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Chapter 11

 

Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem

11:1-2 Now as they approached Jerusalem, near Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

 

Jesus made preparation for his entry into Jerusalem by sending two of his disciples to bring the colt of an ass (Matt. 21:2) which they would find tied up at the place he specified. The unusual thing about this was that the colt had never been ridden before. Normally, such an animal might prove very difficult to ride; but Christ was able to tame the animal with a touch. In these verses we observe the omniscience (all-knowing) of Christ, which is an attribute of God. Only God could know where the colt would be, and the details of its history.

 

11:3 If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this? 'say, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here soon.'

 

Jesus also knew that the disciples would be challenged concerning their right to take the colt. Their answer, “the Lord needs it”, would be sufficient for the colt to be freely given without further argument. Jesus had the absolute right to use the colt if he wished, for, “The LORD owns the earth and all it contains” (Ps. 24:1).

Some commentators take what was done to the colt as an illustration for Christian life; inasmuch as the Lord has set us free (John 8:36; Rom. 6:18) and has first claim on our lives (Rom. 14:8).

 

11:4-6 So they went and found a colt tied at a door, outside in the street, and untied it. Some people standing there said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They replied as Jesus had told them, and the bystanders let them go.

 

Everything happened exactly as Jesus said it would; some locals challenged the disciples about their removing of the colt, but did not obstruct them when they knew that it was wanted by Jesus.

We too can be sure that if we receive any word from Christ then it will be fulfilled (Luke 21:33).

 

11:7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.

 

The disciples were willing to give up their coats to provide an improvised saddle and that this untamed colt was willing to submit itself under the hand of Jesus without any fuss. Are we as ready to give to Jesus and to submit our lives for his use?

 

11:8 Many spread their cloaks on the road and others spread branches they had cut in the fields.

 

If the disciples were willing to lend their coats to Jesus the people went even further, throwing their garments on the ground. Those who had no coats took what they found to hand – the branches of the trees – to lay down in honour of him; their crude equivalent of the red carpet which is laid out for royalty to walk on.

 

11:9-10 Both those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’

 

So Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey in fulfilment of the scripture (Zech. 9:9). The people welcome him as the promised deliverer or saviour (“Hosanna” means ‘save, we pray’) and king (Isaiah 9:7). These could not have been the same people who would later cry out for him to be crucified, for they acknowledged that he came in the name of the Lord. Yet it may have been the case that they believed that he had come to set up his kingdom on earth; whereas in fact he had come to impart the life of his kingdom into people’s hearts (Luke 17:21).

 

11:11 Then Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. And after looking around at everything, he went out to Bethany with the twelve since it was already late.

 

On entering the city Jesus went immediately to the temple to survey all that was going on there. In Matthew 21:15-16 the chief priests and scribes objected to him about the children’s’ praising him in the temple, but in reply Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2, “from the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise”; and in Luke 19:40 Christ insisted that if his own disciples did not praise him then the very stones would do so.

As it was already late, Jesus left the city which would have been crowded for the festival and full of his enemies to stay in the safety of a home in Bethany; probably that of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

 

Barrenness

11:12 Now the next day, as they went out from Bethany, he was hungry.

 

Just like any other man, Jesus knew hunger and this clearly demonstrates that he was not only the divine Son of God, but also fully human - the Son of Man.

 

11:13 After noticing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it. When he came to it he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

 

Nearby was a flourishing fig tree, and so Jesus approaches it, expecting to find fruit, even though it was not the season for figs. Often before the main crop of figs the fig tree produces smaller figs, and it may have been these which Jesus hoped to find. But the tree was barren; there was no fruit on it.

If these verses are taken to be an enacted parable, then the fig tree represents Israel. God had chosen Israel to be his own people and had given them his word so that they might bear the fruit of righteousness. Yet when God sent his only Son to them, he found no such fruit, but only rejection.

 

11:14 He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.

 

It was because of its barrenness that the Lord cursed the fig tree and it died. Similar judgment would await all those who rejected Christ and failed to produce the fruits of repentance and good works motivated by faith in him.

God’s desire for those he has chosen, whom he  indwells by his Spirit and to whom he has given his word, is that we might bear fruit for his honour and glory (John 15:5; Rom. 7:4). In fact, as part of this on-going process, Jesus said that God will “prune” the branches of his vine (often through tribulation) so that they may bring forth even more fruit (John 15:2).

 

Cleansing the Temple

11:15-16 Then they came to Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out those who were selling and buying in the temple courts. He turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.

 

When he had visited the temple on the previous day, Jesus had witnessed all that was going on there.  His purpose in returning was to cleanse and purify it as a place of worship. The money changers and animal sellers occupied the court of the Gentiles, which was the part of the temple which had been set aside for those of all nations to pray to God. For Jesus the spiritual act of worship was of greater importance than the outward observance of religion, which these money makers had been taking advantage of. So he drives them out of the temple, and would not permit any merchandise in the temple area at all; bringing the area back into use for its intended purpose.

 

11:17 Then he began to teach them and said, ‘Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have turned it into a den of robbers!’

 

The fact that Jesus needed to teach the Jews this suggests that they had become so used to misusing the temple that they had forgotten its true purpose. So Jesus instructs them that the proper use of temple was as a “house of prayer” (Isa. 56:7) and that it was sacrilege to use it for anything else.

 

11:18-19 The chief priests and the experts in the law heard it and they considered how they could assassinate him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed by his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

 

You would have thought that the chief priest and scribes, the upholders of the Jewish religion would have supported Jesus in this reform. Instead they tried to find a way to kill him, for they feared that the people would forsake their teachings and follow Jesus instead; in whom they saw a sincerity and truth which they did not have.

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