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Matthew 21:1-46

Last Updated 2/27/05


And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?  Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.  And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

5  thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass ...

One of the problems posed by the Tenakh's prophecies, regarding the Messiah, is that He would arrive both on the back of a donkey as well as in the clouds of glory. As it did not seem possible for one person to fulfill both prophecies, there developed a theory that if the people were righteous, Messiah would come on the clouds, if they were not, He would arrive on a donkey:

Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a - R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. it is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it! — if they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee . . . ] lowly, and riding upon an ass! — if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass.

However, even the Talmudists recognized that Scripture did not truly offer an "if-or" option, hence the idea of two Messiahs came into being. The first, Messiah ben Joseph would be more of the humble suffering servant. He would in fact be killed. The second, Messiah ben David, would come, avenge the death of Messiah ben Joseph and usher in the Millennial Kingdom.

8 others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.

The cutting of branches alludes to the feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles), most closely associated with the coming of the Messianic era (See comments on Matthew 17:4).

Leviticus 23:39-42- Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths.

It is clear from the behavior of these people that they thought Yeshua was at least a great prophet, if not the Messiah.

9 Hosanna to the son of David

The term "Hosanna" is Hosheanu, meaning, "save us." The cry of the people (Hosheana, ben David), is also tied to Sukkot. The 7th day of Sukkot is called, Hosheana Rabba, meaning "the great save us." As mentioned earlier, "son of David" is a Messianic title.

Interestingly, the time of this occassion is the spring and not the fall, (when Sukkot takes place). Also, even though Yeshua is the final Yom Kippur sacrifice (another fall feast), He was killed in the spring on Pesakh (Passover). The resolution to this lies in deeper levels of study (at the Sod level) and will be addressed more fully in our Revelation study. Suffice it to say that although the feasts of God seem separate and unique from our point of view in this physical world, in the spiritual realm there is less distinction and far greater unity (enabled by the Messiah).

The Zohar1 says of the Lord's feasts, that they are all unified in the great Sabbath to come, the thousand year Millenial Sabbath, (referred to as "her" in the text below):

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 133b - ‘From all of these we take "the heave offering of the Lord" on each of these special seasons, in order that it may rest upon us: on Passover by means of the paschal lamb, on Tabernacles by means of the tabernacle, and so forth. The six Days [Feasts] are but a preparation for her. As they are united above in "One."

13  ye have made it a den of thieves.

The people were required to make offerings at the Temple. As it was too difficult for those living far away to bring animals with them, they would instead purchase the animal when they arrived at the Temple. Also, it was not permitted to use pagan money to make offerings (or pay the Temple tax), so coins would be evaluated and exchanged for shekels. The men providing this service had found it too easy to cheat people however, and it is for this dishonesty that Yeshua drives them out.

The verse Yeshua quotes is from both Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7. As the prophets state, the Temple of the Lord was to be a house of prayer for all nations, thereby including gentiles into the faith of Israel. The actions of the money changers were a perversion of justice, taking advantage of people, which is a perversion of the essence of God's Torah. By such evil works, the name of the God of Israel would be blasphemed among the gentiles. This acted against God's Temple being a house of prayer for them, in fact keeping salvation from the gentiles.

As Paul similarly wrote of some of his fellow Jews:

Romans 2:23-24 - Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

16  Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

Yeshua quotes Psalm 8, which is highly Messianic in its nature, thus offering the people a "hint" as to who He was:

Psalm 8 - O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

19  And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

There is a deep, "hidden" signficance to this brief encounter with the fig tree, having to do with Israel's lack of faith. An interesting comparison can be made to an ancient Hebraic mysical text, which speaks of the "attribute" of God that abides with Israel (also referred to as the Shekinah):

When Israel diverges from God's way, then this attribute is found to be lacking, meager and low. She is like foliage whose leaves have shrivelled in a garden without water. Then she is like a tree whose fruit has fallen off ... 2

21  if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed
22  whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

As God would not want all of us hurling huge mountains about, it is easy to see that there are deeper meanings to these verses.

First, if we take these verses at a more literal (p'shat) level (even considering the allegorical terms of "mountains" and "seas"), it would seem that great miracles should be "commonplace" among those who are righteous in God's sight. As this is not the case today, one has to ask what the problem is.

The answer may be found in another statement made by Yeshua:

Luke 18:8 - Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

As "faith" is defined by God in terms of a relationship with Him based on His instruction, His Torah, (i.e., Deuteronomy chapter 6, Luke 18:18-22) and the majority of those claiming to follow His Messiah today preach that they are "not under the Law," (i.e., not submissive to His Torah), then Messiah's words are a indeed frightening prophecy. (See notes to Matthew chapters 5 through 7 on Torah as part of faith.)

There is a deeper meaning to these verses however, that is actually applcable to their imediate context. The question must first be asked, What is the purpose of Messiah's teachings in these surrounding chapters (21-23)? As we are seeing, Yeshua is both, a) rooting out the false teachings (leaven) of the religious leadership, and b) presenting the offer of the Kingdom to His people. (See Isaiah 61 as well.)

The metaphorical terms "mountains" and "seas" have to do with leaders and the spiritual abyss. As Yeshua points out in these chapters, the Pharisees were actually keeping people away from the Kingdom of God through their teachings (though the people were at fault as well for allowing them to do this). Yeshua is thus instructing His disciples that with faith, not only can the falsehood of the Pharisees be overcome (the mountain being tossed into the sea), but the Kingdom itself can be ushered in, (where "miracles" will be commonplace, i.e., "whatever you ask you will reveive.")

Verses 23-27

Here Yeshua begins to reveal the character of the Pharisees to the people. Much of what He states in His parables is directed to them, though the people who tolerated their leadership are not without accountability.

43  The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation

This verse, in conjunction with verse 19 (the fig tree) is often used to teach that God changed His mind and did away with the faith of Israel (as given in Torah), and began something new (i.e., "the Christian Church"), about the time of Acts chapter 2.

The reality is that God did not do away with His Torah (i.e., Matthew 5:17-21, Romans 3:31), but the offer of the Kingdom, along with the task of spreading the news of Messiah, did indeed "pass from" Israel proper, to the nations (via the faithful Jewish remnant in the diaspora), after Yeshua's death -- though not for long. (Much of chapters 9-11 of Paul's Romans letter addresses this.)

The offer of the Kingdom through Messiah was indeed intended for Israel and not the gentiles:

Matthew 10:5-7 - These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 15: 22-24 - And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The seeds for what was to come indeed began in Acts 2, but not as the Christian church depicts. Here we find Jews (not "Christians") gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Shavuot. The Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) decends on these Jewish followers of Messiah as an indication that God's will and intent were being served through those who trusted in Yeshua. (This experience was similar to that of Mount Sinai. Our Revelation study goes into much more detail about this.) These Jews then returned to their homes throughout the Roman empire, continuing in their Torah-based faith, with a knowledge of Messiah in Yeshua and empowerment of the His Ruach.

We know that the Kingdom offer had not completely been taken away from Israel at the time of the events in Acts 2, for we see Peter extending this to His Jewish brethren, following the events of that Shavuot in the very next chapter:

Acts 3:12-26 - And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

We also see Paul continue to teach that this offer of salvation/Kingdom was for the Jew first:

Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Israel did not heed the warnings however. This was followed by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and subsequent Roman war of 132 AD. During this approximately 100-year time period, a process began whereby the baton of Torah-based Messianic faith was passed along to the remaining faithful remnant of Israel in the diaspora, and those gentiles who congregated with them (i.e Romans, chapters 9-11). It was in this manner that nations other than Israel were "given" the Kingdom offer to take to the world.

It was not long however before Babylonian paganism crept in and took the place of the faith of Yeshua and His disciples, resulting in the formation of gentile Christianity. By the time of Constantine (early 4th century) anyone continuing to follow the original (authentic) Torah-based Hebraic faith in Yeshua was considered a heretic. For a historical summary of this time period, see Not Subject to the Law of God? in the YashaNet library.

Conversely, some would argue that the phrase "a nation," here still refers to Israel, but a different generation. This argument is made no doubt, with the intention to combat the aforementioned false teaching that God deserted the Torah-based faith of Israel in favor of Christianity.3

It would seem however that the context (from the cursing of the fig tree on Yeshua's way into Jerusalem, to His words as He left the Temple in 33:37-39), indicate a rebuke of Israel, (other than the faithful remnant). This has nothing to do with God's faithfulness to Israel (i.e., as seen in Jeremiah 31 and Romans chapters 9 through 11), only to their role of bringing the truth of God's Kingdom, as it will be established through Yeshua, to the nations.

In short, although the main body of Israel did not carry out its mission of the Kingdom (and has never accepted Yeshua or taught others about Him since that time), neither did the gentiles when given the chance.

1. The Zohar is a collection of ancient Hebrew texts, much of which are Sod-level commentary on the passages of the Tenakh.

2. Sha'are Orah ("Gates of Light"), Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, Altamira Press, 1994, p. 37.

3. Here we take a different view than Nazarene teacher James Trimm expounds in his book, The Semitic Origins of the New Testament (pp. 42,51) and also from David Stern in his Jewish New Testament (pp. 71,72,95,96).