THURSDAY, AUGUST 6
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 21
Author: Jeremy Witt
Today’s chapter could easily be broken down into more than one day’s devotion. We read of Jesus fulfilling Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah riding into Jerusalem on a colt. We read of Jesus showing His humanity as He clears the temple. His righteous anger was on full display. We read of Jesus and a fig tree that wouldn’t produce fruit, so Jesus spoke to it, and it withered. We read yet another account of the religious elite challenging Jesus and His authority He concludes the chapter with two parables. Let’s jump in and see what stands out to us today.
Let’s start with the entry into Jerusalem. This account is found in the other 3 Gospels. Skeptics and scoffers use this account to discredit the Bible or to say that the Bible contradicts itself. The other 3 Gospel accounts do not mention the donkey at all. Why is that? In Matthew’s account, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, but it also mentions a donkey. A colt is a young donkey that is typically not been ridden or broken. This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9.
The reply to the omission is rather simple. What did Jesus ride on? It was a colt that had not been broke yet. The most important detail is what was ridden, not what accompanied the colt. By having the mother with the colt, it would make the ride easier on the colt as well as Jesus. It was an important detail to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, so Matthew included it. It was crucial for Matthew’s purpose and audience. Remember that Matthew wrote to show how Jesus was the Messiah and how He fulfilled the Law.
Verses 8-9 are important as well. This is one of the only places where Jesus’ glory is recognized on earth during His ministry. Jesus boldly rode into Jerusalem as the King of Peace and the crowds praised Him. Within this account, we must also understand the many who praised Jesus here will be some of the very ones who will be led to yell, “crucify Him” due to political pressure in a few days. When it was easy, they praised Him. When things got difficult, the crowd turned on Him. We must be careful not to fall prey to this today and under our current political climate.
Verses 12-17 refer to the 2nd time that Jesus cleared the Temple. This shows us the humanity of Jesus, His expression of anger (holy and righteous) against the greed of the merchants, and the misuse of the Temple. What was the big deal? These merchants had taken up in the court of the Gentiles. This area was reserved for non-Jews to worship the LORD. But due to their greed (charging more than required on animals for sacrifice) and desire for proximity, they were allowed by the priests to be within the walls of the Temple. Money-changers were in the Temple to change the currency from places around the world for the Temple coin used in worship only in the Temple. What these money-changers were doing was changing the exchange rate and taking advantage of the Gentiles there for worship. John tells us the first account of Jesus clearing the Temple in John 2:13-17.
In verses, 18-22 Jesus curses the fig tree. Why did He do this? Was it because He was upset that it did not give the food that we sought (hunger) or was it because of something else? The fig tree had leaves but did not have any fruit. A good fig tree would bear fruit three times a year. This tree was symbolic of Israel (Isaiah 63:7; 64:12; 65:3-7) The Lord was about to enter Jerusalem for the final rejection of Israel. Even after the greatest miracle in history (raising from the dead) the nation, the city, and the people would not believe in Him as the Messiah. The fig tree was symbolic of what was about to happen.
In verses 23-27, we see the religious rulers come to Jesus with a question challenging by where His authority to do miracles came from. They were jealous of His popularity, jealous of His power, and upset that He did not show them respect or play by their rules. Jesus responded to them in verse 24 by asking them a question, which they could not answer without acknowledging their true motives. So their response was, “we don’t know”
Jesus then told a parable of two sons, one who was obedient and one who was not. Jesus used this to show the hypocrisy of the religious elite and how those who should willingly obey refused as the son who eagerly responded but never acted on the father’s wishes. Which one are you more like?