STUDY TWENTY-ONE: THE COMING OF THE KING – 21:1-27; 22:41-45
© Rosemary Bardsley 2012
Right from the David connection in the genealogy Matthew has identified Jesus as the King. The values and ethics and priorities he reported are the values of the Kingdom. The parables he recorded are parables of the Kingdom.
A. TO THE CITY OF THE KING [21:1-11]
The King now comes to Jerusalem ‘the city of the great king’, the holy city, the city where the worship of Yahweh was centred – the place of sacrifice, of priesthood, of pilgrimage.
The scene that Matthew records was anticipated in Zechariah 9:9:
‘Rejoice greatly; O daughter of Zion!
Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
And in Psalm 118:26-27:
‘Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord
we bless you...
With boughs in hand,
join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.’
Jesus, the King, rides into Jerusalem. The people recognise him as the one who fulfils these prophecies. They see that he is a king, but their thoughts are full of the tyranny of Rome and the expected Davidic king who will re-establish the nation of Israel, rescuing them from their oppressors. Beyond this they do not see. They do not perceive that this king whom they acclaim with shouts and with praises is far more than an earthly king. They do not connect this man with another prophecy from the Psalms:
‘Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty-
he is the King of glory.’ Psalm 24:7-10.
Response and reflection: Make a list of the emotions, perceptions and expectations depicted in Matthew 21:1-11; Zechariah 9:9; Psalm 118:26,27; and Psalm 24:7-10.
Which of these do you personally identify with? Why?
B. TO HIS FATHER’S HOUSE [21:12-17]
Jesus came as king. Not as a national king to rescue them from Rome, but as the King of glory, the Lord Almighty.
He entered through the gates of Jerusalem, the City of God. He entered through the gates of the Temple, the House of God, the house of prayer. But even there, there in the Temple, where everything from the splendour of the High Priest to the repulsion of the blood-stained altar speaks of who he is and what he does, even there he is not recognised, even there where everything was at the one time a prophecy and a prayer for his coming. There in the Temple he exercises his kingly authority, and there in the Temple he and his authority are rejected. The teachers of the law and the priests do not see that there, standing among them. is the King of glory.
- He is the ultimate King with the ultimate authority
- He is the ultimate Priest, whose priestly mediation will make all the priests who serve in the temple redundant
- He is the ultimate sacrifice whose offering of himself is the one true and final sacrifice to which all others pointed and from which all others took their power. By his one once-for-all sacrifice he will do away with all temple sacrifices.
Think about the irony of this scene: that here is God, coming to his own earthly temple; here is the real thing standing beside the copies, the shadows, and he is not known. How does this impact you? Is there anything to learn from this?
C. TO HIS PEOPLE [21:18-27; 22:15-22, 41-45]
Matthew places the incident involving the fig tree between his records of two visits Jesus made to the temple. It relates to both, for in both Jesus is rejected by those who are supposed to be God’s people, by those from whom it would have been reasonable to have expected the fruit of acceptance and faith. This hidden meaning is confirmed by his teaching in the two parables recorded in Matthew 21:28-46; (see verses 43-36). It is also the focus of the parable in Matthew 22:1-14.
In 21:12-17 he is rejected on three counts:
- His cleansing of the temple
- His healing of the blind and the lame [which the Jewish leaders have already attributed to the power of Satan]
- The designation ascribed to him by the children
Here they challenge him: ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ as if he should have silenced them.
In 21:23-27 he is challenged on one count:
- The authority behind the liberties he is taking
Obviously the leaders of the people are remembering the previous day’s actions; it is possible they are also remembering the day before when the crowds acclaimed him as the Son of David, the king.
In 22:15-22 Jesus, the divine eternal King to whom all men are accountable, affirms the limited, temporary authority of an earthly king.
In 22:41-45 the Pharisees are still puzzling about the identity of the Christ [the Messiah], and therefore, of the identity of Jesus.