Matthew 21:1-22 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Triumphal Entry
21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
12 And Jesus entered the temple[b] and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
20 When the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
It is good to be back continuing through the book of Matthew as we enter out 52 week through this study. And tonight there is a narrative shift that Matthew does to show that things with Jesus are coming to a head – From now on he is heading to the Cross. In the previous passage that Greg dealt with Jesus shifts his attention towards the city of Jerusalem. The City of king David, the city of God in the Old Testament; where the temple is. And what we will see tonight is that Jesus comes into Jerusalem as the hoped for Messiah, as God’s political and religious chosen person who will lead God’s people to the final victory of the people of God.
Now there was a lot of text that we covered tonight because Jesus is making 3 poignant statements of what God is doing, and he was expressing clearly that He was the Messiah. What we will see tonight it sometimes our expectations of who Jesus should be and who He actually is are quite different.
So, if our thoughts of Jesus and who He actually is are different, who should change? Us or Him? I’ll give you a clue, it’s not the infallible Son of God who should change.
let’s look at these three situations that shows us who Jesus is; firstly we see that He is;
1.The Coming King
I love how this section is set up, Jesus says go into the village (this being the village of Bethphage) , now this was a small village, just outside the city of Jerusalem looking at the city. And he says go there and take the donkey you see there, the donkey and her colt. And if anyone asks you what are you doing the secret code word is “The Lord has need of them”. I mean it is like a spy novel.
Just on a side, imagine yourselves being the disciples in this moment. You are walking into a small random town and just taking two donkeys and the only thing you have is that Jesus says if anyone asks you just tell them “The Lord needs them.” They’ll understand. You can imagine the Disciples doing this and someone asking, “hey! What are you doing?” And they wink and say, “The Lord needs them.” And the person winks back and they go on their way.
Anyway, what is happening here is that Jesus is setting up a visual image to an ever growing crowd of who He truly is. Matthew is picking up on this and so he inserts a parenthesis here for the reader, telling us, Jesus is doing this to fulfil prophecy. The exact prophecy is from Zech 9:9 and Isaiah 61:11. But those prophets are connecting it back to the kingly reign of David and Solomon.
You see Jesus is not the first person to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. In 2 Samuel 16:2 David rides a pair of Donkeys because they are a gift to him from Mephibosheth after the rebellion of his son. Solomon also rides into Jerusalem on a donkey during his coronation as king in 1 Kings 1:38-40. Jesus is making a clear and obvious declaration; He is the hoped for Messiah. And the crowd picks up on this as they cry hosanna (save us!), hosanna (save us!), Son of David.
You might be saying, “well the crowd got it.” Jesus has come as expected messiah. But and here is the important lesson for tonight; they wanted a Messiah who would kill not a messiah who would die. To put it another way; they wanted justice on their terms not justice on God’s terms.
So, Jesus comes as the true king, but not a king who would rule by fear, but a king who would conquer through his own death.And so the first subversions of expectation is given. Jesus is a greater king that we could hope for. Because he came to deal truly with what was wrong in the world.
Next we see;
2.The Confrontational King
As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the first thing he does is go to the temple, again Matthew makes sure the reader knows what he is aiming at here, he describes Jesus in anger throwing over the tables of two people, the money changers and those who sold pigeons. Now, to us reading this might not make any difference that Matthew mentions these two people, because to us Jesus was upset about them turning the temple into a market. The issue he had was who was being abused in this marked. It was the money changers and the those who sold pigeons. Now who would need money changed? Not locals, foreigners. And who would buy doves? Well, in the Law (the Torah) the dove was given as a provision so that the poor could offer sacrifice. Jesus is highlighting how the religion of the day had been turned into another way to take advantage of the most venerable and helpless.
Jesus is confronting the hearts of man. We will take something honest and good and twist it so that we can manipulate the system in our favour. You can see the good intentions of this move, lets provide a service to those who need it, the foreigner and the poor. However, as more and more people enter into the fray, it becomes less about a service and more about ripping the most helpless off. Who comes to Jesus after this? It was the blind and the lame, the helpless and he heals and helps. And they cry out “hosanna!”
We are starting to build a picture that Jesus is not for the way things have always been. He is not here to establish the continuation of the people of Israel, He is doing something complete different. Jesus is establishing a new kingdom with a new type of people in it and this leads us to;
3. The Consequential King
Now, comes this peculiar, text out of nowhere, where Jesus walks up to a fig tree, see no fruit and curses it and it dies. Then goes onto a lesson about faith and moving mountains. Now, reading this text alone we can get side-tracked at what is being communicated. We can get into a debate of how do I build the kind of faith to move mountains. I mean can I say to the mountain behind me move, and if I muster up enough of a feeling of faith it will move?
Well, if you read this passage in isolation then maybe, but Matthew has being building up to this; where are they standing when Jesus is saying all this; he is outside the city in Bethany, the city of Jerusalem is behind them. Temple mount (where Jesus has just been – in the Temple) is behind them. What mountain is Jesus talking about when he say if you say to this mountain? He is talking about the temple mount.
Jesus is bringing all that had just happened together for the disciples. The true king of creation is here, he has come to establish pure and true worship, the access to power and hope they truly seek is not bound up in the city, it is not held back by the temple it will be given to anyone with faith.
And here is the crux of the message tonight; what is faith? Is it the lack of doubt? No, there are number of examples in Scripture where doubt is along side faith. Think to Mark 9:24 when the man whose boy is tormented by evil spirits comes to Christ to be healed and Jesus says have faith, and he responds, I do, but help me in my doubt! Faith is not a welling up of a feeling, it is the crying out of dependence. Faith is dependency upon God! It’s not about having the right feelings, or all the right answers, it is giving up on our own wilfulness in order to trust, to be dependent upon who God is and what He says.
Why is this important? What has this to do with all that we have spoken about tonight? Well, going back to the start of the message, what do we think of Jesus, who do we think he is? Many of us even here tonight; have a mixed picture of Jesus and who he truly is. We think that if we become a Christian, everything in our life will turn around and suddenly we won’t have to struggle anymore or suffer, well that is not who Jesus is. He did not come to make your life easier.
Many of us have this idea that because we are in church, and doing good, our lives should go the way we expect them to go, well that is not who Jesus is, He did not come to give you what you want.
Jesus is the true king of creation, and he came to establish the true righteousness of God. He did this by dying for sinners, and welcoming the outcast and the weak.
Faith is not about getting what you want. Faith is the child-like dependence upon God that He already has giving you what you need!
Jesus came to die not to conquer, because if he came to conquer we would be his enemies. But God in His grace, sent Christ to be our way back to the Father, so that by faith we will have access to what we truly need, we will have access to the lost relationship between us and God.
So how do you see Jesus? Is he your ticket to get you what you want? Or is He True King, True saviour, what your soul has truly being longing for. Don’t settle for less than who He is! That is what Matthew is communicating to us tonight.