Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-three through forty-six of the twenty-first chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture found within the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the scribes and Pharisees again coming unto Jesus. This particular occurrence when the religious system and community cams unto Jesus, however, was completely different from the others which are found and recorded in the gospel, for within this passage we find the Pharisees coming unto Jesus and asking Him a question of authority. It’s imperative that we recognize and understand that which is taking place in this particular passage, for the Pharisees had already asked for and demanded that He show them a sign from heaven in order that they might believe on Him and believe in His name. Earlier on during the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ we find the Pharisees coming unto Jesus and tempting Him to show unto them a sign from heaven—something that would demonstrate the authority and the power He demonstrated in the lives of so many men and women. Up until that moment the extent of the demonstration of the glory, the power and authority of Jesus was demonstrated and manifested in a His willingness to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to cast out devils, to raise the dead, to cause the lame to walk, and to cause the blind to see and the dumb to speak. There were a great many miracles which Jesus performed while He walked upon the earth, and eventually there would come a point when the Pharisees would demand and require of Jesus something that was asked and demanded of Him in the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil. You will recall that when Jesus was in the wilderness forty days to be tempted of the devil, one of the temptations the devil brought before Him was to demonstrate and prove that He was indeed the Son of God, and to turn the stones which were before Him unto bread. That which the devil was tempting Jesus with wasn’t merely to show and demonstrate His power, but also to use the divine power within Him to satisfy His own needs.
One of the single greatest realities I have found myself coming face to face with as I read the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded by Matthew is how the tempter worked behind the scenes in the midst of, and in the hearts and minds of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the chief priests, scribes and elders. Perhaps one of the most interesting realities and concepts concerning the religious system and community that was present during the life and ministry of Jesus is not only did the voice of the accuser manifest itself within and among them, but so also did the same voice of the tempter—the voice which Jesus heard and encountered in the wilderness when He was tempted by the devil. It would be there in the wilderness where Jesus would be tempted of the devil to show forth and demonstrate His divine power and authority by turning stones into bread, and what we find during the rest of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is the same voice of temptation working through the hearts and minds of the Pharisees and the entire religious community. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this, for it is absolutely intriguing that the voice of temptation would be manifested within the hearts and minds of the religious community. What’s more, is that it is altogether interesting and intriguing that not only would the voice of the accuser be present within the hearts and minds of the religious system, but so also would the voice of the tempter be present within and among the religious system. WHEN THE VOICE OF THE ACCUSER HIDES BEHIND RELIGION! WHEN GHE VOICE OF THE TEMPTER HIDES BEHIND RELIGION! We would not typically think that the voice of the accuser could and would be found in the midst of religion and within the religious system, however, the New Testament gospel or Matthew brings us face to face with this very reality. What’s more, is that this New Testament gospel of Matthew also brings us face to face with the fact that the voice of the tempter would and could also be found in the midst of the religious system that is present within and upon the earth. It is very possible that temptation and accusation can be found within and in the midst of religion, and that those who ought to be teachers and leaders are the greatest instruments of such realities.
The more I read and the more I study the New Testament gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew, the more I cant help but be struck with and by the tremendous reality that it is possible for accusation and temptation to be present within and in the midst of religion. As you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that it was only a matter of time before the religious system began to manifest itself upon the earth during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We dare not miss or lose sight of this tremendous reality, and we would be incredibly naïve to think and consider the fact that the voice of temptation and the voice of accusation was found to be present within and in the midst of the religious system during the days of Jesus and those days alone. We dare not think that such realities aren’t still present within and in the midst of religion today in the midst of our houses of worship and churches. I do not for one minute believe that the voice of the tempter and the voice of the accuser was found to be present within the days of Jesus alone, and has not been present within and in the midst of religion ever since. In fact, I would dare say that one of the greatest instruments and one of the greatest tools for accusation and temptation is without a doubt found within religion itself. What’s more, is that I would say that legion s perhaps one of the devils greatest playgrounds and avenues which He traffics within and through in order that He might fulfill and accomplish his twisted pleasure and delight in tempting and accusing the disciples of Jesus Christ and the saints of God. If you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will not only find present within and in the midst of the religious system the voice of the accuser, and not only will you find the voice of the tempter, but you will also find a voice that will seek to test Jesus and the authority and power He has from His Father in heaven. We dare not, we cannot, we must not miss or lose sight of this tremendous reality, for it brings us face to face with the awesome truth that religion can and in all reality is the means whereby the devil can traffic his temptation and his accusation. We need to pay close attention to the tremendous reality that religion can and in all reality is the greatest means whereby the devil can traffic his cargo of accusation and temptation among the saints of God and disciples of Jesus Christ.
I can’t help but be reminded of the various examples and accounts of the religious system raising its ugly head within and during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. In fact, I am convinced that we cannot truly and properly understand that which is found in this particular passage of scripture without turning and directing our attention to the various examples and various accounts of the religious system moving and operating within and in the midst of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider if you will the various examples of how the devil trafficked his bill of goods within and in the midst of the religious system, and how he moved his cargo within and in the midst of it during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the ninth chapter of this New Testament gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we find the following written accounts of the interaction between the scribes, the Pharisees, and the religious system that was in operation during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus:
“Andy He entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into His own city. And, behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts, said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multi dies saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matthew 9:1-8).
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physical, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).
“As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the princes of the devils. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and ever disease among the people” (Matthew 9:32-35).
“At that time Jesus went on the sabbath through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is now not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But Jesus said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1-8).
“And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: and, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days? Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He haled them all; and charged them that they should not make Him known” (Matthew 12:9-16).
“Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is. Not this the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matthew 12:22-24).
“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a great than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:38-42).
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).
“And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came His disciples, and said unto Him, KNowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But He answered and said, Every plant, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:1-14).
“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but c an ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And He left them, and departed” (Matthew 16:1-4).
“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; and great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath gained together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but form the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:1-9).
“And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enters into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto Him, All these things have I k pet from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).
“Andy Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He haled them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the c hindrance crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, and said unto Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus with unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there” (Matthew 21:12-17).
Now, you might be wondering why on earth I would choose to include so much Scripture within this particular writing concerning the Pharisees, concerning the scribes, concerning the chief priests, and the religious system, however, I am convinced that it is absolutely necessary to come face to face with the presence of the religious community that was present in the midst of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, for it brings us face to face with how the voice and presence of the accuser and tempter trafficked his bill of goods within and throughout the religious system. As we study the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that while Jesus was in fact led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted of the devil, and although Jesus overcame each of the devil’s temptations there in the wilderness, that didn’t mean the devil had finished his assault against Jesus, and even his desire to destroy Him. In fact, I have already recorded in this particular writing how there would come a point within and during the life and ministry of Jesus when the Pharisees, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders would conspire together to destroy Jesus, and to completely remove Him from the picture and the equation. I am completely and utterly convinced that what we find within the New Testament gospel of Matthew is not only a powerful picture of the voice of the tempter and the voice of the accuser within the religious system and community, but I am convinced that we also find present within the religious system a desire to utterly and completely destroy Jesus from the midst of the earth, and to remove Him once and for all from the picture. I find it to be absolutely and incredibly interesting that not only do we find the voice of the accuser and the voice of the tempter present within the midst of the religious system and community, but we also find present within religion itself, as well as within the very system of religion a strong and overwhelming desire to utterly and completely destroy Jesus the Christ. It’s worth noting and mentioning that it wasn’t the publicans and sinners who desired to destroy Jesus the Christ, nor was it those of the children of Israel who desired to destroy Jesus. What’s more, is that it wasn’t even the Gentiles, nor the heathen who took offense with Jesus, and as a result of that offense sought to utterly and completely destroy Him. When we speak of those who took the greatest offense to the words and teaching of Jesus, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that it was the religious system and religion itself that took offense to Jesus.
WHEN RELIGION IS OFFENDED WITH JESUS! WHEN RELIGION SEEKS TO UTTERLY DESTROY JESUS FROM THE MIDST OF THE PEOPLE! I cannot help but be completely and utterly gripped and consumed with the fact that the greatest ones who took offense to the words, to the teaching, and even to the ministry of Jesus Christ was not those whom He healed, or even those whom He didn’t heal, but the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees, the chief priests and the elders of Israel. We must come face go face with the awesome fact that it was religion itself that was offended with the words and teaching of Jesus Christ during that day, and it was religion which untimely sought to destroy Jesus. It has always been, and will always be one of religion’s greatest desires and ambitions to completely and utterly destroy and remove the presence and influence of Jesus Christ from the midst of the sanctuary, and from the midst of the people of God. It was religion which sought to utterly and completely destroy Jesus while He walked upon the earth, for it was religion that took offense to the words which He spike and that which He taught. It was religion itself which could not handle the healings which Jesus performs and the miracles which He completed while He walked upon the earth. It was religion itself who took offense to the disciples, and even Jesus Himself so-called “violating” their traditions, their rules and their regulations. You will recall that when Jesus spoke unto the Pharisees, the disciples, and all those which were present concerning that which truly defiles a man, He declared that it was not that which entered into the body that defiles a man, but that which proceeds forth from the mouth and flows from the heart. In all reality, that which Jesus declared truly defiles a man is evil thoughts which spring forth from an evil heart that has not been transformed by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was on this particular occasion when the Pharisees took offense to that which Jesus spoke and that which Jesus declared, and it was even Jesus’ own disciples who asked Him if He was aware of the fact that the Pharisees were offended with the words which He spoke. Within the life and ministry of Jesus, it’s necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that it wasn’t merely religion which was offended with the words which Jesus spoke, but it was religion which sought to utterly and completely destroy Jesus from the face of the earth. It was religion which could handle the “threat” Jesus posed to their system, to their rulers, to their traditions, and to all that they had established. Essentially, religion has a great issue and takes great offense when Jesus seeks to enter into the picture and undue everything it has worked so hard to establish in the hearts and minds of men. Show me a church and house of worship that has long been entangled and ensnared by religion, and experiences the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit threatening to undo everything that has been established, and I will show you a system and people within that system that will seek to utterly and completely destroy Him from the equation.
When we come to this particular passage within the New Testament gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we find the chief priests and the elders of the people coming unto Jesus while He was teaching, and asking Him by what authority He performed such great works, and taught as He taught. Though it is not mentioned within the New Testament gospel of Matthew, it was the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people of Israel who took great offense to Jesus when He entered into the Temple and drove out the collectors of money, and overthrew and overturned the money tables. If you turn to the New Testament gospel of John, you will find that after Jesus overthrew the money tables and drove out the money changers, the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people questioned Jesus concerning what authority He had that permitted to enter into the Temple and to completely undo that which they had established in the midst of it. Within this particular passage of Scripture—not only do we find Jesus overthrowing and overturning the money tables, and driving out the money changers, but we also find the chief priests and elders of the people asking Him by what authority He performed such great works, and spoke such great words. That which we find in this particular passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture of how religion has always and will always take offense to the authority, to the power, to the dominion, and to the glory of Jesus Christ in the midst of the house, and in the midst of His people. Religion has always and will always take great offense to the authority and power of Jesus the Christ showing up and manifesting itself in the midst of the people within the house of God. Religion has never been able to tolerate the authority and dominion of Jesus Christ manifesting itself within the hearts and lives of the people of God, and will always seek to question and destroy it. Religion has always and will always take great offense to the authority, to the dominion, to the power, and to the glory of Jesus Christ being manifested in the midst of the people, and cannot handle the fact that it is His Church. It’s absolutely incredible that when Jesus entered into the Temple and overthrew the money tables and drove out the money changers He declared the Temple as his Father’s house, and when the apostle Paul wrote the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians, He described the Church as being the body of Christ, and Christ being the head of it. Please don’t lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for religion has always and will always take great offense to the reality and truth that it is the Father’s house, and it is Christ’s church. THE FATHER’S HOUSE AND CHRIST’S BODY! THE FATHER’S HOUSE AND CHRIST’S CHURCH! The chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people could not handle Jesus entering into the Temple and exercising such great authority, for not only was that authority a supposed assault and attack against the commerce that was taking place in the house of God, but it was also an attack against their own control and authority within and in the midst of the Temple. In fact, it might very well be said that religion cannot handle when its authority, its control, its manipulation, its power within the house of God is threatened, for it has always and will always seek to exercise complete and total control over the house.
The ultimate reason why the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Jesus asking Him by what authority He did such great things was because they couldn’t believe that He would and could enter into the Temple and proceed to exercise such great authority. When Jesus entered into the Temple, not only did He exercise authority over the commerce and exchange that was taking place within and in the midst of the Temple, but He also exercised authority over the Temple itself, and proclaimed it to be the house of His Father. This is absolutely and incredibly important, for religion will always seek to control the house of God and the church of Christ, and cannot handle when Jesus shows up and threatens to take it back. WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP AND RECLAIMS THE TEMPLE! WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP AND TAKES BACK THE HOUSE OF GOD! In all reality, I am convinced that one of the greatest needs we are facing in this generation is that of Jesus showing up and taking back the house which belongs to His Father, and the church which is His body. There would be a short period of time when sinners and Gentiles would have authority and power over the physical body of Jesus Christ, and I am convinced that there has been a period of time when religion—when the voice of the accuser and the voice of the tempter—has had authority over His spiritual body which is present within the earth. There has been a period of time when there has been a certain amount of authority which has been exercised over the spiritual body of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ desires to show up and reclaim His body and his church from the false authority of religion and the presence of the adversary who traffics his bill of goods within and through it. There is a great need for the Spirit and presence of Jesus to show up among us in our midst and to reclaim that which is rightfully His, and that which belongs to His Father who is in heaven. Much like Jesus will show up for a second time and reclaim the kingdoms of the earth and bring them under the authority, the dominion and the rule of the kingdom of God, so also will Jesus show up and reclaim the church which belongs to Him, and the house which belonged to the Father. Oh that we would ready and prepare ourselves for that moment when Jesus shows up in the house in order to reclaim and take back that which belongs to His Father. In all reality, that is one of the greatest missions and works which Jesus Christ performed during His earthly life and ministry, for He reclaimed the lives of those who were possessed with and oppressed by devils, He reclaimed the lives of those who were subjected to infirmity, sickness, and disease, He reclaimed the Temple of God in the midst of Jerusalem for His Heavenly Father, and He reclaimed mankind back from the curse of sin and death through and by the redemption which was purchased on the cross of Calvary. Oh that we would come face to face with this reality, and that we would move over and get out of the way when Jesus shows up to reclaim that which belongs to Him, and that which belongs to his Father. Oh that we would learn to release control and release authority which we think we hold and which we think we possess, in order that Jesus might exercise His authority and His power to reclaim that which has never belonged and will never belong to us.