SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- In the second section, Jesus calls the people exchanging money and selling animals in the temple area a "den of robbers." They were selling animals for sacrifice at ridiculously high prices, taking advantage of people who were just trying to come and worship God. The place they were doing it in was the area of the temple where Gentiles (non-Jews) could come to learn about God. Obviously their seeking God could have been hindered by the big business that was happening there.
- In verse 22 Jesus says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” This doesn't mean that we get to trump the will of God with our prayers. When you consider this verse in light of other verses in the Bible about God answering prayer, we find that our prayers will be answered when they are in accordance with God's will. Of course, the more our hearts grow for God, the more we will want what God wants.
- In the "parable of the two sons" (verses 28-32) Jesus makes the point that it's not your words, but your actions that count. Someone can say all the right things about God and faith, but it's the person who actually lives by faith in God who "enters the Kingdom of God."
- The "parable of the tenants" is a metaphor describing how God has sent prophets to turn his people around back to him. However, the people didn't listen, so God finally sent his son... but they didn't listen to him either.
- In verse 44 Jesus says, “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Jesus is the cornerstone of the kingdom of God. In verse 43 he tells the Pharisees that this kingdom is being taken from them and given to others. And in verse 45 it says the chief priests and the Pharisees “knew he was talking about them.” So verse 44 is directed to the religious elite and is probably about how they approach the kingdom of God. If they fight against it they will be defeated by Jesus, and if they ignore it they will be judged by Jesus.
- This chapter is filled with people who thought they were right with God and doing the right thing. The guys selling in the temple, the Pharisees who taught people religion, and the landowners in Jesus' parable. The problem is that none of them were actually right with God or doing the right thing. It's easy to be deceived, and to deceive others, especially when our approach to God is a religion based on "doing" rather than a relationship based on love.
- It’s easy for us to scoff at the religious leaders in the Bible but we can be just like them. God wants a relationship with us and not some mindless, heartless following of rules that make us appear "right." Take a serious look at where you are with God. What really motivates you to read the bible, pray, or go to church? Do you do the right things because they're the right things, or because of love for God and people? Take some time today to ask God to help you to check your heart.