The Kingdomby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The chief priests and the elders then came to the Lord Jesus (Matt. 21:23-27). The chief priests held high positions in religion, and the elders held notable positions in the community. They asked the Lord, “Who gave You this authority?” (v. 23). This question shows the connection between this passage and the passages we have already covered. The underlying thought of ambition and authority connects these portions of Matthew, just as the washing of hands, the eating of crumbs, and the leaven connected those in chapters 15 and 16. The disciples were ambitious for authority and position, but the Lord Jesus conducted Himself in an unassuming way. Although He was the King, He did not assume the kingship. The opposers, the religious and community leaders, also had ambitious thoughts. “Who is this little man from Nazareth? Who gave Him this position and authority? We are the high priests and the elders. Who is He?”
Once again we see the wisdom of the Lord Jesus. When they asked Him concerning His authority, He asked them about the authority of John the Baptist. “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come, from heaven or from men?” (vv. 24-25). The Lord Jesus, of course, knew everything. The priests should have known not to play with the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus asked the priests and the elders about the baptism of John, they were caught in a corner.
The priests and elders realized that they had a problem. “They reasoned among themselves, saying, If we say, From heaven, He will say to us, Why then did you not believe him? But if we say, From men, we fear the crowd, for all hold John as a prophet” (vv. 25-26). They did not know what to do. Finally, they followed the father of lies and said, “We do not know.” The Lord Jesus replied, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things” (v. 27). He realized that they knew but were unwilling to tell Him. For them to say that they did not know was a lie. So the Lord said, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The Lord Jesus continued by telling a parable that offended them: “What do you think? A man had two children. And he came to his first son and said, Child, go today and work in the vineyard. And he answered and said, I do not want to; yet later he regretted and went. And he came to the other and said likewise. And he answered and said, I will, sir; yet he did not go. Which of the two did the will of the father? They said, The first. Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and the harlots are going into the kingdom of God before you” (vv. 28-31).
By this parable the Lord Jesus put the tax collectors and harlots above all the Pharisees. The Pharisees thought that they were on top and that the tax collectors and harlots were under their feet, but the Lord Jesus put the Pharisees on the bottom. John had come according to the way of righteousness, and when the tax collectors and harlots had heard his preaching, they changed their minds and repented. But the Pharisees did not repent, so the Lord ranked them below the tax collectors and harlots. Do you see the wisdom of the Lord Jesus in this parable? Once again we have the line of who is first, greater, or higher than others.
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