The Father’s Point of View in Matthew 21

Perhaps the greatest joy of being a teacher of God’s Word in a local church is the opportunity to help scripture come alive in the presence of others.  It may simply be my own limited point of view, for I can’t be sure everyone in my Sunday School class felt God’s joy this morning, but as we turned to Matthew 21, and looked at the healing of the blind and the lame in the temple, we began to see the radical nature of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

It’s one of those passages that requires us to slow down in our reading, lest we miss the joy in the Gospel:

Matthew 21:14   And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple,  “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they 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  infants and nursing babies

                        you have prepared praise’?”

If we were to read earlier in the chapter, we discover that Jesus enters Jerusalem with gladness and praise from the crowds, yet strangely, once He’s in the temple, we see Him immediately turning over tables and creating all kinds of enemies.  In fact, in all likelihood, the cleansing of the temple is the major event that sets Him on a direct trajectory toward the crucifixion. 

So in chapter 21 we see joy (the coming into Jerusalem), shock (the cleansing of the temple), and then, to our amazement, joy again (the healing of the blind and lame).   It’s nothing but a whiplash – a dizziness of emotion – a psychological vertigo!  What are we to think?  Who is this Jesus, anyway?  “Hey Jesus, will you make up your mind?  Do you want the people to love you or do you want them to hate you?” 

Here’s His projected response:  “I’m not interested in the people’s point of view.  I’m interested in my Father’s point of view.”  The way we understand Jesus’ actions is by transporting our minds to a radically different place – a heavenly place rather than an earthly place.  When Jesus enters Jerusalem the people immediately think of Him from their own perspective.  He is their King – the one prophesied as the Son of David!  So He rides into the city on the colt of a donkey.  Yet their paradigm of this King is entirely wrong.  He does not come to give them what they want.  He comes to give them what they need. 

What did they need?  They needed their paradigm of serving God turned upside down:  tables turned over, coins on the pavement, love of profit exposed.  The leaders of the people wanted to maintain their status quo. “We can sell the people money.  They will have to buy temple coins with Roman coins, and then we can raise the price on the sacrifices.  It’s a win, win for us, and a win, win for God’s little kingdom!  Sure, it’s a lose, lose for the crowds!  But do we really care?” 

Yet God’s kingdom is far from little.  It is meant to be a kingdom for the entire world.  So Jesus hits them unexpectedly and directly in the face.  “Money and power is not what you need.  Love for others is my Father’s heart.” 

We see that Jesus gives the authorities exactly what they need, and shows, for those who can receive it, a radically new paradigm:  He heals the blind and the lame.  Now of course at first we as readers don’t see the big deal.  “Another healing?  Jesus is always healing someone so what makes this healing any different?”  Here’s the answer:  in the Jewish tradition, the blind and the lame were not allowed in the temple (See 2 Samuel 5), much less gets healed in the temple!  Yet the Gospel is breaking in with power and authority – Jesus heals them: 

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.

Few pleasures exist which are greater than the reading of a sequence of words that communicate joy punctuated with meaning, and in six little words (“came to him in the temple”) joy and meaning abound.  The lowest members of society, the people who were not even allowed in the presence of God, are not only welcomed, but lifted up to demonstrate the purpose of worship:  healing and praise (the children will praise Jesus in verse 15). 

So much more can be said of this passage.  So much more can be said of Matthew 21. Jesus has broken into our world and changed it all.  Some of us come to Him blind.  Some of us come to Him lame. Either way, we only come, and we find a new freedom and a new life from this point forward. 

Just a Little Active Reflection

One of the great joys of Christian living is the opportunity we possess to read and reflect on Our Lord.  His was a life of action.  His was a life of deep words.  Both of these elements demand our utmost attention, and I suppose, in large measure, it is why we read the Gospels.  The Christian experience has always been defined by active reflection on the person of Jesus.  So here we go . . .

In one of my favorite stories in the Bible, we read about two disheartened disciples walking down the road to the village of Emmaus.  Wouldn’t you be broken too?  The One in whom they personally trusted, the One in whom they believed would usher in God’s kingdom, the One of whom they thought would redeem Israel from captivity, had only been crucified a couple days earlier.  

It’s true that they had heard stories from some women about the tomb being empty, and the women said they had even seen a vision of angels telling them that Jesus was alive, but in these disciples’ broken state, good news about a Risen Messiah was too much to believe.  How many times have we heard people say, “If is sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true”? Besides . . . A Crucified Messiah and a Risen Messiah?  “Hey buddy, that’s way outside our paradigm!”

So Luke tells us in 24:14 . . . 

       and they were talking with each other about all these thingsthat had happened.  

If you had lived through that time, chances are you also would be talking about “all these things.” Their minds were swimming with thoughts of hope and thoughts of despair. Most certainly they were thinking about the miracles, the challenges, the teachings, and most of all in that moment, the confrontations that Jesus had with the religious and political leaders. “All these things”means “all these things,”so their minds were flooded with images and ideas over and over again. 

We can almost hear their thoughts:  “What are we to think?  What are we to believe?” And most importantly for them in that moment: “What are we to do?”  (Stop and think about that one.) Their plans were gone.  Their hopes were unrealized. 

Yet it’s in our moments of brokenness and shattered paradigms that God delights to draw near to us. It was not an accident that in the disciples’ very moment of despair that Jesus appears to them. 

Luke 24:15  

            While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.

Sometimes it’s the little words in the Gospels that open up new insights and greater heights of love, and that’s certainly the case in verse 15.  Luke tells us that Jesus “drew near” – He drew near because He loved them.  Jesus is not only a man of word and deed.  He is also a man of indescribable, inexpressible love. We also see 

that Jesus “went with them.”  “Beside them?” Sort of.  “By them?” Better. “Among them.”  Of course.  Yet our English “with” is intentionally less exact and definitely more mystical than these other prepositions.  Jesus is mysteriously and profoundly “with” us on our journey, wherever we go and whatever we experience. There is simply no getting away from Him. 

The main point from this short, little blog?   To reflect on Jesus’ word and deed from 2000 years ago is to reflect on Jesus’ life today. May He bless you as you seek Him, and may He fill your life with joy each day.