Summary: The significance of the blind and lame, and the children coming to Jesus "in the temple" in parallel with Matthew's calling to follow Jesus.
In the Temple
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-17
Text: Matthew 21:14-16
I imagine most of you know that when a pastor begins to develop a message, most pastors - at least most that I know - they BEGIN with the text. Before they get into all kinds of commentaries and extra-biblical sources, they look at the source itself. Read it, meditate on it, let it wash over them (if you will).
And just like most other weeks, that is exactly what I did this week. I read this text that we’ve just read. It’s the story, whether in this gospel or the other three, that we call Jesus’ triumphal entry. Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem now allowing everyone to declare who he really is, (he hadn’t done that before) - then in three of the four gospels there is what we call the “Cleansing of the Temple” - John puts this story at the beginning of his gospel. But he does record it, nevertheless.
On Monday this week, I read Matthew 21:1-17. And as I read it, the three verses of our text stood out to me. Verses 14-16. As I read the passage of scripture, I realized God had given me the title of the message, “In the Temple.” Now, it’s not usually a good idea to have your title first, but that’s what happened.
“In the Temple.” Verse 14 says, “The lame and the blind came to him, “in the temple.” Verse 15 tells us the religious leaders saw the miracles and heard the children praising God, “in the temple.”
Well, I knew I was on my way! There was a great message in this text and I needed just to dig it out. Discover what it was. What I didn’t know, was how difficult that discovery would be.
I got out my study Bibles, and I got out 4 or 5 commentaries. I went on-line and looked at a couple of reputable on-line commentaries and what I discovered was, not a message, but that nobody really mentions these verses!
Not to any great extent. They may mention that verse 16 is from Psalm 8:2, or they might make a comment or two about the lame and the children being in the outer court of the temple, but there was really nothing of any great significance that I saw in my research about these three verses.
What I DID learn however, is that Matthew often condensed the stories he wrote about Jesus. We all likely know that Luke was detail oriented and if you want the complete story of one of the stories in the gospel, you’d be best to go to Luke. But Luke doesn’t mention the lame and the children, and John doesn’t either. Nor does Mark. So why did Matthew?
And then of course, I thought I must have mis-read what God was telling me, because if I couldn’t find any sources on these verses, how am I ever expected to develop a message from them?
Well I think Matthew, and GOD, had a reason for those verses being included. I think there was a reason, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that Matthew wrote these words. And it really doesn’t matter that the focus in all the commentaries I came across was on the triumphal entry and the cleansing of the temple and not on these lame people and the children. Why?
Because it’s significant to me that if Matthew is one who is KNOWN to condense his writing of the stories of Jesus, there must be something of significance to be learned from these verses, because they were deliberately mentioned - he didn’t condense this story. He actually made it more detailed than the other writers.
Here’s what God showed me this week. Turn back in Matthew to Matthew 9:9. While you’re doing that, tell me who Matthew was.
Do you remember who Matthew was? What did he do? Yes! Matthew was the tax collector! He was despised for his occupation. He was one of the disreputable sinners that the Pharisees couldn’t abide Jesus hanging out with.
Look at Matthew 9:9 and following. Jesus called Matthew and Matthew got up and followed him. Then later, Matthew had a dinner for Jesus and he invited a bunch of his tax collector friends, and the Bible says, through Matthew!! (Matthew is writing this) “other disreputable sinners.” But Jesus’ response when the Pharisees got after Jesus for going to dinner at Matthew’s place, is wonderful. And I can’t help but think these were words that Matthew would never ever forget. He has just given his life to follow Jesus and the first thing that happens is that he is criticized by the church people - the religious ones. I’m sure Matthew felt great about inviting Jesus to dinner and he invited a bunch of his friends, - maybe he’s thinking Jesus would do for them what Jesus did for him - and then whammo! - he’s feeling good - he thinks he’s doing something really special for Jesus and for his friends, and the church people come along and insult Jesus! The guy he just left everything to follow. But listen to what Jesus said: