come now to the last week in Christ’s earthly ministry – the week which
culminates in the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It is the most studied,
most written over week in history. We shall do our best to add nothing to the
accounts while adding something to your understanding.
Mat 21:1-11 NASB
When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of
Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, (2)
saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. (3) "If anyone
says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and
immediately he will send them." (4)
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: (5) "SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD YOUR
KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE
FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'" (6) The
disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, (7) and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid
their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. (8)
Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting
branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. (9) The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who
followed, were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO
COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!" (10) When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was
stirred, saying, "Who is this?" (11)
And the crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee."
of the main themes we shall see in the study of this week is the fulfillment of
prophecy. The matter is shown here in these three instances:
comes in riding on a donkey’s colt.
The donkey or mule, when ridden by a king, symbolizes that he comes in
peace; the horse is for war.
“hosanna” here – the word can be translated “save now” – comes from the
palm branch – is a symbolic reference to the “Branch of Jesse.” Jesse is
David’s father, and it is prophesied that the Branch would come as
first of these prophecies is a mystery from the Old Testament; the second is a
borrowing of the prophetic literature; the third is a connection to prophecy.
All three are validly considered as prophecy; but we should be aware that not
all prophecy is as explicit as the first.
nature of Christ’s first coming is completed in this scene. His humble birth
and backwoods upbringing started Him into this, but in this scene we see Him as
He presents Himself to the Jewish nation:
presents Himself as King – the King of the Jews; prophetically, the king
over all God’s people.
is hailed as Savior (“Hosanna”). It is most likely that at this time the
crowd saw Him as being a revolutionary leader against the Romans, but the
phrase is still correct.
is known as the “prophet from Nazareth.” Indeed, he is the prophet that
Moses spoke of who was to come.
is the Creator – for whom else would the rocks cry out? (This is found in
the parallel accounts).
of all, He is coming as our sacrifice. He knows what will happen; He
knows that it must.
of the great contradictions of the modern evangelical church is that of
praise. Americans inherently resist praising anyone for who he is; we
will praise what he has done. Especially after he has just done it.
But in this instance praise is for who He is. Prophecy is for action; praise
deals with God’s essence, His existence. See how praise takes these forms:
acknowledges his character as the one who can save – thus linking Christ
directly with the Father’s character.
proclaims Him blessed by God, and therefore worthy of praise.
proclaims Him as Son of David, and thus the one prophesied.
blessing and fulfillment of prophecy – these are the elements of praise seen
Mat 21:12-16 NASB
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and
selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the
seats of those who were selling doves. (13)
And He *said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE
SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN." (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 had done, and
the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of
David," they became indignant (16) and
said to Him, "Do You hear what these children
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 FOR YOURSELF'?"
useful to us to review just what was going on. Christ had cleared the temple
three years earlier at the beginning of His ministry. Evidently it didn’t take
the priests too long to return to business as usual. There were two primary
was the selling of doves. A pair of doves was the sacrifice of a poor
man. These doves had to be unblemished; evidently the ones brought by the
poor man were usually not good enough. So the family members of the
priests households would sell doves which were pre-approved! The pious
poor man was swindled in this way.
other was in money changing. The Old Testament specified offerings in
terms of Jewish coinage; the Romans insisted on the use of Roman and Greek
coins as a blessing to commerce. Therefore, your offerings had to be
exchanged into sanctuary shekels – at a magnificent rate. It seems also
that for those who didn’t have the cash, a loan could be made. Instead of
interest, the rate of exchange was even higher – thus avoiding the Old
Testament prohibition of usury.
people were, in short, selling the benefits of the sacrifices commanded by God
– and making a bundle off of it. Religion, to them, was a profitable racket.
You might think this an ancient example, but it persists today. (Look up “prayer
cloth” on the Internet.) It is one thing to recover expenses for publications
(done that) but another to hawk a cruise to Alaska.
It is a temptation down to the modern day; I suspect as the fire of faith dims,
the pleasure of profit grows.
Temple as forerunner
of the consistent methods of interpreting Scripture is the idea that things in
the Old Testament foreshadowed things of the church. There are three ways we
can see that in the Temple:
hold that our own church buildings are holy. Remember, holy means “set
aside for God.” This meaning is often stretched a bit; we have a chorus
of barber shop quartets practicing in our sanctuary. This type of use is
not as common as in my youth, when churches looked upon their facilities
as available for the public good. So we see that maintaining the good
name of Jesus may result in what otherwise appears odd.
Temple is referred to as the “house of God” – in which we would see the
church today. So in purging the Temple Christ sets an example for us
which would seem to promote church discipline.
Temple is also the forerunner of the “temple of the Holy Spirit” – the
body of the Christian. So it is that Paul complains to the Corinthians
about their use of prostitutes. Its purity is also our concern.
day of wrath
of the solid answers to the dilemma of evil (God is all powerful, and good –
why is there evil in the world?) is the Day of Wrath. Portrayed in both the
Old and New Testaments, it tells us that God is not finished with us yet. He
continues to give us grace so that all would have the chance to repent. We
have seen that prophecy fulfilled is cause for praise; this one, too.
of the mouths of babes
what is said, not who said it. May I repeat something to you?
is gone now, but I remember Curly as one of my heroes. In a time where
Christianity was officially barred on campus (a state university) he sat at the
crossroads and called out, “Jesus loves you.” How did he get away with such a
heinous violation of church and state? Perhaps the fact that he was in a
wheelchair, the victim of a stroke, with boils all over his body may have had
something to do with it. Can you picture yourself the university policeman who
busts a paraplegic stroke victim for saying, “Jesus loves you?”
Mat 21:17-22 NASB
And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night
there. (18) Now in the morning, when He was
returning to the city, He became hungry. (19)
Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it
except leaves only; and He *said to it, "No longer
shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree
withered. (20) Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked,
"How did the fig tree wither all at
once?" (21) And Jesus answered and said
to them, "Truly 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 even
if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will
happen. (22) "And
all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
fig tree in question is much debated in commentaries. It is sufficient to say
that there are certain fig trees which do produce fruit this early in the
season. One might also note that the fig tree was “by the road” – which made
it a public resource, not private property.
the benefit of the disciples
must remember that Christ is teaching His disciples by example:
that the faith is not all honey; His teaching includes some things that
are not at all sweet, but stern.
that prayer has power – even when not applied to the sweet and the light.
Destruction comes by prayer as well.
often try to claim this promise for our own benefit – it is well to note
the example is one of causing destruction. Have we the fire to pray for
the collapse of Islam?
symbol of Israel
passage is also well understood in terms of the symbols involved. You must
remember that the fig tree is a frequent Old Testament metaphor for Israel. From this we may see what Christ’s condemnation of the fig tree meant:
is a condemnation of the hypocrisy of Israel. Like this fig tree, they
are all leaves and no fruit.
condemnation is effective; since this time Judaism has been hereditary,
but not evangelistic.
the state of Israel was destroyed soon after, as Christ prophesies
elsewhere. Since then until 1947 (the “time of the Gentiles,” perhaps?)
the Jew has wandered the earth.
nature of prayer
see it here in the negative sense, but this passage brings up a serious problem
for most Christians. I prayed; I believed; nothing happened. The usual
response is to say that any prayer outside God’s will is denied. But that
misses the point: why is the prayer of the American church so ineffectual?
You have but to read the biographies of saints of the nineteenth century to
know that it was not always so. So I ask you: why is prayer so commonly