human history generally, and Israel's in particular. God gave us this world, but instead of giving Him the fruit of it, we horded it for ourselves. He sent prophets and teachers to call people back to Himself, but they rejected Him time and time again. Finally, He sent His own Son to come and call the people to repentance, but for those who rejected His Son there was no further remedy. Every human being who has ever lived has taken God's blessings and used them in rebellion against Him (Romans 3:23), but God has been patient to give us more opportunities to recognize Him. Ultimately, there is one messenger who we either accept or reject, and if we do not choose Him, there are no more messengers of grace, only justice. Jesus is like a stone, which can either be the main cornerstone of the Temple, or a massive crushing boulder.
Discussion Idea: Have you ever done something kind for someone which they did not recognize? How did it make you feel? Why does God continue to reach out to us, even when we reject Him?
Prayer Focus: Pray for an awareness of God's will and rule in our lives today.
PS: I have tried to be diligent to keep these short and direct, but there is something deeper in this passage that I want to point out for the interested. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus had cleansed the Temple of the merchants, bringing its business to a halt. Then, He used a verse about the temple to refer to the people rejecting Himself. Jesus was already indicating that the physical Temple at Jerusalem's time was up and that He was the chief cornerstone of a new Temple - God would no longer dwell in the physical building, but when His people, gathered in His name, assembled together. It is our responsibility to not use that Temple like the moneychangers used the old Temple, for personal profit and pleasure, but to give God the fruit that He deserves. It is a little advanced, and may not be a good fit for your family, but is something to chew on.