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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

TOMS: Matthew 21

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Jan. 1, 2007

This chapter begins with the Triumphal Entry, what we celebrate as Palm Sunday. There weren't too many people in the crowd that day who did not know what Jesus was doing. In fact, most people today miss the significance. Every observant Jew would have been familiar with the passage in Zechariah which prophesied of this event.

One of the commands in Moses' Law about Hebrew kings was that they were not to multiply horses. Horses were an outward show of strength, and God wanted the king to be humble. Saul is always spoken of in the historical books as riding a mule, and David is also often described as riding a mule or a donkey. By the time of Solomon, though, this idea was abandoned. Yet Zechariah predicted that the future Messiah would renew that tradition when he wrote:
"Behold your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9)

This is why there was an uproar in Jerusalem when this happened. That is why the Pharisees demanded that Jesus stop the show. They knew He was claiming to be the Messiah, coming to set up the Kingdom. And they, even more than the Romans, who did not care about the Jewish traditions, were determined to see Jesus stopped.

After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus goes to the Temple and runs out the money changers and vendors. This must have been a hilarious scene. A man running around setting loose sheep, goats, cattle and birds in the outer court of the Temple, kicking over tables and chasing people out would have been great entertainment for the people who were weary of the money machine the holy days had become.

The next section, which covers most of three chapters, is an extended conversation between the religious leaders and Jesus. First, they asked Jesus a question: "By what authority are you doing these things?" Jesus did not answer, but responded with another question: "The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?" Jesus revealed by this question that they were not concerned about learning the facts. They only wanted to make Jesus look bad. When Jesus turned the tables on them, they could not respond, because they could not say it was from God, because then He would ask why they rejected him. And if they said it was of men, then the people would be incensed, because everybody viewed John as a prophet.

Then Jesus tells a couple of stories that demonstrated what the religious leaders really were. The first story is of a father with two sons. He told both of them to do a certain job. The first one refused, but later repented and did it. The second said he would do it, but never did it. Jesus said the religious leaders were like the second son, and those who followed Him were like the first son. Yes they used to be sinners, but they changed and are now in more favor than those who claim to obey.

The second story is more direct. It is about a farmer who loaned out his land to tenants. When the farmer wanted his share of the crop, the tenants beat the servant who came to collect. After sending several servants and having them all mistreated, the farmer says he will send his son, because they will respect him. But the tenants decide to kill the son and that way they can get the land for themselves when the old man dies. After the crowd responds that the man should kill the servants and give his land to someone else, Jesus says:
"Have you never read in the scriptures, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?' Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits." (21:42-43, ESV)

Jesus is predicting His own death and rejection by the Jews. They were already making plans to kill Him, and sayings like this only made them more angry. The Jews were always asking Jesus to tell them plainly if He was the Messiah. Well, He basically did in this chapter, and all it did was make them want to kill Him even more. They had already rejected Him in their hearts; they were just pretending to be curious.

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