-This triumphal entry event fulfills the prophecy of the Messiah in Zechariah 9:9 made around 500 years before this occurrence. The donkey colt was a beast of burden and illustrated the burden the Lord would bear to bring us back into reconciliation with Him. Ironically, this particular type of donkey has the shape of a cross on its neck in a different hair color that reminds us to this day of this event and its significance. Jesus came humbly into the world as a baby and went to His destination in Jerusalem and to the cross in the same way as the donkey; although, there were those who recognized Him and praised Him as the King that He really was. This is a magnificent moment that preceded the week of Passover in which Christ would suffer and die for the sins of the world. He accepted the crowd’s exultation and joy as a coronation of the coming Kingdom and all that it would entail. This further infuriated the Pharisees that commented that the world had gone after this Christ (John 12:19). Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem as He approached because the Lord’s visitation was not recognized for peace and troubling times were coming because of this (at the hands of the Romans, 70 AD, Luke 19:41). *Application* Recognition is an important concept to consider here as we read and meditate on this account of the King’s coming into His city at this particular time. Do we, in our lives, realize what is going on with what the Lord is up to in us? Are we soooo preoccupied with doing things our way that we miss the blessing that is right before us? Don’t make Jesus weep over you and your situation because you didn’t recognize His visitation in your own life. He will come and go if you don’t pay attention. He will never force His way in, but subtly intervenes giving you a chance to respond positively. Don’t miss your opportunity!
-Jesus is fed up with the abuse of the House of God. The money changers were profiting from the exchange rate and had impure hearts towards the worship of the Living God. Jesus sets the record straight by declaring His House as a House of Prayer for all the nations and that they had made it a den of robbers (Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11). He overturned their tables in righteous indignation creating a powerful scene of the Lord’s fury over this matter. This drew the irritation of the religious leaders and they sought to destroy Him, but the people were hanging on every word that proceeded from His mouth and were astonished. His time was near, but it had not fully come and the chief priests and scribes were unable to find anything that they might do (Luke 19:48). Jesus was passing the test of perfection. *Application* This incident should be a warning to us in how we approach coming into the house of God at church. God’s house is to be a place where we gather in reverence and fear of His majesty with awe struck wonder and appreciation. It is a holy place of communication with Him on the vertical level and communication with other believers and guests on the horizontal level. It truly should be a place of prayer for all the nations to come and experience the glory and the power of the Almighty. Don’t minimize the importance of proper heart attitude every time you approach the house of God. Careless worship, as we see here, infuriates our Lord for good reason.
-The fig tree, which is cursed, represents the unbelieving Israel that rejected her King. Even though they had an appearance of life and the potential to bear fruit, they had not produced the faith that was required to grow the Kingdom of God. Therefore, they would dry up and become unproductive in the economy of God during this time period by Jesus’ prophetic act. Mark’s gospel gives us a clearer picture of the time line of the cursing compared to the drying up of the fig tree. The act occurs, then Jesus goes into Jerusalem and drives out those who were buying and selling in the Temple overturning tables of the money changers (Mark 11:15). The “and at once the fig tree withered” that Matthew gives us in the text is relative (Matthew 21:19b). It was considered immediate because it was full of life in the time of Jesus’ hunger as they journeyed towards Jerusalem, but by the next morning, it was dried up (Mark 11:20).
-The disciples, led by the voice of Peter, were amazed at the miracle of the dried fig tree, and Jesus took the opportunity to once again teach them about faith and its power. His conclusion is that “all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mark 11:24, Matthew 21:22).” *Application* What Jesus is talking about here is mountain moving faith that gets the response of Heaven. Notice that there is absolutely no room for doubting here. The man who doubts is like a ship tossed on the ocean and is double minded and unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8). The lack of faith cost the children of Israel their righteous King for the time being. Don’t let unbelief rob you of all that God in store for you. You will bear much fruit if you abide in Him, which only comes through trusting Him (John 15:1-8, especially verse 7).
-As a part of the inspection process of the Lamb of God, the chief priests, scribes, and the elders confronted Jesus with questions about what authority He had to do the things He was doing (teaching, preaching the gospel, miracles, etc.) and who gave Him this authority. Jesus knew the intentions of their hearts and responded with a question of His own that revealed their hearts and at the same time actually answered their questions. He referenced the baptism of John as to whether it was from man or Heaven. They could not answer this because of their unbelief on one hand and their fear of the crowd, who regarded him as a real prophet, on the other. So they were stymied and could not answer, which gave Christ the right not to explicitly answer their questions as well. Jesus’ response did however reveal their unbelief towards the things of God and demonstrated His authority over the schemes of man (1 Corinthians 1:19-2:5). *Application* God is wiser than anything we can conceive in our finite minds. Don’t ever find yourself questioning God or His authority in your life. He has complete control and wisdom to handle any of your life situations. Never fear He is always near and will be your source of strength and wisdom in this world (Matthew 28:20).
-Jesus paints a realistic picture of how people react to the message of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness using the illustration of the two sons. One began with a defiant attitude and said he would not go to work in his father’s vineyard, but he later regretted his rebellion and went and obeyed his father’s request. The other son said all the right things in the beginning with a “yes sir,” but he did not ever actually go and do the work in the vineyard. He lied and did not follow through on his promise before his father to pursue his will. Jesus summed it all up by saying that the tax collectors (this has significance to the writer Matthew here since he had been a tax collector himself) and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders of the people (the supposed wise and spiritual leaders of the culture). He then denounced their unwillingness to believe John’s message or even feel any remorse about their plight even when they could plainly hear and see the call, whereas the tax collectors and prostitutes did and received forgiveness because of their repentance and faith (Matthew 21:32). *Application* It’s not how you start, but how you finish in the Kingdom of God. No matter what you may have done, God gives us all a chance to confess and return to Him in repentance and faith. No one is too far gone! Check out: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzHgEhF4Qac)
-Jesus now lays it all on the line in a parable that revealed the anti-Christ spirit of the religious leaders, which even went back to the prophets who revealed the Word of God in ages past. He compares them to rented laborers in a vineyard who were supposed to keep the garden upright and productive. The owner went on a long journey (this depicts the distance between God holiness in Heaven and the activities on this sinful earth) and in time of harvest sent his slaves (doulos, servants, those under His command, i.e. the prophets of God) to receive his produce. They were treated harshly by rejection, beatings, stonings, and killings again and again. Afterward, he reasoned that he would send his beloved son who would surely be received, respected, and honored as an heir to the family. However, the wicked husbandmen conspired against him in an effort to seize the inheritance (a false, selfish, and wordly kingdom of this earth in Israel by the religious establishment). They took the son and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him (Matthew 21:39). The question is then asked by Jesus, what will the owner of the vineyard do when he comes to these hired vine-growers? The reply was that these wretched men will come to a wretched end and be cast out for others who are more worthy and will honor the owner. The scribes, chief priests, and Pharisees understood that Jesus was speaking of them and exclaimed, “May it never be (Luke 20:16)!” But Jesus cited Psalm 118:22-23 prophetically and added that he who falls (from pipto which also means: collapse, become invalid, be destroyed) on this stone (the chief corner stone) will be broken to pieces, and on whomever it falls (the Jewish people who trust in their leaders), it will scatter them like dust (the Jewish diaspora which happened shortly after Christ’s era basically continued until 1948 when Israel became a nation again, and the coming Kingdom of God, Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45). When the religious leaders ascertained that He was speaking of them, they sought to seize Jesus, but they feared the people because of Jesus’ popularity and their belief that He was a prophet. *Application* This remarkable parable should warn us to pay attention to the visitations of the LORD and not rely on religious leaders who have their own agendas and worldly purposes. How easy it is to be deceived and this is why Jesus’ parable is in the Scriptures in Matthew’s Spirit filled biography. He wants us to be centered on Him as the Chief Corner Stone and Heir to eternal life as God’s One and Only Son. Don’t be scattered like dust yourself in this age of false teaching (2 Timothy 3:1-17; 4:3-4).
Verse to Memorize: Matthew 21:32, 42