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Matthew 21:23-32

The Source for Your Course

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • July 05, 2020

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

The Source for Your Course

Matthew 21:23-32

Illus. Where do I look?

This week, we are jumping back into the book of Matthew. And as we jump back in, we are likely on Tuesday (some say Wednesday) of His final week. Jesus will be crucified on Friday of that week. He has headed into Jerusalem and into the final days leading up to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

In these next chapters, there are some very important truths for us. Jesus knew the time was drawing near, and it was important that He not only say what needed to be said, but showed them the reality of their way and the opportunity to turn from it so that He could be the source of their course.

Read: Matthew 21:23-32

For those of us who are in Christ, those who have set Him as the source for your course, this interaction and what follows is an important one, it gives direction on how to approach the Lord, and others. Or perhaps the source of your course is not yet Christ. So too this is an important story for you, because despite what has defined your past, or your response to all He has called you to and asked of you. There remains an opportunity today, to allow Jesus into your life to, and to be the source for your course.

I.   Ask Honest Questions

Matthew 21:23, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”

  • Dishonest questions are defined as those questions a person asks for a purpose other than getting answers. A dishonest question is a question one asks to trap, or trip another up. That person does not really want to hear, process or actually understand the answer.

Illus. What sort of answer do you want?

  • Jesus’ question that follows their question, brings to light the fact that they do not really want to engage in conversation. They are not really interested in processing and engaging in communication with Him.

Illus. Famous Lines.

  • The chief priest and elders do not want the truth, they just want to figure out a way to destroy Jesus.

Matthew 21:24-25

  • It is a great question from Jesus. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. He was the one who came before Jesus. John the Baptist came calling people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2).
  • Jesus asks them specifically about the source of John’s baptism. John’s baptism was characterized by baptizing those who repented and turned from their sin (3:6).
  • John was the last prophet of the Old Testament age, and became popular and admired among the masses.

Matthew 21:26-27

  • Jesus put the spotlight back on their heart in the matter.
  • By doing so, He showed that they weren’t truly concerned about where Jesus authority was from. They only wanted to trap Him, trip Him up.
  • And now we see that not only are they asking dishonest questions, but they are answering honest question dishonestly. They simply want to save face and accomplish their own agenda.
  • If they say it is from heaven, Jesus would say, why didn’t you believe?
  • If they say from man, they were fearful of the people because they knew John was a prophet (Mt. 14:3-5). Their response is, “we don’t know.”
  • They answer after their calculation of the political problems they may face with either answer. They were not going to answer honestly, and in effect, they were more interested in the opinions of the multitude rather than God’s will.
  • If they had answered correctly, they would already know where Jesus’ authority was from. It was from the same source as John, it was from God. For Jesus, His authority was found in who He is.

Illus. Examples.

  • The issue is that they had already made up their minds and they weren’t willing to allow Jesus to redefine the way their life was defined.
  • John came saying, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2), As Jesus began preaching, He said the very same words, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17)
  • To repent means to turn around, to have a change of mind and heart. To leave one place and head to another.
  • Repentance describes what coming to God is like. We cannot come to God, and the life He has for us unless we leave our sin and the self-life.

Illus. Portland to Seattle.

Hebrews 12:1-2

  • For you today, the only way Jesus will truly become the source of your course is if you not only begin to ask honest questions, but you answer honest questions honestly.
  • What the religious leaders were refusing to do, is at the foundation of what Christ follower are called to, to leave the self-life behind.
  1. Recognize what your steps reflect

Matthew 21:28-32

  • The first son says, “I will not”; but afterwards regretted it and went. (29) The second son said he would go, but never did. (30)
  • Jesus asks the question, “which of the two sons did the will of his father?
  • The chief priests and elders who are confronting Jesus always gave the appearance of willingness to do the will of the father, but they were not actually willing to go to work in His vineyard.
  • The religious elite seemed to have it all together on the surface. But there was no fruit in their lives.
  • Just before this in Matthew, we saw Jesus curse a fig tree that was not bearing fruit but gave the appearance of fruit from afar.
  • The tree looked good from far but was far from good, the temple Jesus was coming to looked impressive in appearance, but like this tree, was spiritually barren.
  • It was John the Baptist himself who told the religious leaders to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)
  • The religious leaders were saying all the right things but weren’t bearing the fruit of repentance.

Illus. Depiction of their day.

  • The term Jesus used for religious leaders and the way they operated was “hypocrite” (Mt. 6:2; giving to the poor, 6:5; prayer, 6:16; fasting).
  • The hypocrites were the play actors who would wear a mask on stage and perform, but it was not who they truly were.

Matthew 23:27, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

  • We will soon cover that chapter, and what we see here is that Jesus is trying to help them realize what their lives truly reflect. That they are not doing the will of the Father and bearing fruit.
  • There were beautiful leaves, but no fruit on the tree. They outwardly gave their “yes,” but their “yes” had no bearing on their actual steps.

Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

  • It is important to say the things that reflect the source of your course, but it is also important to recognize what your steps reflect. What is the fruit of your life?
  • Your true “yes,” your willingness to do the will of the Lord, is reflected in your steps.

Matthew 15:7-9, You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

  • Jesus says that Isaiah was prophesying about them in Isaiah 29:13.
  • They were saying and doing all the right things on the surface …But their hearts were far from Him.
  • Jesus is revealing to them the source of their course, the heart of the matter; they said yes, but their yes was false because it is not followed by their steps.

James 1:22-23 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

  • For you and for me, we must allow God’s Word to be our mirror. What does the Word say about the way we are to live? Once we read it once, we understand it, once we say “yes” to the Lord, now we must “go” as Jesus says. Now we must be doers of the Word.

Illus. Interpretation.

  • Our steps are to reflect a life that goes wherever God directs.
  • I find it interesting that not only are both sons called to work in the vineyard, but they are called to go to work in the vineyard immediately. He says in verse 28, “go to work today!”

Psalm 95:6-8, Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God,
and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

  • Today if you hear His voice, if you know His call to work in His vineyard, don’t harden your hearts, rather, be like the sheep of His pasture who go wherever He leads.
  • I want to draw your attention back to the story, because what Jesus is highlighting quite clearly, is the opportunity that those listening, you, me, and all throughout eternity have to change our course, and despite what has been, change your direction and begin to do the will of the father.
  1. Let Jesus Paint a New Picture

Matthew 21:31-32

  • First son, the one who says “I will not” but ends up going to work on his father’s vineyard is likened to the tax-collectors and prostitutes.
  • No statement would likely have cut them deeper or infuriated them more, because to the religious elite, the tax collectors and prostitutes were the scum of society.
  • They represented the lowest of the low, yet, because of their willingness to turn, to leave behind the self-life through repentance, because they acknowledged their need for God’s grace, they were those who were truly saved.
  • Tax collectors heard John preaching about Jesus and they left their old ways behind, and it was up to Jesus to define their future. Whatever they had said before mattered no more, they allowed the Father to become the source of their course, and from there on, did His will.

Matthew 5:3, Blessed are the [poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  • Jesus tells them that John came in the way of righteousness, he was the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus, God’s only Son. But they rejected John.
  • But the tax-collectors and prostitutes did believe him.

Luke 3:12, And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.”

  • What we see the tax collector do in response to His preaching about Jesus, is what those who are standing before Jesus in the temple are unwilling to do. To let a new picture be painted.

Romans 10:9-13

2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Matthew 21:23-32

When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.” And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?” They *said, “The first.” Jesus *said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.


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