Matthew 21 – The King comes Home

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

As the Messiah and His disciples were approaching the holy city of Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead of them to find a ride for Him. They were to bring back a donkey and its colt for Jesus to fulfil the prophecy made by the prophet Zechariah.

See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

The disciples followed Jesus’s instructions and brought back the colt and the donkey and they placed their coats on them for Jesus to sit on. A strange request from Jesus who seldom asked something from His disciples. Was Jesus trying to remind the pharisees of the four hundred year old prophecy or was there some other significance for Jesus to enter Jerusalem riding on a colt.

Kings would usually come back from wars to such triumphant welcome by their subjects. These lavish parades would be a showcase of the valuables that were plundered during their latest victory along with the procession of the prisoners of the war, who were now going to be humiliated and tortured by the locals. The kings would always choose a warhorse or a prized camel, to make their grand entrance back to their palace rather than riding on a colt and that too of a donkey.

By making His triumphant return to Jerusalem on a lowly colt, Jesus was symbolising the servant king’s victory over evil. The parade was not full of the valuable loot but saved souls and the army of demons who were going to be humiliated by Jesus’s victory over death on the cross.

The reception party that had gathered to welcome Jesus, spread their cloaks on the road, and some even cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road to form the perfect royal carpet to mark the triumphant entry. It was not a carpet made out of the finest purple linen but one made out of the spontaneous actions of the followers of Jesus who wanted to show their gratitude.

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Matthew 21:9

Even though the crowds thronged Him, no one knew who this Man really was, as they labelled Him a mere prophet from Galilee, the place were Jesus performed most of His miracles. They admired Jesus just like we admire our modern magicians and did not realise that Love had come down to make the ultimate Sacrifice for us.

Jesus at the Temple

The state of the temple was abysmal because though the structures were sound and the daily sacrifices continued, the temple itself was corrupted just like the hearts of the Israelites. Merchants had converted the temple courts into a strip-mall, selling ‘worship essentials’ to the temple goers. Birds and animals that were needed for the sacrifice were up for grabs and they even provided currency exchange services for out of towners as the temple did not accept foreign currencies as offerings. The activities of the temple were being run for a profit and in return the temple goers enjoyed satisfaction of having completed their obligations to God. Jesus could not bear to see the house of God turned into a den of robbers. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Matthew 21:13

This did not sit well with the chief priests and the teachers of Jerusalem, and when they saw Jesus healing the lame and the blind and the people responding with shouts of praise, they were indignant. They went and questioned Jesus and asked him to stop the ruckus.

They were perhaps fearful that the Roman government would think of the hoopla happening in the city as a riot and shut down their festivities or maybe they were just jealous of sharing the glory with an unknown and untrained prophet from the simple town of Nazareth. Jesus quoted them a Psalm of David to help them realise what was going on and left for the neighbouring town of Bethany to probably spend the night at house of Martha and Mary.

Jesus Curses a Fig Tree

Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

Matthew 21:18-19

This was the very next day of the temple clearing incident. Another gospel puts it on the same day. The fig tree perhaps symbolises all of us who have been given the grace of God. Some of us like the pharisees, do not want to bear any fruit but we even stop other trees from bearing any fruit. The job of the fig tree was to bear fruit and it did not accomplish its purpose. So its creator put it to rest that day.

We were formed by the creator in his likeness to reflect his glory. If we are not fulfilling our purpose we too will be brought down and another tree will sprout up in our place. The tree on that day could symbolise the disciples also, so that they fulfil their purpose but today that tree symbolises all who have been saved by the blood of Christ. Let us examine our lives to see if we are the fruitless fig tree corrupting the soil or are we the trees that allow Holy Spirit to bring fruits out of our lives.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Jesus make his infamous entry riding on a lowly colt?
  • Why did the people throng the streets to welcome Jesus?
  • What was the problem with selling worship essentials in the temple courts, it made it convenient for people to offer their sacrifices?
  • Why were the Pharisees indignant with the people’s response to Jesus?
  • What did the Fig tree symbolise?

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