BULK VIEWING MATTHEW 21

Matthew 21:8 says:

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

This verse is one of the few places where the Gospels record that Jesus’ glory is recognised on earth. Jesus boldly declared himself King, and the crowd gladly joined him.  But these same people would bow to political pressure and desert him in just a few days.  Today we celebrate this event on Palm Sunday.  That day should remind us to guard against superficial acclaim for Christ.

 

Matthew 21:12 says:

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. 

This is the second time Jesus cleared the temple (see John 2:13-17). Merchants and money changers set up their booths in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, crowding out the Gentiles who had come from all over the civilised world to worship God [equal].  The merchants sold sacrificial animals at high prices, taking advantage of those who had come long distances.  The money changers exchanged all international currency for the special temple coins – the only money the merchants would accept.  They often, deceived foreigners who didn’t know the exchange rates.  Their commercialism in God’s house frustrated people’s attempts to worship.  This, of course, greatly angered Jesus.  Any practice that interferes with worshipping should be stopped.

 

Matthew 21:19 says:

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. 

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree? This was not a thought-less, angry acted-out parable.  Jesus was showing his anger at religion without substance.  Just as the fig tree looked good from a distance but was fruitless on close examination, so the temple looked impressive at first glance, but its sacrifices and other activities were hollow because they were not done to worship God sincerely (see 21:43).  If you only appear to have faith without putting it to work in your life, you are like a fig tree that withered and died because it bore no fruit.  Genuine faith means bearing fruit for God’s kingdom.  For more information about the fig tree, see the note on Mark 11:13-26.

 

Matthew 21:21 says:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig-tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.

Many have wondered about Jesus’ statement that if we have faith and don’t doubt, we can move mountains. Jesus, of course, was not suggesting that his followers use prayer as “magic” and perform capricious “mountain-moving” acts.  Instead, he was making a strong point about the disciples (and our) lack of faith. What kinds of mountains do you face?  Have you talked to God about them?  How strong is your faith?

 

Matthew 21:22 says:

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

This verse is not a guarantee that we can get anything we want simply by asking Jesus and believing.  God [equal] does not grant requests that would hurt us or others or that would violate his own nature or will. Jesus’ statement is not a blank cheque.  To be filled, our requests must be in harmony with the principles of God’s kingdom.  The stronger our belief, the more likely our prayers will be in line with God’s will, and then God will be happy to grant them.

 

Matthew 21:23-25 says:

Jesus entered the temple courts [mummy’s grandmother], and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism – where did it come from?  Was it from heaven, or from men?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven’, he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’

In Jesus’ world, as in ours, people looked for the outward sign of authority – education, title, position, connections. But Jesus’ authority came from who he was, not from any outward and superficial trappings.  As followers of Christ, God has given us authority – we can confidently speak and act on his behalf because he has authorised us.  Are you exercising your authority?  [Inspired by my mum’s writing here, you may have heard Lord Hailsham say it.]

 

Matthew 21:23-27 says:

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him.  “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked.  “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  John’s baptism – where did it come from?  Was it from heaven, or from men?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven’, he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’ – we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Pharisees demanded to know where Jesus got his authority. If Jesus said his authority came from God, they would accuse him of blasphemy.  If he said that he was acting on his own authority, the crowds would be convinced that the Pharisees had the greater authority.  But Jesus answered them with a seemingly unrelated question that exposed their real motives.  They didn’t really want an answer to their question; they only wanted to trap him.  Jesus showed that the Pharisees wanted the truth only if it supported their own views and causes.

 

Matthew 21:25 says:

John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven’, he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’

For more information on John the Baptist, see Matthew 3 and his Profile in John 1.

 

Matthew 21:30 says:

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

The son who said he would obey and then didn’t represented the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day. They said they wanted to do God’s will, but they constantly disobeyed.  They were insincere, just going through the motions.  It is dangerous to pretend to obey God when our hearts are far from him because God knows our true intentions.  Our actions must match our words.

 

 

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