In this intriguing passage, Jesus enters Jerusalem in a precise fulfillment of prophecy. It's an exciting study, where those who know they need forgiveness find refreshment and hope—and those who rely on their own righteousness receive a stern rebuke.
From its opening genealogy through its careful record of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, Matthew's gospel forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In this in-depth study by Pastor Skip Heitzig we'll consider Jesus' ancestry, birth, public ministry, death, and resurrection, and we'll gain a clearer understanding of Jesus as both Messiah and King.
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Hebrew terms: לשנה הבאה בירושלים; Leshana haba'ah b'Yerushalayim; שבעים שביעיות; Shebuim Shevim - seventy sevens; מָשִׁ֣יחַ נָגִ֔יד; Mashiach Nagid - Messiah the Price
Publications referenced: The Coming Prince, by Sir Robert Anderson
Figures referenced: Josephus; Artaxerxes Longimanus; John Wesley
Cross references: Psalm 8:2; Psalm 118; Isaiah 1:11-15; Isaiah 6:3; Jeremiah 7; Daniel 9:24-27; Zechariah 4; Zechariah 9:9; Malachi 3:2; Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 10:16; Mark 11:14; Mark 16:15; Luke 5:1-10; Luke 19:41-44; John 6:5-14; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 4:26; Revelation 6:17
Matthew 21 let's pray together. Our Father as we gather tonight and we give you our attention because we do believe that the Holy Spirit of God is ultimately our teacher. You have provided the scriptures in this case the stories of the life of Jesus your son as told us by Matthew of follower of Christ in those earlier years, it's a message to us it's timeless, it's the word of God, it's the scripture. There are principles that applied to us today in our situation so we pray that as part of our worship we would give you our attention. We would surrender and submit as we heard in that opening clip to the authority of scripture and let no distraction be upon us but all the attention be given to you for your glory. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
You know I've often thought about those early disciples who follow Jesus and what it must have been like especially when Jesus would tell them odd things, weird things. They begin to question why he would do that until after awhile they just learned don't ask Jesus questions when it tells you to do something. For example when they were out in the wilderness and there were thousands of people gathering and there was no food and Jesus said, "Well you give them something to eat Philip." The disciples scratch their heads and go, "We don't have any food," and one starts calculating how much money would take and Jesus said, "Well, how much food you got? He goes, "Well there's a kid here with a few loaves bread and some fish." And Jesus said, "Bring them to me." They're thinking, "Bring them to me, what's that about?"
What are they among so many, was their rebuttal or the time when Jesus was sitting in the boat had just preached a message and then he said, "Peter launch out into the deep that we might have a catch of fish." And Peter goes, "Lord, I've been fishing all night we didn't catch anything. The time to fish is at night, it's not now in the middle of the day it doesn't work." Again a rebuttal, nevertheless that your word will just do it will humor you and they caught a huge catch of fish so that the next begin to break. Or the time when the question came to Peter, does your master pay the temple tax? So the IRS is coming now on Peter. And Jesus says, "Peter go down to the lake and catch a fish and open its mouth there will be a coin exactly the right amount to pay your taxes."
So after awhile when Jesus says, "Do something," it's like just do it, don't bug him or ask him any questions or have a rebuttal against what he said. And we come to a situation like that here in Matthew Chapter 21 in what is called the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey. He is going to make a request that they go into a village and he'll set up the scenario of what there to ask for and if there is an argument from the owners of this donkey, these two donkeys what to say an there is no argument here. They're learning their lesson when Jesus gives you a command, just do what he says.
We are now dealing with the final week of Jesus life and look at where you are in your Bible, you're in Matthew 21 there are 28 chapters in this book. Two fifths of the entire real estate in the Book of Matthew is devoted to the final week of Jesus in going to the cross. So you can see what the emphasis is of this writer. Okay, let's just catch up where as Jesus been. Well he has come from Galilee, he cross over the Jordan River to the east side to an area of technically called Perea which is modern day Jordan and he engaged in ministry there for several months. Then at the right moment he turns his face toward Jerusalem and he makes his ascent upward topographically to the city of Jerusalem for his crucifixion. He goes through Jericho you remember and he meets two blind men as oppose to three blind mice, two blind men.
One of them named Bartimaeus because he was the most notable. He healed them and then he continues his way upward toward Jerusalem ascending because Jericho is down by the Dead Sea very low, the lowest spot on the face of the earth. They are going to Jerusalem by 2,500 feet above sea level. They're coming in climbing up the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and they come to two towns. One called Bethany and the other called Bethphage. Bethany is where Lazarus lived and Mary and Martha that's where Jesus would often stay when he would come to town. The other city right next to it Bethaphage means "the house of figs" located both of them a couple miles outside the old city walls of Jerusalem.
And so we begin in Verse 1, "Now when they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage which mean house of figs in Hebrew at the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus sent two disciples saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt that is a young donkey, with her, loose them and bring them to me. And if anyone says to you or says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them," and immediately he will send them." Now wouldn't this be great if it worked for other things like a car? You could just go to the lot, pick one out and say, "I want this one the Lord has need of it." "Here's the keys men." How cool would that be? Or groceries, "The Lord has need of these."
But something that you should make a note of the story that we're reading, this triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is mentioned in all four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John take this story and tell it in their version giving slightly different details in each, but you get the composite by all four. Now that's not worthy because we've discovered already that so often the gospel writers would write about certain things and leave out stories or events, but here is an event that all four gospel writers tell us which tells me that God wants us to get this story. You know sometimes the Lord would repeat things twice for emphasis verily, verily I say unto you. In Greek, amen, amen which means, "Hey listen up." And then every now and then the Lord would repeat something three times like in Isaiah 6, holy, holy, holy came to message of that vision that Isaiah saw.
So that one attribute God wants you to know about him is what? That he is Holy. But when God repeats something four times you got to know he wants you to understand it. So this is Matthew's rendition. "All this was done" Verse 4, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, 'Tell the daughter of Zion behold, your king is coming to you lowly and sitting on a colt," a donkey a colt the foal of a donkey. So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them and they brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them and sat him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road, others cut down branches from trees and spread them on the road and then the multitude who went before and those who followed cried out saying, "Hosanna to the son of David blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."
Now just soaked it in for a moment, this is an historic moment. This is a prophetic moment. This is something that had been anticipated or should have been anticipated by the entire nation of Israel and I tell you why in a moment.
All right the season is what feast? Passover. At Passover the city of Jerusalem would swell Josephus tells us sometimes to five times its population base. In the writings of the historian Flavius Josephus he says that one Passover around this era 256,000 lambs were slaughtered in the temple courts. That's a quarter of million lambs. The Jewish minimum was 10 people per one lamb which would mean the population of Jerusalem if those renderings are accurate could have swelled to about two and a half million people. It was very, very crowded hospitality was big because crowds from all over came. I mentioned that Jesus often stayed with Mary, Martha and Lazarus on the other side of the Mount of Olives but sometimes he would just spend the night in the open like around the garden of Gethsemane because the Bible says he often went there to pray.
So the city was crowded and the best thing that we can think of for that is what festival on October is our city really crowd of? The Balloon Fiesta can't find a hotel room. Traffic is crazy especially early morning and evening time because of the balloons. So that's the situation going here. Now it was every Jew's dream to celebrate Passover at least once in their lifetime in the city of Jerusalem at the end of every Seder feast no matter where you celebrate it, whether it's Albuquerque, Albany, New York or Argentina, at the end you say next year bei Yerushalayim in Jerusalem. Next year in Jerusalem God willing it's my hope that one day maybe next year will be the year I'll get to go to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover. So pilgrims have flooded in.
The event we're reading took place on a Sunday we call it Palm Sunday. In the Hebrew calendar it was the 10th day of the month Nisan, N-I-S-A-N if you happen to be taking notes. On the 10th day of the month Nisan that's when the Jewish people would select the lamb that they were going to offer for the Passover sacrifice and that lamb would be prepared. As Jesus comes into the city, the crowd surrounds him and they shout out a word that's familiar to us, "Hosanna!" It comes to us from Psalm 118 it's a messianic Psalm, Hosanna means deliver or saved now Lord. Help us Lord, deliver us Lord, save us now, do for us Jesus what our religion has been unable to do you are the messiah, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord the son of David. They recognized him as their messiah.
Now that sounds really promising except a few days later no doubt many of the people in the same crowd are going to be the ones that will shout out "Crucify him, crucify him." So crowds can be very fickle but at this point they're recognizing that he is their messiah, that's their hope. Now keep in mind the reason they would go from Hosanna to crucify him is because Jesus didn't give him what they wanted. They wanted deliverance from Rome. They want a physical deliverance from the yoke and bandage of Roman oppression. They didn't want to crucify its savior and die in for their sins. They want real tangible help overthrow the Roman government and you're the guy. That's their hope as he comes in.
Now he is riding on a donkey, why? Is it because he is just tired? Is it because he said, "Boys I've always wanted a donkey ride into Jerusalem, they're cool." No, Matthew tells us the reason is to fulfill what was anticipated a prophecy by the prophet Zechariah. In Chapter 9 of that little book in the Old Testament Zechariah Chapter 9 Verse 9 is the announcement. "Shout Oh daughter of Zion for behold your kind is coming to you, he is lowly and having salvation riding on a donkey, a colt the foal of a donkey." So it was predicted that he would come this way.
Something that is helpful to know is that often times kings when they were fighting a battle or had one victory through a battle would come on a white horse. If they were going to war they would go on a horse a charger. But if it was times of peace or offering peace the king would sometimes come in a lowly fashion like the common people on a donkey. So here is Jesus coming at his first coming on a donkey offering salvation bringing terms of peace to the world. At his second coming Revelation 19 tells us Jesus comes on a white horse to make war and to stop the rebellion against God that will take place during that period of time. So at his first coming he comes in peace at his second coming he will come to judge and make war. Something else you need to know that's not recorded here, it's going to be recorded, it is recorded in Luke's gospel but who knows when we'll get to that. So let's just cover same event.
Luke tells us that when Jesus comes in on the day we're reading about. He whips over the city of Jerusalem and he makes a proclamation that he is holding the nation accountable to know that day that had been predicted. In Luke 19 it reads that Jesus said, "If you have known even you in this your day the things that make for your peace but they are hidden from your eyes and now your enemies will come in and cast and embankment around you and close you in on every side predicting the fall of Jerusalem that will happen in 70 A.D." Listen to what he says, "Because you did not know the time of your visitation." Or NIV says, "Because you didn't know the time of God coming to you." So he said you should have known what date it is, you don't know what day this is, you're going to be judged because you didn't know the time of your visitation. What day is he speaking of? What time is he referring to?
Now I need your full attention. He's holding them accountable to be aware of a prophecy that had been given to them in their own writings in the Old Testament that predicted the coming of the messiah. Did you know that there was a prediction made that gave the exact day that the messiah would be presented to the Jewish nation? In fact, he's called in that passage messiah the prince. I'm referring to of course Daniel Chapter 9. There are four incredible verses. I would consider them the most important prophetic verses in all of the Bible. That's quite a statement. Daniel had been praying in Chapter 9 wondering about the future of the nation. He'd been reading his Bible, his devotions were in the Book of Jeremiah and you read in Jeremiah that there would be 70 years of captivity and he's looking through his calendar and he goes, "What do you know?" We've been in captivity about 70 years it's about time for us to go home 70 years is almost up."
As he prays he gets a revelation from God a timetable for their future. Now listen to what it says, 70 weeks are determined for your people, for your holy city to finish the transgression, to put an end of sin, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to see a lot vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know this and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to build and restore Jerusalem until messiah the prince shall be 483 years. Now just think about that. Are you with me so far? A prediction has made that a commandment will be given and from the very date that the commandment is given 483 years will pass called in Hebrew 69 weeks, because it says 70 weeks are determined in Hebrew it's Shavuim Shevim which literally is seventy-sevens and almost every scholar looking at that says it refers to weeks of years or sets of years.
So once a gain keep in mind a prediction is made that a commandment will be given to restore and build Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. They've been in captivity for 70 years. Daniel gets the revelation that a commandment will be given in the future to restore and build Jerusalem and from that time on 483 years or 69 sets of seven will transpire until Moshiach is in Hebrew Nagid, the messiah the prince. Then it goes on to say in that prophecy in Daniel most amazing prophecy, "Then the messiah will be cut off or were killed," very explicit. It's a curious prediction and it's a prediction that got one scholars researching it. And the scholar that I am talking about was a guy who used to be head of the criminal division of Scotland Yard his name is Sir Robert Anderson. He wrote a pretty thick book called, "The Coming Prince" it's all mathematical computations.
He says and it goes back in history and he finds the date that Artaxerxes Longimanus made the decree that the Jews can build not only the temple but the entire city rebuild the city as well as their place of worship. And that date is clearly fixed in history as March 14, 445 BC. So Sir Robert Anderson took out -- I was going to say his calculator he didn't have it back then, his pencil and his little brain and he started counting 483 years from March 14th, 445 BC. Now he reckoned not 365 days per year and that's how we count our years 365 and a third day that's the Julian calendar. But when the Bible was written they weren't working off the Julian calendar but the Babylonian calender of 360 days per year.
So the first thing that Anderson did was to calculate 483 years using 360 day years, he accounted for leap years and et cetera went all through history and it's in his book. And he came up with this, 173,880 days is precisely 483 years or 69 sets of seven. So he started counting from March 14, 445 BC, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, don't worry I won't go -- 173,880 days. And the 173,880th day just happened to be April 6, 32 AD or the 10th of Nisan when Jesus said to his disciples, "Go on to that village and get me a donkey." I'm fulfilling not only Zechariah 9:9 But Daniel Chapter 9.
Know this and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem until the messiah the prince will be 173,880 days exactly. It's an amazing book, it's an amazing prediction. No wonder Jesus said, "If only you would have known the things that make for your peace in this your day, you didn't know the time of your visitation." He held them accountable to know that date.
And so he whip for the city because he knew what would happen in their future when the Romans would take it over. Verse 10, and when he had come into Jerusalem all the city was moved to saying, "Who is this?" So the multitude said, "This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee." Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the sits of those who sold doves.
Now it could be that tonight here in this room we have some very clever well-read Bible students. And we just read that passage you go now, "Wait a minute Skip, I do remember you teaching the gospel of John recently."
And according to the gospel of John Jesus drove out these moneychangers in the temple at the beginning of his ministry. And here Matthew says it happened at the end of his ministry. And you might be even saying, "Uh-huh, contradiction." That wouldn't be wise because John records the incident that happened at the beginning of his ministry Matthew, Mark and Luke the synaptics record the incident that happened at the end of his ministry. There were two separate incidents. Jesus came representing his father as the Lord of the covenant, I'll explain that term in a moment at the beginning of his ministry they didn't learn their lesson, he comes again at the end of his ministry. Slightly different variations, same idea, he comes in and overturns the tables of the moneychangers and the sits of those who sold doves.
Now is Jesus just having a bad day? Is this like, "Well his got real anger issues this messiah." He needs to take the class when good men get angry, not at all. The Bible says be angry and sin not, Jesus was not exhibiting sinful anger but rightful righteous anger. He's exercising his rightful authority as the messiah of Israel, God's representative over God's house.
Now listen to what Malachi said, remember Melachi the last book in the Old Testament that predicted the coming of John the Baptist. It said this Melachi 3, "And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple even the messenger of the covenant and he will set as a refiner and a purifier." This was all predicted. He had divine prophetic rights to come and he did twice at the beginning and at the end of his ministry. "The Lord whom you seek will come to his temple even the messenger of the covenant." That's who Jesus was.
Okay here's the deal, just so you understand why Jesus would this like, "Man this is radical," sort of like Billy Graham came and he just start to push in pulpits over in churches. Here's the deal, people would come to Jerusalem, I said it was a dream of every Jewish person to go there for Passover at least once. He would go up there and sometimes he would bring animals, sometimes they wouldn't bring an animal. Not to worry as Apple would say, "We have an app for that." And sometimes they would come but didn't have the right kind of currency because they came from a foreign country and so once again not to worry, "We have an app for that."
They would sell you an animal in the temple for instance for a lot more than you could get it anywhere else at an exorbitant rate. And if you had different money then the money that was accepted there's only two types of money that was accepted the temple coin minted in Jerusalem and the Galilean shekel or the Tyrian shekel it was called because of the amount of silver in it. But if you need to get the right coin they will charge you interest and the amount of interest is the equivalent of about two hours worth of work for a common laborer. Every half shekel that you get back in change if you have larger bills or larger coin, related in that bills, larger coin, would cost you the same amount the equivalent of two hours worth of labor for a common worker, exorbitant rates they would charge.
They were extorting people's desire to worship God. They wanted to be there, they wanted to worship God. Not only that but we are told by history that there were Rabbinical schools that taught priest how to look at lambs to see if they were clean or unclean and the training was 18 months on a special farm where they would be able to look for defects acquired or inherent. Or if you brought what you thought was a perfect lamb and you're a rabbi in town wherever you're from said it was great they might look at it and say, "Well there is a problem." "What do you mean a problem? It's perfect they told me back home it was perfect." "I know but look here, look, look, look, look," and they point something and you go, "I can't see anything." "I know but I've been trained I can see it."
"I'm sorry we can't sacrifice this you have to buy one of our little sheepies, our lambs." Jesus observed this it was a racket. Sort of like going to the movies you know you pay $10 for the ticket but popcorn and a Coke is what? $250 bucks. It's crazy by the time you have a night out of the movies and they know they got you, am I right? It's not worth even a half of what they charge at the movies. Okay I'm done there.
Now when I read the story I think of something that Charles Wesley wrote in the 1700s, it became a song and it became a very popular little statement, gentle Jesus meek and mild look upon this little child. Jesus was meek and he was mild even said that he was and he was seen by the crowds of somebody who was meek and lowly in heart. But now when it came to hypocrites, when it came to hypocrites are those who violated the holiness of God and the desire for people to sincerely worship he wasn't gentle Jesus meek and mild. He was fatal Jesus angry and wild. He'd come at you. He'd unleash the fury of God and that's an attribute that many especially unbelievers don't want to believe that Jesus exhibit it. Oh you know be like Jesus that means just sort of rollover and say nothing do nothing, he just let anything go, did he?
In Revelation during the tribulation period the people on earth will hide in rocks and in caves saying saves us, listen to this, from the wrath of the lamb, sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Ever seen angry lamb? Look out he's got a lamb, right? Beware of lamb. You ever see that on a fence, "Lambo, attack sheep." The wrath of the lamb, yes this the Lamb of God, the gentle Jesus who one day will come back in fury and in judgment so Jesus in the temple. In Verse 13 and he said to them, "It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves." He is quoting from Jeremiah Chapter 7. And then the blind and lame came to him in the temple and he healed them. Notice the difference, on one hand he is angry rightfully so righteously so and the other hand he is very mild and meek and receives those who know they have a need and they come to Jesus and he willingly accepts them and transforms their life.
Now I mentioned that Jesus is quoting in Matthew says that, Jesus said, "It is written in my Father's house should be called the house of prayer." He is quoting from one of the most famous sermons the prophet Jeremiah ever gave in Jeremiah Chapter 7, "God says Jeremiah go stand in the temple courts in front of the opening to the temple and when people come in I want you to yell, I want you to proclaim and say this, 'Don't trust in lying vanities saying the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord." He goes on to say, "My father's house or my house God's, the Father says shall be called a house of prayer." So what you had in Jeremiah's time was a group of religious people who were hiding behind their rituals and their place of worship just like a lot of people where they say, "Well I go to church." Are you saved you asked them? "Well I go to church the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord."
I've been baptist, I've been confirmed. Do you follow Jesus? Are you born again Christian? Ritual can cover up a wicked heart. People can go through the ritual, keep the religious observance and think, "I feel good about myself. I've done this for the Lord. I am okay now." That's why God said to Jeremiah, give to him straight they can't trust in the temple of the Lord anymore or keeping these sacrifices. I've always found it interesting Isaiah's had a very similar ministry. And sorry to be hopping over the Bible but I find it helpful to take verses of scriptures, stories in the Bible and see how they relate to the whole Bible. In Isaiah Chapter 1 God says to the prophet and through the prophet to the people, "What bringing me sacrifices? I'm sick of it."
When you make your long prayers for your new moons in your Sabbaths, my soul hates your sacrifices. I will not listen to your dumb prayers anymore. I remember when I first read that, I go, "Wow, wait a minute, you're the one who told us or told them to make sacrifices and prayers on the new moon in the Sabbath, now you're saying, "I'm sick of it. I don't want it. Why?" Because it was all outward, not inward, it was all ritual, it wasn't relationship or real or authentic. It wasn't a real submission or surrender to God. It's simply outward.
So, Jesus is quoting from that famous sermon in my Father's house, shall be called the house of prayer and astound Jewish leaders would have recognized that. Verse 15, "But when the chief priest and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did and the children crying out in the temple and saying, 'Hosanna to the son of David," they were indignant.
Isn't this cool? The children, then this is that following day after Jesus came into Jerusalem the next day. The next day, Jesus is in the temple doing marvelous things and the kids are there, little children they're going, "Hosanna, Hosanna!" Where'd they learned that? From hearing their parents the day before.
Your children, our children and grandchildren watch our lives very keenly. They watch our attitudes toward God, toward going to church, toward reading the Bible, toward devotions, things we say about God or to God. They listen very carefully. Their parents the day before had said, "Hosanna, blessed is you who comes in the name of the Lord, the son of David." The kids heard that so the next, they probably just playing around, "Hosanna, Hosanna."
But it was beautiful. They were emulating their parents. It's always been a lesson to me, this verse. To be very careful how we live and what we say. Sometimes our grown up will say a certain word and then say something really lame afterwards like "Pardon my French." Excuse me, it wasn't French, it was English, everybody knows that word. But then, your son or your daughter hears that and what would you tell them? "Well, don't say that. Don't say that. That's an adult word." Now, it's a word for somebody who doesn't really have IQ, can't really think of anything but some stupid filling word like that. Hosanna, they said.
And He said to them, Verse 16. "Do you hear?" They said to Him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" Of course, now they knew what that meant. They knew Psalm 118, that Hallel song. They knew it. They knew it's a Messianic song. They knew what the crowd was asking for and now look now the kids are paraded and corrupted. Do you know what they are saying? Jesus said to them, "Yes." Have you never read? I've always love that question, yes. Hey, you religious leaders, do you ever read your own scriptures? Have you never read out of the mouth of babies and nursing infants you have perfected praise?
These kids were just saying what their parents said. They had no theological background. They couldn't read or write but that was perfect. They emulated what had been taught them by their parents. That's perfect praise and he left them and he went out of the city to Bethany back again to the other side of that Mount of Olives where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived and He lodged there.
Now, in the morning as he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, he came to it and found nothing on it but leaves and he turned to it and said, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Sees immediately the fig tree withered away and when the disciple saw it, they marveled, "I would too." I still do when I'm just reading it and they we're saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?"
Now, please don't get the idea that Jesus just like has have been dead on fig trees like, "I don't like figs." It's an object lesson. He had been to the temple. He found no fruit. He'd been there at the beginning of his ministry overturned the tables, spent three and a half years, he's back again. There's no fruit at the beginning or at the end. Now, think of that two times he went, no fruit.
In that part of the world, there are a lot of figs. My favorite area to see then is up north at Caesarea Philippi, but figs produce fruit twice. There's an early edible fruit that even comes to the tree before the leaves are fully pushed out and the early fruit is a harbinger of future normal fruit, the bigger fruit. It's an indication if you see the little ones coming out. The big ones are coming later. If you come and there are no little ones, there's going to be no big ones.
Now, Mark 11 tells us, it wasn't fig season yet. So, people read and go, "So, why would he -- he's so bumped out of the fig tree if it's not even fig season?" Because the fact that there were no early figs which would indicate you're going to have that later figs, shows that it's not bearing fruit. It's a picture of that nation and those leaders. He came to the Lord's house, the temple, the nation. They represented the nation. He found nothing but leaves and outward profession. But he found no fruit. No early fruit and thus, no leader fruit.
And so, he cursed that fig tree. By the way, there are two prophets in the Old Testament. Hosea is one, Joel is another. Both of those prophets used the fig or the fig tree as a symbol of the nation of Israel and the same sentences where those are used in those prophetic books. The vine, the grape, the vineyard which is a well-known, well-established picture of the nation of Israel and the fig tree are pictured together. So, it's a picture of the nation of Israel and Jesus pronounces a curse on that. This is an object lesson and a prediction of what's going to happen in 70 AD when the Romans come in and destroy that city. It's cursed.
Now, I don't want you to go crazy with this thought because the early church was all Jewish, all Jewish. But it was the Lord's heart to get the gospel out to the world. He said go out and do all the world. Paul went to the Jew first and also to the Gentile or Greek. When the Jewish repeatedly didn't want to hear them, you know what Paul did, he would bang his feet like knock the desk off his feet and say, "From now on, I'm going to the Gentiles and they listened." Most of Paul's fruit was in non-Jewish areas and they received the gospel more readily than the Jewish people.
Now, the Bible promises that Israel has been hardened as a nation until the full number of Gentiles be gathered in then God says, "I'm going to work again with the house of Israel." So, if you see what happens in the Book of Revelation that after the rapture of the church, I believe that's my eschatology, after the rapture of the church during the tribulation period, that's when the real outpouring even though we're seeing more Jewish believers today than ever before in the land of Israel, it doesn't compare to what's going to happen.
In the Book of Revelation, there's going to be 144,000 believers who become Evangelist who get the gospel through their lips. Imagine a 144,000 Paul, the Apostles be an irresistible force, so that a huge and numerable multitude, the souls under the altar are the Gentile and the Gentile nations that received the gospel through their witness. So, when he curses the nation, he is predicting the fall of Jerusalem and the temporary setting aside of Israel but looking for the future regathering.
Verse 21, Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree but also if you say to this mouth and be removed and cast into the sea it will be done and whatever things you ask in prayer, believing you will receive."
I will admit that this verse seems at first glance to be strange and almost like it doesn't belong here, almost as if Jesus is sort of giving us a formula. You too can curse fig trees and by the way, move mountains. So, a little background is helpful. There was a phrase in Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism, where they would call a certain gifted teacher, the remover of mountains or the up rooter of mountains. If He was particularly gifted and was able to unravel difficult passages or difficult problems, certain rabbis were called the rooter up of the mountains.
Now, the context here is Jesus is teaching how to not be under God's curse, which is faith, a life of faith if you believe. He is telling them, "I believe about removing obstacles, primarily, removing obstacles to a life of faith." Now, hold that thought. In the Book of Zechariah, the prophecy of Zechariah in the Old Testament, God predicted that the governor of the town named Zerubbabel is going to build a temple and this is what he says. "Who are you oh great mountain before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plane." In other words, nothing or no one is going to get in the way of God doing what He wants to do in building that temple through that guy, Zerubbabel.
Every obstacle is going to be removed. The mountain it self is going to be moved and become a plane. You see that figure of speech. However, Jesus does apply this to prayer, whatever you ask in prayer. So, I can't deny that he's talking about us in our prior lives, but we are not going through every scripture that we could bring to bear on this. We have presuppose that God answers all prayer that is according to his will so that whenever you ask anything that is on target with what he wants, going to be done, nothing's going to get in the way, nothing is going to be an obstacle. So, ask it in faith as James said not in waiver.
It doesn't mean that God at any whim of yours, whatever you name and claim, you're going to get. Some people treat God like he's some divine bellboy like you call him room service. You just sort of name what you want and you're back and call though, run up to the room and get whatever you need. God answers every prayer. Sometimes his answer is no. The last time I checked, that's an answer too. It might not be the one you wanted or were looking for but it's an answer. So, this presupposes that you're praying according to his will and every obstacle is removed.
Now, when he came into the temple, the chief priest and the elders of the people confronted him as he was teaching and said, "By what authority are you doing these things?" What things? "Teaching the people in the temple, overturning the tables of the moneychangers, the triumphal entry what happened in the couple of days before this." So, but what authority did you do these things and who gave you this authority? But Jesus answered and said to them, "I will ask you one thing which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things."
The baptism of John, where was it from, from heaven or from men? And they reasoned among themselves saying, "Well, if we say from heaven, he's going to say to us, 'Why didn't you believe in them?" But if we say from men, we're afraid of these guys that we fear the multitude for all Count John as a prophet. So, they answered Jesus and said, "We don't know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you but what authority I do these things." I love this. They're trying to trap him. They're trying to trap Jesus. But what authority do you do these things? Who gave you the authority? If you were to answer plainly and honestly, they would go at him. If you would to said, "My authority comes from my heavenly Father who sent me from heaven to earth as your Messiah. I have full and legitimate claim and right as the future king of the Israel and the world to do this. So they're trying to trap him.
So he's not being invasive, he's being wise. Wise is the serpent and harmless as a dove. So he brings up John the Baptist. Now John the Baptist was very notable. People from all over Judea, you remember in Jerusalem all sworn down to the Jordan River because this guy was radical. Uncompromising preacher, he would baptize people in the river, that they were used to, they were used to a baptism. By the way, baptism comes from a Jewish practice that predates the New Testament, I don't know if you're aware of that.
But you can go to Israel today and those of you who are with us you know exactly what I'm talking about as you're going up to the Southern Steps in Jerusalem on that Temple Mount there's all sorts of holes dug out called the mikvah or the mikvaot is the plural which are holes dug out that held water, where people would immersed themselves in the water for ritual purification before going up to the temple to worship, it was the baptism. They would be baptized and go worship.
John the Baptist though was different and the reason people were going to hear him because they thought he maybe the Messiah because this guy isn't saying just get wet and go through a ritual, he's saying change your life and repent. So the people regarded him as a prophet. So he brings up John the Baptist. I love it because Jesus has them now on the horns of a dilemma. We call this in chess, "checkmate". But what authority do you do these things? Check. "Let me ask you a question what do you think that John?" Checkmate. "We don't know." "Okay, I'm done here. See you." And he moves on.
Now, he didn't leave it there. He goes on now to expose their dishonesty by giving them a story a parable. Verse 28, but what do you think, a man had two sons and he came to the first and he said, "Son, go work today in my vineyard," and he answered and he said, "I will not," but afterwards he regret it and he went. He came to his second son and said likewise and he answered and said, "I go sir," but he did not go, which of the two did the will of his father? They said to him the first. Jesus said to them assuredly I say to you that tax collectors and harlots entered the kingdom of God before you.
Do you think that offended them? You know Jesus was a pastor of a church you get all sorts and notes for that one. "That was little too heavy there preacher. My friends are not coming back because you said that," for John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him but the tax collectors and harlots believed him and when you saw it, you did not afterwards relent and believe and then he said, "Hear another parable." And judging from the time we're going to have to hear another parable at another time. But going back to that first parable that we just read we'll just close on that one and give a few thoughts to go home with.
The tax collectors that he refers to, the IRS agents that nobody like because they worked for the Roman government, you know their story and the harlots that he mentions they're like the first son. They heard and they go, "Yes, it's not for me," whatever but later on they had a change of heart a repentance and they did the will of the father by receiving Christ. Whereas, the religious leaders are like the second son in the parable, that is they're not saying anything negative about John the Baptist or just saying well we don't know. We know he's very famous and he's a very controversial figure. We don't know.
But they're not willing to do the will of the father which is half men and women come to Christ his son the savior. They're not willing to repent. So out and out sinners will enter the kingdom of God but self-righteous religionists won't get in.
A couple of years ago I was invited in Upstate New York to visit a very infamous criminal called the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz. He'd heard our radio broadcast and he ask if I was in the air if I'd stopped and see him he's in the life, several life imprisonment. Notorious serial killer, movies have been made out of him, books have been written about him. He was a terror in New York years ago. So there I am in prison and right across from me I'm looking eye to eye with this Son of Sam, the serial killer who has sins given his heart to Christ, is living out the rest of his life in a prison and when he was up for a parole last time he told the judge I don't want to get out, I don't deserve to get out, I deserve death or a life sentence for what I've done.
Besides that I feel I have a very important prison ministry right here that I want to continue. He's genuine, but I'm looking at him and I'm thinking imagine telling the story to secularist or the religionist who says, "You know I've been good and upright and gone to church all my life and been baptized and been confirmed and have kept the sacraments." But it's not a repentance of heart, it's just our ritual to say to them, "You're not going to heaven, the serial killer is." That would like blow a fuse. It's the worst thing they can hear. They don't get that. They don't get that you come poor in spirit and you confess who you are and you might be like the harlot and the tax collector. I don't need that stuff but eventually you have a change of heart and you ask for forgiveness and God says I do forgive you based on what my son did come on into heaven, but the person who goes to the temple or goes to the church and goes to the ritual and trust in himself will not go to heaven.
Jesus said, "Those harlots are going to get to heaven for you guys. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him but the tax collectors and harlots believed when you saw it you did not afterwards repent and believe."
Remember Jesus said we already covered in Matthew 7, not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord we'll enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my father in heaven." It's not what you say. It's what you do when Christ changes you. You're not saved by what you do, you're saved by what he does but then you do change because he's changed you from the inside out.
Father we want to live that right there tonight and thank on one hand what a rebuke it is to the self-styled, self-promoting, self-reliant and self-righteous, ritualist and religionist but what a breathe of fresh air it is to the person who knows they need your help and who would say, "Yup, I'm a sinner and I need forgiveness." And it could be Lord that there are some who are here tonight or listening by radio, or watching over the internet who have come to the same conclusion that they're a sinner and need a forgiveness and it's the forgiveness that comes from God through Jesus Christ.
You can change that life if that person will surrender to you. The truth is we're all sinners, we've all fall in short of your glory, we all need your forgiveness, some admit it, some don't, some come, some don't. Some say nice things but don't really live or surrender to your ways, your spirit, your truth. There is no heart changed. I prayed for anyone who might be here right now. On this campus, in this auditorium, in our family room, up in the balcony, even outside or listening in overflow who doesn't personally know Jesus a savior. I pray that tonight like that first son who said, "Nope," but later had a change of heart that tonight would be the change of heart, when there would be genuine surrender and repentance. We need to experience your grace, your forgiveness in Jesus name. Amen.