SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Matthew 21:1 through 25:46
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:42-44)
These chapters describe Jesus’ presentation as King, His instruction regarding end-time events, and His rejection by the Jewish people.
Near the end of His earthly ministry, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now commemorate as Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as was part of the coronation custom of the Israelites each time a new king was appointed. The people cheered him with shouts of “Hosanna” and laid garments and branches on the road. Conquering men and royalty were honored in this manner at that time. Yet, in less than a week, when asked by Pilate what should be done with Jesus, the crowd roared, “Crucify him!”
After entering Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple and removed those who had brought merchandise to be sold for the sacrifices and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. The merchandise would have consisted of doves, oxen, sheep, and other sacrificial items. The moneychangers furnished the Jews and proselytes who came from other countries, with the current coin of Judea, in exchange for their own.
Despite mounting opposition, Jesus continued to teach His followers. Many parables in today’s lesson have to do with true worship as opposed to hypocrisy.
During this time, Jesus’ jealous critics approached Him with many questions that were not honest inquiries, but rather were designed to incriminate Him. The Pharisees (a religious group) and the Herodians (a political group) were enemies, and yet, they united at this time against Jesus. They asked Jesus about paying Roman taxes. They had reasoned that if Jesus said they should, the Pharisees could accuse Him of being against God. If He said taxes should not be paid, the Herodians would have Him arrested for rebellion against Herod. His answer exposed their evil motives.
Jesus then silenced an attempt by another religious group — the Sadduces. Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, as sources of law. This group did not believe in the resurrection because it is not directly mentioned in the Pentateuch. In His response (Matthew 22:32), Jesus quoted from Exodus, chapter 3, verse 6. He used this verse and its tense to illustrate to them that the men referred to in the verse, who had once died, were alive.
Jesus cautioned His disciples and the multitude that greatness is not measured by how much honor and prestige one has from people. Rather, He said, “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Addressing the false religious leaders, He condemned them, saying, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” The Pharisees strained their water to avoid accidentally swallowing a gnat or any small unclean thing forbidden by the Law. They took such care in the details of ceremonial cleanliness, yet they made no effort of avoiding the much greater issues of hypocrisy, lust, and deceit.
Chapter 24 is a sobering series of warnings concerning the last days — the days in which we now live. Jesus prophesied that in the last days, many would fall away and be lost; however, those who endured to the end would make their heavenly goal.
In Chapter 25, Jesus gave three parables to illustrate how we should be prepared when He returns. The parable of the ten virgins warns of the need to be responsible for our spiritual condition and readiness. The parable of the talents shows the rewards for faithful service and the eternal consequences of neglect. The last parable calls us to demonstrate our faith by personal involvement in acts of love and mercy.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Imagine yourself among the crowd of people who witnessed Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, recorded in Matthew 21:1-11. Now, contemplate the fact that within the week, those who shouted “Hosanna” were possibly among those who cried for Jesus’ crucifixion. What conclusions can we draw from this?
Class discussion may bring out that it is easy to stand up for Christ when surrounded by those who believe as we do, but it takes courage to take a stand for Him when it is not “politically correct.” Discuss times when this might be difficult. For example, some have a hard time bowing their head over their meal when eating with non-Christian co-workers or in a public place. Some find it difficult to speak up for the Lord in a classroom where the teacher ridicules those who are Christians. Have your class list some ways we can gain courage to take a stand for Christ.
- In Matthew 21:12-17, we read of Jesus cleansing the Temple. What had occurred within those sacred walls that so displeased Him? What principle does this teach us regarding our attitude toward God’s House?
Merchants and moneychangers had set up their booths in the courtyard of the Temple and were conducting business, crowding out the Gentiles who had come from all over the civilized world to worship God.
While most of us would agree that we should not conduct secular business within the walls of the church, the point of this question is to emphasize that God’s House must always be treated with utmost honor and respect. Ask your class to share ways we can demonstrate that type of attitude. Thoughts brought out could include: avoiding prolonged conversations about things of no spiritual value, making sure that we make the church a house of prayer, being attentive in the services, keeping the church facility clean, being careful about the church property and equipment, being quiet and respectful in the sanctuary area.
- Jesus caused the fig tree to wither away because of its lack of fruit. One lesson from this acted-out parable was a vivid warning against hypocrisy — having the “leaves” of a false profession, but no fruit of God’s grace. What are examples of fruit in the lives of Christians? Matthew 21:18-22
Based on the word “fruit,” your students may refer to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The point should be made that a real Christian acts at all times like a Christian. He shows by his words and actions that love is the motivation for all he says and does. He is faithful in the Christian disciplines: he reads his Bible, prays, attends church regularly, and witnesses to others about the Lord. He is ready to serve others as the opportunities arise.
- In the parable of the wicked husbandmen, Jesus is compared to the cornerstone of a great building. Jesus told the chief priests and Pharisees that “whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” What do you think He meant, and how does this apply to us in our day? Matthew 21:33-46
Jesus used the picture of a cornerstone to show that different people would respond to Him in different ways. Ideally, people would build on the “Stone.” However, many would stumble over Him instead. In the judgment, God’s enemies will be crushed by it. Today, if an unsaved person will willingly come to the Lord in true repentance (brokenness), they will be saved and go on to experience life in Christ. If however they fail to do this, then at the end of their time on earth they will be ground to powder (judged by God himself), when it is too late to change anything.
- In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus described one who came into the wedding ceremony without having put on the wedding garment. What was his excuse? What do you think the wedding garment symbolized? Matthew 22:11-14
The guest without the wedding garment had no excuse — he was speechless. It was customary for wedding guests of that day to be given a garment to wear to the festivities. To refuse to wear it was an insult to the host. The wedding garment is symbolic of the “garment of righteousness” that is necessary for one to enter God’s Kingdom.
Class discussion may bring out that many people today offer excuses for not giving their lives to the Lord. However, at the final judgment, they will be able to see with stunning clarity that there was no excuse for their rejection. Then they, too, will be speechless.
- Matthew 23 records Jesus’ scathing denunciation of religious hypocrisy, and includes in Matthew 23:11 a foundational principle of Christian living. Explain that principle in your own words, and offer four specific examples of how this attitude can be demonstrated in daily life.
Responses should bring out that Jesus said true greatness was based on serving — on giving of ourselves to help God and others. It might be interesting to note that the word servant was used in classical Greek for persons such as waiters on table; that is the attitude conveyed here. Serving others fits closely with Christ’s admonition to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
Examples of ways we can serve others might include: helping out with church projects, volunteering in a service-based organization, running errands for an elderly or shut-in person, and sending a note or card to someone who is ill.
- Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24 was related to their emphasis on some parts of the Law while they ignored other basic principles. What does it teach us with regards to tithing?
Jesus’ remarks show us that He approved of the tithing principle. He rebuked the Pharisees for not practicing judgment, mercy, and faith, even though they were paying the tithe. Then He stated clearly, “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other [the paying of the tithe] undone.”
- In chapter 24, Jesus begins what is sometimes called His “Olivet Discourse,” in which He predicts events that will occur in the end-times. Our key verse, included in this chapter, states that because iniquity (literally, “lawlessness”) will abound, the love of many will “wax cold.” What proof of these verses do we see in our day? What can we do to prevent our love for Christ from growing cold? Matthew 24:12-13
Responses to the first question may include: rising crime and divorce rates, the fascination with evil and sexual promiscuity that prevails in the media, the growing numbers of people addicted to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and pornography.
Your students may mention specific disciplines as a safeguard to prevent our love for Christ from growing cold. The point should be made that whatever we do in our Christian walk — reading our Bible, praying, attending church, talking with others about the Lord — should be done with all our hearts. We must never allow these activities to become dull or commonplace. The advice of a Gospel veteran applies here: “When you feel like praying, pray with all your heart. And when you don’t feel like praying [because feelings are fickle] then pray all the harder!”
- In Jesus’ warning about the need to be ready for His soon coming, He compared those living in the last days to those in the days of Noah. What was so bad about the things they were doing in those days (i.e., eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage)? Matthew 24:36-51
Eating, drinking (of non-alcoholic beverages), marrying and giving in marriage are all normal and legitimate activities. The point was that people were so complacent and secure with their lives that no thought or consideration was given to the most important point of all — their eternal soul’s salvation.
As opposition to Jesus mounted, He knew that His death was near. So He taught His disciples about the future — what they could expect before His return, and how they should live until then. As sincere Christians, we must pay careful heed to His teachings so that we are prepared at every moment for His imminent return.