Matthew 21 Questions and Answers
1. Read Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus didn't own anything so how did He get a donkey to ride?
- Jesus had 2 of His disciples go to the next village where there would be a donkey and her colt tied up.
- Jesus told those disciples to untie the donkey & her colt and bring them to Him.
- If anyone would ask what they were doing they were just to say that the Lord needs them and they would be allowed to take them.
- The disciples went and did as Jesus instructed and brought to Jesus the donkey and her colt. Mark & Luke just mention bringing a colt.
2. What did the disciples and Jesus do to the donkey and her colt? Read also Mark 11:1-11 and Luke 19:28-40
- The disciples placed their cloaks on them and Jesus sat on them. Sideways? Mark & Luke only talk about a colt.
3. Why did Jesus choose to ride on a donkey if He is the Messiah, the King?
- It was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 that their King would come to them, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He was fulfilling prophecy. Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
- If Jesus was coming as a military king to make war with Rome He would have ridden on a horse and carried weapons in His hands. But Jesus did not come to kill, but to save. He's not rich, He's poor. He's not proud, He's meek. He's not riding a great steed, He's riding a borrowed donkey's colt. He came into the world for everyone as one offering peace. We have to take Jesus for who He is, not for who we want Him to be.
- Mark and Luke both tell us, that the colt had never been ridden. Is that important? Yes, because it was an honor for someone to ride an animal that had never been ridden. To ride a young animal that had never been ridden was as if to say, "This animal has been saved especially for you." It would also be a challenge to ride an unbroken animal.
- Why did they have to take the mother if Jesus is going to ride the colt? If the colt could see or touch its mother that would be enough for it to get going and to keep in the right direction. If you led the mother, the colt would follow.
4. What was the response of the crowd?
- A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the ground, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
- The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest.
- Luke says, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Mark adds, "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"
5. What is the meaning of "Hosanna"? Who were they indicating Jesus was? Why did Jesus let them cry out this announcement?
- Hosanna is a Hebrew expression meaning "Save now" which became an expression of praise. They were crying out for salvation. But it is not soul salvation. It is military deliverance they're after. It's Passover and for a Jew Passover celebrates the deliverance from Egypt; how God delivered His people out of bondage, and captivity of Egypt. They're thinking that just as God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt in the past, He was now here to deliver them from Rome, to deliver them from the bondage of the present era.
- When people asked who this man was the crowd said He was Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Jesus was the fulfillment of Israel's expectations of a prophet like Moses. (Deut 18:15, 18 - The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.) Luke 7:16They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."
- Jesus wanted the whole crowd to be crying out that this was the Messiah so that it could never be said they really didn't have enough information. They knew what He had taught and they knew what He had done so His credentials as Messiah were overwhelming and undeniable.
- The day He rode into Jerusalem, on Monday, was the day traditionally that the Jews selected their lamb for sacrifice. And He offered Himself on that day as the lamb for the whole world.
6. How was Jesus different from what the people were expecting?
- They wanted a king that would overthrow the Roman government. But Jesus didn't come to set up a kingdom here on earth at this time.
- Many people today and people in all times want Jesus but they want the Jesus of their own devising, they want the Jesus of their own invention. They want the Jesus who walks in and says, "I'm going to solve all your problems. I'm going to deliver you from all your enemies, I'm going to make life wonderful for you," not the Jesus who having come in the city, immediately takes a whip and cleans up their dirty house. He didn't come and overthrow Rome, He came and overthrew the temple. He was saying to them, "You don't need Roman bondage broken, you need sin bondage broken. You don't need to solve your problem with Rome, you need to solve your problem with God."
- But the people wouldn't accept Jesus on His own terms, so by the end of the week, they cried for His blood and killed Him. The world is still like that. People are open to the Jesus they want, the Jesus of their own definition if He gives them what they want...health, wealth and happiness, instant healing, whatever. But as soon as He confronts the sinfulness of sin and seeks to turn the heart toward God in true salvation, they curse Him. That's not the Jesus they want. That's not the king they want.
7. What kind of Jesus are you following? One of your own devising or one who brings transformation & cleansing?
8. Read Matthew 21:12-17. Where is the first place Jesus went when He entered Jerusalem? What did He do there?
- Jesus entered the temple area - The temple area consisted of the Court of the Gentiles into which anyone might come and where this scene takes place. The Temple also had several others courts - Court of the Women into which any Israelite could go. In the Court of the Israelites is where the men of Israel assembled for their Temple services. Lastly, was the Court of the Priests, into which only the priests could enter and where the altar stood to do the burnt offerings.
- In the Court of the Gentiles 2 kinds of trading were going on - there was the business of money-changing. The temple tax had to be paid in a temple currency and as a result often the pilgrims who had come to worship were being exploited. This was like a currency exchange center where the merchants were exploiting the exchange rates. Also the selling of "doves without blemish" was a good business within the temple for they charged exorbitant prices compared to the price of a dove outside the temple walls (which were usually rejected by the official inspectors). This kind of exploitation caused Jesus to drive out all who were buying and selling at the temple. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
- This is why Jesus accused the sellers for making the Temple, which should have been a house of prayer, into a den of robbers. (Jesus was quoting from Jeremiah 7:11)
- From this we can see that one of Jesus' fiercest manifestations of his anger was against those who exploited their fellow men and especially those who did it in the name of religion.
- Jesus' anger was also directed against those who made it impossible for simple people to worship in the House of God. Isaiah 56:7 says that God's House is to be a house of prayer but with all the buying, selling & bargaining prayer was impossible. Jesus came to throw out corrupt worship and to bring in true worship.
9a. Do you think the church needs cleansing today? What do you think Jesus would do if He would come to cleanse our church?
b. Do you think our church is a house of prayer? Do you think true worship/prayer is basically ignored or even impossible in our churches? If so, what might cause it?
- If there is a spirit of bitterness, argumentation or strife in the church, worship is hampered if not impossible.
- If people in positions of leadership are more concerned about their rights, their dignity, their honor, insisting on doing things their way the atmosphere will become such that it is impossible for true worship to occur.
c. Is there is more activity than prayer in the church?
d. Are people getting right with God and confessing their sin and then because of their freedom worshipping God freely? Is worship contrived or over programmed?
10. What did Jesus do after He cleansed the Temple? What was the response?
- He healed the blind and lame in the temple. This shows that not everyone was cleared out - only those who were merchandizing. Those who needed Jesus, stayed because they saw Him as having compassion. Jesus' anger went hand in hand with the healing power of love.
- The children (probably boys old enough to attend the Passover) were shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David". They got it right as to who Jesus was.
- The chief priests and teachers of the law were indignant and asked Jesus if He knew what the children were saying. It was ok to sell animals at exorbitant prices and to cheat people but it wasn't ok to worship the Messiah in the Temple. Something doesn't add up.
11. How did Jesus respond to the indignation of the chief priests and teachers of the law?
- He quoted a prophesy from Psalm 8:2 - "From of the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise." Actual quote is: Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
- Jesus left them and went out of the city of Bethany where He spent the night.
12a. Read Matthew 21:18-20. What makes this section about the fig tree so difficult to understand?
- In the Old Testament the fig tree was a symbol of fertility, peace and prosperity
- The fig tree grows fruit buds in April and bears fruit in June and September. Mark 11:1 says it was not the season for fig fruit (a week before Passover which was April 15)
- Why did Jesus destroy a tree for not doing what it could not do?
- Here we see Jesus doing a miracle for his own ends - which He wouldn't do when He was tempted in the wilderness (turn stones into bread because He was hungry).
b. What may be a possible explanation?
- When Jesus went by the fig tree He could see something was radically wrong with it - perhaps the tree reverted to its wild state or it could be in some way diseased.
- The fruit of a fig tree comes before the leaves. And so, if you see a tree with leaves, you would expect fruit. So, the Lord came near because He was anticipating having His hunger met by this wayside tree. But when He got there, it says, "He found nothing on it but leaves only." It was too early for the fruit to have died so it just never had any. It was a diseased, fruitless tree.
- The first day He's on His way to the temple and He stops and curses a fig tree because it has nothing but leaves. It has a pretense of fruit but no fruit. And then from there He goes right in and cleanses the temple. There's a connection. That fig tree is symbolic of Israel. The leaves are symbolic of Israel's religious activity and the fruitlessness is also symbolic of Israel. They have a form of godliness without power. They have a zeal for God without knowledge, Paul says in Romans 10:2. Jesus cleansed the temple and thus He denounced their religion. Jesus cursed the fig tree and thus He denounces their nation as fruitless.
- Because the fig tree was useless/fruitless, it invited disaster and was doomed to never bearing fruit again. The nation of Israel was brought into existence for one reason - that from it would come God's Anointed One. He had come, but the nation had failed to recognize Him and eventually crucified Him. The nation had failed in its function which was to welcome God's Son - therefore the nation was doomed. Application: No one needs to be useless; and if we are useless we are heading for disaster.
- Claiming to be something without the practice is condemned. The fig tree had leaves which were a claim to have figs but the tree had no figs so the claim was false and therefore doomed. The Jewish nation claimed faith in God but in practice they crucified God's Son; therefore they stood condemned.
13a. Do you think the church or we ourselves could be guilty of not fulfilling the reason for why we are here on earth? What is the purpose of the church on earth?
- Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19
- Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. Ephesians 5:19
- To be a picture of a pure, spotless bride of Christ Eph 5
- We are to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8
- To bring about reconciliation between two believers Matthew 18
- Pray for one another Acts 12 - praying for Peter in prison, James 5:14 - for those who are sick
- Sending out workers, hearing reports of what God is doing around the world - Acts 14, 15
- Help those in need - Acts 6 where deacons began, 2 Cor 8 helping believers who were poor, 1 Tim 5:16 help widows in need and orphans - James 1:27
- To work together in love and unity using our spiritual gifts to build up the body of believers 1 Cor 12
- Submit to Christ Eph 5
- Love God with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbours as ourselves - Matt 22:37-39
b. What does it appear will be the result if we don't fulfill our mission?
- People will not want to follow Christ or be part of the church.
- Eg. Of Gandhi - when he was in South Africa he enquired into Christianity. For several Sundays he attended a Christian church but he says that the church didn't strike him as being particularly religious. They were not an assembly of devout souls but appeared rather to be worldly minded people going to Church for recreation and in conformity to custom. He therefore concluded that there was nothing in Christianity which he did not already possess and so Gandhi was lost to the Christian church with incalculable consequences to India and to the world.
14. Read Matthew 21:21-22. What is Jesus promising us through prayer?
- If we pray with faith, God will show us what needs to be done to remove the obstacle.
- Prayer is not necessarily a deliverance or escape from a situation, a removal of a tragedy or an exemption from a task but the ability to accept and transform it. Prayer also helps us to bear the unbearable and to face the unfaceable, and to pass the breaking point without breaking.
- Eg. Paul with the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) He discovered that God's grace was sufficient for him, and God's power was made perfect in his weakness, which resulted in God's glory.
- Eg. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was not delivered from the agonizing situation but found the strength to face it. The agony of the cross led to the glory of His resurrection.
- If we regard prayer as an escape or removal of a problem we will be bewildered and disappointed.
- We never saw Jesus actually throw a mountain into a sea but what Jesus asked for He received. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus said, "If it is possible... but not my will but yours be done."
- We fail to realize that where God really wants to reveal His power is through persistent prayers of His people.
- Maybe we'd be a greater help to each other if we spent more time in prayer than in giving advice.
15. Read Matthew 21:23-27. As Jesus was teaching in the temple courts what question did the chief priests and elders of the people ask him?
- By what authority are you doing these things? What things were they referring to? (the miracles He did, riding into Jerusalem the way He did, cleansing the temple, teaching, preaching, etc.)
- Who gave you this authority? Do you think they inwardly knew where His authority came from?
- Why was this an important question to them? The Rabbis had no authority within themselves - The rabbis quoted the rabbis who quoted the rabbis, etc. That's the only authority they had. To be a rabbi you had to get approval from the Sanhedrin. But Jesus had authority because all authority had been given to Him by God. He never quoted a rabbi or asked for authorization or permission from any men, only His Father and so this sets up a conflict which ultimately led to His death.
- I wonder what He was teaching about and if it caused the chief priests panic as the people listened attentively to Jesus? Luke 19:49. Perhaps that's why they tried so hard to trap Jesus and get rid of Him.
16. What was Jesus' response?
- He asked them a question back. He told them right up front that if they would answer Him, He would tell them by what authority He did what He did. He wasn't evading the question; He was giving them the opportunity to answer the question honestly.
- He asked them where John's baptism came from. Was it from heaven or from men?
17. What was the answer the chief priests and elders of the people gave Jesus? Why did they give that answer?
- They said they didn't know. Why? Because if they said from heaven (his ministry was from God) Jesus would ask why they didn't believe John and admit that Jesus is the Messiah because that is what John taught; but if they would say from men - they were afraid of the people's anger and they would lose their credibility for the people considered John a prophet (a messenger of God).
- The safest and most cowardly answer was to claim ignorance which I'm sure caused them some humiliation for their job was to distinguish between true and false prophets.
- Instead of them trapping Jesus and hurting Him, He shamed/humiliated them. This was due to their pride.
18. Therefore, what was Jesus' answer to them?
- He wouldn't tell them either by what authority He was doing what He was doing. They rejected the light that was given to them so He had nothing more to say to them.
19a. Are you ever afraid to tell the truth?
- Sometimes it is easier to say you don't know when you really do know. That is being dishonest.
b. If we know the truth are we are obligated to tell it?
- Sometimes it might just be hard to know how to say it tactfully especially if the questioner has indicated that they are not willing to accept the answer or change.
c. Are you ever afraid to admit you are wrong?
- It is more difficult when pride gets in the way.
20. Read Matthew 21:28-32. What do you think is the meaning of the parable of the two sons?
- The Jewish leaders said they would obey God and then didn't.
- The tax collectors and the harlots are those who say they would go their own way and then took God's way.
- This shows there are 2 kinds of imperfect people - those who claim to be something they really are not - (hypocrites) and those who seem to be tough and no interest in the church but turn to God in repentance. Jesus is showing that religion doesn't get in you in the Kingdom but sin repented of and forgiven will, no matter what your past.
- The ideal of course would be that the person lives what he claims he is.
- Promises can never take the place of action and fine words can never replace fine deeds.
- The second son used courteous words but true courtesy is willing obedience.
21. Read Matthew 21:33-46. What can we understand from this parable that would have been understood by the Jewish people and especially the religious leaders?
a. Who is the landowner?
b. What does the vineyard represent?
- Nation/house of Israel (Isaiah 5:7) In vs. 43 the Kingdom of God
c. Why was a wall/hedge built?
- To keep out wild boars and thieves
d. What was the watchtower used for?
- To watch out for thieves (security), for storage and a place of lodging for those who were working in the vineyard.
e. Who were the farmers (tenants) that the landowner rented the vineyard to?
f. Who were the servants?
g. What were they sent to do?
- collect the fruit/payment (what was due the landowner)
h. What did they do to the servants?
- Beat them, killed them, stoned another. It's incredible that these tenant farmers who had been given such privileges, and opportunity would have become independent and feel resentful and hateful toward the owner. They had become overly possessive and wanted everything. They didn't want to give the owner what was due to him. But the owner is so gracious and he sent one, then another and still another servant to get his payment.
i. Who was the son that was finally sent?
- Jesus. They knew it was the son - it was premeditated murder.
j. Where did they kill the son?
- Outside the vineyard. Jesus was also killed outside of Jerusalem
k. What answer did the crowd give to Jesus' question as to what the owner will do to the tenants?
- He will bring those wretches to a wretched end (judgment) and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants (replace them).
l. Who are the other tenants that the owner will rent to?
- Believers - the Church - those who have put their faith in Christ. Those who give the king His due.
22. What was the stone that was rejected but became a capstone (cornerstone)? (Psalm 118:22-23; Acts 4:10-11)
- This quote came from Psalm 118:22 -23 and David was talking about Israel then. Israel was a stone which the empire builders of the world rejected. The empire builders of the world ignored Israel. They saw Israel as insignificant and unimportant and they discarded Israel. But not so the Lord. He knew they signified the key place in His redemptive plan. So God miraculously keeps picking Israel up off the discarded stone pile and sticking it back into His plan as the key cornerstone.
- There was something even more than that in that verse. In Acts 4:10-11, Peter is preaching in the city of Jerusalem, addressing the leaders of Israel, the Sanhedrin, the same group really that Jesus is talking to in Matthew 21, "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him does this man stand here before you well. This is the stone which you builders rejected which is become the capstone." So Peter is saying that the stone of Psalm 118 is Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom they crucified and rejected.
23a. Why is the part about the stone a part of the parable?
- The stone is the son. The builders are the farmers. That's the parallel. As the farmers rejected the son, so the builders rejected the stone. If the stone is Christ, then the builders represent Israel and its religious leaders. The parallel then is between the stone and the son, and between the builders and the farmers. Just as the builders rejected the stone who is Christ, so the farmers rejected the Son who is Christ.
- Some reject Christ, refuse him and seek to eliminate him but they will always find that the Christ whom they rejected is the most important person in the world.
b. What will happen to the kingdom of God?
- Taken away from the Jewish people and given to the Gentile church who will produce its fruit.
24. What does it mean that those who fall on that stone will be broken to pieces and those He falls on He will crush?
- Jesus is the foundation stone upon which everything is built, and the corner stone holds everything together. To defy Him is in the end to be crushed out of life.
- Whoever tries to seize the Lord Jesus Christ to do harm to Him their lives will be shattered. You do that to God's Son and that's what God will do to you. He will, in the words of the Jews who responded, destroy those wicked men who seized His Son. And then in the final judgment when He falls on you, you'll be crushed/destroyed.
25. What does this parable tell us about God?
- He trusts people - He went away and left the gardeners with their task. He gave the gardeners freedom to do the task the way they wanted to. He is not tyrannical.
- God not only gave them a task to do but He gave them the means to do it.
- God is patient - He didn't destroy the gardeners after one servant had been abused and ill-treated. He gave them many chances to respond in the right away.
- In the end He judges - We are answerable to God for the way we have carried out the task God gave us to do. If we have not carried out our tasks, He will take it away and give it to another
26. What does this parable tell us about people?
- We can choose to do the task given to us or we can go our own way, which is against God - that is deliberate rebellion and disobedience
27. What do we learn about Jesus from this parable?
- He was differentiating Himself between the servants (prophets) and the Son (which was Himself)
- The parable contains one of the clearest claims Jesus ever made to be unique, to be different from even the greatest of those who were before.
- Jesus was again letting the people know that He would be dying at the hands of wicked men.
28. What conclusion did the religious leaders have after Jesus told this parable? What did they want to do as a result?
- They knew Jesus was talking about them
- They looked for a way to arrest Jesus but they were afraid of the crowds for the people held Him in high regard as a prophet.
29. How do you respond when God convicts you of something that is not right in your life?