A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Seize the Day!

 

In the last chapter we learned about what it means to labor in the Lord. The chapter ended with an example of Jesus laboring in ministry to the hurting and needy around Him. Jesus is now going to enter Jerusalem where He will fulfill His redemptive mission on the cross. Up until this point in the gospel He has been instructing those He ministered to, to “tell no one” (Matthew 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; 17:9; Mark 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30; 9:9; Luke 5:14; 8:56; 9:21). But now, upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus breaks out into the open and receives the worship He is due as King. Why this change? Why now?  Let’s see.

 

See the Moment

 

Matthew 21:1-3 – “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”  [1]

The Mount of Olives is one half mile east of the Jerusalem City walls and to pass from the City to the Mount of Olives you descend down a slope crossing over the Kidron Valley and then ascend up the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus ascended to heaven and where He will return at His Second Coming (Acts 1:9-12). “Bethpage,” literally means, “house of figs.” Perhaps this town was known at some point for its fig production.

Here we see Jesus give some very particular and well organized instructions to his disciples. Keep in mind that Jerusalem at this time was bursting with upwards of 2 million people who had come to the City to celebrate the Passover (see Matthew 26:2; Exodus 12). This was the time of year when the most people would be assembled together in this City at any one time. Jesus’ directions to the disciples demonstrate a planned strategy to enter the City. He arranged to enter the City on, “a donkey.” Why on a donkey? The answer to that question leads us into the crux of this chapter.

Seize the Day!

Matthew 21:4-7 – “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, 1 ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.”   [2]

Jesus knew that He was the Messiah who had been promised prophetically in the Old Testament. His entrance into Jerusalem must be in accord with the prophetic Scriptures (Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9). Of this verse David H. Stern, in his Jewish New Testament Commentary states:

“The key to this passage [Matthew 21:2-7] is the citation from the Tanakh in v. 5. It conflates two verses in the Tanakh, Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9. the former includes the lines, “Say to the daughter of Zion, see your salvation comes! See, His reward is with Him, but His work lies ahead of Him.” The word for ‘salvation’ here is ‘yesha’,identical with the name of the Messiah, Yeshua, except for the optional letter vav. Moreover, Isaiah describes this ‘yesha” as a person, and not just any person, but God – since a person who is salvation must be God. English translations, including Jewish ones, which capitalize pronouns referring to God recognize this fact by capitalizing “His” and “Him” in this passage, as is done above. One may even say that in this verse Isaiah, writing 700 years before Yeshua was born, refers to him in his divine aspect by name.

Zechariah 9:9 has these lines in it: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! . . . . See, your king comes to you. He is triumphant and victorious, humbly riding on a donkey, yes on a colt, the offspring of a beast of burden.’ By combining the two verses Mattityahu gives a hint . . . that God, the Salvation of Israel, the Messianic King and Yeshua of Nazeret are one. Also he hints at the two comings of the Messiah and the difference between them: at his first coming Yeshua is our final atoning sacrifice, bringing salvation by his death; therefore he rides into Jerusalem humbly on a beast of burden, ready to perform the work which lies ahead for him. But he will return, triumphant and victorious, as ruling king, rewarding the faithful – although for those who are faithful now, he has already begun to share the reward which he brings with him.” [3]

Now the skeptic might comment, “See, Jesus is just manufacturing the fulfillment of prophecy to serve His own purposes.” But rather than simply manufacturing the fulfillment of certain prophecies, Jesus is fulfilling obediently those prophecies that are signs and markers set in place by God to identify the Messiah. By entering Jerusalem particularly on a donkey Jesus is proclaiming that He is indeed the messiah. Jesus was unmistakably making a statement about Who He was, Messiah, the Anointed One foretold in the Old Testament.

A Prophetically Exact Day

This was not just any day; it was a prophetically exact day. The birthplace of Jesus was foretold to be Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and for anyone to fulfill prophecy at their birth would be quite a trick, an impossibility, unless one actually was the object of such a prophetic word, which Jesus was.

But Jesus, on the day mentioned in Matthew 21, is entering Jerusalem on an exact day foretold nearly 500 years earlier. For Jesus to be eligible to fulfill such a prophetic word, He would have to have been born at just the right time in history, which is exactly what Paul states when he is inspired to write:

  • Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”  [4]

“Okay, okay, you might being thinking, but where does it state the exact day of Messiah’s entrance into the Jerusalem in the Old Testament?” To answer that question we need to go to the book of Daniel.

The Seventy Weeks of Daniel

In Daniel chapter 9 there is a prophecy which speaks of 490 years of God’s prophetic historical plan for the nation of Israel. We will focus on the part of the prophecy which deals particularly with the predicted date of Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem. In Daniel 9 it states:

 

  • Daniel 9:24-27 - “Seventy weeks are determined 1 For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”   [5]

Let’s take a look at this magnificent word of prophecy about Jesus.

“Seventy Sevens”

 

  • “Seventy weeks are determined 1 For your people and for your holy city,” (Daniel 9:24a). [6]

 

This prophecy is one of the most incredible prophecies in the entire Bible. It is important to recognize that the prophecy is particularly concerned with “your people and for your holy city,” that is the people of Israel and Jerusalem. The church is not in view here. The “seventy weeks” is more literally “seventy sevens” as the term “weeks” is the Hebrew SHABUWAH (Strong’s #7620 – “seven, heptad”) which simply means “sevens.” Virtually every commentator both past and up to the present accepts that this refers to 70 units of seven years, or a total of 490 years. [7]

 

Seventy sevens or 490 years to accomplish six things

 

  • Daniel 9:24 - “Seventy weeks are determined 1 For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.”  [8]

This prophecy speaks of 490 years of history to bring six things to pass. First, “To finish the transgression” – This refers to completing the time of rebellion against God. Secondly, “To make an end of sins” – This refers to God’s plan of salvation through Messiah Jesus Christ.  Third, “To make reconciliation for iniquity” - This speaks of the atoning sacrifice made by Jesus at His death on the cross. We are reconciled to God through the death of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5). Fourth, “To bring in everlasting righteousness” - Everlasting righteousness will be established when Jesus returns at His 2nd Coming and establishes His Millennial Kingdom headquartered in Jerusalem  (Isaiah 9:7; 11:3–5; Jeremiah 23:5–6). Fifth, “To seal up the vision and prophecy” – This refers to the time when all visions and prophecies will have been fulfilled. Sixth, “To anoint the most Holy” – “ This phrase has been taken at various times to refer to Zerubbabel’s temple, Christ Himself, the Holy One, or the future millennial temple. The most natural usage would be a reference to the anointing of a future temple when Messiah’s reign will be inaugurated with righteousness. Such a temple is predicted in Ezekiel 40–48, together with actual animal sacrifices which will commemorate Christ’s death on the cross.”  [9]

Sixty-nine sevens or 483 years UNTIL “MESSIAH THE PRINCE” COMES

 

  • Daniel 9:25 - “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.”  [10]

This is an incredible prophecy! What it means is that from the time that the people are permitted to return to the Holy Land to rebuild Jerusalem, there will be “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” or 69 weeks of seven years each, or 483 years (69x7 = 483). We need to keep in mind too that the Hebrew year consisted of 360 days, not 365 like our calendar.

In the book of Nehemiah we are told of the “command” made by King Artaxerxes to allow the Jews to return to their land from captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem, (not just the Temple but the city of Jerusalem):

  • Nehemiah 2:1,5,8 – “And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.5  . . .And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” . . . 8 “and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”  [11]

It is well documented in history that the first day of Nisan “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes” is equivalent to March 14, 445 B.C. That is the starting point for this prophecy. You might think, “Wait a minute teacher, how do you know what day of the month in Nisan it was?” In his great book entitled, The Search For Messiah, Mark Eastman explains the following:

By Hebrew tradition, when the day of the month is not specifically stated, it is given to be the first day of that month. So, the day of the decree by Artaxerxes was the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan 445 B.C.E. The first day of Nisan 445 B.C.E. corresponds to the 14th day of March. This was verified by the astronomical calculations at the British Royal Observatory and reported by Sir Robert Anderson.” [12] (Emphasis added.)

Now if we multiply 69 x 7 year units (360 day years) the result is 173,880 days. When we mark off 173,880 days from March 14, 445 B.C. it brings us to April 6th, 32 A.D. In Luke 3:1 it states that Jesus’ ministry began “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.”  The date at which Tiberius’ reign began is calculated with certainty to be 14 A.D. If we add 15 years starting from 14 A.D. it brings us to 29 A.D. We then need to add an additional 3 years due to the three years of ministry depicted chronologically in the gospels. That therefore brings us to 32 A.D. In his pamphlet Jesus Historical Facts, Ralph O Muncaster notes that:

“The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England confirms the Sunday [Palm Sunday – Triumphal Entry] before Passover [in 32 A.D.] to be APRIL 6TH, 32 A.D.’[13]

THEREFORE, WHAT WE HAVE IN DANIEL 9 IS AN EXACT CALCULATION TO THE DAY WHEN JESUS MADE HIS TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM. This not only attests to the supernatural Divine authorship of this prophecy, but it also identifies and bears testimony that Jesus is the Messiah!

Messiah shall be cut off

  • Daniel 9:26a - “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;[14]

Here we have a direct reference to the crucifixion of Jesus one week after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” is referring to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as the Scripture attests:

  • Isaiah 53:4-6 – “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  [15]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [16]
  • 1 Peter 2:24 – “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”  [17]
  • 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”  [18]

The Jews had been looking for a political Messiah who would free them from the oppression of the Romans. But had they checked the word of God more closely and not relied so heavily on the tradition of men, they would have understood that Messiah would first give His life as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all humankind. (A good book to consult concerning what the Rabbis were expecting Messiah to be is Mark Eastman’s book The Search For Messiah.) [19]

After the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the church age began. The final week of 7-year units in Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy is yet future. God has chosen to take that final 7-year period and separate it from the first 69 weeks. What follows in Daniel’s prophecy tells us when the events of that final 7-year period will begin.

Seize the King!

Matthew 21:8-11 – “And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”  [20]

Why did Jesus enter the City riding on a donkey as prophesied in Zechariah, on the exact day predicted by Daniel and in fulfillment of so many other prophecies? There is one primary reason that Jesus entered Jerusalem when He did (when the Passover was being celebrated) and how He did, on a donkey as King. Jesus was eliminating any future claim to ignorance that the religious might make. By clearly making a King’s entrance into the City, the Jews were being given an opportunity to embrace and receive Jesus as Messiah King. Here was their chance to seize the day. Some initially did receive Jesus as their King, but eventually the shouts of “Hosanna” turned into, “Seize the King!” so to speak or,  “crucify Him!”

When John the Baptist first saw Jesus come He said:

  • John 1:29 – “ The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  [21]

John’s heart was open to God and so when Jesus came he was able to seize the day of Christ’s coming.

Later in the New Testament the apostle Paul also refers to Jesus as our Passover Lamb:

  • 1 Corinthians 5:7 – “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”  [22]

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover; the Passover was a prediction of Him. As the Passover Lamb, Jesus is the substitutionary atoning sacrifice for all humankind according to God’s gospel plan.

But not only that, The New Testament describes Jesus as King when it states:

  • Zechariah 9:9 - “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”  [23]
  • John 12:13 – “took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: 1 “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!”  [24]
  • 1 Timothy 1:16-17 – “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  [25]
  • Revelation 19:11-16 – “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”  [26]

Jesus entered Jerusalem as the King foretold in the Old Testament. There was the opportunity for His people to receive Him, but they did not. All the people did was ask, “Who is this?” and see Jesus as a “prophet” (21:10-11). Why didn’t they recognize Jesus for Who He was and receive Him? The answer is in what follows.

Seize the Scripture

Matthew 21:12-17 – “Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”17 Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.”  [27]

These verses further confirm that Jesus was a scriptural man. He enters the Temple quoting the word of God, His revelation (in Matthew 21:13 He quotes Jeremiah 7:11 and in Matthew 21:16 He quotes Psalm 8:2). Being the Word made flesh, or the living embodiment of the word of God (John 1:1-2 and 14), Jesus applies the word of God to the house of God, the Temple, cleansing it of those who contradict God’s Biblically prescribed purpose for the Temple. When He heals people and the children address Him passionately with the words, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (which is a clear Messianic title), the chief priests are indignant and try to rebuke Jesus (21:14-15). How does Jesus respond to their rebuke? Jesus points out their deficiency by pointing them to God’s word saying, “Have you never read . . . ?” (21:16) This is significant.

This passage depicts the degenerative state that God’s people had sunken to. In order to generate income for the Temple and it’s priests their was a separate Temple currency used when buying sacrificial animals. Some people sought to bring their own animals to sacrifice. But when this happened the temple priests would scrutinize and look over the animals in order to find a blemish or fault with the animal. Once the blemish was found the animal was therefore disqualified. What was the pilgrim who had traveled miles to sacrifice at the Temple to do without a sacrifice? Not to worry, an animal approved by the Temple priests could be bought in the Temple courts. It wasn’t cheap, but at least they could sacrifice to the Lord. But as the pilgrim reached into their pocket to pay, the moneychanger stepped in to inform them that only Temple currency was acceptable and they would have to exchange their secular money with Caesar’s face on it for the “holy” Temple money. Of course there would be a steep rate of exchange, but what was a pilgrim to do? In this arrangement pilgrims were being extorted and Jesus immediately sought to cleanse His Father’s House of these thieves (21:12-13). 

Personal cleansing

There is a personal spiritual application for us here. The Bible asserts that believers are a Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Since Jesus cleansed the stone Temple more than once (compare John 2:13-15 and in Matthew 21), we too need to be repeatedly cleansed by Him. Just as Jesus thoroughly cleared out the moneychangers and thieves, so to we need to be thoroughly cleansed by Him (21:12; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 1:6; 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The goal of Jesus’ cleansing is to make us people of prayer   (21:13; Philippians 4:6-7). He wants us to be people of compassion who minister in His love (21:14; Matthew 22:34-40).  Jesus wants us to be people who minister in His power and do “wonderful” things just as He did (21:15; Romans 12:1-2).   And lastly, the cleansing that Jesus should make us people of praise (21:15-17; 1 Peter 2:9).

“Have you never read . . . ?”

The point to be grasped in these verses is found in Jesus’ words, “have you never read . . . ?” (21:16). The reason the religious Pharisees hadn’t recognized Jesus as their Messiah, is because they didn’t know the Scriptures and if they did, they were closed to the truth of them. Friend, when God brings a Scripture to your attention, seize it!

God’s word is the tool the Spirit uses to save souls. The importance of God’s word in our conversion and life in Christ cannot be emphasized too much. Read what the word says about itself:

  • Psalm 19:7 – “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;”  [28]
  • Psalm 119:9-11,93 – “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life.”  [29]
  • Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  [30]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”  [31]
  • 1 Peter 1:22-25 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  [32]

These verses speak clear and true about the importance of God’s word in the life of people. If you do not seize the Scripture, you may be hardened to the truth of God much the same as the Jewish religious leaders were. And the result is that you will miss out on God’s best for you and even possibly eternal life!

Rather than reject God’s word we need to receive it like a hungry baby who craves his or her mother’s milk. Jesus quoted that it was out of the mouths of babes that praise was perfected (21:16 quoting Psalm 8:2). We need to hunger for God’s word. Did you ever try to appease a hungry baby with anything other than the formula or mother’s milk they craved? It just can’t be done. That’s the way we need to be, we need to insist that those leading our churches are teaching the word and feeding the babes hungering for the milk of God’s word. As Peter was inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 2:2-3 – “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  [33]

Jesus just walked away from His accusers because they had been given ample opportunity to seize the day, and it was clear they would not (21:17). Don’t be in such a state of hard heartedness that Jesus turns and walks away from you.

Seize the Fruit

Matthew 21:18-22 – “Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. 20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”21 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.22 “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  [34]

What’s going on here? Jesus was a master of object lessons that communicated deeper spiritual truths. You see fig trees were common in Israel in Jesus day. A fig tree is unique in that the fig fruit grows on the branches of the tree before the leaves sprout. Therefore, when Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves he thought He’d get some breakfast. But when He went to the tree, there was no fruit. The tree was not what it appeared to be. And so Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered. Mark tells us that it shriveled right down to the roots (Mark 11:20). Now Jesus was not throwing environmental caution to the wind, He shriveled the fig tree for a reason.

What spiritual lessons can be gleaned from this story? The fig tree in Scripture is a symbol of Israel (Jeremiah 24:1-10; Hosea 9:10). Just as the fig tree had lots of leaves and was fruitless, so too Israel appeared to be very religious, but there was no real spiritual fruit. And so, like the fig tree, Israel was cursed in the sense that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans with a great slaughter of the people.

Personal Spiritual lessons from the fig tree

There are some personal spiritual lessons to be applied here as well. By looking at this fig tree as a type of fruit bearing entity, we can draw a parallel to that of disciples who are supposed to bear fruit (John 15:1-17; Galatians 5:22-23).

First, isolation leads to fruitlessness. Notice, this was “a fig tree,” it was a single solitary fig tree set aside all by itself. In the same way, when we isolate ourselves from fellowship, we become fruitless. The Bible tells us:

  • Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  [35]

In the same way we need to guard against isolating ourselves from the body of believers. Instead, we need to come together and stir one another up to do good works for the glory of God.

Second, Jesus hungers for fruit in our lives. Jesus is looking for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23); for the fruit of thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15); for the fruit of sharing the gospel (Colossians 1:6); and for the fruit of righteousness and right living (James 3:18). When Jesus comes to you morning by morning looking to see your fruit, what does He see? Does He see the leaves of hypocrisy or the Fruit of the Spirit?

Third, a fruitless person can’t satisfy anyone. In Mark this same account tells us that Jesus cursed the tree with the words, Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (Mark 11:13-14). If we aren’t satisfying Jesus in our relationship with Him, we’ll not satisfy anyone else in ministry.

Fourth, can a fruitless tree become fruitful? There is a way that God’s word alludes to in a parable of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel where it states:

  • Luke 13:6-9 – “He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.7 “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’8 “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.9 ‘And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”    [36]

There is a chance for a fruitless tree to be given the chance to bear fruit. There are two steps to making the unfruitful tree fruitful. The first step is to, “dig around it.” If you want to become fruitful, you have to dig to the root of the problem. We can get to the root of our fruitless problem only by way of God’s word. In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [37]

God’s word pierces, it gets to the root of the problem. Surrender and expose yourself to God through His word. Let Him assess your heart and life to see where the dryness and deadness has crept in. That’s the first step.

The second step in making a fruitless tree fruitful is to “fertilize it.” Fertilizer (Greek KOPRIA – Strong’s #2804) is dung of one kind or another; it is refuse or that which is cast out. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he describes this fertilizing process by saying:

  • Philippians 3:4-7 – “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”  [38]

When we expose ourselves to the Lord through His word, we then need to throw out on the dunghill anything that we might be tempted to trust in rather than in Christ. We can’t let anything get in the way of our pursuit of Jesus or His work in us. Once we dig and dung our tree, God will make it fruitful. Which leads us to our next item to seize.

Seize the Opportunity to Surrender to Jesus’ Authority

Matthew 21:23-27 – “Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:25 “The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’26 “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  [39]

Jesus went into the Temple and taught, rather than hear what Jesus had to say, the chief priests deafly questioned Jesus authority (21:23). The sad thing was that when Jesus responded to their question with a question of His own, their only response was, “We do not know” (21:27). They didn’t know a lot of things, yet they were unwilling to be taught. They had closed their hearts to Jesus rather than seize the opportunity to submit and surrender to Him. How sad it is when people are closed to Jesus. These chief priests were too caught up in the opinions of people rather than the truth of God. That is always a dangerous and spiritually life threatening situation.

The authority of Jesus

What authority does Jesus have? First, the Bible tells us that Jesus was born to rule and shepherd His people. In the account of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s gospel Micah 5:2 is quoted stating:

  • Matthew 2:6 – “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, 1 Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”  [40]

Jesus has authority to rule over us, that is why “Lord” is His appropriate title in regards to His people (e.g. Romans 10:8-9; 1 Peter 3:15,22).

Second, Jesus has authority over the demonic world. The Bible states:

  • Matthew 8:16 – “When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,”  [41]
  • Mark 1:27 – “Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”   [42]

Jesus has authority over the demonic world and that authority is most clearly seen at the cross. Paul was inspired to write of Jesus’ authority over the demonic world in the following way:

  • Colossians 2:13-15 – “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  [43]

When faced with a demonic opposition, turn to Jesus and let Him fight the foe (Romans 16:20; James 4:7; 1 John 4:4).

Third, Jesus teaches with authority. The Bible comments on the authority with which Jesus taught when it records:

  • Matthew 7:28-29 – “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”  [44]

Jesus said also:

  • Matthew 24:35 - “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”  [45]

When Jesus teaches, you had better listen. And rather than try to change Jesus’ words, you had better let them change you.

Fourth, Jesus as God in the flesh, has the authority to forgive sins. This is clearly seen when Jesus healed someone to verify that He had the authority to forgive sins. IN Matthew it states:

  • Matthew 9:6-8 - “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”7 And he arose and departed to his house.8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”    [46]

When you have sinned go to Jesus, not a human intermediary or Mary or a “saint,” go directly to Jesus and confess your sin to Him and He will forgive you (see 1 John 1:7,9).

Fifth, Jesus has the authority to judge. In John’s inspired gospel account Jesus says:

  • John 5:22-27 - “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,23 “that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.25 “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,27 “and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”   [47]

Clearly we see from these verses that Jesus has the authority to judge people regarding their eternal destiny.

Sixth, Jesus has the authority to call and commission disciples. Jesus is the Master Disciple-Maker and as such He has the authority to call them and send them wherever He desires them to serve. We see this in some of the closing verses of Matthew which state:

  • Matthew 28:18-20 – “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”  [48]

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth and we need to seize the opportunity to submit to that authority.

Seize the Opportunity to Serve

Matthew 21:28-32 - “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’29 “He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.30 “Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.31 “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.32 “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”  [49]

The shame of the circumstances was that “tax collectors and harlots” received Jesus and were willing to serve Him, but the religious were not so willing. The religious people only paid lip service to Jesus and John the Baptist much the same as the second son in the parable had done.

Oh the sad state of affairs that results from not seizing the opportunity to serve the Lord! In 1991 Dr. Jimmy Allen (who had been the previous pastor of a Baptist church in Texas) expressed the loss experienced when the opportunity to serve the Lord is passed up. He said:

“We missed him. Our chance to change things came and passed and we did not know it was there. A dark-skinned little boy sat through Sunday school classes for three years at a great Baptist Church (First Church, San Antonio) but some one missed him. His name was Sirhan Sirhan, and at age 24 he shot and killed Senator Robert Kennedy. In a welter of words and the shudder of grief throughout our nation, the persistent thought keeps recurring...someone missed him.”  [50]

How said it is when we see what might have been if we had only given ourselves to Jesus in service to Him.

Seize the Cornerstone – Jesus

Matthew 21:33-46 – “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.34 “Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.35 “And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.36 “Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.37 “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’38 “But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’39 “So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.44 “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.”  [51]

Just as the cursing of the fig-less fig tree illustrates the fruitless condition of Israel and the need for fruitfulness in the life of disciples, so too in this parable of the wicked vinedressers shows that the “landowner” (God)  sends out his “servants” (Old Testament prophets)  into the “vineyard” (Israel), which he has built up to harvest fruit (21:34). The “vinedressers” are a reference to Israel whom God has “leased” His vineyard to (21:33). The “far country” alludes to heaven. Israel here is seen to have repeatedly rejected God’s messengers and ultimately rejected Messiah Jesus (21:38-40, 42-44; see also 21:32). The fruit here is simple receptivity of the gospel and repentance (21:32; 3:8).

The crux of the matter here in this parable is that people often bite the hand of the One who is trying to feed them. The landowner (God), has a right to the fruit (spiritual fruitfulness) of His vineyard, yet the “vinedressers”  (Israel) not only refused to produce and give the landowner fruit, but killed his son (Jesus). The parable of Jesus speaks of the countless prophets and other people whom God sent to minister to the people. But one by one they were all rejected until finally the “landowner” (God the Father) sent His own Son (Jesus) and He they killed (21:33-39). Jesus tells the parable and asks the chief priests what they think the landowner will do to the vinedressers (21:40). The chief priests say, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably” (21:41). Then Jesus gives them the punch line by telling them the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to another nation that will bear fruit where they failed and refused to do so (21:43). What does this all mean?

“Have you never read in the Scriptures:. . . ?” or do you merely rely on tradition?

Jesus challenges the chief priests and religious leaders by saying, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: . . .” (21:42a). Here Jesus points out the glaring root of the problem of the religious leaders of His day. They depended on manmade traditions to the detriment of their knowledge of Scripture. For them manmade tradition took priority over Biblical truth. Whenever that is the case, you will set yourself up to miss out on the not only the truth of God, but the crux of His plan.   Building a belief system on manmade tradition is building on sand rather than the firm foundation of the rock of Jesus and His word. Jesus often questioned the ignorance of the Scriptures that characterized the religious leaders (Matthew 12:3; 19:4; 22:29; John 20:9; Acts 13:27).  Remember what Jesus said in His conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount? He said:

  • Matthew 7:24-27 - “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”  [52]

Hindsight is 20/20 and we know the “fall” Israel sustained by rejecting her Messiah. But had Israel been led by her leaders to know and rely upon the word of God, history might have been very different.

Traditions are fine, AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT CONTRADICT SCRIPTURE. And that was the major flaw of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. In the gospel of Mark Jesus points this out by saying:

  • Mark 7:8 – ““For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”  [53]

Later in the New Testament Paul warned against being sidetracked and cheated of God’s best by human tradition and philosophy saying:

  • Colossians 2:8-10 – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [54]

If you rely on human tradition or philosophy you will be cheated of and miss out on God’s best for you. Why is that? Because human tradition is powerless.

The powerlessness of human tradition

In his first epistle, the apostle Peter (who some say is the first pope based upon tradition) goes so far as to refer to human tradition as resulting in “aimless conduct” when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 1:17-19 – “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  [55]

The word “aimless” here is translated from the Greek term MATAIAS (Strong’s #3152)

meaning, “vain, devoid of force, truth, success, result; useless, of no purpose” [56] It isn’t

so much that tradition itself is bad, tradition can be helpful if it complies and submits to

the authority of Scripture. But what Peter says is that the when believers lived according

to human traditions before they were saved, their conduct was still  “aimless.”  The point

here is that when these people relied on and were guided by human tradition, it led to

aimless conduct. Tradition is powerless to transform lives.  In and of itself tradition

lacks the power to change lives because it is NOT inspired by God. Tradition is a

human commentary on God’s word. There is a big difference between God’s undiluted

Holy and pure word over against the words of flawed human beings. 

 

The power of God is in His word, not human comments on His word. In Hebrews, (as

we mentioned earlier in our reference to the process of becoming fruitful)  it states:

 

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [57]

Read what Jeremiah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament said about the

power and effectiveness of God’s word:

 

  • Jeremiah 23:29 - “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”  [58]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”  [59]

If we are to experience the powerful life changing effect of God in our lives, we have to

go directly to the instrument of that power, His word. Things would have been much

different in Israel had her leadership been students of God’s word and open to its truths

rather than caught up in the web of  human traditions. Traditions can be a source of

history and comment on God’s word, but they can never be the primary and

foundational source of belief. If we rely on human tradition to the neglect of God’s

word, we will likely miss God’s best for us as well as our purpose in His plan.

 

The Stone the builders rejected on “the day the LORD has made”

Jesus continues by quoting scripture saying, “‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.” (21:42b). Jesus again turns to the Scriptures to make His case. He quotes from the Psalms where it states:

  • Psalm 118:22-23 – “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.23 This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.”  [60]

The history behind this verse is that when the Temple was initially under construction the massive stones were quarried far away from the building plot and then transported to the Temple Mount. The massive stones measuring 40 feet wide and 20 feet high were then fit together piece by piece. So close and tight and perfect was the fit of the stones that not even a razor blade could be wedged in between them.  Tradition states that in the beginning of the Temple building project a stone was brought that just didn’t seem to fit. This stone was cast aside into the Kidron Valley and forgotten about. But when the foundation was drawing to completion they found that they were one stone short. You guessed it, the stone that had been initially rejected turned out to be the cornerstone, the stone that holds all the others in place. In the same way these chief priest, religious Pharisees and religious people were rejecting Jesus, but he would turn out to be the most important piece! (21:42-44).

In Psalm 118 it goes on to refer to a particular “day” saying:

  • Psalm 118:24-25 – “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.25 Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.”  [61]

Psalm 118 is a Messianic Psalm, which refers to the “day the LORD has made” at which time the Messiah will come. That “day the LORD has made,” was the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem! The sad part is that those who should have been ready and waiting for the Messiah did not see the day and actually rejected Jesus, the Messiah.

“This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’

By quoting Psalm 118:22-23 Jesus emphasizes that what is happening should be viewed in terms of, “This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’ (21:42). The chief priests and religious leaders could reject Jesus as Messiah, but in so doing, they were in reality rejecting God who had orchestrated His coming. If only they had been in God’s word, they would have been able to see His work and proclaim, “it is marvelous in our eyes.”

How tragic it is when people are spiritual dull and self-serving to the point where they miss out on God’s call and plan for their lives. In a few chapters as Jesus makes His final foray into Jerusalem He will cry out remorsefully expressing this sad state of affairs saying:

  • Matthew 23:37-39 - “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!38 “See! Your house is left to you desolate;39 “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”  [62]

These people were missing out on so much because they were stiff-necked and hardened in heart to the ways of the LORD. They hadn’t learned enough from the captivity of their ancestors (2 Chronicles 36:14-23). And because they refused to be open to the LORD, they would again miss out on His plan. This is what Jesus goes on to say.

Jews and Gentiles in God’s redemptive plan

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” ? (21:43) Jesus is referring to the roles of the Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan of redemption (see Romans 9-11). “Nation” here seems to refer to a body of people and that “nation” that the kingdom will be given to instead of Israel is the Gentile nation. This was fulfilled after Pentecost when the church reached out to include Gentiles (Acts 10) and evolved for the most part into a Gentile group.

The Bible speaks of the times of the Gentiles being fulfilled (Luke 21:24; Romans 11:25). A time is coming when God will complete His use of the mostly converted-Gentile church. When Jesus comes to Rapture His converted Gentile church, at the point God will again turn to use Israel as His instrument in the world during the Tribulation (see Romans 11:23; Revelation 7; 14).

Repentance or powder?

Jesus says, “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (21:44). To, “fall on the stone,” means to repent and fall done at the feet of Jesus. To have the stone fall on you refers to the judgment of Jesus. If you rebel against the salvation of the Lord, you will be ground to powder!

This last statement by Jesus was taken for what it was, a rebuke of the religious leaders to whom the parable was directed. Rather than repent, they felt like grabbing Jesus and killing Him, but because they feared the people they did not (21:45-46). But eventually they would pre-meditatively work their will and crucify Jesus.

When we come to the book of Acts the first martyr Stephen echoes the sad state of the people when he says with some of his final words:

  • Acts 7:51-53 - “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.52 “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,53 “who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”  [63]

Stephen gets right to the heart of the problem when he says, “you always resist the Holy Spirit” (7:51). When they rejected Jesus they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit, the one unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:31-32).

In a recent sports article Curtis Martin, a star running back for the New York Jets football team made an interesting comment when he said:

            “I have a saying that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.” [64]

Those are astute words from that running back (a disciple of Jesus Christ). Didn’t you ever wonder why, (with all the scriptures at their disposal), why didn’t the chief priests, Pharisees, scribes and religious people of Jesus day recognize Jesus as Messiah? You see, it wasn’t so much a problem of recognition but it was more of a problem of rebellion. Those who should have recognized Jesus as the foretold and prophetically promised Messiah, did not receive Him because the way Jesus came did not fit into their plans. The religious leaders had a preconceived notion of how Messiah should come, (i.e. to serve their purposes of liberating them from the Roman oppressors and reestablishing their nation Israel). When God didn’t meet their expectations and plans, they rebelled and chose to take control themselves. The bottom line was that the religious leaders of Jesus day who should have stepped aside like John the Baptist (John 3:30), were unwilling to do so because they were comfortable with their positions of influence and authority over God’s people. The ultimate result of such a sinful self-centered attitude is to be ground to powder!

Conclusion

Seize the day disciple! God gives us such great opportunities to be used by Him and we need to seize and take every opportunity. There is nothing more tragic than opportunity lost as the following story shows.

Between 1269 and 1271 Niccolo and Matteo Polo (the father and uncle of Marco Polo) traveled to visit with the great Kubla Khan. At the time Kubla Khan ruled all of China, India and the entire East. In his conversations with the two men from the West he became attracted to the message of Christianity. So enthralled with the message of Christ was Kubla Khan that he said to Matteo and Niccolo, “You shall go to your high priest and tell him on my behalf to send me a hundred men skilled in your religion and I shall be baptized, and when I am baptized all my barons and great men will be baptized, and their subjects will receive baptism, too, and so there will be more Christians here than there are in your parts.” At the time the Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed. 

But what actually happened? Nothing was done for about thirty years, and when something was done in response to Khan’s request, two missionaries were sent. Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So passed the greatest missionary opportunity in the history of the church.  [65]

Just think of how the world might have been changed? God gives you and me opportunities each day to be used by Him. Each opportunity is a part of His larger plan. What a privilege it is that God includes us in His plan. Don’t let that opportunity pass you by, seize the day!

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3] David H. Stern, The Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, MD, 1992) p. 61-62

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12] Mark Eastman, The Search For  Messiah, Costa Mesa, CA: The Word For Today, 1993) p. 80.

[13] John O Muncaster, Jesus Historical Facts – Investigation of the Evidence, (Mission Viejo, CA 92691:Strong Basis To Believe, 1996) p. 14-15.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19] Mark Eastman, The Search For Messiah, (Box 8000 Costa Mesa, CA 92628. Phone 714-979-0706).

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50] Dr. Jimmy Allen, former pastor of First Baptist Chruch, San Antonio, Texas in Pulpit Helps, May, 1991.

 

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64] Steve Serby, Great Expectations – Jets believe they will beat Raiders, roar into playoffs, New York Post, Friday, 1/4/2002. p. 92

[65] R. Dunkerly, in Resource, No. 2. at http://sermonillustrations.com/ and James S. Hewett, Ed., Illustrations Unlimited, Wheaton , IL: Tyndale House Pub., Inc. 1988. p. 390