The King’s Authority
EasyEnglish Study Unit 6 (Level B) on the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew 21-25
translation into EasyEnglish by Mary Read
(Based on the Crossway Bible Guide, used by permission of Crossway Books, Leicester, LE1 7GP, England.)
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglish Ó TRANSLATION (Level B)...................................................................... Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER............................................................................................... Sue Hunter
Crossway Bible Guide
(Used By Permission of Crossway Books
Leicester LE1 7GP, England.)
A Study of the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew
For personal study,
and for study by a group.
By Stephen Dray
(Note: Each Section will be in a box, so that you can
easily find a particular passage.
It will look like this: .)
There is a Word List at the end of this book.
This gives the meanings of difficult words.
These words have a star like *this in front of them in the text.
There may be other words that you do not understand.
If so, please tell us.
*OT means Old Testament. It is the first part of our Bible.
*NT means New Testament. It is the second part of our Bible.
In the Bible, verses are the divisions of a chapter.
The Son of David claims what belongs to him.
Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was like a king who had won a battle. What happened there showed something. And what happened in the *Temple showed it too. These events showed who Jesus is. He is a *prophet, a priest and a king.
There was a large crowd of people. They were all going to Jerusalem. Every year, there was a great religious event there. The *Jews remembered the time when God had saved them. They had been slaves in Egypt. But God had brought them out of Egypt. (The book of Exodus describes this time. Read Exodus chapter 12 especially.)
Many people who were in the crowd would have known Jesus well. But they began to recognise something. There was a mystery about him too. So they asked the question: ‘Who is this?’ It was not the first time that they had asked that question. (Compare 8:27.)
The answer (verse 11) was not complete. But it was correct. They may have been thinking about a passage that was in the *OT. It was Deuteronomy 18:14–19. It had the promise that a very special *prophet would come. People must ‘listen to him’. His words would be the words of God. He was called the *prophet.
But Jesus was more than a *prophet. This passage suggests that Jesus was (and is) a king too. ‘Son of David’ was a *Jewish title. *Jews were sure that it referred to the *Messiah. And the *Messiah would also be their king. (Read 20:29–34.) They expected him to be a peaceful ruler, like Solomon (verse 5).
There was a *Jewish tradition. It was when a royal person was coming. The people would spread branches of trees on the road. It happened at another time too. People spread their clothes for Jehu to stand on. (Read 2 Kings 9:13.) This was when they were making him king. Verse 5 repeats Zechariah 9:9. Verse 10 of that passage speaks about a king who would rule the world.
Matthew emphasised all these things. They show what he believed. It was this. Jesus was the *Messiah. He was also king of the *Jews. There is something interesting about the Mountain of Olives too (verse 1). *Jews believed that it had a connection with the *Messiah. (Read Zechariah 14:4, 9, 12–19.) They expected the *Messiah to come from there. He would ‘be king over all the earth’. Then he would punish the nations who were against the *Jews.
He who will come will be the *Lord (God) himself. The book of Zechariah makes this clear. This is similar to many other *OT passages. Sometimes the *Messiah is different from the *Lord (God). At other times, he is the same person as the *Lord (God). Matthew showed the great mystery about Jesus. He is God and he is man!
Proper and false religion
The priests and the teachers of the *Law had many advantages. They were the religious leaders in ancient Israel. They were responsible for the *Temple. God had said that he would live there. (Read 1 Kings 6:1, 2, 9–14; 8:10–29.) These leaders could go to the *Temple at any time. They had studied God’s word. Their job was to teach that word.
The job of these religious leaders was special. But they had no respect for God’s house. They refused to obey his word. (Compare Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. Verse 13 repeats words from both of these *OT verses.) They studied God’s word eagerly. But they did not know its real meaning. One such verse was Malachi 3:1. Jesus had come. They should have known that the verse referred to him. But they did not know. There was a great contrast between these religious leaders and another group of people.
This other group of people could not go into the *Temple. They were the blind people. It was the same for people who could not walk. Religious leaders made this rule. They repeated some words from the *OT. (Read Leviticus 21:18–21.) But they left out the next verse (22). These people could not serve in God’s house. But they could share in its benefits. The leaders used a tradition too. (Read 2 Samuel 5:6–8.)
There were also children. They had little importance in the religion of that time. (Read 19:13–15.) These three groups came to Jesus in the *Temple. They began to experience good things. (Read verses 14 and 15.) They were things that God had promised. They would happen when *Messiah came. (Read Isaiah 35:5, 6.) So, these people came to Jesus. But the chief priests and teachers were not like them at all. These leaders were very angry with Jesus.
Something important happened. Jesus ‘left them’ (verse 17). In *OT times, the *glory of God left God’s people too. (First, God’s *glory came in 1 Kings 8:10–11. Then the *glory left in 1 Samuel 4:12–22.) Jeremiah 7:13–14 and 26:4, 6 refer to this time in the city called Shiloh. God said that he would have to do the same thing again. The people refused to listen. So God had to let the enemy destroy the *Temple. This happened in 587 B.C. (Note: B.C. means Before Christ.) The book of Ezra tells how the *Jews rebuilt the *Temple. Now Jesus went away from the *Temple. He left the leaders. So God’s *glory was no longer present. They must have God’s punishment instead.
1. You can know the truth. But you may not recognise its real meaning. Can you think about ways in which this might happen? Think about the religious activities in your life. Does Jesus seem to be absent from any of them?
2. We agree that Jesus is King. Think about your church’s ideas. Think about what its members do. Whose opinion is most important? Is it the opinion of the leaders? Is it the opinion of the members? Or does Jesus’ opinion come first? Think of some examples.
3. What exactly did Jesus not like in the *Temple? Should we ever follow his example? What things would Jesus not like in churches today? What can we do to change them?
Jesus shows his authority.
False religion produces no ‘fruit’. (There are no spiritual results.) It must have the *judgement of God. Jesus suggested that his authority came from God.
Jesus told the *fig tree that it would never have fruit again. This action was a sign. Jesus was showing that false religion must receive God’s *judgement. This event was in the month of April. *Fig trees would not have either leaves or fruit at this time. On this occasion, Jesus saw a tree that had leaves. But it had no fruit.
This was like the religious leaders. They wanted people to notice them. But there were no spiritual results in their lives. The day before, they had been angry with Jesus. (Read 12:15.) Jesus seemed to be comparing them with the *fig tree. Only real religion pleases God. Religion must have spiritual results.
The *fig tree died at once. The *disciples noticed this. So, they asked Jesus about it. Jesus answered their question with some teaching. He spoke about one of the marks of real religion. It is prayer with *faith. (Read verses 21–22.)
Read Jesus’ words that are in verses 21–22. We must be very careful how we explain them. Often, people do not understand them correctly. These people say that Christians must have enough *faith. Then they can ask God for anything and God will give it to them. But this may not happen. Then some believers feel that it is their fault. They must not have had enough *faith. So they feel upset.
Jesus spoke about something that was impossible for humans. He did not mean us to follow his exact words. Jesus does not suggest that we must do it by ourselves. We cannot increase our own *faith by hard work. More *faith would not help us to have anything that we want.
We must look at what the whole Bible teaches. It teaches that God has all authority and power. He controls everything. There is another point. It is about the word ‘doubt’ in verse 21. It does not mean to be unsure about something. It means that God has shown something clearly. And people still refuse to believe him. That is doubt.
So, to have *faith is to trust God completely. We should pray with this sort of *faith. Then impossible things can happen. This is because we are praying for what God wants. Jesus encourages us to have this kind of *faith.
Jesus wins against those who oppose him (verses 24–27)
This passage records a discussion. It was between Jesus and the religious leaders. By that time, there was plenty of evidence to show who Jesus was. Many *OT verses had come true in the previous few days. They were *OT verses that were about the *Messiah. They came true about Jesus. He healed the blind men. (Read 20:29–34.) Isaiah 35:5 came true. Then, Jesus entered Jerusalem city. He was like a king who had won a battle. (Read 21:1–11.) Zechariah 9:9 came true. Jesus cleared out the *Temple. (Read 21:12–13.) Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 described this event.
These and other similar events had happened. People had to believe two things. First, that Jesus’ words were special. (Read Matthew 7:28–29.) Also, that Jesus’ actions were special. (Read 8:27.) Slowly, men and women began to understand the truth. (Read 16:16.) But some people refused to believe the facts. We may not understand why these people were like this.
The chief priests and the teachers of the *Law asked Jesus a question. (Read verse 23.) But they did not really want an answer to it. It was a reasonable question to ask. But what followed showed something. It showed that their question was unfair. Jesus could have said that his authority came from God. Then they would have accused him of ‘blasphemy’. This was a terrible *sin. It was when someone claimed to be God. Also, Jesus could have refused to answer the question. But this would make Jesus’ *disciples doubt him.
Jesus was wise. He knew what the religious leaders were trying to do. So he asked them a question instead! Their reaction showed what they were like. They seemed to have an interest in the truth. But it was false. (Read verses 25–26.) Jesus showed that the religious leaders were proud. They wanted people to accept their authority. They only cared about themselves. So they were unable to see the facts. The evidence about Jesus was there. But they could not believe it.
The whole story is funny. But it is very sad too. The religious leaders were behaving foolishly. They should have known the difference between true and false *prophecy. That was part of their job. But they had to admit that they could not do their job (verse 27). So, they could not judge Jesus’ work either.
1. You believe the Christian message. People may tell you that this is stupid. What things in this passage would encourage you?
2. People or the members of a church can say that they ‘know God’. What does that mean?
3. Religious people often like official religion. (This means that they obey all the rules. But its real meaning does not affect them.) What is the reason for this? It has advantages. What are they? It has dangers too. What are they?
Advantages and responsibility
Some people claim to be religious. But they do not live for Jesus. These people do not belong to God’s *kingdom.
There are three stories in this passage. It is another series of *parables. Jesus told the *parables about the religious leaders. They followed on from what Jesus had just said. (Read 21:23–27.) Jesus showed the leaders that they were like blind guides. They could not recognise truth that was clear.
Yes and no (verses 28–32)
The first *parable contrasted two groups. They were the religious leaders and the ‘*sinners’. The leaders said that they were loyal to God. They wanted to obey his word. But this did not happen when John the *Baptist came. (Read verse 25.) John had God’s message. But the leaders refused to follow him. So, their talk was good. They had many ceremonies. But these things did not mean anything really.
But there were the ‘*sinners’. They had refused to obey God’s word in the past. (Their lives showed this clearly.) But they heard John’s message gladly. They wanted to follow Jesus. These ‘*sinners’ had good reactions both to John and to Jesus. But this did not please the religious leaders. The result was that the ‘*sinners’ were entering the *kingdom of God. And the religious leaders did not enter the *kingdom of God.
An impossible ambition (verses 33–45)
This is the second *parable. It probably comes from a real situation. This sort of thing happened in ancient Israel. Owners of property there often lived far away from it. People would pay rent for the property or business. In this story, it was a fruit farm for grapes (a small fruit). The owner would expect to receive a share of the profits. In Jesus’ day, this situation was very unpopular. So people were interested in the subject.
In the story, the owner sent his servants to get his share of the harvest. The farmers attacked them and killed one of them. The owner sent more servants. But the same thing happened. He even sent his son. But they killed him too.
Jesus explained the meaning of the story. The owner was God himself. The fruit farm for grapes was the *kingdom of God. (Note: This picture language was in the *OT too. Read Isaiah 5:1–7.) The farmers meant the religious leaders in Jesus’ time. The servants were the *prophets. The son was Jesus. So, the lesson was clear. The *Jewish leaders would lose their part in the *kingdom of God. This was because they had refused to accept the *prophets. (John the *Baptist was the last of the *prophets.) The *Jewish leaders were planning to kill Jesus too.
Jesus was teaching important truths in this story. We can be citizens of God’s *kingdom. This is a very great advantage. But there are responsibilities too.
There are three responsibilities here. First, a Christian should live a good life (verse 43). This is like a tree that should have fruit (verse 34b). Next, Christians must hear God’s word. And they must act on God’s word. We must not be like the farmers in Jesus’ story (verses 34–39). Lastly, Christians must believe Jesus’ words (verse 42). This is like ‘building’ upon Jesus. Jesus speaks about a danger too. It is to refuse to believe God’s word. It is to refuse to accept God’s Son. To do this will bring *judgement (verse 41).
Ungrateful guests (22:1–14)
This *parable is really three stories in one story. Verses 1–7 tell the story of an invitation to a royal wedding big meal. The guests whom the king invited did not want to go to it. He asked them again. But they still refused to come. Verses 8–10 tell how all sorts of people came to the big meal. Verses 11–14 tell the incident about the guest who did not wear wedding clothes. These three stories were describing the *kingdom of heaven (verse 2).
► Verses 1–7. The king is God himself. The big meal is for the *Messiah. It will happen at the end of time. The servants are the *prophets. The previous *parable suggested this. But the *prophets may include John, Jesus and the *disciples. The story is about three things. First, there is God’s patience. There are many chances to enter God’s *kingdom.
Next, there were the people who refused the king’s invitation. They were too busy, because they were doing other things. (These things were not wrong. But they were not as important.) But there was something more serious. They completely refused to accept the authority of the man who sent the invitation. So, there must be *judgement for them.
It is hard to explain such behaviour. The invitation was to a royal wedding. Most people would never refuse a chance like that! There is more. In the ancient world, any wedding was a happy occasion. Of course, a royal wedding was extra special. Most people’s lives were very dull. So, a wedding would give them a chance to enjoy something.
► Verses 8–10. Some people lost their right to attend the wedding big meal. So, all sorts of men and women were there instead. They would know that they did not deserve to be there. It will be the same at the end of the world.
► Verses 11–14. The details are not clear at first. There was a custom in Jesus’ time. It was to offer special clothes to guests at a wedding. One person seems to have refused this gift. Jesus was teaching that all are welcome to attend the big meal. They could be ‘bad people’. But they must accept the way that God does things. Otherwise, they would be as bad as those who refused the invitation. Verse 14 probably emphasised this idea.
The message of the *parable is clear. Most of the *Jews refused God’s invitation again and again. (This was especially true about the leaders.) It was a wonderful invitation. So it is hard to explain why the *Jews would refuse it. Other people would accept the invitation. But these non-*Jews must do two things. They must come to Jesus. And they must be willing to do what God wants.
1. Think about times when you have said ‘Yes’ to something that is good. Then you have decided against it. Now, think about times when you have said ‘No’. Then you have changed your mind. Make two lists. If the second list is longer, thank God!
2. The *Jewish leaders thought that they had the right to have all of God’s benefits. Can people who are in churches today be like them? What should these people be like?
3. God has given the world to men and women. He wants them to look after it. If this is true, Christians should set an example. How can we do this?
4. God has an invitation for people today. Many of them make excuses not to accept it. Make a list of the reasons that they give. How can we make the invitation more attractive? (But we must show that it is a serious matter too.)
Choose what is most important.
Jesus gave 4 examples of how to put God first.
God or the state (verses 15–22)
The religious leaders did not want people to be Jesus’ disciples. They wanted to stop them. Jesus’ *parables made the leaders even more sure that they must stop them (verse 15). Again, the leaders asked Jesus a question that was unfair. (Compare 21:23–27.) The *Romans were the people who ruled the *Jews at that time. The *Romans did not know the real God. Some *Jews thought that it was wrong to pay any taxes to the *Romans. It could be dangerous for Jesus if he agreed with these *Jews. But he might say that it was right to pay taxes to the *Romans. Then the *Jewish people probably would not like this. And he would not be so popular with them.
(Note: There is more about the Romans in the Word List.)
Jesus gave a very clever answer. There is God and there are the political leaders. Both are responsible for different matters. So, it is not a matter of choosing one or the other. Jesus said that people must give the right honour to each of them.
Christians today have hard situations. It can be difficult to obey Jesus’ teaching. But the principles that Jesus taught are clear. Later, the apostles emphasised them too. (Note: Read More Explanation for Matthew 10:1–4.) Now read Romans 13:1–2. There, Paul taught that we must obey the authorities of the state. Then he emphasised that Christians must be good citizens. (Read Romans 13:6–7.) Paul also encouraged Christians to pray for political leaders. (Read 1 Timothy 2:1–2.)
Sometimes people make the Bible mean what they want it to mean (verses 23–33).
There were different religious ideas in the time of Jesus. The *Pharisees had their ideas. They asked Jesus a question in the previous section. But it was really an unfair question. In these verses, the *Sadducees asked Jesus a question. But it was an unfair question too. The *Sadducees often argued with the *Pharisees about this matter. So they tried to make Jesus agree with them. But they just wanted to cause trouble for Jesus.
The *Pharisees believed that a person’s dead body would come back to life. This would happen on the ‘last day’. But the *Sadducees refused to believe that. This was because they did not find it in the books of Moses. (These were the first 5 books of the *OT.) They used Deuteronomy 25:5–6 and Genesis 38:8 for their question. They did not want to know the truth. They just wanted Jesus to look foolish.
But Jesus repeated from one of those 5 books of Moses. The truth that they denied was there too. Jesus referred to Exodus 3:6. The *Lord is the living God. His goodness to men does not end when they die. God had promised good things to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, Jesus was saying that there must be life after death. Only then could these three men share in those good things.
In *OT times, God dealt with the whole of a person. It was not just a person’s body. It was not just a person’s mind. So, God’s promises were for the body too. This meant that when a person died, it was not the end. His or her body would come back to life. (But note something here. The *Pharisees believed that the dead body, as it was, would return to life. Jesus did not believe that.)
The *Sadducees read the Bible. But they did not ‘think God’s thoughts’ about it. They had not listened to what God’s word actually meant. They kept their own opinions when they read the Bible. They did not have a right understanding of God either. (Read verse 29b-30.) This was part of their problem.
The *Sadducees should have believed that God was really God. Then, it would have been easy to believe that he could make dead people live. They were able to think about the future. But it was only as it related to their present experience. But they should have believed that God is really God.
We can understand the *Sadducees in one way. Then, nobody had come back to life and never died again. But we cannot have that same excuse. Jesus came back to life very many years ago. And he is still alive today. The evidence is very strong. But people still refuse to believe the truth.
Love God and love your neighbour (verses 34–40).
In this passage, Jesus answered a most important question. It is: ‘How can I please God?’ The *Pharisees often discussed this question. The *OT records 613 different laws. (248 laws encouraged people to do certain things. 365 laws were against certain other actions.) There were so many laws from which to choose. It was hard to know which were the most important laws.
At first, it seemed that Jesus thought the same as most of the *Pharisees. (Compare Luke 10:25–27.) But this cannot be true. The words of verse 40 show the difference. In verses 37–39, Jesus explained the importance of the two commands. All the *OT laws come from these two laws. The teachings of the *prophets come from them too.
We can explain what Jesus meant in this way. The *Pharisees thought that the laws were like many different bricks. Each brick (law) was separate. They did not relate to each other most of the time. But they thought that two bricks were larger than the other bricks (laws). These were the laws that are in verses 37–39. The *Pharisees felt that they could gain credit with God. They did this by obeying all the laws. But especially they obeyed the two great commands that were the most important ones.
But Jesus did not think like the *Pharisees. The two great commands were like the substance that stuck the bricks together. The two great commands made all the laws into something like a wall. Without that substance, the bricks were just a pile that had no use. So the two great commands set the standard. All the other commands came from them. Both the great commands were part of each other too. Love for God will show itself in love for other people. And real love for other people comes from real love for God.
David’s *Lord and our *Lord (verses 41–46)
God had promised to send the *Messiah. The *Jews believed that he would be David’s son. This belief came from two passages in the *OT. They are Isaiah 11:1, 10 and Jeremiah 23:5. (Jesse was David’s father.) There is much about the *Messiah in the *OT. But the religious leaders failed to look at all the teaching. They had a book called ‘The Psalms of Solomon’. It was one of their most famous books. It showed what they thought about the *Messiah. They thought that he would just be a national hero.
Jesus tried to teach them more from the *OT. He spoke about Psalm 110:1. This verse refers to *Messiah as more than just David’s son. The *Messiah is David’s *Lord and God. Jesus had already offended the *Jews by his claims. In this passage, Jesus referred to their *OT. The claims that Jesus made for himself were the same as for the *Messiah in the *OT. And if Jesus was David’s *Lord, then he was their *Lord too. So they ought to give honour to him.
Perhaps we cannot understand why Jesus spoke in this way. The religious leaders were against Jesus more and more. The previous two chapters of Matthew’s book showed this. Love for God and love for other people were vital. Jesus had emphasised this. (Read verses 34–40.) In this section, Jesus showed an example of that love. He offered something to those who opposed him. He offered knowledge of himself to them. This could make it possible for them to become his friends. This was what Jesus wanted.
After this time, Jesus spoke only to the crowds and to his *disciples. Soon, the religious leaders would leave. They would make plans to kill Jesus. He knew all about this. But, first, Jesus appealed to them in a loving way for the last time. He did not use force. He was gentle. He just wanted to lead them to the truth about himself. But the religious leaders did not want to know the truth. This was very sad. In chapter 26, they were sure that they must kill him.
1. I have not seen God. So how can I love him? I love other people. Is that the same as love for God? Can we separate these two loves? If we can, how can we do it?
2. What is the value in having a church that the state supports? Read verses 15–22. Does Jesus’ teaching help us to decide the answer to that question?
3. Some people say that they love other people. They think that this is enough. But they leave out part of the verse. The part speaks about love for God too. So, they are making the Bible mean what they want it to mean. Can you think of any other verses that people use in this way? First, make a list of your own favourite verses from the Bible. Is your own understanding of them correct?
Be careful! There is false teaching where you are!
Jesus warned those who listened to him against false religion. It seemed to be correct. But it did not bring honour to God.
Matthew now recorded some of Jesus’ final teaching. (This is in chapters 23–25.) First, he spoke to the crowds (verse 23). Then he spoke to the *disciples (verses 24–25). Some people may know that they are going to die. They will choose their words carefully. Jesus knew that he would die soon. So, his talks here were most important. In this chapter, Jesus condemned the religious leaders. But he had a final appeal to the crowds too (verse 1).
In the first century, there were many religious systems. But Jesus was not speaking about false religion in this passage. He spoke about something that was more dangerous than that. It was to give the wrong meanings to true religion. That was what Jesus condemned.
There was the religion of the teachers and of the *Pharisees. It was often wrong. But some very sincere people tried to obey it. The many rules and regulations were often stupid. Only very religious people could have accepted them. The religion of the teachers and of the *Pharisees seemed to be very spiritual. It seemed to be about the right things. Its *disciples were very eager to be right. They were eager to do what was right too. So, the *OT was the most important thing for them.
But there was a danger in all this. The religious teachers and the *Pharisees had started right. Then they completely changed the true religion. It was hard to tell what was true and what was false. This is what Jesus talked about in the rest of the chapter.
Jesus suggested that this sort of religion was like a heavy load. It became just two long lists. There was a list called ‘Things that you must do’. There was another list called ‘Things that you must not do’. But this religion offered nothing that would make the load lighter. (Compare 11:28–30.) The teachers forced heavy loads on other people. But they found ways to avoid the load themselves.
There are people who have a religion like this. But these people have a wrong idea about the life that pleases God. (Read verses 5–11.) They want power and honour. They want people to respect and admire them. But Jesus gave a contrast. He spoke about the attitude of a real believer. A real believer is a servant of the Father in heaven. He or she is a servant of the *Messiah. (Read verses 9–10.) There should always be a humble attitude in every action.
Very bad trouble will come (verses 13–39)
In these verses, Jesus pointed out some wrong attitudes. He was speaking about the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees. It was their wrong attitudes to God’s word. They were giving wrong meanings to true religion. This was what Jesus taught. In this way, they avoided God’s word. (Read verses 16–22.)
An oath (a strong promise) had a purpose. It should mean that people could trust the words that followed. The teachers explained God’s word. But they did it in a way that made it easy to tell lies!
At the time of Jesus, there was an important subject. It was about an oath (strong promise). *Jews often discussed when you must do what you had promised. But Jesus spoke about the important matter immediately. He reminded those who listened about the purpose of God’s laws. His laws in the *OT were there to protect the truth. But the religious leaders did not seem to care about this. They invented ways to make oaths that had no meaning.
Then Jesus spoke about the teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees. Their ideas about what was important were all wrong. They obeyed all the rules of the *OT. But they forgot the principles of the rules. These principles explained the rules. (Read verses 23–24.)
True religion affects the whole person. (Read verses 25–28.) Jesus gave two examples of this fact. First, he mentioned how careful the religious leaders were. They obeyed all the rules about ceremonies. They washed in special ways. They did this to make themselves ‘clean’. But Jesus described what this was like. It was as if they had washed the outside of cups and dishes. But inside they were full of dirt. Jesus said that the religious leaders were like this. They obeyed all the rules. But they did not care about the need to be morally good. Jesus’ point is clear. There must be a change of attitudes. Otherwise, there can be no real change in a life.
The next example is in verses 27–28. It is similar to the first one. The *Jews buried dead people in special graves. They made the grave by cutting into the rocks. A large round stone would often cover the entrance. These graves could be anywhere. Religious people might touch them by mistake. This would make these people ‘dirty’. So, people would paint the graves white. This could make them look attractive on the outside. But, inside the grave there were bones of dead people. Jesus said that the religion of the false teachers might look attractive. But it did not deal with the bad attitudes of men and women.
There was more. (Read verses 29–36.) People whose religion had false ideas refused to listen to the truth. Jesus said that the religious leaders were like this. These leaders were proud. In the past, *Jews had behaved very badly. The religious leaders said that they would never have behaved like them. They were sure about this. In the past, *Jews had acted against God’s *prophets. The leaders thought that they would never behave like that. But, Jesus and his *disciples were speaking God’s word to these leaders. And their reactions were exactly the same. Jesus made this clear to the religious leaders.
Jesus had some difficult things to say. But he did not say them in an unkind way. His great desire was that the people would accept him. So, he called those who were listening to him. He called them to come to him. But he warned them too. If they refused, there would be *judgement for them. (Read verses 37–39.)
1. Other people can make religious demands on us. We can demand things from ourselves too. They can be things that Jesus does not ask from us. Why does this happen? Is it because of our consciences? Or is it because of what people might say? How can we escape from a false guilty feeling?
2. Christians must declare the full message of the gospel (the Good News about Jesus). It is Good News. But it includes the fact of *judgement. God must judge people who refuse to accept Jesus. How can we declare these truths in a gentle way? Should we ever speak like Jesus spoke in this passage?
3. Non-Christians think that religion is dull. They feel that it is not important in their lives. They also think that it is hard and unkind. The Bible would show them that their ideas are wrong. How can people who are in the church help them? How can they show them what true religion is like?
We are waiting for Jesus to return.
Jesus knew what would happen in the future. He wanted to prepare his *disciples. So he described to them what would happen. Then they could be ready.
In this passage, the events were similar to some *OT events. Ezekiel 11:23 told how the *glory of the *Lord left the *Temple. It stopped on the Mountain of Olives for a short time. After this, the king of Babylon defeated the *Jews. He destroyed the *Temple.
Jesus spoke against the *Jewish religion of his own time. (Read chapter 23.) Then he, too, left the *Temple (24:1). He climbed the Mountain of Olives (24:3). He said that the enemy would destroy the *Temple. So, the same things would happen again. In *OT days, God gave the *Jews another chance. But this time there would be no second chance.
The *disciples thought that awful events like this could only have one meaning. The end of the world was coming soon. The *Jews in Jesus’ time thought that this was what it must mean. The *disciples’ two questions in verse 3 showed this. They asked when the enemy would destroy Jerusalem city. They also asked when the end of the age would happen. Jesus answered both questions.
Verses 4–14 seem to refer to an entire period. Jesus went back to heaven. And Jesus will return to this earth one day. The verses may refer to the time between these two events. Jesus had a warning for the *disciples. They must not expect him to return for the wrong reasons. (Read verses 4–8.) A person may try to persuade *disciples that a false thing is true. This happens today too. It is easy to agree with someone like that.
One day, Jesus will return to this earth. Jesus told his *disciples about some things that would warn them about that time. (Read verses 6–8.) These signs should help *disciples to be ready. The signs would be like the first pains when a woman gives birth. But there seems to be a problem. There have always been wars. There have always been famines. (These are times when there is no food. The usual cause is lack of rain.) There have always been earthquakes, (when the earth shakes). There would have to be more of these events today than there were before. But there is no evidence that this is true. So, it cannot just mean that these things would increase before Jesus returned.
The first sign that Jesus spoke about is in verse 5. He warned the *disciples that there would be ‘false Christs’. This has happened many times in the history of the church. At certain times, people have expected Jesus Christ to return very soon. So, some people have been ready to believe anyone who claimed to be ‘Christ’. Jesus was not speaking to non-Christians here. He was speaking to those who call themselves his *disciples. Jesus will return to this earth. He wants us to be ready all the time for this great event.
Until Jesus returns, his *disciples will have many troubles. (Read verses 9–13.) There is a warning in this passage. Hard times do not show that Jesus will return soon. Some people often suffer very much. This happens at every time in history. These people might expect Jesus to return to this earth. Then he would rescue them immediately. This thought would encourage them for a time. But Jesus might not come immediately. However, Jesus wanted to comfort them. Finally, Jesus would rescue them. They could be sure about that fact.
This does not ignore the facts today. Believers’ troubles will often be very serious. They could even die (verse 9). Non-Christians will deal with them very badly. But there will be something even worse. Many Christians will lose their *faith. They will not be loyal to each other. False *prophets will come too. They will cause many people to believe wrong things. (Read verses 10–12.) But some people will continue to be strong to the end. God will save them (verse 13).
There is another great sign for the future. It will show that the end of this age is near. Every nation will hear the Good News (verse 14). But this does not mean that the end would come immediately. Jesus is offering comfort and confidence to believers. Terrible events will happen in the world. Members of the church will suffer. There will be difficulties. But the *disciples’ task will succeed. The *disciples’ job is not to look for ‘signs’. Their job is to bring people to Christ from all over the world. (Read 28:18–20.)
1. Think about the fact that Jesus Christ will return to this earth. Does this promise make you happy? Or is it like a danger to you? Make a list of what you might lose on that great day. Then make a list of what you will gain. Why is it hard for some Christians to believe that Jesus will return?
2. Imagine something. You know that Jesus will return in a month’s time. What would you do? What would be different in your church?
3. People in this world are suffering. There are many wars. What could we say to these people about this passage?
There are many ideas about the meaning of Matthew 24. Many of them are hard to understand. It would be impossible to describe them all here. Jesus seems to be answering two questions. First, when would the enemy destroy Jerusalem? Second, when would the end of the world come? So, we will just divide the chapter into three parts. This is the simplest method.
► Verses 4–14. This is a general warning. We must not try to decide the time when the world will end.
► Verses 15–35. Jesus tells about the time when enemies would destroy Jerusalem city.
► Verses 36–51. Jesus teaches about the time when he will return to this earth. He advises us to be ready all the time.
The time when enemies will destroy Jerusalem city
Jesus warned about the time when enemies will destroy Jerusalem city. He gave practical advice to the people who would see it happen. He encouraged people who would live in the times after that event. He wanted them to take the Good News to everyone in the world.
In the *OT, Moses promised that God would send someone special. (Read Deuteronomy 18:18–19.) This person would speak for God. What he said about the future would happen. This would prove that he had come from God.
For a *Jew, one *prophecy just did not seem possible. It was that an enemy would destroy Jerusalem. Surely, that could not happen. Jerusalem was their capital city. God was there. Yet this is exactly what Jesus said would happen.
Jesus did not give many *prophecies while he was on earth. But he did give *prophecies about two events. First, there was his death. Second, there was the time when he would come back to life. This chapter contains almost all of the rest of the *prophecies. But the things that he said about Jerusalem were wonderful. And history proved that his words were correct. Some people have even said that his words were too exact. So, these people have an idea. They think that Matthew must have written his book after the events happened!
Jesus said when these events would happen. Some of the people who were listening to him would still be alive (verse 34). He was speaking in about *AD 30. In *AD 70, the *Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem. Most of what Jesus said in verses 15–26 is history. It is in official records. Nobody could tell about the future like this man! Jesus was not just a *prophet. He is called the Word in John 1:1–18. ‘The Word was God.’ Enemies did destroy Jerusalem. That showed that Jesus was right. He was, and he still is, the great King. People of all nations belong to his *kingdom. (Read verses 29–31.)
Jesus repeated several *OT verses in this passage. He repeated:
• Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in verse 29
• Daniel 7:13–14 in verse 30a
• Zechariah 12:10–14 in verse 30b. And, in verse 31, he used
• Isaiah 27:13; Deuteronomy 30:4 and Zechariah 2:6. (This is clear in the *Greek translation of the *OT.)
These verses help us to understand Jesus’ words.
1. Many terrible things have happened to the *Jews. But they still exist. Does God still have a purpose for the *Jews today?
2. Jerusalem city has been very important in world history. Why do you think that this is true?
3. What things from this passage could encourage the members of your church? How safe can we expect to be in wars? How safe can we expect to be when there are earthquakes? (This is when the earth shakes.) Can we expect God to keep us physically safe?
The *Romans ruled the *Jews in Jesus’ time. (Note: The *Romans were the people from Rome. This was a great capital city.) The *Roman *Empire included the many countries that they ruled. In *AD 66 the *Jews decided to refuse their rule. Then a *Roman General, Titus, attacked Jerusalem. He destroyed the *Jews’ capital city in *AD 70.
Josephus lived from *AD 37 to *AD 100. One of his history books was called ‘the *Jewish War’. This book shows how accurate Jesus’ words were. (Note: Famine means that there is no food. This is often because of a lack of rain. But on this occasion, it was because of the *Romans. They would not allow any food to go into the city.)
Then the famine got much worse. It destroyed all the people who were in houses. And it destroyed whole families. The upstairs rooms were full of women and children who were dying. The narrow roads of the city had many dead bodies of old people. Children and young men wandered about. They looked like shadows. They fell down dead.
It was not possible to bury them. The people who were ill could not do it. The people who were well enough did not do it. There were two reasons for this. First, the number of bodies was so great. Also, the healthy people did not know how soon they would die themselves. Many people died as they were burying other people. Many of them went to their coffins (boxes to hold bodies) before they actually died. Nobody cried. The famine stopped any natural feelings. Those who were about to die looked at the dead people with dry eyes and open mouths. There was a deep silence too. It seemed like night in the city. As every one of them died, they were looking at the *Temple.
Josephus also told the story of a woman. She killed and cooked her baby. He said that the *Romans were going to take things from the houses. But they found entire families of dead people. The upstairs rooms were full of dead bodies. These strong men had seen many ugly sights before. But they looked at this terrible sight. Then they left. And they did not touch anything.
The *Romans made 97 000 *Jews prisoners. But more than 110 000 *Jews died at that time.
Jesus will come back to earth again. So be ready!
Jesus prepared his *disciples for his final return.
Jesus told his *disciples that the world would end (verse 35). He said that they (and we) must be ready for that time. (Read 24:36–44.) Then Jesus told them three *parables. The *parables emphasised his message to the *disciples. (Read 24:45–25:13.)
When Jesus comes for the second time, nobody will be expecting him. This was what Jesus said. Non-Christians will not be ready (verses 38–41). But it will be a surprise for believers (Christians) too (verse 44b). Jesus said that even he himself did not know when it would happen (verse 36).
This last fact is a mystery to Christians. Surely, Jesus would know, since he is God! Some Christians have even changed the *Greek text! But one thing is clear. We must never try to work out exactly when Jesus will return. It is of no use to do this. It also goes against God’s specific command. So, it would be a *sin.
We do not know when Jesus will return. So, we must be ready all the time. We must not guess about the date or the time when Jesus will return. Jesus himself warned us against this. So, to be ready does not mean to examine various signs. To be ready means that we will always be loyal to Jesus. We will continue the work that he gives us to do. Jesus told the story about two servants as an example of this. (Read 24:45–51.)
So, Christians must be good citizens. They must be good members of the church. They must tell other people the good news about Jesus too. These things are the Christian’s duties. They are his or her responsibilities. It is a very serious matter for Christians who refuse to do these things. (Read verses 48–51.) That does not mean that we can do things to earn our *salvation. But it does teach that real *salvation will have results. Real Christians will serve God. They will continue to serve God whatever happens. They will never allow things to stop them from serving God.
Jesus will come back to earth. Jesus emphasised this fact in verses 14, 35, 46 and 50. We can be certain about it. We must be ready for it.
Wise people and foolish people (25:1–13)
In Israel, a wedding was (and still is) a great occasion. All the people in the village would go with the married couple to their new home. They would often take the longest route. In this way, the couple could receive good wishes from more people!
A married couple would not go away from their home immediately after their wedding. They would stay at home. For a week, anybody could visit them. People dealt with them and spoke to them as if they were king and queen. But only their special friends went to the wedding. They waited for the couple to arrive at their new home. Often, the man (bridegroom) would delay his arrival. He wanted to see if he could find his guests asleep. So, he might arrive during the night. The guests must go out to meet him, whatever the time was. They would carry lamps if it were at night.
Jesus referred to this custom in his *parable. Jesus used the story to teach that:
► Many people would be waiting for him to return. They would all seem to be the same. Jesus’ story described 10 girls. They were all very excited as they waited for the bridegroom (the man who had just married).
► Many of those people would join the wedding. But 5 girls did not have enough oil for their lamps. Without oil, their lamps would go out. Those girls were foolish. They were just not ready. Jesus emphasised something that was of vital importance. It was this. His *disciples must be ready for him to return. They must continue to prepare for this time. They must be careful to do their duties and their tasks well.
► The 5 foolish girls could not get oil from the other girls. In the same way, nobody can get real religion from someone else. The foolish girls could not attend the big meal. In the same way, when Jesus returns, some people will not be ready for him.
► A time will come when it will be too late to change. It may happen suddenly, as it did for the girls.
This *parable gave a very simple word picture. It has a message for us today. Some people say that they are Christians. The *parable is a message to them. Jesus (our ‘bridegroom’) will return. We do not know when he will come. So, we must be sure that we are always ready.
1. In what ways are you getting ready for Jesus?
2. What are the main subjects for discussion in your church? What are the main disagreements about? Remember that the end of the world will come. How important will these things be then?
3. What will life be like in 2050 if Jesus has not returned by then? Should we be preparing for that time?
Jesus wants us to serve him loyally.
All *disciples of Jesus are waiting for him to return. They should be working hard for Jesus. Then, when he comes, he will be pleased with them.
Jesus told the *parable in verses 1–13 so that we would always be ready. In this *parable, Jesus showed how to get ready. This story (verses 14–30) was about slaves. (Note: Some translations use the word ‘servant’. But the correct word is ‘slave’.) Their master owned them. So slaves had no rights of their own. The words ‘duties’ and ‘responsibilities’ described their lives.
Jesus reminded his *disciples that they were his slaves. This is not a popular idea today. But, to serve God is an important job. Jesus emphasised this in several ways in this passage.
First, the master was very generous. He decided that his slaves were capable. So he gave them a lot of responsibility. A talent was 6000 dinars. This was a very large sum of money. It could probably pay a worker’s wages for 20 years! But notice something in this story. A talent was the least amount of money that he gave to a slave.
The master gave the talents to his slaves for a purpose. He wanted them to use the money for him. The master returned from his journey (verse 19). He asked the slaves what they had done with his money. He had trusted his servants when he gave it to them. Now he expected that they would have made a profit from the money.
The truth that Jesus was teaching was simple. God gives gifts to all his *disciples. One of those gifts might be wealth. But God’s gifts might be things that we can do well. They could be skills or opportunities. God wants us to use each gift completely. This is how we can serve him.
In the story, two of the slaves pleased the master equally. This was because each one of them had done his best. So the master praised them both in the same way (verses 21, 23). Their effort was more important to the master than their results. Their master was very generous. So there was no excuse for being lazy. The first two slaves would have been very happy.
But there was another slave. An ancient law in Israel explains his action to us. If someone was looking after another person’s property, he would bury it immediately. Then he would not be responsible for it any more. He had done the safest thing. But he might just wrap it up in a cloth. If he lost it, he would receive a punishment. So, this slave was doing the safest thing. He just wanted to protect himself. Jesus was showing that this slave did not care about his master. He did not want to serve his master. This slave just wanted to do the least amount of work that was possible.
But the safe way caused very bad trouble for the slave. (Read verses 26–30.) Jesus’ words showed the story’s full meaning. Jesus was speaking about the final *judgement. He spoke very clearly about this. There will be people who say that they are his *disciples. But they have shown no desire to serve him. They have not used the gifts that God has given to them. They have just wanted to be sure that they did not go to hell. But at the time of *judgement, they will find that they are in that place.
1. The Bible describes a believer (Christian) as a ‘slave’ of God. What is your reaction to this title?
(Note: Slaves could often act from their own ideas. They could make their own decisions. Their responsibilities were often great too.)
2. God has given gifts to all the members of your church. Are they using the gifts that God has given to them? How do the leaders encourage them to do this?
3. Non-Christians think that believers are just trying to ‘save their *souls’. Or they think of them as people who do good things. What are our reactions to these ideas?
Serve God in ordinary activities
Real service for God is humble service just where we are.
Jesus appealed to his *disciples:
• to be ready (24:42)
• to be expecting him to come (25:1–13)
• to serve him (25:14–30).
This shows the sort of service that Jesus wants from his *disciples.
Jesus used the same ideas that Daniel had used. (Read Daniel 7:13–14.) Jesus described a throne. (This is a king’s special chair.) Jesus will judge everyone (verses 31–32). This *judgement will divide all people into two groups. It will depend on what they have done in their lives.
This story did not mention *sins. God did not condemn one group of people because of their *sins. He condemned them because of duties that they had neglected. (Read verses 41–43.)
Experts in the study of the Bible have an idea. A person can obey God by avoiding acts of *sin. Or, that person can obey God in a definite way. He or she can try to do all the things that would please God. This was what Jesus seemed to be saying here. All Jesus’ real *disciples should love people who are in need. Jesus still expects this (verses 37–39).
In ancient Israel, it was hard to tell the difference between sheep and goats. It is the same with Jesus’ *disciples. They may seem to be very like each other. But on the *Judgement Day he will show the truth. Some people have really served him. Other people have just said that they serve him. Look carefully at sheep and goats. They are very different. It is the same with the real *disciple and the false *disciple. Look carefully at them. They are very different too.
Jesus spoke about normal things, like when people are hungry and *thirsty. He did this for a good reason. He did not talk about the very great problems of the world. He knew that most of his *disciples could not solve them. So he spoke about things that happen every day. We must serve him in the way that we live every day.
People who live like this are special to Jesus. Jesus emphasised this. Small things that people do for him get big rewards (verse 34). We may only do a very small thing to help other people. But it is the same as if we did it for Jesus. That is what Jesus said (verse 40). But there was more. Only this sort of behaviour will please him. This does not mean that God saves us because of what we do. But, when we serve God humbly, it proves our *salvation. The opposite is true for those who fail to serve God humbly. It proves their sad end (verse 46).
1. What can you do today to serve Jesus? Do you need to change your plans because of what you answer? Explain why you would need to change your plans. Or explain why you would not need to change them.
2. In this *parable, the master judged his slaves by their actions. He judged them by what they did. Or he judged them by what they did not do. The Bible teaches that our *salvation is not because of what we do. It is because of what Jesus has done for us. (Read Ephesians 2:8–9.) How do these two things match?
3. Who does Jesus say are his ‘brothers’? (Read verses 40 and 45.) Are they all those people who are in need? Or are they all Christians? Think about what your answer means in a practical way.
AD ~ AD is any date after the birth of Jesus.
baptise ~ a *Greek word; it refers to a ceremony; it means to put someone in or under water for a brief time; Mark 1:4–11; Romans 6:3–8; Jesus baptises with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11); Jesus baptises with fire (Matthew 3:12).
Baptist ~ a person who *baptises people (John the Baptist).
disciple ~ a person who follows a leader; a student; one of the 12 men whom Jesus chose; a person who obeys Jesus today.
empire ~ very big *kingdom.
faith ~ to believe in someone or something; to be really sure about the things of God and Jesus his Son.
fig ~ a fruit.
glory ~ the power and greatness of God; his great beauty; in the *OT, people saw it as a very bright light or fire; in the *NT, we see it especially in Jesus (John 1:14); Christians can show God’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the first part of our Bible.
Jew ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a person who believes the *faith of the Jews, called Judaism.
Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.
judgement ~ when God or a person says what is right or wrong; he tests behaviour; he decides if it is right or wrong; then he acts on the decision; judgement can be about legal or moral matters; judgement can mean when God punishes people.
kingdom ~ a kingdom is where a king rules. God is the King of all Christians and all Christians are in his Kingdom.
Law ~ the Law usually refers to the first 5 books in our Bible; Moses wrote them.
Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we obey them.
Messiah ~ the *Lord Jesus Christ; it is a *Hebrew word, ‘meshiah’; the same word in *Greek is ‘christos’, Christ. God promised the *Jews that the Messiah would save them; we read about him in the *OT; then Jesus came; but the *Jews did not believe in him (John 1:11). Many *Jews are still waiting for Messiah to come.
miracle ~ a wonderful thing that only God could do; it could not happen in a natural way.
NT ~ New Testament; the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible.
OT ~ Old Testament; the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
parable ~ a story; it uses ordinary, familiar things to teach truths about God.
Pharisee ~ a member of a *Jewish religious group; they claimed to obey all *Jewish religious laws and customs; there is more information about them; it is in the section for 3:4–10.
prophecy ~ a special message from God; it could tell about the future; it is one of the special gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians chapters 12–14).
prophet ~ a person who hears God’s words and tells them to other people; in *OT days, a prophet often wrote books; these books were called ‘The Prophets’.
Roman ~ a person from Rome; the Roman *Empire consisted of the many countries that the Romans ruled.
Sadducees ~ a member of an important *Jewish religious group; they believed only the first 5 books of the *OT; they did not believe that dead people could live again; there is more information about them; it is in the section for 3:4–10.
salvation ~ rescue from *sin or danger; the *Hebrew word is ‘yasha’; the *OT uses it 353 times; people may be in trouble or danger; someone rescues or saves them; this may be God or a person; the *NT speaks about salvation in three ways; it is past, present and future (2 Corinthians 1:10).
sin ~ when we do not obey God’s rules.
soul ~ the part of a person that we cannot see; it is in us during our life; it lives after we die; the part of people that God speaks to.
Temple ~ the *Jews’ special large building for God; it was in Jerusalem. The enemy destroyed it in *AD 70; since that time, *Jews’ special buildings for *worship are called synagogues; other groups build temples too; they *worship false gods in them.
thirsty ~ when someone wants a drink.
worship ~ the word can be a verb or a noun; to honour God with words of prayer and praise; it is a way to appreciate God for himself; we are also being grateful for all that he has done; we can worship God together; each person can worship God too. (Important note: people can worship false gods; they give to a false god what belongs to God only.)
Wycliffe Associates (UK) EasyEnglish© Translation (Level B)
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglishÓ TRANSLATION (Level B)................................... Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER........................................................... Sue Hunter
© 1997–2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words - new lexicon).
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