Genesis Bible Study (God's Grace To Overcome) Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven)

Matthew 21:1-17, Your King Comes


We are returning to our series on Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Chapters 21-25 record the mounting rejection of Jesus as he proclaims the coming judgment on the city for their rebellion against God. We are going to spend the rest of this summer in this section of Matthew and this study will take us into the fall of this year. As we come to Matthew 21 it is important to know that we are starting the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. Jesus is now ready to fully reveal himself to the city of Jerusalem and ultimately to the whole world. Jesus is ready to proclaim who he is to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This moment is what we call the triumphal entry which is recorded for us in Matthew 21. The whole scene is captured in the first 17 verses of Matthew 21. So it is important that we do not stop short at verse 11 but take in the whole picture as recorded through verse 17.

Jesus’ Declaration as King (21:1-7)

As we read the first seven verses we need to see that Jesus has prepared for this moment. This is not an accidental event. Jesus sends two of his disciples into town to get the donkey and the colt that are tied there. When the owner comes out and asks what you are doing, you will respond, “The Lord needs them.” Then the owner will send them at once. Jesus has prepared for this moment and wants his proclamation of his kingship to be right now. Jesus has made arrangements with the owner of these animals that he will let Jesus use them when he is ready to declare the arrival of the king.

This is what Matthew points out in verses 4-5. Jesus is putting the prophecy of Zechariah 9 to the forefront of the people’s minds. Listen to the context of the prophetic quotation.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:9-10 ESV)

You see that this is a prophecy about the Messianic King coming to Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, bringing salvation and establishing his rule to the ends of the earth. So this is a bold moment. This scripture would come to the minds of all the people who saw or heard what Jesus did. Now what will the people think when they see it?

Two Responses (21:8-11)

Jesus has not come to Jerusalem yet. He is approaching Jerusalem, according to verse 10. So we are going to see two responses to Jesus’ declaration of himself as the Messianic King. The crowd that has followed Jesus from Galilee and Judea have one response. Look at what they do in verses 8-9. They spread clothes and tree branches on the road. They are preparing the way for the king. The crowds are running in front of him as Jesus rides on the donkey, shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means “Lord, save us” and was proclaimed in a nature like “Hail to the king!” Here comes the king to save us. To call Jesus the Son of David was to call him the Messiah as promised in the scriptures. God had made a covenant with David that his son would sit on the throne and rule forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7). Jesus is the one sent by God as king to save and will rule forever. This is what the crowds are shouting. What an exciting moment! What a great hope being proclaimed as Jesus enters into Jerusalem. But verse 10 tells us that this caused a stir in the city of Jerusalem. Rather than joining in the joy they ask, “Who is this?” The crowds tell them the good news. This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee. I want us to see that there are two opposite responses. There are crowds of people proclaiming Jesus the savior and king and there is Jerusalem who are going to be unmoved and ultimately reject him. It is not this crowd that is proclaiming Jesus as savior and king that will say to crucify him. This crowd is ready for Jesus’ enthronement. The crowd that will shout for Jesus to be crucified, rather, are the people of Jerusalem and its leaders. So this is an important distinction to see.

Cleansing the Temple (21:12-14)

The crowds call Jesus a prophet and his first action as he enters Jerusalem is a prophetic action. Jesus enters the temple and begins to purify it. He throws out of the temple those who were buying and selling in there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. Now what is Jesus doing? Why is he making such a mess and stopping what they are doing in the temple? Jesus gives his answer in verse 13 where he quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

The scriptures say God’s house was to be a house of prayer. What does this mean? The purpose of the temple was not to be making money. The purpose of the temple was not to be a cover for sinning. The purpose of the temple was not to take advantage of people. The purpose of the temple was to bring all people close to God. The purpose of the temple was for God to meet his people and live with them. Now the parallel is not the church building. The church building is not the temple. But the scriptures do say that the church is temple and Jesus is the foundation of that temple (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). We, as the people of God joined together in Christ, are to be people where we draw other people closer to God. We are to be the place where God is able to meet his people. Now I hope this answers some questions you might have about us. Why don’t we sell or give out coffee? Why don’t we have a coffee bar or a snack bar? Why don’t we have an entertainment worship team? Why don’t we have barbecues? Why don’t we do fundraisers? Why don’t we try to squeeze money out of you? Why don’t we do kids camps? Why don’t we offer yoga or other social events? The answer to any of these questions is simple. We are supposed to be the place where people meet God. This is not a movie theater. This is where people should come to God without distraction or hindrance. We are not to distract people from being able to come and meet God. But this was not happening in the temple complex when Jesus arrived. Everything was going on in the temple except what should have been going on in the temple and Jesus is resetting the temple’s purpose. This is supposed to be a house of prayer. This is supposed to be the one place where our spirits are lifted up and encouraged, not our physical desires.

So why had this happened? Jesus gives that answer with the other part of his answer in verse 13 when he quotes from Jeremiah 7:11. What did Jesus mean and what did Jeremiah mean when he said God’s house had become a den of robbers? The context of Jeremiah reveals that the people had put their hope in the physical structure of the temple while continuing to live immoral lives. They were stealing, murdering, committing sexual immorality, swearing, and worshiping idols but did not think they would be judged because they had the temple. To update the idea into our day, this would be like thinking that since you go to the church building, then God is not going to judge you for continuing to live immoral lives. To state this another way, God absolutely wants us to come as we are with all our sins to him. But do not think that since God will receive us as we are with all our sins that God approves of us continuing in those sins. This is not supposed to be a haven for robbers but a place where we meet God and our lives are transformed. We come because we want to stop sinning, not conceal our sinning and continue in it. We see the proof of this in verse 14 The blind and lame are coming to Jesus and are being healed. This is to be the place where people meet God and are transformed and healed.

Outrage (21:15-17)

Now I want you to look at verse 15. The religious leaders saw the wonderful things that Jesus did and they saw the children crying out that Jesus is the savior and king that we need to rescue us from our oppression. Notice the response of these leaders. They are not excited. They are not hopeful. They are not full of praise and thanksgiving. They were indignant. They are angry when they hear what the children were saying. So they challenge Jesus. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” The implication of the question is that Jesus needs to stop them from saying that he has come in the name of the Lord as the Messiah King.

Jesus’ answer is another quotation from the scriptures. Jesus hears what the children are saying but he is not going to stop them because this is what Psalm 8 said would happen. You will notice that Jesus confirms who he is with this quotation. The quotation states that children are supposed to be praising the Lord. The implication is that Jesus is the Lord. Jesus made this implication earlier when he cleansed the temple, calling it his house. So the leaders of Jerusalem are outraged at what the crowds are saying about Jesus. But Jesus tells them that what they are saying is right. This is the irony of this paragraph. The children recognize what the leaders fail to see. The children know who Jesus is. The religious leaders are completely missing who Jesus is. Do not be indignant by what the children are saying. Believe what they are saying!


Jesus has come to free the people so that they can praise and worship the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. One of the things that is amazing about this text is that Jesus is showing that he is not only setting people free from their sins, but is also setting people free from the oppression that comes from the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Rather than bringing people closer to God, they were holding people back with the buying and selling in the temple complex, with the money changers, and with the selling of animals. The temple had become a den of robbers, a haven for hypocrisy and rebellion. Unfortunately, some things never change. The thing that Jesus rejected and cleansed from his kingdom people have tried to put back in. God save us from people who have authority as spiritual leaders and then use that position to take advantage of people while they cover over their gross rebellion. As we read in verse 14, people should be able to come and find the spiritual healing and refreshment that they need, not be spiritually damaged even further.

But Jesus was warning the people and the religious leaders as he cleansed the temple when he called it a den of robbers. The message of Jesus was repentance, not to continue how you are living your life. I was watching a documentary about a church that definitely was not doing what was right. But one of the criticisms was that the church did not accept their lifestyle. I cracked up because that was the only thing this church in the documentary did correctly. Friends, the church does not accept anyone’s lifestyle because Jesus didn’t. Jesus never told anyone in the scriptures to keep doing what they were doing because the kingdom is near. He said to repent because his kingdom is near. He never said to keep living your life the way you already are living it. He never said to maintain the lifestyle you presently have. Jesus and his apostles taught the opposite. Friends, there is no one in this room that Jesus could not look at our lives and tell us that more changes need to be made. He taught that he is the king and our lives must now change to match him. If we refuse to listen and change, then we are same den of robbers like these religious leaders were. Let me say this another way. If we are not supposed to change our lives, then why do we need Jesus? You do not need Jesus if you are not going to change. But if you are tired of your sins, if you are tired of the shame and guilt, and if you are tired of the pain that comes from not listening to your God, then let Jesus change your life. Your king has come. Come near to Jesus because Jesus said that his house was to be a house of prayer for all people to come and find healing, help, hope, and change.

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