We ended yesterday with confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees (21:23 – 22:46). After telling multiple parables to them, Jesus ended the argument with His question about the Messiah being David’s Lord (22:45). Jesus now turns His attention to His disciples and the crowds (23:1). Jesus tells them all to obey the religious authorities over them, but to understand that the authorities themselves do not obey the Law (vv. 2-3). The add to the Law for others, but not themselves (v. 4). They care only that they are perceived as pious and holy (v. 5) because it gives them a high standing among men (vv. 6-7). This is what Christ preached against in the Sermon on the Mount (6:1, 5, 16). The religious leaders used their religion to lay up treasures on earth (6:19-24).
Jesus mentions in verse 7 how the religious leaders love to be called “Rabbi,” or “my teacher.” Jesus explanation of the One Teacher (v. 8), One Father (v. 9), and One Instructor (v. 10) is not to deny the authority of the Rabbis (as Jesus just said in verses 2-3). Rather, He is explaining that authority that is submitted to God is the only true authority. Teaching that is submitted to God’s Word is the only true teaching. It is submission that makes the teacher (vv. 11-12).
Jesus then proceeds to pronounce woe on the religious leaders in the style of the Old Testament prophets (see Isa 5:8-23, Jer 23:1-6, Ezek 34). This is the final prophecy against Israel. Like the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, the final and ultimate Prophet, is calling Israel and their leaders out for their covenant unfaithfulness. These leaders would rather people follow them than God, leading them into hell (vv. 13-15). They are lovers of money who do not realize that their oaths are binding before God (vv. 16-22). They ignore the spirit of the law, and the purpose of the law, by insisting on their own letter of the law (vv. 23-24). They are concerned with merely outward acts, not the heart (vv. 25-28). They condemn the disobedient while themselves disobeying the same exact way (vv. 29-31). The disobedience of those that came before them will be on them because of their disobedience to the true Prophet (vv. 32-36).
In calling out the murders of Abel (Gen 4:8) and Zechariah1 (1 Chr 24:21), Jesus is naming the first and the last murders in the Bible.2 He is placing those sins on this generation (v. 36). Jesus is declaring the Jews of all time who have rejected His Word to be of the line of Cain, the ungodly line, as opposed to Seth. This means they are not sons of Abraham and not children of promise. Jesus is essentially rejecting physical Israel. And we see this in the next verse when Jesus laments all of Jerusalem for their treatment of the prophets (v. 37). He declares “their house” (their physical line) desolate (v. 38). Jesus then quotes Psalm 118:26, which we saw the people crying out at the Triumphal Entry of Jesus (see 21:9). Luke places this lament before the Triumphal Entry. But remember, Matthew is interested in making theological points, not in exact chronology. Matthew is placing Psalm 118 in its proper context (see our previous treatment of this Psalm). He is here referring to the second coming of Christ. In other words, the next time the Jews will see Christ will be when it is too late. He will be coming in judgment (see Rev 11:13).
Jesus then leaves the Temple, and when His disciples admire the Temple, Jesus tells them it will be destroyed (24:1-2). This leads them to ask a question (v. 3) that they don’t realize is really three questions. They may believe that Jesus’s “coming” will be His enthronement as the Messiah which will usher in the end times, at which point the Temple will be destroyed, but these will play out in history as three distinct events. The Temple would be destroyed in 70 AD. The end times would begin with His death, resurrection, and ascension in 33 A.D. These end times will end with His second coming, whenever that will be. Jesus answers all three questions, and there is overlap in His answer as some of what He says has multiple fulfillments. Jesus speaks apocalyptically, which means He uses symbols to communicate truth. This teaching is what is known as the Olivet Discourse.
Because of the richness of what Christ says here, we will only be able to take a very, very broad look at what He says. Some of what He says applies to the destruction of the Temple, some applies to His second coming, and some applies to the time between His first and second coming. 24:5 speaks of this age, as well as the final anti-Christ who will be revealed right before Christ’s return (2 Thess 2:4 – see v. 24). Verses 6-8 speak of the current age (the end times). Verses 9-14 speaks of this age and the final apostacy right before Christ’s return (see 2 Cor 11:13, the rebellion of 2 Thess 2:3, 1 Tim 4:1). Note in verse 14 that once the Gospel reaches the whole world (the end of the earth – see Acts 1:8), Christ will return.
Verses 15-20 have overlapping elements and much dual fulfillment. This speaks of both the destruction of the Temple and Christ’s return. From verse 21 through verse 28, there is overlap between this present evil age, and the return of Christ. Verses 29-31 speak of His return. Verses 32-35 overlap between all three: the destruction of the Temple, the time between Christ’s comings, and His second coming. Verses 36 is about the second coming.3 Verses 37-44 speaks of the time between Christ’s two comings with a focus on His second coming. Note that Jesus speaks of judgment coming as a surprise to those being judged. The idea of “one being taken” refers to the one being taken in judgment (as in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, or those “taken” by the flood in Noah’s day4).
Verses 45-51 serve as a transition between the subject matter in the Olivet Discourse and the parables that go along with it. It is a parable about this present age and what we do as we wait for Christ’s return. This is similar to the parable of the tenants (21:33-40). In the Parable of the Tenants, Jesus speaks of Israel being removed from the vineyard for their refusal to give their Master the fruit (removing them from the promise). Here in 24:45-50 tells us who inherits the promise: those who are looking for, and prepared for, Christ’s coming.
In chapter 25, Jesus then tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13). Five of them (the wise) were fully prepared for the Bridegroom’s return (v. 4), five of them (the fools) were not (v. 3). When the Bridegroom (Christ) returns, the fools are distracted by worldly needs and are not ready. The wise, always prepared for His coming, met Him and entered with Him into the Marriage Feast (v. 10 – see Matt 26:29, Rev 19:9). The unprepared fools were shut out. Note that Jesus uses the same imagery from the Sermon on the Mount using the most terrifying words in all of Scripture (v. 12 – see 7:21-23). Jesus tells us the point: watch for Him. Be ready for Him at all times (v. 13 – see 24:36, 44).
Jesus then tells the Parable of the Talents (vv. 14-30). This is about what we do in this present age if our focus is on His return (see 24:37-44). Jesus again likens us in this age to stewards of our Master’s property (v. 14 – see 21:33-40, 24:45-51). God gives us gifts and callings according to our personal abilities (v. 15). It isn’t about what God has given us, and it isn’t about what using these gifts yields – it is about using them for Him! Note that he who was given five talents produced five talents (v. 20), and he who was given two talents produced two talents (v. 22), but they are given the same reward (v. 21, 23)! The reaction to the one who didn’t use what God gave him for God’s glory reinforces that it isn’t about what we yield (vv.26-28). It is about using it for God. God will provide what we need in this world and the world to come (v. 29). If we are not using what we have in this world for God, we will lose everything in the world to come (v. 30).
Jesus then focuses on His second coming, and how our final destiny in the world to come determines what we do in this world (the whole tree and its fruit thing! – see Matt 7:18-20,12:33-37). Note that Jesus speaks of a single coming for both the sheep and the goats. In verses 35-40, we see the great and first commandment is indeed worked out through the second like it (see 22:34-40). Loving our neighbor out of love for God is obedience to all the Law and Prophets, which Jesus just emphatically accused the religious leaders and the Jews of failing to obey. We also see in these verse 34 the reward we receive for using our gifts to glorify God (which we just saw in the previous parable).
In verses 41-45, we see those who do not live out the great and first commandment through the second like it have broken the Law and ignored the Prophets. They will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (v. 46). The wise will enter the marriage supper, but the fools will be shut out. Those who use their gifts will enter into the joy of our Master, those who do not will be cast into outer darkness.
While we are not saved by works, we are saved for them (Eph 2:8-10). Why? So God would be glorified (Matt 5:16). Lack of good works doesn’t result in a lack of salvation, but it reveals it (Matt 7:18-20,12:33-37).
1 The “son of Barachiah” is absent in some manuscripts, and is likely a scribal insertion since Zechariah’s father was Jehoiada the priest.
2 The Jews’ Bible ended with the books of Chronicles, not Malachi.
3 Many manuscripts omit “nor the Son”.
4 The verb translated “swept” in many translations (ESV, NLT, NRSV) is a poor translation. The word means “took” (as in the KJV, NASB, NIV). It is a different Greek word than the “taken” of verses 40 and 41, but there is crossover in meaning.