READ: Matthew 21
BACKGROUND: This chapter describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, which is the beginning of what we often call Passion Week – the week leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The chapter goes on to detail the authority Jesus exercised by cleansing the temple, His conversations with His disciples, His justifying of His authority to the chief priests and elders and two parables to show the religious leaders that they were rejecting the Son of God.
2 – A donkey symbolized humility and peace. Many who were awaiting the Messiah expected a triumphal entry in the sense of a decorated King riding on a horse. Jesus showed that His Kingdom was not of this world.
8 – Spreading cloaks on the ground was a way of showing respect and honor.
12-17 – Jesus was indignant that the temple was being used as a place to get rich by ripping people off. He demonstrated his anger and showed his authority by forcing the dishonest business transactions to end.
18-22 – Jesus may have used this incident as a parable of judgment, with the fig tree representing Israel. Jesus also used it to remind his disciples of the power of believing prayer.
28-32 – Jesus is teaching that what we do is more important than what we say we will do. Following Him requires action and not just lip service.
35-37 – The tenants in this parable are the Jews. The servants represent the Old Testament prophets, many of whom were killed. The son represents Christ, who was condemned to death by religious leaders.
41 – “Other tenants” refers to Gentiles, to whom Paul turned when the Jews (God’s chosen people), for the most part, rejected the gospel. By the second century the church was composed almost entirely of Gentiles.
THINK: Jesus does not mince words with the religious leaders in Matthew 21. He makes it clear through His action in the temple, his words to the fig tree and his message through two parables that knowing God is not just about knowing religious lingo. The Pharisees in Matthew 21 considered themselves holy, God-fearing men. And yet when they are face to face with the Son of God, they didn’t even recognize him. That sure makes me think… Would I recognize Jesus were He to enter my city?
I know a lot about His Word. I’ve even memorized many verses. But would I know Jesus? Have I walked in His steps enough to see His footprints and know without a doubt that those are the feet of my Jesus? It’s easy to read these passages and think of the Pharisees as idiots. Until I realize how quickly I can fall into their same routines – talking the talk without walking the walk.
When Jesus condemned the fig tree in verse 19, he condemned a fruitless life. In verse 43, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” I want to be fruitful and I’m sure you do too, so we must daily choose to actively allow Christ to live through us.
It’s easy to say, “yes I will love others,” or “no I will not slander others” but bearing fruit requires action – demonstrating that love to others by giving up what I have to meet their needs and actually biting our tongues! So often we say yes, but our actions say no. This is exactly the behavior that Jesus condemns.
We need to ask Jesus to take the blinders off our eyes so we can see the way he sees. Then we will be able to truly understand and imitate his character without being blind to our own sinfulness and lack of action. Ask God to open your eyes, to show you where you need to act instead of just talk.