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The Priests that Became Obedient to the Faith (S. Lewis Johnson Speculation)

November 1, 2013 2 comments

My recent Bible genre reading has included several references to lepers and leprosy.  In one day’s reading: the ten lepers healed in Luke 17:11-19, Leviticus 14 (the cleansing for the leper); and the four lepers (who were not healed) in Samaria in 2 Kings 7.  This reminds me of a little-noticed statement (also in my recent readings) in Acts 6:7, “and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  In the context (Acts 6), the apostles have performed many great miracles of healing, as recorded for instance in Acts 5:12-16 : Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. … And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

S. Lewis Johnson engaged in a little speculation concerning this point: what was it about the priests, that they became obedient to the faith?  Here we consider the significance of the great miracles that took place in Jesus’ gospel ministry and then continued (“what Jesus began to do and teach”) through the apostles’ ministry in the book of Acts.  Dr. Johnson’s observation here:

How is it, do you think, that the priests are especially singled out for faith?  In the Old Testament, in the Levitical prescriptions, two chapters are devoted to the way in which Israel should take care of the lepers.  Now remember, when the preaching of the gospel is to take place, Isaiah said, lepers are going to be healed.  And then, our Lord Jesus, when He comes on the scene, lepers are healed by Him.  It was a Messianic sign; that is, that He was the Messiah.  He was fulfilling what Isaiah set out in the Old Testament.

Now, it was said in the Old Testament that a certain prescribed ritual was to take place, when a leper was cleansed.  He was to bring a certain kind of offering; I cannot go into detail.  The only thing unusual about it, if you want to look at it in chapter 14 of the Book of Leviticus, it had to do with two birds.  He had to bring this prescribed ritual and there was a prescribed ritual for which the priest was to go; and then, the priest was to pronounce the individual clean who had been cleansed of leprosy.   [Now, remember: For fifteen hundred years before the time of our Lord, no leper, so far as the record is concerned, had been healed in Israel.  Naaman had been healed, but he was a Syrian.  Miriam, back in the earliest days, had leprosy.  No other person had been healed.]  Now, here, the apostles come on the scene, our Lord comes on the scene, and the lepers are being healed.  And so, what do they do?  Well, they go to the priests and they say, ‘We’ve been healed.  Isn’t there something in the Law about a ceremony we are to carry out?’   And the priests say, ‘the professors in our theological seminary didn’t tell us anything about that.’  They didn’t know what to do.  So, they had to do what a young preacher has to do when somebody comes and says, ‘Will you marry us next Wednesday?’  And he’s never married anybody before.  He rushes off and asks an older preacher, ‘What in the world shall I do?  What kind of ceremony can I give?’  And he is feverishly preparing for his marriage ceremony, which he’s never carried out.

So these priests — and in the course of these people who are streaming to the priests — they discover this in the Old Testament.  They discover also that the Messiah was said to be one who would heal leprosy.  And, during the course of these lepers coming to the priests, many of those priests are brought to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They recognize that this is really the Messianic ministry, and so ‘a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.’

Was It Really The Same Group? The Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s a popular saying and idea, that it was the same crowd that cheered Christ at His triumphal entry, that later called for His crucifixion.  I think of the line in a Christian song (Star of the Morning, Leon Patillo), “the same ones who cheered, yelled ‘Crucify!’”  I recently read a Spurgeon sermon that echoed this thought:

You must not imagine that all those who strewed the branches in the way and cried “Hosanna,” cared about Christ as a spiritual prince! No, they thought that He was to be a temporal deliverer, and when they found out afterwards that they were mistaken, they hated Him just as much as they had loved Him and, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” was as loud and vehement a cry as, “Hosanna, blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”

But was it really the same people? The gospel accounts indicate very large numbers of people in total (as do other historical records describing the yearly Passovers in Roman times).  Luke 23:27 mentions “a great multitude” of the people who followed Him, mourning and lamenting – the people Jesus told to “weep for yourselves” as He prophesied of the coming judgment upon Jerusalem.

S. Lewis Johnson (gospel of John series) goes into more careful analysis of what was really going on:

First of all, emotional enthusiasm for Jesus Christ is far different from earnest faith in Him.  Now the people who cried out, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,” were likely to be people who had some attachment to the Lord Jesus.  It is not they who later on say, “Crucify Him, crucify Him,” as some Bible teachers have suggested.  As you look at these accounts carefully it’s evident that those who were shouting this were those who were familiar with His ministry from the Northern part of the land.

Continuing, Dr. Johnson points out the shortcoming of emotional enthusiasm, which is different from “earnest faith”:

 As I said earlier, the provincial recognition, however, did not carry national assent.  So they were shouting out of a failed and incomplete understanding of the Lord Jesus.  Later on, those in the city who were antagonistic to Him would be crying out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”  But one thing you can say is this, that emotional enthusiasm is far different from earnest faith.  And while it’s not they who say later, ‘Not this man should be delivered, but Barabbas.’  It is, however, one of those very men who stood around the coals of fire and when asked by a little girl, ‘You’re one of them, are you not?’  He said, ‘I am not.’

Gospel of John: Jesus the I Am, Walking on the Water

October 1, 2012 7 comments

Just a few interesting things to note from S. Lewis Johnson’s study of the gospel of John, now in chapter 6 — the account of Jesus walking on the water.

When Jesus speaks to the frightened disciples:  the expression “It is I” refers back to Exodus 3 and God’s words to Moses in the burning bush:  I am who I am.  Here we also note the time period, described by John, that it was near the time of the Passover.  The Jews’ Passover ceremony included emphasis on Isaiah 43:2: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.  Here the disciples were, literally passing through the waters and experiencing a storm on the sea of Galilee.  Jesus came to them, walking on the water, providing them a real-life picture of the promise from that Passover text in Isaiah.

This was the second incident of a storm in the boat.  In the first one, Jesus was with them, asleep.  But this time they were on their own, and terrified at seeing the figure walking on the water.  Here too is a picture of our growth as we experience the storms of life:  this situation as more difficult than the previous one, and a challenge to grow.  I have seen the spiritual application of this in my own life as well, that the challenges in my early Christian years were much easier than later experiences.

John’s account of Jesus walking on the water specifically mentions that immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” The other accounts do not mention this, and S. Lewis Johnson here observed that John is especially considered the apostle of love.  This description expresses John’s great love for His Lord. After all, when you’re in love, the time spent with that person passes by so quickly: the time after Jesus joined them on the boat went by so quick, that John describes it as immediately.

For a typology lesson, SLJ also notes the parallels between this incident and this church age followed by Christ’s Second Coming.  I never saw this in the text, and certainly do not base my belief and understanding on this typology alone (and we have plenty of other texts for doctrinal support of the Second Coming), but the observation is interesting to consider:

I think this story is not only history and it’s not only parable in the sense that we find spiritual principles in it, but it may also be designed to be something of a prophecy of the course of this age.  The disciples are on the sea, toiling in the midst of difficulties, the Lord Jesus is on the mountain praying; but there is a climactic triumphant conclusion.

Well, if you think for just a moment, that’s characteristic of this age.  We are in the boat in the midst of the storms of life.  The Lord Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, therefore living to make intercession for the saints of God; guaranteeing that they are all going to reach the predestined determination that the will of God has set for us.  The church is in the midst of the nations of the world and in a tremendous struggle.  We are in the world but not of the world, engaged in the struggle for the souls of men.

But the Lord Jesus is going to return at the fourth watch when things appear to be very difficult and as if there’s no true conclusion to be reached.  He is going to come.  And sad to say some are not going to recognize him when he does come.  Some are going to think perhaps that it is a ghost.  But he’s going to come and he’s going to still the storms of this human existence and he’s going to establish his kingdom upon the earth.

The Four Gospels: Focus and Emblem

July 9, 2012 4 comments

From this introductory message to the gospel of John series, a summary of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It’s well known that each of the four gospels has a particular emphasis, what the writer wished to bring out concerning Christ and His earthly ministry.  Matthew’s gospel presents the King of the Jews. Mark brings the servant of Jehovah. Luke emphasizes the service and sacrifice of Christ. John’s gospel shares with us the Divine Son.  The differences even in the introduction make sense given this guideline.  Matthew presents the King’s genealogy, and Luke presents the genealogy of the Son of Man (all the way back to Adam).  Mark is telling about a servant, and who cares about a servant’s genealogy?  Likewise, John’s gospel emphasizes the Divine nature, the eternal self-existent Son.  God has no genealogy.

Something new I’ve learned:  in the early church, each gospel was represented by a particular symbol, or emblem.  These symbols relate the gospels to the four living creatures described in Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7.

As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

  • Matthew:  The Lion — the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
  • Mark:  Man; the adverb “immediately,” the servant active in carrying out His Father’s will
  • Luke:  The ox, the animal of service and sacrifice
  • John: The Eagle, which can look straight into the rays of the sun.

Mark’s gospel actually uses the term “Son of God” more frequently than John, so some overlap occurs.  But John’s gospel is preeminent in showing our Lord in His divine nature and divine personality.  The early church called John “The Theologian.”

From internet googling, I found one site, Catholic Resources, that lists the specific emblems assigned, by four early Christian authors, to each of the four gospels.  As shown, and noted in S. Lewis Johnson’s introductory message, some variation did exist in the early Church concerning the precise emblem identities.  The ox and the eagle were most consistently identified as Luke and John, but the Mark and Matthew emblems varied more.

Early
Christian Author
Human/Angel Lion Ox Eagle
Irenaeus of Lyons Matthew John Luke Mark
Augustine of Hippo Mark Matthew Luke John
Pseudo-Athanasius Matthew Luke Mark John
Jerome Matthew Mark Luke John

J.C. Ryle: The Faith of Simeon and Anna

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

The words of old Simeon, let us remember, will yet receive a fuller accomplishment. The “light” which he saw by faith, as he held the child Jesus in his arms, shall yet shine so brightly that all the nations of the Gentile world shall see it. The “glory” of that Jesus whom Israel crucified, shall one day be revealed so clearly to the scattered Jews, that they shall look on Him whom they pierced, and repent, and be converted. The day shall come when the veil shall be taken from the heart of Israel, and all shall “glory in the Lord.” (Isaiah. 45:25.) For that day let us wait, and watch, and pray. If Christ be the light and glory of our souls, that day cannot come too soon.

Faith, we shall always find, is the universal character of God’s elect. These men and women here described, dwelling in the midst of a wicked city, walked by faith, and not by sight. They were not carried away by the flood of worldliness, formality, and self-righteousness around them. They were not infected by the carnal expectations of a mere worldly Messiah, in which most Jews indulged. They lived in the faith of patriarchs and prophets, that the coming Redeemer would bring in holiness and righteousness, and that His principal victory would be over sin and the devil. For such a Redeemer they waited patiently. For such a victory they earnestly longed.

Let us learn a lesson from these good people. If they, with so few helps and so many discouragements, lived such a life of faith, how much more ought we with a finished Bible and a full Gospel. Let us strive, like them, to walk by faith and look forward. The second advent of Christ is yet to come. The complete “redemption” of this earth from sin, and Satan, and the curse, is yet to take place. Let us declare plainly by our lives and conduct, that for this second advent we look and long. We may be sure that the highest style of Christianity even now, is to “wait for redemption,” and to love the Lord’s appearing. (Rom. 8:23; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

The Four Gospels and Zechariah: The Branch

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

A few interesting points from S. Lewis Johnson’s Zechariah series and the identity of “the branch.”

Our four gospels present four different aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “branch” described in the Old Testament.

  • Matthew:  Jesus as King
  • Mark:  The Servant
  • Luke:  The Son of Man
  • John:  The Son of God

We can also look in the Old Testament prophets to find these same pictures of “the branch.”

  • Jeremiah tells us of the “branch of righteousness” will come forth from David:  the King aspect   (Matthew).  Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

and

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

  • Zechariah 3:8 refers to “my servant” the branch:  (Mark)

behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.

  • In Zechariah 6:12 the branch is emphasized as “the man”   (Luke)

 

‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.

  • Isaiah 4:2 describes “the branch of the Lord,” which emphasizes the branch’s divine nature: the Son of God  (John)

In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious

Spurgeon: How Christ Was Shamed … for the Joy Set Before Him

August 1, 2011 1 comment

From the familiar text in Hebrews 12:2, some great observations from Spurgeon concerning the shame that Christ despised.

“Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame,
and is now set down at the right hand of the Throne of God.”

Shame is something that mankind fears most of all, even more so than death. The Bible gives us several examples of characters who, even at the point of death, were most concerned about their honor:

  • Abimelech in Judges 9, for example, who didn’t want it said that a woman had slain him
  • King Saul, in 1 Samuel 31, fell upon his own sword so it wouldn’t be said that he fell by the Philistines
  • King Zedekiah:  who albeit he seemed reckless enough, he was afraid to fall into the hands of the Chaldeans lest the Jews who had gone over to Nebuchadnezzar should mock him.  (Jeremiah 38:19)

Spurgeon further observed:

It is well known that criminals and malefactors have often had a greater fear of public contempt than of anything else. Nothing can so break down the human spirit as to continually be subject to contempt—the visible and manifest contempt of one’s fellows! In fact, to go further, shame is so frightful to man that it is one of the ingredients of Hell itself! It is one of the bitterest drops in that awful cup of misery—the shame of everlasting contempt to which wicked men awake in the day of their resurrection. To be despised of men, despised of angels, despised of God is one of the depths of Hell! Shame, then, is a terrible thing to endure. And many of the proudest natures have been subdued when once they have been subjected to it. In the Savior’s case, shame would be peculiarly shameful.  The nobler a man’s nature, the more readily does he perceive the slightest contempt and the more acutely does he feel it. That contempt which an ordinary man might bear without suffering—he who has been bred to be obeyed and who has all his life been honored—would feel most bitterly. Beggared princes and despised monarchs are among the most miserable of men!

From that little phrase “the shame” we can look back to the gospel accounts and observe the many ways in which Christ was shamed:

  •     Shameful accusations:  blasphemy (among the Jews) and sedition (to the Romans)
  •     Shameful mocking of many kinds, from Herod and from Pilate’s soldiers

They mocked His person, both His humanity (stripping Him of His garments), and His Divine person:
“If You are the Son of God, come down from the Cross and we will believe on You.”

They mocked Him as God, in all His offices of King, Prophet and Priest:

  •     The true King, they gave a crown of thorns and a purple robe
  •     The true prophet:  they blindfolded Him and said “prophesy! Who hit you?”
  •     The true Priest:  “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us!” “Ah, He saved others; Himself He could not save,”they laughed!

They mocked Him in His sufferings, and they even mocked His prayers.  Here Spurgeon observes:

Did you ever read in all the annals of executions, or of murders, that ever men mocked their fellow creatures’ prayers? I have read stories of some dastardly villains who have sought to slay their enemies and seeing their death approaching, the victims have said, “give me a moment or two for prayer”—and rare has been the cases when this has been disallowed! But I never read of a case in which when the prayer was uttered it has been laughed at and made the object of a jest! But here hangs the Savior and every word He speaks becomes the subject of a pun, the motto of a jest. And when at the last He utters the most thrilling deathshriek that ever startled earth and Hell, “Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabacthani,” even then they must pun upon it and say, “He calls for Elijah; let us see whether Elijah will come and take Him down.” He was mocked even in His prayer!

Yet as Hebrews 12:2 tells us, He endured the cross, and despised the shame — for the joy set befor Him.  Some closing words from Spurgeon on that thought:

the joy which Christ felt! It was the joy of feeding us with the Bread of Heaven—the joy of clothing poor, naked sinners in His own Righteousness—the joy of finding mansions in Heaven for homeless souls—of delivering us from the prison of Hell and giving us the eternal enjoyments of Heaven! But why should Christ look on us? Why should He choose to do this for us? Oh, my Friends, we never deserved anything at His hands! As a good old writer says, “When I look at the Crucifixion of Christ, I remember that my sins put Him to death. I see not Pilate, but I see myself in Pilate’s place, bartering Christ for honor. I hear not the cry of the Jews, but I hear my sins yelling out, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him.’ I see not iron nails, but I see my own iniquities fastening him to the Cross! I see no spear, but I behold my  unbelief piercing His poor wounded side—
‘For You, my sins, my cruel sins, His chief tormentors were!
Each of my sins became a nail and unbelief the spear.’”

Psalms At the Passover: Matthew 26:30

July 11, 2011 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of Matthew series, an interesting item from Matthew 26:30 (“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”)  I had never really thought about that brief statement and what it referred to, but here we have more background concerning the Passover and the Psalms that were sung.

The Great Hallel, Psalms 113-118, was sung at every Passover:  Psalms 113-114 at the beginning, and Psalms 115-118 at the end of the service.  This set of psalms is also called the “Egyptian Hallel” according to the MacArthur Bible Commentary, which also mentions two other Hallels in scripture, Psalms 120-136 “The Great Hallel” and Psalms 145-150 the “Final Hallel.”  All agree that Psalms 113-118 were sung at the Passover service.

So reading through Psalms 115 through 118 help us focus on the thoughts of the Lord Jesus and his disciples that night.

  • Psalm 115 begins with focus on God’s glory:  Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But unto Your name give glory.
  • Psalm 116 is the story of a passing through death to life and service.  Consider the following great verses:

The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

and verses 15-16:

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
​​​​​​​​O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.

  • Psalm 117 (only two verses) is the psalm of universal praise following upon that passing through death to life and service.
  • Psalm 118 has the refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever,” and ends on that note.

As G. Campbell Morgan observes, “Thus the King came to the darkness of the Cross singing of the enduring loving-kindness of GOD.”

Was Jesus Mistaken? Did He Really Say That He Would Return In the First Century?

June 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Amongst Christian circles, liberals like to point to Bible texts that talk of Jesus returning soon (for instance, in Revelation 1 and 22, and Matthew 24 (“this generation”), and say that Jesus must have been mistaken, since 2000+ years have now elapsed.  “Where is the sign of His coming?” they challenge, just as surely as the apostle Peter prophesied they would.

Then Preterists, including partial preterists, came along with the desire to “rescue” Jesus from liberal criticism, by coming up with a scheme to support the idea that Jesus was not mistaken and that He really did return (in secret, or in judgment) in 70 A.D.  R.C. Sproul, influenced by the theological liberalism of his education, is one such proponent, and has admitted that he had this starting point.

But in my study through the gospel accounts, and especially the parables, comes another teaching.  As S. Lewis Johnson points out in his Matthew series  — and is also evident in many other parables, such as in Luke’s gospel — Jesus repeatedly emphasized the fact that a long time period would elapse between Christ’s First and Second Coming.

In Matthew’s “Parables of Rejection,” Jesus first hints at this long period of time.  The master of the house (Matthew 21:33-41) set up a vineyard, leased it to tenants, and then went away into another country.  The parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-10) sets forth a future time when the actual wedding feast will take place — and in Jewish custom several years elapsed between the initial engagement (by the parents) and the actual time of the wedding — again to indicate an unknown time gap; the invited guests meanwhile had gone off to do other “more important” things.  By themselves these parables are certainly not conclusive, but neither do they contradict a long period of time.

The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) tells much more information, including the fact that enough time will elapse for nations and kingdoms to rise up against each other, and for wars and rumors of war to continue.  Later in Matthew 24, Jesus indicates the importance of being prepared, again hinting that such a long time will elapse (Matthew 24:48-50) that the servants will not be expecting Him, and that wicked servants will notice that “my master is delayed.” The two parables that follow, of the ten virgins and the talents (Matthew 25:1-30), also show a lengthy delay: all of the virgins fall asleep; the master giving the talents goes away on a long journey, and in verse 19 returns “after a long time.”

Luke’s gospel has similar parables and words from Jesus, indicating a lengthy time before His return.  Consider Luke 12:35-40 and the admonition to keep your lamps burning, to be ready whether He comes in the second, third or even the fourth watch of the night.  Then, the parable of the persistent widow (which in context has eschatological reference), which concludes with Jesus’ words: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) Just as all the virgins fell asleep, here the question arises again:  after such a long time (the continued persistent prayers of the faithful), will believers still be found, ready and anticipating His return.  In Luke 19, He tells the parable of the Ten Minas because the people believed that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately (v. 11). The following parable is similar to the talents one in Matthew 25, again with the point that the nobleman went into a far country before returning.

Luke 21, another account of the Olivet Discourse, includes additional information regarding the time gap:  verses 20-24 speak of the destruction of Jerusalem, the people being led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem being trampled underfoot by the Gentiles “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  (See my previous blog concerning this text:  Luke’s Gospel and Eschatology.) Then verse 25 resumes the narrative related to future events as paralleled by Matthew and Mark.

The gospels contain so many of Jesus’ teaching, and make the point clear.  Jesus clearly set forth the idea of a long wait, that He did not think He was going to return soon in terms of elapsed time.  Rather, He continually pointed out the ideas of perseverance, waiting and preparedness, along with parables regarding his absence for a long period of time.  Certainly no one could have realized that this delay is now 2000+ years, but the biblical record is clear enough that liberals deserve a better response than that of Preterists, those who too readily agree with the liberals’ premise and then try to force other scripture into a mold it was never intended to fit into.

The Parables of Rejection: Matthew’s Gospel

June 9, 2011 1 comment

As many know, the gospel of Matthew is arranged topically, with all related material together in one section of the gospel, followed by another section for a few chapters, and so forth — in contrast to Luke’s gospel which follows a more chronological pattern.  In my study through the gospel of Matthew with S. Lewis Johnson, I now come to the section dealing with events of the last week before the Crucifixion, and particularly to chapters 21 and 22 — which introduce a series of three parables containing the theme of the rejection of Christ by His people Israel.

The first parable (Matthew 21:28-32) tells of two sons asked to go work in the vineyard. One said he would not go, but afterward repented and went.  The other said he would go, but did not go.  By direct application this parable contrasts the rulers of the people (the second son) with the common people (the tax collectors and harlots), and by extension applies to the overall nation of Israel as compared to the Gentiles.

The second parable (Matthew 21:33-45) tells of a householder, a very wealthy man who planted a vineyard and prepared it for fruit and then went off to a far country, expecting his fruit to be given in its season.  This parable has much in common with Isaiah 5:1-7, and therefore familiar terminology to the Jews; but here Jesus adds the element of the man sending his servants (the prophets), and finally his son, to the tenants to collect his fruit.

The third parable (Matthew 22:1-14) is that of a Marriage Feast. Those who had been invited are now called to come, but they refused — and so the king extended the invitation to many others out on the main road, to fill the house with guests.

These parables have different emphases, but all teach the same main points:
1.  The empty profession leads to judgment:  the man who says, I will go and work — but does not go, can expect only judgment.  The judgment theme is further developed in the second parable:  the man who does not respond to the owner of the household, to give Him his fruit, is likewise exposted to judgment.  The third parable shows a man at the wedding feast, but without the wedding garment:  an empty profession is not enough.

2.  God’s Program for the Nation Israel and the Gentiles shall undergo a dramatic change–by virtue of the fact that the Nation Israel, to whom the promises had been given, has now evidently refused the Son at His coming.

The first parable teaches that the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you — and likewise, the Gentiles shall precede this generation into the kingdom of God.  Note that even here God is still very gracious and leaves the door open:  they shall enter “before you.”  The door has not been permanently shut, and there still is opportunity for you.  Thus has been the case down through history:  the church has been composed of a majority of Gentiles, but still some Jews.  Even in the book of Acts we learn that some of the Pharisees, and some of the priests, did indeed come to faith in Christ — one of the evidences we see for answer to Christ’s prayer from the cross, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The second parable is even more clear:  the kingdom of God shall be taken from you (those who did not bring forth fruit to their master) and given to the Gentiles.  Then in the third parable, the chosen people do not even want to come, and so the servants of the king go out to the highways and gather as many as they can find.

Those that have been invited to the feast, the Nation Israel, because of their rejection of the Son did not come, and so he goes out into the highways and selects all, as many as they find, both bad and good, and they come to the feast.  That’s His way of telling in a simple illustrative story that there is a tremendous transformation taking place in the program of God at the first coming of the Lord Jesus.

The parables also have different emphases:  work for God in the first parable, stewardship and the particular relationship of trustee in the second parable, and the joy of a marriage feast in the third parable.  Yet each of these parables convey great truths, in the illustrative way that only our Lord Jesus Christ can relate these things to us, for our greater understanding.