Matthew 21:1-22 – Sermon Manscript

-Have you ever met someone whose looks deceived you? Or had a friend who went on to be incredible successful, beating all the expectations you had for them? Or the friend who was successful, but then never really made anything of themselves? 

-I heard a story about a man whose life was marked by regular and repeated failures (that I’m sure you know!) 

-He tried out for a career in state legislature and lost, then pivoted and tried to start his own business which failed the next year. 2 years later he finally got that state legislature position (but then had a nervous breakdown 2 years after that!) Tried moving up in his political aspirations and tried to become state speaker (which he lost). Finally found his calling in practicing law, but then tried to continue with his political goals where he was defeated for Congress in his first run. Finally got elected, only to lose reelection 2 years later! After that he tried running for US Senate (and lost), then joined onto someone else’s ticket as VP (and lost, you’d think the Presidential candidate would have figured out he was bad luck!). The next election cycle, he again ran for Senate and lost again. You’d think he would have given up at some point in this journey, right? 

-From all outside appearances, this person seems like a major loser. Yet underneath all these failures was a strong, steady man who learned his lessons and continued biding his time until the right moment for him to step into his role arrived. Does anyone know who this is? The 16th President of the US: Abraham Lincoln! 

-Despite the external appearances of failure, Lincoln continued persevering, building a steady confidence underneath that prepared him to lead our country through our most divided time in history. Had he not dealt with these repeated failures and setbacks throughout his life, I don’t think he would have been ready to be the steady guide throughout the Civil War.

-Today we’re going to see how Jesus similarly subverted people’s expectations in His role. We’ll see how His arrival wasn’t what people thought, how He creates His people, and the markers of those who follow Him.


  1. The Entrance of the King (1-11)

-Taking a look at a slightly different perspective this week, after spending a couple months in Mark, I wanted to spend some time in a different Gospel for today (don’t worry, we’ll get to Mark’s account at the end of June)

-Whereas Mark was geared more toward Gentile believers, Matthew crafts his account toward his Jewish heritage, so he points out more ways Jesus fulfills the OT promises and prophecies (as we’ll see in today’s text)

-Similar to Mark, Matthew could be described as an “extended passion narrative”, the first 20 chapters cover the first 30 years of Jesus life, then the last 8 recount the last week of Jesus’ life (but spoiler alert, He doesn’t stay dead, that’s kind of the point of us gathering!)

-All that to say: the whole story has built up to this point, Jesus’ last arrival in Jerusalem during Passover week. He has visited Jerusalem before, as any good Jew would, to at least celebrate the Passover.

-The Passover was a BIG deal in the Jewish calendar. Think of 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all combined into a weeklong holiday! Surrounding areas would shut down as everyone streamed to Jerusalem to celebrate the biggest even in their history. All this means the city would swell to 5-6x it’s normal size, meaning there would be about 2 million people in and around Jerusalem (today, about 950,000). There were parties to be had, food to be eaten, celebrations to participate in, and the Passover meal to be had! Families reconnecting, friends catching up after not seeing each other for a year. So all that to say, this is a holiday unlike any other! 

-Let’s think about where all this is taking place. As we’ve been studying Mark, we’ve been up north in Galilee, with some references to people from Jerusalem coming to see what Jesus is doing. Jerusalem is much further south and looked like THIS during the time of Jesus. If you look up to the right it says “path to Mount of Olives, which you can see more clearly in THIS picture. No one knows where Bethphage was, but this is the closest guess (also note Bethany 2 miles away)

-Jesus sends 2 disciples nearby to grab a donkey and her colt.

-A donkey seems like a weird choice! And it’s not just a donkey, it’s also her colt, which Mark tells us has never been ridden before. 

-At this point of the journey, you’d have to think the disciples were wondering why he needed a donkey. They’re within sight of Jerusalem, only a few more steps and they’ll be at their final destination, if Jesus has gotten tired, just let Him take a quick break! Thankfully, the disciples have learned not to question Jesus, so they respond with obedient.

-Now, notice that Jesus gives them basically a password in order to take this donkey away. You know like “open sesame,” but in this case the code is “the Lord needs them.” Imagine you’re on a journey, go into someone’s garage, take their car and if anyone asks you tell them, “The Lord needs it” Which Lord are we talking about? It may help to know that the word translated “Lord” could just be “owner,” so the disciples are saying the owner needs his donkey, which signifies the Jesus being the Lord (master) of everything! There’s nothing that doesn’t belong to Him, nothing that is left out of His oversight, so there’s nothing weird about Him using what is rightfully His. Think back to the car example, if it was your car that was in someone else’s garage, it would make perfect sense for you to take it! 

-But there’s far more going on here than Jesus just being tired! This act is done to fulfill a prophecy from Zech. 9:9

-Original context tells us: The king who comes is righteous, has salvation, and is humble. Jesus is fulfilling this prophecy of God’s deliverance from their enemies and the judgment towards them, but it’s directed toward His people. Contrast verse 9 with verse 10. Judgment comes! The chariots, war horses, and battle bows will all be cut off, and peace will come. To where? The nations! And what’s left out of His rule? Nothing! 

-This means: the expectations the people had are summarized in vs. 10. They had banked their entire faith on the Messiah overthrowing the Roman occupation of their lands, of this Messiah being a mighty warrior who would lead a political uprising and bring total and final victory to the Jewish people. But that’s not what Jesus came to do, He came to deal with the REAL problem, which wasn’t the Romans, it was sin. But we’ll get to that!

-The Disciples obey Jesus’ command, and then use cloaks to create a saddle for Jesus. Matthew’s account doesn’t include the detail about riding the colt, but Jesus riding a never before ridden colt signifies His authority and control even over animals. But the disciples aren’t the only ones who are getting excited about Jesus finally revealing Himself as the Messiah, as word travels about Jesus coming, the crowd joins in on the celebration. 

-Part of this is most likely due to Jesus raising one of his best friends: Lazarus. Remember Bethany is only a couple miles away? That’s where he lived with his sisters Mary and Martha. Not much a stretch to imagine that people in “the big city” had heard about this resurrection! 

-Because the crowd is excited about this coming king, they realize He can’t just walk on the plain old ground, so they use their cloaks, and if don’t have any cloaks they use branches, pulling out the red carpet for the arriving king! This would be typical of a kingly processional. There’s an account in 2 Kings 9, and the book of Maccabees where palm branches and cloaks are thrown on the ground for the king’s processional.

-Notice a detail Matthew includes about the crowd: “went before” and another group that “followed him”. Word is starting to spread through the city (before), and his merry group of followers haven’t given up yet (behind). But notice what they’re saying:

-They’re reciting Psalm 118 to Jesus. This Psalm is one of the Psalms used during the Passover festival. Hosanna (Aramaic meaning save now) Son of David (Messianic title) Blessed be (thanking Yahweh for military victory) 

-The whole city hears about this (“stirred up” is often used to refer to an earthquake) asking the question these Gospel accounts were written to answer: who is this?

-This is a question the disciples ask of Jesus regularly, it’s a question that all of us will one day be asked before God! But notice the deficiency of the crowd’s response:

-The crowds, who had just praised Him as the coming Messiah, now call him just a prophet, the hometown hero! We’re already seeing a disconnect between the people’s initial excitement and their response to Jesus’ arrival.

-People are excited that Jesus is coming in as David’s royal son (Messiah) but they forgot to notice that He was riding on a donkey (as a humble servant). How often do we miss what’s really going on around us?

-Drax: nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.

-So what: where are we tempted to make worldly judgments instead of seeing how God has designed things?

-We are all tempted to use and trained by the world to use wrong judgments in assessing what’s going on around us. We need God to remind us to move our eyes from worldly issues and troubles to Him! Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem was coming not as a conquering king, but as a suffering Messiah.

  • The People of the King (12-17)

-After riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and stirring up the town, Jesus turns His attention to the temple and comes to cleanse/purify the temple

-Drove out all who sold and bought: a necessary occupation. People would travel from all over the country to come to Jerusalem for the Passover, they needed some way of getting a sacrifice, it didn’t make sense to bring an animal, much less an spotless animal! 

-Money-changers: who were necessary too pay the temple tax in the correct currency, no image of Nero. But also had a wide assortment of moneys being used at the time, so essentially a currency converter.

-pigeons: particularly focused on the sacrifices of the poor.

-Text doesn’t say these people were stealing, could be implied by Jesus’ response, or else the mere fact that they were in the temple was missing the purpose.

-The temple was divided into different areas by level of holiness for where people were able to go, the closer you got to the Holy of Holies, the fewer people could go. Court of the Gentiles (we’ve talked about before), The Court of the Women, and then only purified Jewish men could go closer. These salesmen set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, leaving them nowhere to worship the one true God. 

-Jesus quotes 2 different OT texts to make his point.

Isa. 56:7 “house of prayer for all the nations” ethnic implications

Jer. 7:11 – Jeremiah calling out Israel for indulging in sin, then treat the temple as a talisman to cover the sins. Why indulgences are so wrong! (say a couple ‘hail Marys’ isn’t going to cover it)

-Jesus’ cleansing isn’t only geared toward ethnic identities, because of His work the blind and crippled (who previously weren’t allowed to come to the temple) were welcomed in, and not just welcomed in, they were healed! 

-Jesus refocuses the purpose of the temple into what it was originally meant to be. Those that come to the temple through Jesus (blind and the lame) are completely cleansed and purified from all impurities! Those that don’t are cast out. Jesus is showing the true standards that should be used to judge people, instead of the man-made rules that had affected those who claimed to be following after God.

-Now the higher ups are getting upset! They saw the healings (notice it’s described as “wonderful”) they should be celebrating! People who were far off away from the one true God have been brought near! But they don’t even care. They’re so hard hearted they don’t even warrant a second glance, and instead focus on the children, children who had taken up the cry of the crowds: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” 

-There is something from children we would do well to learn! Unashamed, pure worship of God! No embarrassment, no concerns, we in our old age tend to become more cynical (and call it “wisdom”) 

G.K. Chesterson: “It may be that He [God] has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Where children are carefree and exuberant, as we age we have a tendency to become overly concerned with what others think of us and more reserved. This is why it’s so important to have children in our lives! I’m often amazed by my children’s simple faith and trust in God. Children aren’t a distraction, they’re a beautiful picture and reminder of the simple faith we need. We tend to get distracted by theological arguments or logical connections, when Jesus tells us that if we want to enter His kingdom, we need to become like children. 

Gregory the Great “Scripture is like a river, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.” Jesus welcomes all to come to Him, from the child to the person with the highest IQ in the world! Everyone needs Him, and can only find the answers to their longing in him. 

-In this case, those with the high IQs are questioning if Jesus really knows what’s going on! Does he not hear the children praising Him as if He were God? 

-Yet even this praise was prophesied about in Psalm 8! The Psalm contrasts the greatness of God with the way He is praised by children. As we’ve been seeing in Mark’s Gospel, the way God’s enemies are defeated is through words. The words of babies and infants is how God’s enemy and avenger are dealt with. Everything that has breath can praise the Lord! 

-So what: We’ve seen the way people were left out from full inclusion of the worship of God (Gentiles, blind and lame, and children), yet those are the exact people God says are a part of His family. Who are you tempted to leave out of God’s reach today? 

  • Life Under the King (18-22)

-The last thing we see is a living parable of everything we’ve studied so far, and a proper application of Jesus “triumphal” entry.

-The first thing we see about Jesus in this section is His hunger. This is a normal human endeavor, IDK about you, generally after a night of sleeping (not eating) one if hungry when they wake up (another evidence that Jesus is truly a human). But another aspect to hunger is how one responds when they’re hungry.

-For me, it’s a little bit like my morning coffee. Maybe you’ve seen this coffee cup before that tells people when you’re ready to converse with them!

-Or maybe food is what you need in the morning, and if you don’t get your food you become hangry (that is someone who gets angry when they’re hungry) If that’s you, don’t worry you’re in good company, so does Jesus! You may have seen this meme before too “Sorry for what I said when I was hungry”

-Because Jesus is hungry, he becomes a man on a mission, and He sees a fig tree with leaves (Mark tells us it wasn’t the right season for figs, but the marker for a fig tree having figs is leaves). Even Matthew tells us that this fig tree has leaves on it! Because this fig tree is a dirty rotten liar, Jesus responses by cursing it, next thing you know the tree is dead (Jesus cares far more for people than the rest of creation, we saw that with the pigs a few weeks ago)

-As always, there’s far more to this story than Jesus being hangry, but we need the rest of the story leading up to this to properly understand it! The fig tree is representative of the way God’s people had been living. Just like the fig tree gave off the appearance of bearing fruit, God’s people are giving off the appearance of holiness, but aren’t actually living out what God has commanded them to. 

-How often is that true in our lives too? We do our best to act all “put together” when we come to church (despite yelling at our kids on the way out the door, cussing out the person who cut you off) then as soon as we walk in the doors we put on a smile and act like everything’s ok. It’s no wonder people give up on church when they see that kind of hypocrisy! Instead, we need to ensure that we’re ACTUALLY bearing fruit in our lives, not just the illusion of it.

-That’s only one part of this story, the text goes on to tell us something even more: the disciples marvel, but their focus is (as often happens) on the wrong thing. The tree is just a symbol of something, and it’s tiny! The disciples need to have faith, and that faith must be made manifest in their lives by bearing fruit.

-This isn’t something literal that we’re supposed to expect, otherwise there would probably be an account of the disciples moving a mountain! The mountain is a metaphor for doing things that seem impossible (like Jesus rising from the dead!) -Notice as well the connection between prayer and faith. If we have true faith, as evidenced by the fruit in our lives, our requests will be according to the will of God instead of wasting those prayers on selfish things. God is the God of the impossible, and will answer our prayers! 

-So what: what does your life look like? Are you bearing fruit, or just giving off the appearance of fruit? 

Matt. 3:8 J the B “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” It’s easy (at first) to give off the appearance of fruit, but over time it will start to wear on you. If you have faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will work in you to actually make it possible to bear fruit, because apart from that fruit we’re dead! Vs. 10 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

-3 things Jesus reveals to us in this passage: 1) look at things God’s way instead of the worlds way. 2) God’s mission is to all people, no one is left out, no one is too far away. Even those who were viewed as “unclean” were welcomed in! 3) We must pray, have faith, and pursue living out fruit instead of just pretending to have fruit.

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