About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapter 21

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ch. 21:1-11     ch. 21:12-17    ch. 21:18-22    ch. 21:23-27

ch. 21:28-32    ch.21:33-46

The Triumphal Entry (ch. 21:1 - 11)       


In verses 1 through 4 Jesus gives instructions to two of His disciples.  They are about ready to enter Jerusalem .  At present they are just outside the city in a town called Bethphage.  Bethphage was on the Mount of Olives .   The prefix “beth” means “house”.  So any time you see the word “beth” in a city name you know the name of the city is “house of something”.  In this case they city name means “house of dried figs”. 


Jesus tells these two men to go into Jerusalem where at a certain place they will find a mother donkey and her baby colt.   Take these two donkeys and if anyone asks why they are taking the animals, they should tell them that the Lord needs them. 


Much speculation has gone into just who owned these animals and if the owners knew Jesus, since he was borrowing them.  We don’t know the answer to this question.


Jesus would use the donkey to ride into Jerusalem on, which would be in fulfillment of Zech. 9:9, as seen in verses 4 and 5.  The prophecy reads, “say to the daughter of Zion , ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’”.   


We note from the prophecy that the animal that Jesus rode into the city on was the colt, and not the mother donkey.  We see also that Jesus is seen as being the gentle king, and that He was.  He was a gentle man. The only thing that riled Him up at times was the hypocrisy  of the Jewish leadership.  Jesus has not changed since those days.  He is still gentle,  and He is still King.  He is King of the Jews, and He is King of all there is.  Being gentle should not be confused with being week, because as king, He will judge against all injustice and sin.  His judgment is fair and it is severe, as seen in the book of Revelation.


Verses 6 through 8 begins the description of what we have termed “Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem ”.  By this time in His ministry, His popularity was so great that huge crowds followed Him all over the place. In this situation there were two aspects to the crowd.  There was a large crowd following Him into town, and there was a large crowd that came out of Jerusalem to meet Him.  This would have caused a major commotion, something that would irritate the Jewish leaders greatly.  This might well have been the largest crowd that ever surrounded Jesus. 


The crowd was ecstatic.  They were praising Him by waving palm branches, throwing the branches and their cloaks down on the road before Him.  The man that they had heard so much about over the last three years was now entering Jerusalem .  Jesus had been there before, but because of His growing popularity, the crowd both grew in size and in dedication to Him.   We can’t confuse this dedication as wanting salvation that Jesus had to offer.


For the most part, this crowd believed, or at least hoped, that Jesus would take the lead and revolt against Rome to  set Israel free from Roman domination.  They viewed this to be the roll of their Messiah. 


In verse 9 we note that the crowds shouted “hosanna”.  The word “hosanna” is meant to be a prayer, or a pleading, or a begging”  The word means “save me or us now”.  These people were calling out to Jesus for salvation, but the salvation or deliverance they were begging for was not the deliverance Jesus had in mind.  Once again, they wanted to be rescued from Rome .  Jesus wanted to rescue them from   the hand of satan, from their sin, and from the wrath of God.


The crowd uses Psalm 118:26 as their prayer and praise to Jesus.  The Psalm states Jesus as being the Son of David, which refers to the Messiah.  The crowd thus thinks that Jesus is finally the one they have been waiting for.  Their Messiah was finally coming into Jerusalem to set them free. 


The Psalm goes on to say that Jesus is coming in the name of the Lord.  This means that Jesus is not coming in His own authority, but He is representing the Lord God of Israel .  God Himself had sent Jesus, according to this Psalm, and according to the belief of this crowd.


In verse 10 we see that the whole city of Jerusalem was stirred by Jesus coming into town.  There might well have been a couple million people in town.  There would have been the residents, and all the visitors who came for Passover.  They were all stirred up, and once again, the Jewish leadership was now at its wits end.  This commotion, and this allegiance to Jesus was too much for them to handle. 


Parts of the crowd yelled out, “who is this”.  In verse 11 other parts of the crowd answered, “this is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee ”.  You can see by this response that there was a measure of confusion going on here.  Many believed Jesus to be the Messiah, but still there were others that believed Him to be a prophet, and maybe not the Messiah as yet.


Whatever the case, you might say that Jesus was entering the city of Jerusalem as a “superstar”, BUT His superstar status would not last long. 


Jesus At The Temple (ch. 21:12 - 17)


In the last section we noted that Jesus was described as being gentle. You might now wonder where this gentleness went to when you read this section.  Upon entering Jerusalem Jesus goes directly to the Temple .  The Temple was meant to be a place of worship to the only one and true God.


In verse 12 we see Jesus entering the temple.  He was obviously upset.  He overthrew tables. He drove out those who were buying and selling.  The Temple had become more of a place of commerce than a place of worship, although the commerce was done in the name of religion, as in, selling of animals for the sacrifices.


The church has the same problem today.  We have commercialized ourselves to the degree that we look more like a business than the church of God .


In verse 13 Jesus quotes from Isa. 56:7 that says, “my house will be called  a house of prayer”.  This was God’s intention for the Old Testament Temple.  It was to be a sacred place.  But the Jewish people made it “ad den of thieves”, as Jesus puts it.  Thieves because the Jews had robbed the Temple from it’s real meaning, and probably extorting people at the same time with their commerce that took place in the Temple ’s grounds.


In the past Christians have used this text to support the idea that there should not be anything sold in a Christian church building, but that’s a misunderstanding of this text.  We cannot compare the Old Testament Temple to church buildings today.  Today’s buildings aren’t churches.  We the people are the church.  Therefore if a comparison is to be made, it should be to us people today, and not our buildings.  So as the Jews desecrated the Temple , so we’ve desecrated God’s New Testament temple which is  the church by commercializing it and making it look more like a corporation than the Body of Christ it should be.       


In verse 14 we see the stark contrast between the compassion of Jesus and His righteous anger, and there is such a thing as righteous anger.   Sick people came to Jesus and He had compassion on them and healed then.   Moments after being so upset that He threw tables and benches around, Jesus kindly healed people.  He demonstrated both His love and His justice.  This is important, because too many people want to neglect God’s justice and emphasize His love only.  You can’t do that.  God, and that includes Jesus, is just as much just as He is loving, and there was a major injustice taking place at the Temple when it came to the commercial activity that was taking place.


We see the indignation of the Jewish leadership in verse 15.  Just picture this.  First of all the popularity of Jesus was growing over the last three years.  The crowds were getting bigger and they were listening to what Jesus had to say.  Now as Jesus enters Jerusalem the largest crowd yet gathers around Him, many of whom were calling Him the Messiah.  Jesus then goes to the Temple and overthrows things, and at the same time heals more people.  The crowd at the Temple is now going crazy over Him.  The Jewish leadership at this point loses all control over their people.  They’re lost from the picture.  Jesus’ popularity threatens their very existence.  They had to do something.  They had to get rid of Him somehow.


In verse 16 some of the Jewish leadership ask Jesus if He hears what the children are saying.  The children are actually crying out “hosanna, Son of David”.  Even if they have some clue to what is going on.  Even if they are simply copying their parents, they are involved.  The leaders of the Jews could not stand this so they pointed it out to Jesus, in the hopes that He would quiet things down. 


In verse 17 Jesus responds by quoting Pas. 8:2 that says, “ from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”?  Note the question mark here.  This is not a statement, meaning, the children will give praise to Jesus.  It’s a question, meaning, “won’t the children give praise to Jesus?  The implication is that if you won’t give me praise, then why shouldn’t the children do what you should be doing?


This section ends in verse 17 by Jesus leaving the Jewish leaders and going to Bethany to spend the night.  Here we see, as we always do, that Jesus does not get bogged down in a long drawn out debate.  He states His thinking with a question, and He leaves these leaders to ponder over what He says, and ponder they did. 


The Fig Tree Withers (ch. 21:18 - 22)


In verses 18 to 21 we see that Jesus and His followers left Bethany early in the morning.  While on the way to Jerusalem Jesus was hungry.  He saw a fig tree.  The text doesn’t say, but it was obvious that Jesus wanted to pick some figs to eat.  As He approached the tree, He noticed that there were no figs on the tree.  He thus cursed the tree so it would never produce fruit again.  It immediately withered up, which amazed His disciples.


Fig trees don’t normally have fruit on them until early June, and this was March. The question then arises, why did Jesus curse a tree for not having fruit when it wouldn’t normally have fruit that time of year?  One thing we know is that Jesus appears to be more troubled and agitated the closers He gets to the cross.  This might have something to do with this, but I can’t see that it’s the real answer to the question.


The fig tree is often symbolic of Israel in Biblical terms.  At this point in history Israel was not producing godly fruit. I think Jesus’ actions here is symbolic of Israel .  Because Israel was not bearing fruit as it should, God would surely curse it, and that He did in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem .


Jesus says it pretty clearly in John 15.  If we don’t bear fruit, we will be cut off from the vine, and He is the vine.  If Jesus cut Israel off back then, He can cut us off today. He can also cut off that part of the church that has forsaken Him and stopped producing godly fruit.


In verse 21 and 22 Jesus responds to the disciple’s amazement.  He tells them that if they only had faith, they could do the same.  They could also tell the near by mountain, which was the Mount of Olives , that it could be cast into the sea.  All that they need to do is ask in prayer believing, Jesus says.  This is not the first time that Jesus has said this.


We need to understand Jesus’ words clearly here, especially in light of what He says elsewhere.  Certain Prosperity teachers tell us that the reason why we don’t see such miracles is because we don’t have faith.  If we only had sufficient faith we could move these mountains as Jesus states.  Well, no one has ever moved a mountain, including Jesus, so does that mean no one has really had sufficient faith.  No.  It doesn’t mean that at all. 


We can’t understand these words as the Prosperity teachers tell us.  Faith is not a commodity that we can get more of.  Faith is trust.  Faith is resignation.  Faith is more passive than active.  Other than the gift of faith which is a gift of the Spirit, we can’t get more faith.  Getting more faith is not the issue.  Trusting in Jesus more is the issue. 


The moving of the mountains is simply an analogy.  Jesus wasn’t expecting us to move a literal mountain.  What He was expecting, was for us to ask for things in His name.  Jesus doesn’t add the words “in His name” in this passage but He does elsewhere.  “In His name “ means in this context, that we ask for things as His representatives, and the things we ask for are the things we need to properly represent Him.  They aren’t selfish personal things.  This passage should not be seen a proof text to get rich.


The Authority Of Jesus Questioned (ch. 21:23 – 27)


In verse 23 we see Jesus teaching in the courtyard of the Temple .  The chief priests and the elders came up to Jesus and asked Him by what authority He does these things.  These things refer more than to His teaching.  These things refer to Him throwing over tables the day before, and would also include His miracles.  This is not the first time that the Jewish leaders have asked Jesus such a question.  They know what His answer will be, but at this point they’re just looking for one last thing to arrest Jesus for, and His claim to be associated with God would be seen as blasphemy and therefore they could arrest Him.


In verse 24 Jesus replies by telling the Jewish leadership that He is going to ask them a question, and if they can’ answer His question, then He’ll answer their question.  Jesus was a hard man to trap.  He was very witty.  No one made Him answer any question.  He did what He felt He needed to do without any thought to how the Jewish leadership would respond.


Jesus’ question is found in verse 25. He asks them if John’s baptism, that’s John the Baptist, whether it was from God or from man.  The chief priest and elders were trying to trick Jesus with their question, but Jesus’ question to them was just as tricky, if not more so.


In the rest of verse 25 and into verse 26 the Jewish leaders discussed this among themselves.  They knew that Jesus had trapped them in their attempt to trap Him.  They figure that if they answer Jesus by saying John’s baptism was of God, then Jesus would ask why they refused to accept John’s message. In fact, they did not believe it was from God.


On the other hand, if they told Jesus their true feelings that Jesus already knew, then the crowd would get into an uproar and possibly turn violent against them because most of the crowd believed John was a prophet of God.


The only answer these men could come up with in response to Jesus was, “we don’t know”.  Well, “we don’t know” wasn’t really and answer.  They knew, or at least they knew what they thought.  They just were willing to answer Jesus. 


Basically Jesus made them out to look pretty foolish in front of this crowd, and for that, they were more upset than ever before.


It is interesting how Jesus responds to them in verse 27. He says, “neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things”. “Neither will I tell you…” implies that Jesus isn’t going to answer their question because they didn’t specifically answer His question. Yes, they did answer, but their answer was one of avoidance.  They failed to answer Jesus’ exact question.


The Parable Of The Two Sons (ch. 21:28 - 32)



In verse 28 Jesus asks, “what do you think”?   He’s about to tell another one of His parables, and by asking the above question we get a hint to why Jesus speaks in parables.  One reason for the parables is to get people thinking.  Jesus could have simply spoken His message in clear and concise statements, but the use of parables would, or should cause people to think about what He is saying, because that’s the only way you would understand what He’s saying.  Simply stating the facts makes it too easy for people.  They can hear the facts without thinking.  But if you think through the parables you’ll do better at understanding their meaning.


The parable goes like this.  There was a father with two sons.  One at a time he asked his sons to go out to work in his vineyard.  The first son said that he would not go out to work but later changed his mind and did go.  The other son said he would go out and work but didn’t.   


In verse 31 Jesus asks which of the two sons did what his father asked.  The disciples answer by saying that the first son obeyed.  The answer is obviously correct.


In the second half of verse 31 Jesus begins to explain the parable, but he does not clearly explain it.  He doesn’t say that one son represents something or someone while the other son represents something else or someone else.  He doesn’t say who the father represents either.


What Jesus does say is that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  The word “you” in this case refers to the Jewish leadership.  You have to think this through to understand the parable.  The father is God, the God and Father of Israel .  The two sons represent two groups of people in Israel .  One is the Jewish leadership and the other are Jews who are considered sinful, that being tax collectors who worked for Rome and prostitutes. 


The Jewish leader is the son that said he’d go to work but didn’t.   The leadership claimed to be righteous and doing God’s work, but in fact they were doing their own work.


The other son that said he would not go to work but ended up going are the tax collectors and prostitutes.  These people in society did not claim to be righteous.  They lived a sinful life, but it was these people who came to Jesus and had their lives turned around. Those sinners entered the Kingdom of God before the Jewish leadership.


The kingdom that these sinners entered was that part of the kingdom that was on earth because Jesus was on earth.  It’s the same kingdom that came to earth in a more real way on the Day of Pentecost as seen in Acts 2.  It’s also that kingdom that will come to earth in a material way at the end of this age.


In verse 32 Jesus speaks of John and the message of repentance that he spoke.  The Jewish leaders wrote John off as a mad man, but the sinners heard what John said.  Many of the people in the lower end of society repented after hearing the message of John.


The Parable Of The Tenants (ch. 21:33 - 46)


In verses 33 to 39 Jesus tells the following parable.  A man built a vineyard and put a wall around it and a mote outside of the wall.  He got the vineyard all ready to be work and rented it out to tenants that would work the fields.  The owner of the vineyard sent out some of his men to collect a portion of the fruits of the land.  The tenants beat and killed the men the landlord sent them.


Upon hearing what had happened the landlord sent out more men who received the same fate.  Last of all the landlord decided to send his son to collect the fruit of the land, hoping that the tenants would respect the son, but they didn’t.  They killed the son. The tenants figured that if they could kill the son then they’d inherit the whole vineyard for themselves.


In verse 40 Jesus asks those listening to Him what the owner of vineyard will do.


In verse 41 they answered by saying the owner will “bring those wretches to a wretched end” and will rent the vineyard out to someone else.


In verse 42 Jesus responds, but He doesn’t respond by saying their answer is either right or wrong.  He responds by quoting Psa. 118:22 – 23.  This is typical Jesus.  He does not always speak in easy and clear statements.  He makes us think about what He is saying.


The Psalm says that the stone the builder used for the cornerstone of the building was rejected by the buildings builder, but it became the cornerstone anyway.  In the eyes of the Lord, this was a marvelous thing.


In verse 43 Jesus finally states in one sentence the meaning of the parable. He tells the Jewish leaders that the kingdom will be taken from them and given to another group of people that will produce the fruit and allow God His place in the kingdom.


It’s clear that in the parable, the owner is God, the men he sent out were the prophets, and the son was Jesus.  The tenants the landlord put in charge were the Jews, and especially the Jewish leaders. 


The Jews abused the prophets of old, and killed Jesus the Son. As a result, God would take the kingdom from the Jews and give it to the Gentiles. 


There is a Biblical principle that needs to be pointed out at this point.  You often see the phrase “to the Jew first and then to the Gentile” throughout the New Testament.  The Jews had first chance at the kingdom.  They did not handle it properly and so God gave it to the Gentiles.  Yet even with this in mind, when the Spirit came in Acts, He first came to the Jews in chapter 2 and then to the Gentiles in chapter 10.  The Jews were not totally excluded from the kingdom that came in Acts 2, but eventually the kingdom was headed by Gentiles.


In verse 44 Jesus says that whoever falls on this stone will be broken, but whoever the stone falls on will be crushed.  I’ve always seen these words to mean that when we come to Jesus the stone, He will break us.  Part of the Christian life is a breaking and changing process that we go through in order to become more like Jesus.  But if we fail to come to Jesus and let Him break our wills, in the end, He will crush and destroy us, as seen in the final judgment.   It is thus better to be broken now by Jesus than to be destroyed at the end of this age.

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