by Frank Luke
Theme: Jesus came to Jerusalem looking for repentance. Will He find it in you?
I have heard it said on more than one occasion that you always find what you are looking for. This may work as a general rule, but it certainly wasn’t always true in the life of Jesus. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came, searching for the lost sheep, leaving the 99 to find the one that ran away. The Father seeks those who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
Jesus did not find repentance in everyone He met. Unfortunate, but true. A time when He found it the least is where you might hope it to be the most—the Temple.
As you turn to Matthew 21, imagine the scene of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. Many centuries ago, Jesus stood atop the Mount of Olives looking westward at Jerusalem. From that peak, He could easily see Bethlehem, where He was born, five miles away. He could look and see Bethany, the village where He had spent a pleasant night with Lazarus and his two sisters. The Garden of Gethsamene was close. He could also see the house where He would share the Last Supper with His disciples in a few days. However, this day after the Sabbath, He prepared to make what we call the Triumphal Entry. Yet, it certainly wouldn’t seem like a triumph in a few days.
Matthew 21:1-16 When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 “If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5“SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?”
From the mountain, Jesus could see over the city walls and to the temple. Built first by Solomon then rebuilt in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, it had stood for centuries and then been remodeled with funds from Herod the Great. Herod’s renovations looked fantastic, but changing the outside does not change the inside.
But if you were watching Jesus, you would be unimpressed by the small crowd gathered next to Him. Many were “unlearned” Galilean fishermen, held in contempt by the cultured elites of Jerusalem. None wore fancy clothes of styled raiment.
Jesus, on the other hand, would draw your eye. Not by physical presence or clothing, but by His bearing. The Son of Man was not about to be swept aside by events beyond His control. As the events to come unwound, nothing would surprise Him. Indeed, for this reason, He came.
The Message of Jesus
Jesus preached repentance for more than 3 years. Matthew 3:2 tells us how He preached “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” This message proclaimed that each believer would have to repent before the Kingdom of God could break forth in time. Jesus’ first audience understood this as a literal, physical, and political kingdom, with God ruling over the earth from Jerusalem. Now, they would be right but at the wrong time. They expected the Kingdom in their lifetime, and His disciples expected Him to set it up. However, that would be part of the second coming, a concept they did not yet understand. They expected the Messiah to begin a revolution that would run the Romans out of the Land.
The Judean and Galilean heart longed for a Messiah. That hope was deeply ingrained in their hearts. The coming Passover celebrated freedom and deliverance in the past, recalling it would happen again in the future. For those with Jesus, Him standing on the Mount of Olives in the days leading up to Passover, drove those Messianic expectations higher.
When He commanded the Disciples to get a donkey, an unbroken colt, that drove up their anticipation. Jesus was going to enter Jerusalem on a donkey, like a conquering king! Like David, who famously rode donkeys! To their mind came Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Not only were the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the surrounding towns ready, they had manpower to spare. Jewish men from all over the empire came to Jerusalem for Passover. For many, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime journey. They crowded the city.
As Jesus descended the Kidron Valley and entered through the Eastern Gate, the crowds gathered, throwing their coats on the road before Him. They waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Hosanna means ‘save now,’ or ‘deliver us.’ Remembering the Hasmonean victory over the Selucid Empire of a little less than two centuries before, they quoted Psalm 118:25, 26: O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
The people cried out for a political Messiah; they wanted Jesus to kick the Romans out and restore the Kingdom to Israel. This was not to be. They expected the Messiah Son of David to be a king like David and spread the borders. They expected Him to be like the Hasmoneans and make Israel an independent nation once again.
They did not understand how the Messiah Son of David would first have to make a spiritual way for them. Ironically, the very Psalm they referred to when crying “Hosanna!” told them this in verse 22: “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” He would be despised and rejected of men.
But He was not rejected by one participant in the journey. The unbroken colt did not flinch or buck while the crowd waved palm branches and their coats in front of him. Unlike so many of the crowd that waved Jesus in, the donkey knew its creator.
The Actions of Jesus
Scripture tells us how Jesus entered the temple courtyard many times without running the money changers out. What made this day different from all others? Repentance.
This day, Jesus came to see if repentance had come to Jerusalem and the temple. Remember, they wanted a political Messiah to restore the throne. That could only happen if the nation showed signs of repentance. What did Jesus find in the temple?
Thieves. Robbers. Devout Jews taking up space in the court of the gentiles, the only part of the temple where non Jews could gather to worship God. These Jews weren’t worshiping; they were making it impossible for gentiles to worship and cheating foreign Jews from their acts of worship!
As I said, this was a time when travelers came from afar to worship. This should have been a time of high praise and reverence. Instead, 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
Jesus found not a house of prayer but a bank. As expected, those who came from afar had to spend money in coins accepted in the temple. At this time, that meant coins featuring Herod the Great or his children. The rest of Jerusalem accepted Roman denarii, but not the temple. To make their offerings of cash, the traveler had to exchange home money for the local currency. Those at the temple changing table charged an exorbitant convenience fee for changing the money. The foreign Jew and gentile both got cheated right there.
But the cheating didn’t end there. They now had money for their cash offerings, but a blood sacrifice during Passover was expected. No foreigner could bring the unblemished animals with them on the boat. They brought money to buy an acceptable sacrifice from the next tables. Again, the Holy Priesthood Livestock Exchange (a wholly owned subsidiary of Sadducee Enterprises, Ltd.) charged unthinkable prices for their animals.
What other name than “den of thieves” applies to this place? When Jesus ran them out, He made a whip out of cords. He didn’t bring one with Him or grab it off a table. He took the time to grab cords and wind them together. Jesus was angry at the wickedness around Him.
The foundational piece of Jesus restoring the Kingdom to Israel was repentance. He hadn’t found it in the temple. Luke tells us that before He entered the city, He wept over it, knowing the corruption He would find there. Luke 19:42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.
The Triumph of Jesus
We call this the Triumphal Entry, but Jesus wept before it. He had come into His own but His own received Him not (John 1:11). He would now become the Passover Lamb, dying for the sins of the world.
Coming from the Mount of Olives, Jesus entered through the Eastern Gate, a gate that the Turks sealed in the 1500s. Interestingly, a very old Jewish tradition says that the deliverer of Israel will enter Jerusalem through that gate. Perhaps more interestingly, the prophet Ezekiel predicted the Eastern Gate would one day be sealed after the Lord entered, Ezekiel 44:1-2 Then He brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces the east; and it was shut. 2The LORD said to me, “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.
Jesus entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. He was arrested in Gethsemane, which is on the Mount of Olives. He ascended to Heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9). According to Zechariah, the Messiah will come down from Heaven and touchdown on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
On that day, He will cross the Kidron again, enter Jerusalem through those now-sealed gates, and claim His rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Then, two prophecies of Zechariah will be fulfilled. Zechariah 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” and Zechariah 13:1 “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.”
We often see in Scripture an already-but-not-yet element. That Triumphal Entry is one such example. He will return, having been wounded in the house of His friends, and restore the Kingdom of God.
Are you ready for that day? When Christ returns in triumph, will He greet you as a friend or as an enemy? Jesus said there is no middle ground. Those who hate Him hate the Father who sent Him. You cannot serve two masters. Choose this day whom you will serve.
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