Chapter twenty opens with the parable of the workers in the vineyard, with Jesus telling his disciples that, when it came to the kingdom of heaven, "the last will be first, and the first will be last." Then, as they started to go up to Jerusalem, he again told his disciples that he would be betrayed and condemned to death, flogged and crucified, and that "on the third day he will be raised to life." When the mother of James and John asked that they be allowed to sit at his right and left hands in the kingdom of heaven, he told them that "you don't know what you are asking" and that "to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father." He then healed two blind men.
In chapter twenty-one, they approached Jerusalem, and he sent them to get a colt and a donkey, for him to ride into the city on, so that they prophecy of Zechariah would be fulfilled. Crowds lined the way, shouting "Hosanna!" Jesus entered the temple area and "drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves," before going back to spend the night in Bethany. The next morning, he cursed a fig tree that had no figs, and it withered immediately. While he was teaching in the temple courts, the elders and priests asked by whose authority he was teaching and healing, and he responded by asking them where John's baptism came from, heaven or earth. Not wanting to anger the crowds, they declined to respond, and he told them that he wouldn't tell them where his authority came from, either. He taught the parable of the two sons, and the parable of the tenants, and "when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them."
Chapter twenty-two starts with the parable of the wedding banquet, followed by the discussion of taxes. When the Pharisees asked Jesus whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, he pointed out Caesar's image on the coin and told them that they should "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." In response to a discussion about marriage and multiple marriage, he taught them that "at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." And he taught them that the greatest commandment was to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and the second was to "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Thoughts, questions, issues
- I wrote about this in my commentary on Mark, I think, and may have mentioned it in Leviticus as well, but the story of the money changers and "those selling doves" has to have more to it. The law requires those who live far away to convert their offerings to silver, come to the temple and then buy doves to sacrifice. Those people are part of the Levitical system. We read that and we're "shocked - shocked! - to find that there are money-changers in the temple." But they're necessary for those who live far from the temple to be able to fulfill their sacrificial duties.
This interesting in the way that the voice changes. At the beginning, the psalmist is praying directly to God - "Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea." But later, the voice changes, as he speaks not to God, but to another man, a friend - "it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God..."
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.
1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
3 at the voice of the enemy,
at the stares of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering upon me
and revile me in their anger.
4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death assail me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest-
7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm."
9 Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were raising himself against me,
I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave,
for evil finds lodging among them.
16 But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
18 He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned forever,
will hear them and afflict them—
men who never change their ways
and have no fear of God.
20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
21 His speech is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.