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Matthew 21:23-23:39

The Authority of Jesus Is Questioned

23 Jesus entered the temple courtyard. While he was teaching there, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “Who gave you this authority?”

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 Where did John’s baptism come from? Was it from heaven? Or did it come from human authority?”

They talked to one another about it. They said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But what if we say, ‘From human authority’? We are afraid of the people. Everyone believes that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I am doing these things either.

The Story of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “ ‘I will not,’ the son answered. But later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son. He said the same thing. The son answered, ‘I will, sir.’ But he did not go.

31 “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “What I’m about to tell you is true. Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 John came to show you the right way to live. And you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. You saw this. But even then you did not turn away from your sins and believe him.

The Story of the Renters

33 “Listen to another story. A man who owned some land planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it. He dug a pit for a winepress in it. He also built a lookout tower. He rented the vineyard out to some farmers. Then he moved to another place. 34 When harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the renters. He told the slaves to collect his share of the fruit.

35 “But the renters grabbed his slaves. They beat one of them. They killed another. They threw stones at the third to kill him. 36 Then the man sent other slaves to the renters. He sent more than he did the first time. The renters treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But the renters saw the son coming. They said to one another, ‘This is the one who will receive all the owner’s property someday. Come, let’s kill him. Then everything will be ours.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard. Then they killed him.

40 “When the owner of the vineyard comes back, what will he do to those renters?”

41 “He will destroy those evil people,” they replied. “Then he will rent the vineyard out to other renters. They will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what the Scriptures say,

“ ‘The stone the builders didn’t accept
    has become the most important stone of all.
The Lord has done it.
    It is wonderful in our eyes’? (Psalm 118:22,23)

43 “So here is what I tell you. The kingdom of God will be taken away from you. It will be given to people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces. But the stone will crush anyone it falls on.”

45 The chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ stories. They knew he was talking about them. 46 So they looked for a way to arrest him. But they were afraid of the crowd. The people believed that Jesus was a prophet.

The Story of the Wedding Dinner

22 Jesus told them more stories. He said, “Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like. A king prepared a wedding dinner for his son. He sent his slaves to those who had been invited to the dinner. The slaves told them to come. But they refused.

“Then he sent some more slaves. He said, ‘Tell those who were invited that I have prepared my dinner. I have killed my oxen and my fattest cattle. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding dinner.’

“But the people paid no attention. One went away to his field. Another went away to his business. The rest grabbed his slaves. They treated them badly and then killed them. The king became very angry. He sent his army to destroy them. They killed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then the king said to his slaves, ‘The wedding dinner is ready. But those I invited were not fit to come. So go to the street corners. Invite to the dinner anyone you can find.’ 10 So the slaves went out into the streets. They gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good. Soon the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “The king came in to see the guests. He noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man couldn’t think of anything to say.

13 “Then the king told his slaves, ‘Tie up his hands and feet. Throw him outside into the darkness. Out there people will weep and grind their teeth.’

14 “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Is It Right to Pay the Royal Tax to Caesar?

15 The Pharisees went out. They made plans to trap Jesus with his own words. 16 They sent their followers to him. They sent the Herodians with them. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of honor. You teach the way of God truthfully. You don’t let others tell you what to do or say. You don’t care how important they are. 17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay the royal tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus knew their evil plans. He said, “You pretenders! Why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin people use for paying the tax.” They brought him a silver coin. 20 He asked them, “Whose picture is this? And whose words?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give back to God what belongs to God.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Marriage When the Dead Rise

23 That same day the Sadducees came to Jesus with a question. They do not believe that people rise from the dead. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “here is what Moses told us. If a man dies without having children, his brother must get married to the widow. He must provide children to carry on his brother’s name. 25 There were seven brothers among us. The first one got married and died. Since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brothers. It happened right on down to the seventh brother. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, when the dead rise, whose wife will she be? All seven of them were married to her.”

29 Jesus replied, “You are mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures. And you do not know the power of God. 30 When the dead rise, they won’t get married. And their parents won’t give them to be married. They will be like the angels in heaven. 31 What about the dead rising? Haven’t you read what God said to you? 32 He said, ‘I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Isaac. And I am the God of Jacob.’ (Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead. He is the God of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were amazed by what he taught.

The Most Important Commandment

34 The Pharisees heard that the Sadducees weren’t able to answer Jesus. So the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them was an authority on the law. So he tested Jesus with a question. 36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18) 40 Everything that is written in the Law and the Prophets is based on these two commandments.”

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

41 The Pharisees were gathered together. Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “Then why does David call him ‘Lord’? The Holy Spirit spoke through David himself. David said,

44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your control.” ’ (Psalm 110:1)

45 So if David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be David’s son?” 46 No one could give any answer to him. From that day on, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

A Warning Against Doing Things for the Wrong Reasons

23 Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples. “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat,” he said. “So you must be careful to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. They don’t practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry. Then they put them on other people’s shoulders. But they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for others to see. On their foreheads and arms they wear little boxes that hold Scripture verses. They make the boxes very wide. And they make the tassels on their coats very long. They love to sit down in the place of honor at dinners. They also love to have the most important seats in the synagogues. They love to be greeted with respect in the markets. They love it when people call them ‘Rabbi.’

“But you shouldn’t be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have only one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth ‘father.’ You have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 You shouldn’t be called ‘teacher.’ You have one Teacher, and he is the Messiah. 11 The most important person among you will be your servant. 12 People who lift themselves up will be made humble. And people who make themselves humble will be lifted up.

How Terrible for the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

13-14 “How terrible it will be for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter. And you will not let those enter who are trying to.

15 “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You travel everywhere to win one person to your faith. Then you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

16 “How terrible for you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone makes a promise in the name of the temple, it means nothing. But anyone who makes a promise in the name of the gold of the temple must keep that promise.’ 17 You are blind and foolish! Which is more important? Is it the gold? Or is it the temple that makes the gold holy? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone makes a promise in the name of the altar, it means nothing. But anyone who makes a promise in the name of the gift on the altar must keep that promise.’ 19 You are blind! Which is more important? Is it the gift? Or is it the altar that makes the gift holy? 20 So anyone making a promise in the name of the altar makes a promise in the name of it and everything on it. 21 And anyone making a promise in the name of the temple makes a promise in the name of it and the one who lives in it. 22 And anyone making a promise in the name of heaven makes a promise in the name of God’s throne and the one who sits on it.

23 “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You give God a tenth of your spices, like mint, dill and cumin. But you have not practiced the more important things of the law, which are fairness, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the last things without failing to do the first. 24 You blind guides! You remove the smallest insect from your food. But you swallow a whole camel!

25 “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You clean the outside of a cup and dish. But on the inside you are full of greed. You only want to satisfy yourselves. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish. Then the outside will also be clean.

27 “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You are like tombs that are painted white. They look beautiful on the outside. But on the inside they are full of the bones of the dead. They are also full of other things that are not pure and ‘clean.’ 28 It is the same with you. On the outside you seem to be doing what is right. But on the inside you are full of what is wrong. You pretend to be what you are not.

29 “How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You pretenders! You build tombs for the prophets. You decorate the graves of the godly. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of those who lived before us, we wouldn’t have done what they did. We wouldn’t have helped to kill the prophets.’ 31 So you are witnesses against yourselves. You admit that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets. 32 So go ahead and finish the sins that those who lived before you started!

33 “You nest of poisonous snakes! How will you escape from being sentenced to hell? 34 So I am sending you prophets, wise people, and teachers. You will kill some of them. You will nail some to a cross. Others you will whip in your synagogues. You will chase them from town to town. 35 So you will pay for all the godly people’s blood spilled on earth. I mean from the blood of godly Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berekiah. Zechariah was the one you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 What I’m about to tell you is true. All this will happen to those who are now living.

37 “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and throw stones in order to kill those who are sent to you. Many times I have wanted to gather your people together. I have wanted to be like a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. And you would not let me! 38 Look, your house is left empty. 39 I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Psalm 118:26)