Matthew 21:12-17 Part 1

We have just a few things left to do in these first eleven verses before we come to twelve through seventeen.  Remember that this large crowd is a representation of the remnant of Israel, which had been oppressed and scattered, and which is ready to install the “Son of David” as an “earthy” King in David’s seat at Jerusalem.

It is Passover week, forty years before the destruction of Israel and Jerusalem and the temple – which is called “Heaven and Earth” in the Scriptures.  That “seventy” years between the birth of Christ and the final “termination” of the Old Covenant nation, and the “forty” years between the Resurrection and 70AD, are important periods of time from the standpoint of the history of the nation and the prophetic utterances of the prophets; and they will become more important for us to understand as we go on.

For example, God chose the seventieth year as the year of Jubilee, and seventy years for the Babylonian captivity and seventy weeks in Daniel’s prophecy, among others.  And consider the “forties” in Scripture:  The earth was inundated for forty days and nights in the flood; after the Exodus, Israel was in the desert forty years; Moses was on Mt. Sinai forty days and nights; David was thirty years old when he became king of Israel, and he reigned for forty years (totaling seventy), and his son Solomon also reigned for forty years!  And another, Jonah gave Nineveh forty days to repent!  And there are many others.  So we need to pay close attention to the history and to the historical fulfillment as the Logos (Word) prepares to ride into Jerusalem on the colt on an ass for Passover (30AD), some forty years before the end of the age!

Jacob prophesied (Genesis forty-nine) that Judah would “bind” the ass and the colt to the vine.  And Jesus (some one thousand seven hundred years later) sent His disciples on an apostolic mission to “loose” the ass and the colt, in order that He might ride into Jerusalem to be the “fullness’ of the Word of God in all of history!

And such is our task here.  As Jesus enters Jerusalem to suffer and to be crucified at the hands of the priests and scribes and rulers of Israel, and to be raised the third day, He is the Word made flesh.  He is all of the Word.  He is all of history!

And we must make sure that we do the best we can to understand that fulfilled history!  That’s why we spend time each Sunday bringing it back together in order to go on.  And that’s why we go back into the Older Scriptures each time.  Jesus Christ is the Pleroma – fullness – of it all!

And the more we see Him as we go back to the events and prophesies of Biblical history, the more assured and content we will be that He is, now, the Lord God of history – and of the future!  He isn’t just the fullness of history; He is also the fullness of the present and the future!  Therefore, how our country is run, and how we raise our children, and how we treat our parents and wives and husbands, and how we worship and fellowship with the saints – everything in history and the future belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ!

That’s what the Gospel is!  It is the Good News of the salvation of God!  Therefore there can be no hopelessness; there can be no despair; there can be no emptiness!  The One to Whom all history points; the One by Whom the present exists; the One to Whom all the future responds – God’s Christ is come!  And therefore everything has meaning!  Life and death; marriage and the family; education and speech and work and government and law and Church – it all has meaning because of Him!

Now, as we go back to the text, God’s Messiah has come into Jerusalem riding on the colt of an ass which has been “loosed” by apostolic authority, fulfilling the Word of God in history!  And, as verse ten says,


“upon His having entered Jerusalem, the whole city was “shaken”.


The King James version says that the city was “moved”; the American Standard Version says the city was “stirred”.  But Matthew says no such thing.  The word he used is “seismos”, which you’ll recognize as the base for such English words as “seismograph” – which is a meter to measure earthquakes!

Matthew has no intention of relating that the city was “stirred up”, or agitated….  He is calling attention to the prophecy of Haggai chapter two, which says,


“…fear not.  For thus says the Lord of Hosts:  ‘Yet once, in a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the land; and I will shake all nations, and the precious things of all the nations will come; and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of Hosts… the glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former…  and in this place will I give peace, says the Lord of Hosts.’”


This is the same word that Matthew uses for the great “shaking” of the Sea of Galilee when the disciples were crossing over to Gadara to rid that pagan city of the legion of demons!

The writer to the Hebrews picks up on the prophecy of Haggai in chapter twelve of his letter:


Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven; and this – ‘yet once more’ – signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Wherefore we, receiving a Kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.”


And then in John’s Revelation, chapter eleven, he saw a great Heaven-and-earthquake which signaled the crack of doom for Israel and the old covenant.

So Matthew, verse ten of our text, uses the word “shaken” for a very specific reason here; for the effect which Jesus had on the city was the first signal of what was to come.  For Jerusalem City of God on Mt. Zion was to be “shaken” with great fierceness until not one stone would be left on another.  And the nations would He “shake” until the precious gold and silver would all flow into the New city of God – the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Well, there must have been quite an incitement of the city’s population, and all its visitors from the nations, to have these huge crowds streaming into the north gate – singing and shouting the words of Psalm one hundred eighteen, and strewing the Hosannas on the ground – Jesus riding on a young ass with people’s cloaks hanging off of it!

And with thousands of people flowing into the city, to the astonishment of everyone, there were those who were asking them who Jesus was (verse ten).  Apparently they suspected what the crowds wanted to do with Him – make Him King!  But they wanted to know who He was!  He wasn’t one of the admired and respected Scribes from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin!  He hadn’t been taught and examined and chosen by Israel’s wisest elders!  Just who was He, anyway!

And the people in the crowds would answer them, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee” (verse eleven).  This man, whom they were hailing as God’s Messiah/King of Israel, was the well-known (by now) prophet from Galilee.  And they named His town where He was from (probably with some pride that He wasn’t from Jerusalem!)  He had become well-known far and wide because of His healing and His casting out of demons and, now, His resurrection of the dead over in Bethany!  Surely this prophet who spoke with such great authority, and who exhibited control over the creation of God, and who had reversed the ravages of oppression and hypocrisy and blindness and illness, was God’s chosen successor to King David.  And they thought they were going to install Him as their King.

Now.  That brings us up to verse twelve, which is the new addition to your printed text.  And, as you can see, the next event in Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus going directly to the temple.

You will find, should you read them, that the other Synoptic Gospels have a different order of events than does Matthew.  But as we’ve seen previously Matthew isn’t writing a chronological history!  He’s writing the Gospel!  He pays very close attention to facts and details (this is God’s inspired, written Word!), but his purposes and interests motivate him on occasion (by the Spirit) to group significant events together.

And here he places Jesus’ actions within the temple (verses twelve through seventeen) in conjunction with His entrance into the city.  And it’s easy to understand why.  He is “the Coming One” at Whose entrance the whole city was “shaken” – the Prophet/King sent from God to shake Heaven and Earth.  And now He not only is acclaimed by the Remnant of God as Prophet and King, but He goes directly to the temple as the Great High Priest of God, purifying the temple.  So the “Coming One”, upon first entering the city, is manifested by His Father to all of Israel as Prophet, Priest and King.  That’s Matthew’s purpose for putting these six verses where they are.

Now, the temple and the temple compound (I’ll give you some dimensions in a minute) was the third built in Jerusalem.  Solomon’s, the first; and then the temple of Zerubbabel, built after the Babylonian captivity; and, then, Herod’s temple.  King Herod came to power over Israel (by the decree of Rome) in 40 BC.  And, in order to ingratiate himself to the Jewish people, he decided to rebuild the temple of Zerubbabel, which was in very bad need of major repairs, and which, in addition, didn’t come up to the specifications that had been given to Moses at Sinai!

In about 22 BC Herod began to completely tear down the old temple, stone by stone and board by board; and, for the next nine and a half years, eleven to eighteen thousand people were constantly employed in rebuilding it.  And to make it more glorious than it was (as specified by God), Herod enlarged much of it and gave it more height!

And the court around the temple buildings, according to Josephus, was doubled!  In fact, at the time Jesus entered the city here in our text, it hadn’t been finished very long!  It took another thirty-five years after the temple proper was built in order to complete it – with terracing (down the sides of the dome of the rock) and steps and colonnades and a great wall around the entire compound.

According to the histories, the court was almost square, with at least two of the walls six hundred and six feet long.  So the court of the temple was almost nine square acres.  I’m not going to describe the temple itself in all of its height and beauty and gold overlays and elevated altar; I just simply want you to get an idea of the size of the court which Jesus entered – with this multitude of people!  It was acceptable for even Gentiles to enter this outer court, so it must have been thousands and thousands of people who poured into the temple compound!  Probably all of those who were following Him went in!

And what was found all over the temple court was people doing business; maybe even up the steps thirty feet into the temple itself – and it’s outer porch and courts!

Jerusalem was already an international trade city on a well-traveled trade route.  And at times such as the annual Passover, there were people everywhere, from every nation on earth.  And in order to get business done, pay the tithes, pay the head taxes, and buy things, the different currencies had to be exchanged for Jewish money.  So the money-changers had set up shop in the temple court and even up in the temple in order to facilitate that!  And, apparently, as it is easy to do in exchanging foreign currency, the exchanges were greatly weighted to the Jewish currency!  So the people were getting “ripped off” right in the temple!  The money-changers were petty thieves getting rich off of visitors – all sanctioned by the Jewish and Roman authorities, and there is some historical evidence that the priests themselves were a part of the system in order that they could make a profit!  (Thou shalt not steal – case laws of weight and measures)

Among the items in great demand at the temple (other than food and drink and souvenirs and carnival-type booths) were the birds!  The Hebrew word is “Turtur” (for turtle dove).  It was called simply a “turtle”.

In the Law of the sacrifices (all with great significance to the Lamb of God), those in poverty could forgo the bullock or the lamb for the whole burnt offering, since they didn’t have anything, and just bring two doves for an offering.  These were generally live, and were killed by the offerer or by the priest who received them.  But the point is that, for the poor, a substitute was acceptable, by the grace of God, for the whole-burnt offering and for the sin offering.

But in the time of Christ, things had degenerated to such a degree that a family’s whole burnt offering before God could just be “bought” right outside the temple!  Whether the offerer was rich or poor, large or small, one could just go up to one of these tables where live birds were being sold, buy some, and go offer them to the priest for whole-burnt offering!  It didn’t take any planning; it didn’t required any trouble in getting an animal to the temple from afar; you didn’t have to take something out of your own herd; you hardly had to do anything except to “buy” an offering and go offer it!  (At exorbitant prices of course!)  And people got rich selling birds to people who didn’t want to go to all the trouble of making an acceptable offering for their sin.

And, again, these were the deplorable conditions that were tolerated and accepted by the scribes and temple priests and other authorities of Israel, and even a system set up by the priests themselves.  Of course, we know that religion had degenerated to such a degree that this whole nation was demon-infested, and the temple itself was completely desecrated.

But these things were what Jesus and the great multitudes of people saw when they entered Jerusalem late that afternoon on the first day of the week.  A carnival-like atmosphere with people everywhere, buying and selling everything conceivable, lots of money being exchanged, food and drink everywhere, and birds – lots of birds!  And the same was true in the temple courtyard, and up the steps and into the porch and outer temple court!  It was going on everywhere!  Passover had turned into Mardi Gras!

But the High Priest and Lamb of God foreshadowed in all the sacrifices was coming in, and He entered into the temple itself and saw what was happening with the priests and the offerings and the ones making the offerings; He saw the desecration of the entire sacrificial system; He saw into the heart of the temple itself (as Ezekiel was allowed to see), and He saw the abominations.  He was the Passover Lamb, and the Glory of God had not yet departed the temple – and would not until the Lamb offered Himself a ransom for many.

And He began throwing out those who were selling and buying in the temple, and throwing down the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the sellers of the doves.  The Covenant people of God had become worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Son of God was angry.  The profaning of all of that for which He was the Fullness was more than He would endure.

And for fear of the very large crowds, the priests did nothing and said nothing.  The temple guards weren’t called, as far as we know.  The Roman soldiers weren’t called to quell the disturbance.

And Christ, the High priest of God, was committed to His office of purifying the temple of its disgraceful pollutions.  And in doing so (or the reason for doing so) He foreshadowed the purity of the New Temple which He, Himself would build.  His Own Body – the Church.

We’re going to stop here and pick up next time with Jesus’ quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah and say some more things about the purification of the temple, and we will get to the questioning of His authority by the priests and scribes.

But we are worse than stupid if we don’t groan and burn with grief at the pollutions in the Churches today.  Not that we should rush out, by imitation of Christ, and begin destroying property in those places that all of us know.  Our weapon is to speak the Word of God – not to take on authority that isn’t ours.  We are not the High Priests of the Church!

But – we are remiss in our duty when we remain silent when the occasion arises to speak.  We preach and we confront; we teach; and we wait on the Spirit of Christ, our High Priest, to keep His New Temple clean.  He has died for it; and it is Hid body, and He will continue to purify it in due time.

We pray this morning that there be no profaning, lying, abominable thing to desecrate the fellowship and unity of His Church.