“By What Authority?”

Matthew 21:23-27

HE who spoke as one having authority and not as the scribes was challenged by the scribes as to that authority (Matt. 21:23-27). Our Lord met question with question by asking of them whether John’s baptism was from heaven or of men. John had recognized Jesus, and to recognize John, therefore, was to recognize Christ. To discredit John would be dangerous, for the people believed in him. It was a master stroke that utterly defeated the questioners. Our Lord followed that by the parable of the two sons. The one who offered to go but did not is the prominent Jew who professed religion but did not receive Christ; the other is the publican and sinner who made no profession but did receive the Light. This is clear from Jesus’ declaration: “The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (v. 31).

This does not teach that it is better to make no profession at all, just obey. Remember that John the Baptist is the topic, as verse 32 of Matthew 21 shows. The Pharisees had gloried in the law and professed to follow it. Yet John was directly in the line of the Scriptures as the forerunner who was to come. They had refused him, while many publicans and harlots who had not kept the law had accepted John’s message and entered the kingdom.

Our Lord gave next the parable of the wicked husbandman in which He made clear claim to be the Son of God. God, the Husbandman, sends His servants, the prophets, to gather fruit of Israel. When they are rejected, He sends His Son. Then came the judgment of God in the destruction of Jerusalem while the vineyard is let out to others—ministers, and the Church now standing by faith—while Israel is cut off.

Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22 as applied to Himself: “The Stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Christ, resurrected from the dead, has become the chief cornerstone. Gentiles have succeeded to the privilege once enjoyed by the Jew. But we are not to be high-minded but fear, lest we also be cut off (Rom. 11:13-25).

“Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Those who fall upon Christ in repentance and conversion are broken in spirit, but woe unto him upon whom Christ falls in judgment!

The parable of the marriage of the king’s son (Matt. 22:1-14) pictures a King, God, making a marriage for His Son, Christ (the marriage of Christ and the Church is begun here and perfected hereafter: 2 Cor. 11:2, Rev. 21:2). He sent His servants from Moses to John to call them that were bidden, the Jews. Other servants, the early Church, went forth inviting, but they were rejected and persecuted. Then came the Roman armies and destroyed Jerusalem. Now all who can be found, Gentiles of every walk, are invited, both bad and good. One man comes not dressed in the true garment—which pictures the righteousness of Christ Himself. Having a form of godliness but no power, he is cast into outer darkness. Many are called, but few are chosen; and the chosen are they who wear the garments provided by the King.

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