Matthew 21:12–17 ESV
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “ ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” 17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
In our series on the King who unveils himself to the world, Jesus is at the point of no turning back in his ministerial journey on earth. From concealing his Messianic identity many times because it was not yet the appropriate time, to now, when the time had finally come.
Matthew 21 marks the unveiling of this King who is to rule the world, the heir of David, and the governance of his Kingdom shall see no end. Here in this unveiling is established the Kingdom of God for all eternity. No power shall overcome its walls and no force can break its pillars. This kingdom shall stand and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.
Now, the Jewish people were the chosen nation through whom God intended to bring salvation into the world. John 4:22
John 4:22 ESV
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
They were the nation consecrated unto the Lord, for they were the nation to whom God revealed his identity. They worshipped what they knew to be true. God revealed himself to them and they were to be the people through whom God’s revelation would be made known to the rest of the world.
Yet like selfish children, their hearts were bent on preserving all of God’s glory for themselves. They did not understand that not even death could keep him. None could cover or contain his glory.
Jesus’ entry into the heart of Israel, to Jerusalem, was not gentle. He did not come to congratulate them on a job well done. He came in wrath and judgment, not to destroy, but to cleanse. And in Matthew, he begins by cleansing the temple. We saw this in detail last week.
He cleanses the court of the Gentiles, the outer courts of all the unholy activities that the Sanhedrin had sanctioned. Some commentators remind us that it used to be the Jewish sentiment that when the Messiah would come, he would cleanse the temple of all Gentiles and that there would be no more Gentiles allowed near the temple.
Israel prided itself on their supposed exclusivity. But here we see Jesus, not cleansing the temple of all Gentiles, but cleansing the temple for the Gentiles.
Like I mentioned last week, in this incident you have the presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ, coming out of the Holy of Holies and cleansing the outer court that belonged to the rest of the world. This event is an explosion of holiness where God’s holy acclaim and his holy authority burst from within the walls of the temple and spread to the rest of the world.
Before we look at the remaining verses that testify to what happened next in the temple, let us first turn our attention to Psalm 8. It will lay for us a context that will help us understand what happens in Matthew 21.
The Glory of God & the humility of man
Psalm 8 is what one would call a creation hymn because it is a song about God’s mighty act in creating the world. It is a Psalm by David.
Psalm 8:1 ESV
1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
- O LORD, our Lord – is a phrase where the first word LORD is the name of God as revealed to Moses. It is his covenantal and personal name.
The second word, Lord, means ‘master’ or ‘governor’.
So, David’s cry is Yahweh, our Master.
- How majestic, splendorous is your name in all the earth! That’s how praises ought to begin. How great is our God! But just how great is he?
- Glory above the heavens
What made David sing about God’s majesty? Let us read on and find out.
Psalm 8:2 ESV
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
- One would expect that strength and power were in the grown man, in his independent adulthood, not with babies and infants who by their very frame are entirely dependent.
Genesis 3:15 ESV
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This verse that is known in Biblical scholarship as the ‘Protoevangelium’ is considered the first announcement of the Gospel in the Bible. Where God declares that the enemy will bruise his heel which is not a picture of a deadly wound, but the offspring of man shall bruise the enemy’s head, which is a picture of a deadly wound.
This is a prophecy of conflict where man shall prevail against the enemy.
So, when a child sings praise instead of a curse, the enemy is still. Do you want to see strength that makes the enemy still? Teach your children how to sing, and how to praise.
- Out of their mouths, you have established strength – This is God’s doing. David is overwhelmed by how God would use the praises of a child to still his enemies. David was a King who truly loved his children.
That’s the first reason for his praise.
Psalm 8:3–4 ESV
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
- David has such an exalted view of God, that he sees the stars as the work of God’s fingers. God set the heavens in its place. What mankind saw as glorious was weaved by someone more glorious.
- But note here that David does not praise God merely for these wonders, but his praise of God is because such a glorious God would be mindful of him.
The second reason for his praise is that God even considers man and the children of man.
Psalm 8:5–8 ESV
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
- Man, in his stature, is placed lower only to the angels and other heavenly beings who belong to a greater realm.
- Man is crowned with glory and honour.
- Man is given dominion over God’s handiwork – all things under his feet – animals, beasts, birds and the creatures of the sea.
The third reason for his praise is that God has placed man as rulers or chiefs over the earth, the supreme of all his creation.
Psalm 8:9 ESV
9 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Matthew 21:14 ESV
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.
One would presume that in all of Jesus’ ministry, this was the one time when one ought not to approach him. In his blazing anger, he had driven out the money changers, overturning their tables and casting out all those who did trade in the temple.
Such was the holy wrath of Christ, that not one man stood in his way. The fear of the Lord had fallen upon the people.
Yet sinners rushed to him. The sick poured into the court of the Gentiles, most of them probably Gentile.
Again, see how the Holy of Holies is now seated in the outer courts purging them of evil practices and then sanctifying them by welcoming sinners and cleansing them of their sickness.
The spiritually blind who otherwise could see with their eyes were cast out of the temple, and those who could not see were spiritually drawn to this Christ.
This marked the beginning of the end of the temple era. For no human structure was meant to contain the presence of God. The time of the temple symbolism had ended. For no longer will it be said that God is a God of the Jews, but a God of all who would call upon his name?
What the Jews failed to do, God would do through his Son to make his name known to the ends of the earth.
The time had now come when,
Joel 2:28 ESV
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
ON ALL FLESH!
The King enters the temple, seats himself in the outer courts and heals the sick and the lame.
Matthew 21:15 ESV
15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant,
- Matthew’s description of Jesus’ actions at the temple is not ‘horrible’, but ‘wonderful’.
Psalm 141:5 ESV
5 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.
There is peace in the disciplining actions of a righteous man. A good father disciplines his children. He does not spare the rod.
Proverbs 13:24 ESV
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Such discipline does not make one feel ‘horrible’. It is a wonderful thing. Jesus’ anger was not out of control. His anger was not meant to destroy the people, but to destroy the evil that had taken over his people. This is a war against sin and the forces of darkness that had blinded the hearts of his people.
- The children were crying out in the temple. The word for children here refers to young ones, the youth of the region. Here you had the next generation acknowledging the Kingship of Jesus.
- Hosanna to the Son of David. The word Hosanna in Aramaic meant “Save us, I pray”. The children were crying out in the temple that Jesus was their Saviour.
- The chief priests and scribes were indignant. This was, in the eyes of these religiously blind, the actual profaning of the temple.
Matthew 21:16 ESV
16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “ ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
- They were affected by Jesus’ refusal to repudiate what was in their minds the obvious exaggeration of Christ’s exaltedness. At the very least, they expected Jesus to correct the people of the tall claim they made about his identity.
- Jesus responds by quoting Psalm 8. Have you never read Psalm 8?
- The glory and horror of his splendour. The part that brings praise and curse. What is glorious to the Christian is horrible to the world.
The Dominion of Christ
Hebrews 2:5–9 ESV
5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
- Christ was the seed that crushed the serpent’s head. He was the man who subjected the world under his feet.
- Nothing is outside of his control. He has supreme dominion over all.
- At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
Isaiah 9:7 ESV
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
1 Corinthians 15:26–27 ESV
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.
- Christ is crowned with glory and honour
Hebrews 2:14–18 ESV
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.