The parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-31 teaches a crucially important lesson about the nature of repentance. The very idea of “repenting” offends many folks today; every imaginable form of sin and perversion is practiced and defended openly. Much of Christendom embraces the idea that “sin” is not really connected to morality, and for most people repenting simply means offering a truculent “sorry” when they are caught in a sin. Jesus’ words, however, show clearly that there is more to repentance than a mere “apology!” By comparing the actions of the two sons, Jesus challenges the chief priests and elders to identify who genuinely obeyed the Father –in verse 31 they correctly name the boy whose change of mind produced a change of behavior! “Repentance” must produce a fundamental change in both attitudes and actions!
Matthew 21:42-43 presents another important fact that should be underlined and memorized by every twenty-first century Christian. Most of christendom teaches that God never fully delivered all the land He had promised to ancient, national Israel: This is why many believe Judaism is still a viable way of salvation (apart from Christ), and that modern “Israel” is still the God’s own special people (note, however, the words of Joshua 23:14!). Jesus very plainly told the Jewish rulers that God would take away national Israel’s status as His kingdom, and give it to someone else (i.e., the church, 1 Peter 2:9, which Paul calls “the Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16). The point here is very simple: According to Jesus, the church is God’s replacement for the Jewish nation as the “kingdom of God.” Therefore only “Israel” God recognizes today is the church (cf. Romans 2:28-29). If Jesus’ words are not plain enough, note also Matthew 23:37-39
Matthew 24 stands out because most bibles mislabel the early part of this chapter as providing “signs of the end of time.” Many people thus believe these verses are a kind of “schedule” of events that lead to “the endtimes,” or end of the world. In fact, the disciples asked Jesus three distinct questions in verse 3, and He answered their questions in order: The first two questions relate to His prophecy (vs. 2) about the coming destruction of Jerusalem; only the last question concerns the end of the world. All of the “signs” in verses 4-35 relate to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Judah’s national existence in 70 AD. His signs are very specific, and Jesus’ instructions are given to the people who heard them (cf. vs. 15). At verse 36 the Lord begins to answer the last question (about the end of the world), and He expressly says “no signs shall be given” for this event, verses 36-44; instead, He tells the disciples to be ready regardless of when the Lord shall come.
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:26-29. There is a key word in His explanation of what the bread and fruit of the vine symbolize that helps us properly interpret Acts 2:38. There, some denominational scholars claim that the Greek word eis (“ace”) –translated as “for” or “unto” in Acts 2:38 (“for the remission of your sins”) –really means “because of” –i.e., “be baptized because your sins have been forgiven.” This actually reverses the order of the events associated with baptism, forgiveness of sins, and salvation. In Matthew 26:28, Jesus used exactly the same word (eis) to describe the relationship between His blood and forgiveness of sins (“which is shed for many for the remission of sins”), but none of the scholars who want it to mean “because of” in Acts 2 believe that’s what it means here! What we learn is that baptism is essential “for” the forgiveness of our sins, just as Jesus shedding His blood was “for” our forgiveness!
Finally, we should note that in chapter 28:20, the expression “…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” reflects the principle of submission. Our obedience to this instruction reflects the idea that WHATEVER the Lord says, we will do it fully, faithfully, and without objection.