1st October Trinity 17 Matthew 21 v. 23 – 27
When Jesus returned to the temple courts and began to teach, the chief priests and elders of the people came up to Him. “By what authority are You doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave You this authority?” “I will also ask you one question,” Jesus replied, “and if you answer Me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. What was the source of John’s baptism? Was it from heaven or from men?” They deliberated among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the people, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered, “We do not know.” And Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
Jesus spent much of His Ministry teaching people to understand more about God. His teaching showed much more authority than did that of the Jewish leaders, and in today’s Gospel they challenged that authority. On many occasions, when Jesus was questioned, He answered with a question of His own. Large crowds had accepted the teaching of John the Baptist, so Jesus used that in His reply. We can ask Jesus anything we like in our prayers - not to catch Him out, but to learn more for the deepening of our own spiritual growth. But we must be ready to listen to Jesus’ replies and He uses different ways to do so - in our hearts as we pray; in a passage of Scripture we read or hear read; in the words of someone else; In a sermon or discussion, or in a conversation with other people. Unlike the Jewish leaders, we must be open to accept what Jesus says to us - accepting His authority.
When did you hear Jesus speak to you recently? How did He speak?
8th October Trinity 18 Matthew 21 v.33 -41
Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he rented it out to some tenants and went away on a journey. When the harvest time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the fruit. But the tenants seized his servants. They beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again, he sent other servants, more than the first group. But the tenants did the same to them. Finally, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and will rent out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his share of the fruit at harvest time.”
In Jesus’ story, the tenants who hired a vineyard were dishonest and tried to prevent the landowner from his share of the produce. They attacked his slaves when they went to collect it, so he sent his son in person, thinking the tenants would respect him but they killed him. Jesus was likening that situation to one with which the Jews were familiar. God had frequently sent Prophets to warn, encourage and advise, but the Jews, God’s chosen people, refused to listen to the prophets. Jesus then told them that God had sent His Son, but the Jews were not listening to Him. Throughout His ministry, Jesus was preaching to the Jews, but in the last verse, Jesus was saying that He had come to bring God’s love to all people of every race.
We have been offered God’s message of love and salvation – whoever we are and we only have to accept it by responding to His love in the way we try to live our lives. What does that mean for us?
15th October Trinity 19 Matthew 22 v.1-14
Once again, Jesus spoke to them in parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call those he had invited to the banquet, but they refused to come. Again, he sent other servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner. My oxen and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went away, one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged, and he sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the crossroads and invite to the banquet as many as you can find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered everyone they could find, both evil and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he spotted a man who was not dressed in wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But the man was speechless. Then the king told the servants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Today, we read a parable about people who had been invited to a wedding feast. As was the custom, they were waiting, ready to be summoned to the feast. When the message came to them, though they all began to make excuses, thinking of things much more important to be done! So other people in the area were invited to take their places. The first group of people represented the Jews, who had been invited by God to be His Chosen People. Yet when God’s Son, Jesus, came to earth to save them, they rejected Him. The second group of people were the Gentiles and sinners who had not been invited first, but were now being called. One was turned away because he was not ready. Jesus was saying that we never know when God will call us, but we must always be prepared.
How do we prepare to meet Jesus when He calls us?
22nd October Trinity 20 Matthew 22 v 15-22
Then the Pharisees went out and conspired to trap Jesus in His words. They sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are honest and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You seek favour from no one, because You pay no attention to external appearance. So tell us what You think: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus knew their evil intent and said, “You hypocrites, why are you testing Me? 19Show Me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. “Whose image is this,” He asked, “and whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they answered. So Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And when they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.
Once again, some Jewish leaders were trying to trap Jesus. This time it was about paying taxes – a subject we have all discussed at some time! The Jews bitterly resented paying taxes to the Romans - a foreign people who were occupying Israel. To answer their question, Jesus produced a Roman coin one used to pay those taxes, and which had picture of Caesar on the coin. Jesus didn’t give rules as such but taught about principles to follow. His principle was that we all have to make choices. Every Christian has double citizenship. He is a citizen of the country where he lives and he is also a citizen of Heaven. He must choose his principles when there is a choice. As St. Peter wrote later, “Fear God and honour the Emperor (King).” (1Peter 2v.17 ) Our laws do not usually clash with God’s laws, but one day, we might be called to make a choice.
Pray that we may make the right choices in our lives when the need arises. (a few years ago, we often saw written - “What would Jesus do? That is a very helpful question to think about in many circumstances.)
29th October Last Sunday of Trinity Matthew 22 v 34-40
And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This very well-known question was put to Jesus in another attempt to trap Him. The Jewish laws were the ones we call The Ten Commandments. You can read them in Exodus chapter 20. To these, over the years, the Jewish leaders had added lots of little laws to explain how to interpret them in daily life. The laws had become so complicated that most of the Jews could not even remember them, let alone keep them!! How would Jesus decide which was the most important, the Leaders thought?! Jesus was on earth, though to help people to serve God – not to make it difficult! In His reply to the question, He pointed out that the Ten Commandments could be easily summed up by just two - Love God and love your neighbour (other people ). Loving in this sense, means accepting people for who they are and wanting the best for each one. After all, God loves everyone just as much as He loves us!
Read the Ten Commandments again. ( Exodus chapter 20 ) Which ones are about loving God and which are about loving our neighbour? None of them is easy! Which do you find especially hard? Pray that God will help you as you try to obey His will.