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Bible: What Does Matthew 21:1-27 Teach Us About Jesus' So-Called "Triumphal Entry"?
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
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Matthew 21: 1-27-- Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Jesus Fulfills Zechariah 9:9
Arriving at the south side of the Mount of Olives in Bethphage, a village about one-half mile east of Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples to a nearby village to bring a donkey and her colt to Him (vv. 1-2).
He assures His men that once the animals’ owner hears that the Lord has need of the beasts he will release them (v. 3).
Matthew notes that this event fulfills the prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9 (the lowly King riding into Jerusalem on a donkey) [vv. 4-5].
The next two verses record the disciples’ obedience to retrieve the animals and to finish preparations for the Passover feast (vv. 6-7).
Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of David
The multitude also prepare His way, laying their clothes and palm branches on the road before Him (v. 8), and crying out a quotation based on Psalm 118: 25-27—verses sung at the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 9; cf. Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 44).
The song records Israel calling upon the Son of David—the Messiah who, in Jewish belief current during Jesus’ time, would deliver the nation from her oppressors—to “save now” (Hosanna).
That He comes “in the name of the Lord” indicates belief in His deity. Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem causes an emotional stirring (“all the city was moved”), an intellectual inquiry as to His identity (“Who is this?”), and an incomplete response about that inquiry (“Jesus, the prophet”) [vv. 10-11].
[Did not the people know who Jesus was or who He claimed to be?]
Jesus Cleanses His Father's House
Having entered Jerusalem, Christ immediately visits the temple where He causes controversy, upsetting the flow of illicit commerce there by violently driving out moneychangers and upending their tables and seats (v. 12).
He defends His action by quoting prophetic Scripture, combining Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.
“The temple,” He says, “is supposed to be a place of prayer, but you (namely, the Jews present) have turned it into a place of unjust commerce” (v. 13).
[Apparently, the moneychangers were making an exorbitant profit.]
With the sacred site cleansed, Jesus continues to receive candidates for healing (v. 14).
"Out of the Mouths of Babes"
Despite witnessing His great miracles and hearing children extolling Jesus as Messiah, the chief priests and scribes on hand harden their hearts; beside themselves with wrath, they confront Jesus and accuse Him (in so many words) of corrupting the minds of minors (vv. 15-16a).
Christ again quotes Scripture—a Septuagintally-flavored Psalm 8:2—that shows that God has prepared (perfected, NKJV) praise for His Messiah in the mouths of the youngest (v. 16b).
The purest form of praise comes from the hearts of those least corrupted. Leaving the temple and the city, Jesus lodges in Bethany (v. 17).
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
The next morning Christ seeks breakfast from a fig tree; however, finding only leaves on it, He curses it, and the tree immediately withers away (vv. 18-19).
The fig tree is a symbol of Israel; thus, its withering indicates that Jesus has rejected the nation for its unfruitfulness. Instead of explaining the meaning of His action (i.e., “I’ve rejected Israel”), Christ teaches His disciples about the power of believing prayer (vv. 20-22).
[One must keep in mind, however, that for God to grant one’s request, one must pray according to His will.]
Jesus' Question Confounds His Critics
At the temple on the next day (Tuesday of “Passion Week”), Jesus fields questions from the chief priests and elders about the source of His authority (v. 23).
Instead of kowtowing to their vehement attack, the Lord refuses to answer them until they answer His question first.
He puts them on the horns of a dilemma (as Ryrie phrases it) by asking them whether the baptism of John (i.e., the service that the Baptizer performed) originated from heaven or from earth (vv. 24-25a).
Recognizing that any answer they give Him will either discredit them as religious leaders (by showing everyone their unbelief) or endanger their lives (by turning the crowd, who believed John was a prophet, against them), they claim ignorance (vv. 25b-27a).
Since they do not answer His question, neither does He answer theirs (v. 27b).
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