Matthew 21

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 12, 2007


Jesus is getting near the end of His ministry.  He’s making His final trip from Galilee to Jerusalem and is about to enter Jerusalem on the day we know as “Palm Sunday”.

Matthew 21

:1-11 The Triumphal Entry

:1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

Jesus has made His way from Jericho up into the hills of Jerusalem.  The Mount of Olives is on the east of Jerusalem, the last hill before Jerusalem.

BethphageBethphage – “house of unripe figs”

:2 saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

:3 "And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."

:4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

:5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'"

Matthew is quoting from Zechariah 9:9.

:6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.


The humble king

This is the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus.
Even though Jesus has been active in His ministry for three years, this day will be a special day – in a way it’s like a store’s “Grand Opening”.  This is Jesus’ “Grand Entrance”, the day when He is officially presented as the Messiah to the people of Israel.
The world’s idea of a “Grand Entrance” would probably be something like a huge white horse or a golden chariot.
Jesus entered on a borrowed donkey.
Matthew pulls the lesson from Zechariah 9 – it’s all about humility.
Paul tells us that this same humility of Jesus is one of the key elements in learning to get along with each other:
(Phil 2:1-8 NKJV)  Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, {2} fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. {3} Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. {4} Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. {5} Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, {6} who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, {7} but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

When we make our “grand entrance”, we want everyone’s attention on us.  We want people to take note of how wonderful and special we are.

Jesus will still have a “grand entrance”, but it will be from the back of a borrowed donkey.

:7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

:8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

This is similar to giving someone the “red carpet” treatment.  It seems to be something appropriate to do for a king.  In the Old Testament, when Jehu was anointed to be king,

(2 Ki 9:13 NKJV)  Then each man hastened to take his garment and put it under him on the top of the steps; and they blew trumpets, saying, "Jehu is king!"

:9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!"

Hosanna – Hebrew for “save now”

Son of David – the crowd is recognizing Jesus as a rightful heir to the throne of David.

Blessed is He …


The Perfect Day

This is a quote from Psalm 118 – a prophecy of the coming Messiah.

This is quite an amazing Psalm in itself:

(Psa 118:22-27 NKJV)  The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.
There was a tradition that at the building of Solomon’s Temple, one of the early stones to arrive from the quarry did not have a proper marking on it, and since the builders didn’t know where it belonged, they just set it aside.  Later, as the Temple began to rise above the foundation, they realized that they were missing the “corner stone”.  It was the stone they had set aside.
This is Jesus – Even though Jesus was rejected by the Jews, He is the cornerstone upon which God has built His kingdom.
{23} This was the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.
I believe that this verse is referring to a prophecy fulfilled on the very day of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Daniel lived in the time after Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon had been destroyed.  Daniel received a prophecy from the Lord giving the time when Jerusalem would be rebuilt and when the Messiah would arrive:
(Dan 9:24-26 NKJV)  "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. {25} "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. {26} "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

It’s a pretty complicated calculation, but it works like this.  The “weeks” that Daniel is talking about are “weeks” of years, or groups of seven years.  In Daniel’s day, the Babylonians had a 360 day calendar (not 365 days).  From the decree to rebuilt Jerusalem, there would be 69 “weeks” of years, or 483 x 360 days, or 173,880 days.  Artaxerxes was the one who made the decree and it has been documented in history as happening on March 14, 445 B.C., and if you follow the prophecy, it ends at April 6, 32 A.D., the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

It’s at this time, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, that the “stopwatch” of Daniel’s prophecy is stopped.  The Messiah is cut off.  The Messiah dies, but not for Himself – He died for us.  When Jesus died, only 69 of the weeks had been fulfilled.  The prophecy goes on…

And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

The people that destroyed Jerusalem were the Romans, who captured Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The “prince who is to come” is a reference to the antichrist.  The final week of Daniel’s “Seventy weeks” will be fulfilled during the Great Tribulation period, a period of seven years which ends in the return of Jesus to the earth.

The point of going to Daniel’s prophecy is to show that there was a “day” that God had made, a day God had determined for the Messiah to arrive.

When we were on the Mount of Olives in Israel, our tour guide Amir told us something interesting.  There actually was a group of Jews who had made the calculations from Daniel’s prophecy and were waiting for the coming of the Messiah.  They have unearthed ossuaries, “bone boxes” belonging to these people.  Some of the ossuaries date to times before Jesus.  The folks from this sub group of Judaism thought they were living in the last days.  Many did not marry because they thought there was too much to be done before Messiah comes.  Some suggest that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were of this group because they were all unmarried and living together – an unusual thing for unmarried sisters and a brother to all live together like that.  The folks from this group, believing they were in the last days, marked their ossuaries with the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet (tav or tau), and they would mark it at an angle which made the letter look like a cross.  The same mark is found on every Messianic prophecy in the Dead Sea Scrolls.  A cross.

Luke records one more detail along the Palm Sunday road …

(Luke 19:41-42 NKJV)  Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, {42} saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

I believe Jesus knew that it was “that” day.

Let’s get back to Psalm 118 –
{25} Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. {26} Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
The phrase “save now” is “Hosanna” in Hebrew.
This is what the people were crying on the road that day leading down the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron valley, and up into Jerusalem towards the Temple.

:10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?"

This is the time of the Passover, one of the main Jewish feasts where people from all over the world would make pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate.  Some suggest that the city swelled to upwards of 2 million people at this time.

Even though many people knew who Jesus was, many more did not.

:11 So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee."

This was one of the things that people had a hard time getting over.  The area of Galilee was the “frontier” of the nation Israel in Jesus’ day.  When the Jews returned from Babylon, they initially only settled in the southern area around Jerusalem.  It wasn’t until 100 years or so before Jesus that they began to settle back into the Galilee region as well.  Religious teachers typically came out of Jerusalem to teach people in Galilee, not the other way around.

:12-17 Jesus cleanses the Temple

:12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

money changers – when people came to Jerusalem, they came to give money at the Temple.  But it was not acceptable to give pagan, Roman money to God, you needed to change your pagan coins into Temple Shekels. This was one of the “rackets” being run by the priests in the Temple.  They exchanged your money into acceptable shekels, but it was at exorbitant rates – they made a lot of money off of the exchanges.

sold doves – if you were too poor to sacrifice a lamb or a goat, you could present a dove as a sacrifice to God.  But the animals presented to God for sacrifice needed to be approved first by the priests.  This was according to the Law of Moses – you don’t give God in imperfect sacrifice, you don’t give God your leftovers.  This meant that a sacrifice needed a priest’s seal of approval – and this is where the racket came in.  The only doves to have a seal of approval were the ones sold by the priests inside the Temple, also at exorbitant prices.  Instead of buying a dove for a quarter in the streets of Jerusalem, you had to pay $5 in the Temple.

This is the second time that Jesus has done this in the Temple.  The first time He cleansed the Temple was at the very beginning of His ministry.

(John 2:13-17 NKJV)  Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {14} And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. {15} When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. {16} And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" {17} Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."

:13 And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"

Jesus is quoting from

(Isa 56:7b NKJV)  …For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."
(Jer 7:11 NKJV)  "Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," says the LORD.

Does this mean that there should never be any mention of money at church?

Money is a part of life.  Believers need to learn that giving is a part of the Christian life.  There are practical needs at church that need to be addressed – whether it’s keeping the lights on or supporting a mission trip.

But when people are being taken advantage of, that’s when it crosses the line.

:14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

What a contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders.

The religious leaders are there to make money off of the people and cater to the wealthy.

Jesus is there to reach out to the poor and heal the broken.

Apparently the blind and lame were not ever allowed into the Temple proper

(2 Sam 5:8 NKJV)  Now David said on that day, "Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David's soul), he shall be chief and captain." Therefore they say, "The blind and the lame shall not come into the house."

So it is possible that these things might be taking place on the southern steps outside the Temple.

Note:  Jesus might not have healed every lame person at the Temple.  There was another lame man (Acts 3-4) who was laid at the Temple gate daily, begging for alms.  Peter and John would heal this man.

:15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant

Apparently the children learned the song from Jesus’ arrival into the city, and they continue the song in the Temple.

The religious leaders are upset.

:16 and 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 babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?"

Jesus is quoting from the Greek translation (the Septuagint) of Psalm 8:2.

There ought to be praise of Jesus in the Temple.  And it seems that at this moment it’s the children who are giving Jesus honor.

Earlier along the Palm Sunday road, the religious leaders were upset that the crowd was giving Jesus praise.

(Luke 19:39-40 NKJV)  And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." {40} But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."

It was very appropriate on that day to give praise to Jesus.

:17 Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

Bethany – “house of dates”, this was the hometown of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

Jesus has been traveling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem all day, He doesn’t have much time to spend that first day in Jerusalem.  He heads back to the Mount of Olives to spend the night.


What shouldn’t be allowed in church

Money changers incorporated:  Exploitation.  Making money off of people.  Taking advantage of people.


What should be allowed in church

Prayer – this should be a house of prayer.
Broken people – blind and lame.  This should be a place of healing.
Children – church should be a place where children come to love Jesus.
Praise – we should be learning to “perfect” our praise of our Savior.
We’ll also see in a minute that for Jesus, the Temple was a place of teaching.

:18-22 The Fruitless Fig Tree

:18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.

He’s spent the night at the Bethany Motel Six and on the way back to Jerusalem in the morning He’s looking for breakfast.

:19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away.

The main fig season comes in the summer and it’s only spring.  But fig trees have an interesting phenomena called the “early fig” where a small tiny fruit appears for a couple of weeks in the spring.  When we were in Israel we saw fig trees beginning to develop the early figs. This is what Jesus is expecting, something for breakfast.

But when Jesus doesn’t find any fruit, He curses the tree and it withers.

Lesson:  Perhaps you ought to be stay away from Jesus until He’s had His breakfast???


He’s looking for fruit

This is not about a cranky Jesus.
He’s looking for fruit.  The fig tree is simply an illustration of Israel – Jesus is coming to look for fruit.  God has shown up and is looking to see how His fig tree is producing.
He’s also looking for fruit in our lives as well.
(John 15:8 NKJV)  "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

:20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?"

:21 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.

this mountain – Jesus is on the Mount of Olives.

:22 "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."


Learn to trust

I’m afraid that because of so much abuse with the “Word-Faith” teachers that I often end up taking verses like this and talking about what else we need to be doing besides believing when we pray.
I will talk about the importance of praying according to God’s Will.

(1 John 5:14-15 NKJV)  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. {15} And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

I will talk about the importance of having God’s Word in my life.

(John 15:7 NKJV)  "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

I will talk about how sometimes God answers with “no” – God is sovereign and I need to yield to whatever God wants.

(Mat 26:39 NKJV)  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

Don’t forget the main message that Jesus is trying to teach – we need to believe – we need to trust God.
When we trust God, God will do great things.

The “faith” teachers make it sound as if the power is in our faith.

The power is in God.  God is the one who works.  God is the one who moves mountains.  And God responds to our prayers of faith.

I think sometimes we limit the idea of this verse to actual mountains.  We think about moving Mt. Baldy.  We think of moving Mt. Everest.  But remember that in Israel, the “mountains” can simply be “hills”.  It’s real places.  It’s real things in our lives.  God wants to move difficult things in our lives.
I wonder how many mountains in our lives aren’t moved because
1.  We aren’t praying
2.  We aren’t trusting God.
Zerubbabel had a big mountain in front of him.
His mountain was the rebuilding of the Temple after it had been wiped out by the Babylonians.
(Zec 4:6-7 NKJV)  So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. {7} 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"' "
God wants to work.  Notice the ingredients of “Spirit” and “grace”.
Do you have mountains in your life?
They ought to be on your prayer list.  They ought to be things that you daily are bringing before the throne of God.
One of the tests of whether or not I’m trusting (believing) is the peace of God.

(Phil 4:6-7 NKJV)  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I think the peace comes (even if for a minute) when I’m able to thank God for hearing my request.  It comes when I trust that He is going to move on my behalf.