1. Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,Waiting For His Time

Bethphage means “house of figs.” It was what we would call a “suburb” of Jerusalem, extending out beyond the walls about a mile towards Bethany.

2. saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

In Matthew’s account of the triumphal entry, both a donkey and a colt were used. In the triumphal entry recorded in Mark, Luke, and John, only a colt was used, and it was an unbroken one upon which no person had ever ridden before (see Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-40, and John 12:12-16.) Is this a contradiction between Matthew and the other gospels? Remember, most problems with “discrepancies” among the gospels are caused by making two separate events to be the same event. This case is no exception. This difference should be enough to tell us that there were actually two triumphal entries. Why should Jesus not have had such a reception more than once? The people who so gladly greeted his entry into Jerusalem one day would be likely to be ready to greet Him the same way the next. The party atmosphere that surrounded the arrival of the Lord would have been most exhilarating, and those who participated in it the first time would have been eager for a repeat. And the Lord seems to have spent several days of this week before His death riding into Jerusalem, teaching in the temple, and then walking back to Bethany. Why should the people not have greeted Him in a similar manner more than once? This is certainly what seems to have happened. Here we have the first entry recorded as the Lord came for the first time to Jerusalem, whereas in Mark, Luke, and John we have a second entry on the first day of the following week recorded. Thus, this entry was the first, and did not take place on Sunday, as did the second, celebrated one mentioned by the other three gospels.

3. “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

We can imagine why someone might question people coming and preparing to lead away someone else’s animals. The response that the Lord told the disciples to give shows that these were not just any two animals, however. Apparently, their owner was known to the Lord. Perhaps earlier he had told the Lord that, if ever He had need for anything of his, the Lord could just ask for it and he would give it to Him. At any rate, the Lord is confident that this owner will authorize his animals for His use, and this seems to clearly indicate some prior arrangement.

4. All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5. “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The prophecy that is quoted as having been fulfilled here was made by Zechariah in Zechariah 9:9. This prophecy is not mentioned in the triumphal entries of Mark and Luke. In John it is mentioned, but the last line, “A colt, the foal of a donkey,” is omitted. This is because it was this entry, and not the one recorded in Mark, Luke, and John, which fulfilled the complete prophecy, because it was in this entry that He had both a donkey AND a colt. Yet Zechariah had particularly mentioned, “sitting on a donkey” first, and then “a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Although no one reading it ahead of time may have been able to see it, this prophecy actually predicted two entries, one on a donkey, and one both on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey. This entry fulfills the full prophecy, whereas the Mark, Luke, and John entries fulfill the first part. There is no contradiction here, but rather the fullest adherence to both the prophecy and the truth.

6. So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

Although the Lord had instructed them as to what to say if questioned about taking the animals, no such questioning is mentioned in Matthew, so it may be that no one did question them. In the Mark and Luke accounts, however, we read that they were indeed questioned, answered as the Lord had told them to, and then were given permission to take the animals. Again, the Mark, Luke, and John accounts took place on a different day and concern a different entry into Jerusalem.

7. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

How exactly this was done is hard to say, as it would have been difficult for Him to sit on two animals at once! Perhaps there was some sort of cart or litter between the two of them. At any rate, He rode into Jerusalem on these two animals in this first entry, and on only one in the second.

8. And a very great multitude spread their garments on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Notice that there is no mention of palm branches, only that they cut down branches from the trees. What sort of trees these were it does not say. That they were palm branches is told us by tradition, not by the Bible. Moreover, there is no indication that they waved the palm branches, as is often depicted, but only that they spread their garments and the branches on the road before Him. This was a special treatment usually given to any great and beloved dignitary upon entering a city. The people were showing the greatest respect and admiration for our Lord by doing this.

9. Then the multitudes 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!’
Hosanna in the highest!”

As the people praise Him, they use the words of Psalm 118: 25-26. What a sight that would have been! But the sight will also be great when He returns to Jerusalem again in the future, no doubt. I hope that I will be able to see it, or at least to hear of it!

The great love these people had for the Lord is a wonderful example for us all. Would we greet the Lord as excitedly and wholeheartedly as these people did? And yet many claim that these same people were the ones who later called for His death! Usually, this statement is made with some measure of amazement that these people could change their minds so completely. I agree that it is amazing…that is why it never happened! These people who showed such honor and respect to the Lord would never have rejected Him and called for His blood a scant few days later. This is unbelievable, and it never happened! The ones who called for His death were not the same ones who were honoring Him here. This is a slander to their dedication and faith, and is simply untrue.

10. And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11. So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

The city does not know who this is. Remember that the city of Jerusalem itself did not have all that large of a population. The people living there numbered around three thousand, according to figures at that time. At the times of the yearly feasts, however, the population could swell to around three million! What a contrast. But the people who cheered Jesus as He entered were probably many of His followers from Galilee and rejoins around Judea, and not necessarily the citizens of the city. This is why those in the city speak in puzzlement here. They were not ignorant of Who This was at His next entry recorded in Mark, Luke, and John, however, but positively know Who He is at that point. (See John 12:18, where they “met Him.”) Thus again we see that these were two separate entries taking place at two distinct times.

12. 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 seats of those who sold doves.

The religious leaders had allowed a marketplace to grow up within the temple courts. The religious leaders could reject an animal brought for sacrifice upon some pretence, and send the people to buy their specially-approved animals at this market. Then the sellers at this market sold offerings to people at exorbitant prices. The people were required to pay a half-shekel temple tax, and these money-changers would often charge a fee for providing change for those not having a half-shekel coin. Not only that, but they demanded a special, temple coin be used when offering money to God, claiming that He would not accept Roman coin, but only holy temple coin. This temple coin, however, was given at an unfair exchange rate, and so the people were cheated again. Proceeds from this corrupt business would make their way back into the pockets of the religious leaders. They had a monopoly on religion, and believed they could do as they wished. The Lord, however, had other ideas.

This was the second cleansing of the temple by Jesus in this manner. The first took place toward the beginning of His ministry, and is recorded only in John 2:13-17. A third took place two days later in Mark 11:15-18 and Luke 19:45-46. I will have nothing to do with those who say that John was written a century after Christ lived and that this cleansing was recorded earlier there only because it fit the teaching purposes of the author. No, John was written by the apostle of that name, and the cleansing he records is just as legitimate as the one recorded here. That this marketplace would have reopened after the Lord shut it down is totally understandable considering the corruption of the Pharisees. That the Lord would shut it down again upon returning to the temple is also totally natural. The only problem here is in the thoughts of those who have already set their hearts against the truth of Scripture and closed their minds to faith.

This cleansing did not last long, as the sellers and money-changers returned two days later. Notice that this cleansing took place before the cursing of the fig tree in Matthew 21:19-22, but in Mark another cleansing took place after that curse (see the curse in Mark 11:12-14 before the casting out in Mark 11:15-17.) Thus we see that the changers, perhaps reassured and goaded on by the Pharisees and religious leaders, returned to attempt to ply their trade again, and again were driven out.

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.’”

The Lord quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 here. He combines these two passages to show what the religious leaders and their moneychangers and sellers had done.

14. Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

Having cleansed the temple of those who did the corrupt work of the Pharisees, the Lord is now able to do His Own work there. And whereas the work of the religious leaders was to cheat and harm the people, the Lord’s was to heal and help them. What a difference between the work of God and the work of the religious! Often we can see the same contrast around us in our day.

15. But when the chief priests 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

The things that He did were wonderful. This is the last set of miracles done by the Lord before His death, as no miracles are mentioned after the entries in any of the other gospels, and He had predicted that His miracles would come to an end (Luke 13:32.) Perhaps these miracles were particularly special or amazing.

The chief priests and scribes were seeing all of the miracles Jesus was performing just as the people were, and should have known that the children were speaking rightly in what they were saying of Him. Jealousy blinded their eyes, however, and they responded in indignation. No doubt the reaction of the religious leaders of our day would be much the same if Christ were to pay a visit to our hometowns! I hope that the response of the common people and children would be as enthusiastic as the response of these people and their children. I think it would be.

16. and 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 babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”

Christ approves of the children’s praise, quoting Psalm 8:2 in support of what they were saying. Indeed, the Lord receives some of His greatest honor, not from the wise and knowledgeable, but from the children and all others who offer Him their simple praise.

17. Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

The Lord Jesus returned to Bethany at the end of the day, as I pointed out earlier. Later, He made a second triumphal entry, recorded in Mark, Luke, and John, but not here in Matthew. Although He certainly could have stayed at the house of friends such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the Greek here indicates that He stayed outside in the open air.

18. Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.

The Greek indicates early in the morning. Perhaps they were journeying before having breakfast. The journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, although not a long one, was enough of a trip by foot to work up an appetite.

19. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” And immediately the fig tree withered away.

The Lord searches for fruit on this fig tree, and finds none. Let Him never find our lives in such a state! Let us always be bearing fruit so that, when the Lord looks at our lives, He will always find enough to satisfy Him. No time is too busy, no age too young or too old, no circumstance too difficult, for us to bear fruit pleasing to our Lord. Let us see to it that we do so!

The lack of fruit on the fig tree draws forth a curse from the Lord. The fig tree responds to His curse by withering. In the same way in God’s kingdom all who do not bear fruit will lose their health as well!

20. Now when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”

The disciples, in spite of all that they have seen, are still shocked by any new miracle that the Lord Jesus does! Isn’t that amazing? It seems that they got used to the old miracles, but the new ones always were able to shock them. What creatures of habit we are! Even the strangest of circumstances can be adjusted to, and then we live as if they were normal. This situation is common even in our day, such as in our modern families.

21. So 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 mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.

The important point here is “if you have faith.” Faith is not just believing that something will happen because you want it to happen. Rather, faith is believing something that God has said. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” You cannot have faith and move a mountain unless God has told you to move a mountain. Imagine if some fool had great confidence and told a mountain on which many people dwelt to be cast into the sea. Must these people be drowned just because this person was confident? No, mountains should not be moved unless God wants them to be. This is the essential element. You cannot have faith to move a mountain unless God has told you to move it first! This is not a matter of confidence. It is a matter of believing and doing what God has told you to do. Without a word from Him, no matter how confident you are, you cannot have any faith whatsoever.

22. “And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Many misinterpret the words of the Lord here. They think that all that is necessary to get anything you want and may selfishly ask for is to have great confidence that God will give it to you and then He will. Others attempt to change the Scriptures here and bring in the idea of asking according to God’s will, an idea not contained in Christ’s statement. Yet what He says here is that whatever you ask you will receive, “believing.” Thus again the necessary ingredient is first that God has told you that what you ask for is something that He will give you upon request. Asking for just anything that pops to mind is not something that you can ask “believing.” Remember, belief and faith are the same words in the Greek, and faith does not come but by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17.) What Christ is promising is that you will receive anything you ask for believing some word of God in which He has promised to give it to you if you ask. This does not mean that I can ask for anything I want that He has not promised to give to me and expect Him to give it to me whether He wants to or not. That is foolishness, and is not the way God works, as we can clearly see by the fact that many of our requests, no matter how confident we are, are not granted.

23. Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

This is much the same question as the one they asked Him in John 2:18 after He cast the sellers and moneychangers out of the temple the first time. There, though, they asked Him for a sign, and He answered by predicting the sign of His resurrection after three days of death. Here, however, they asked Him not for a sign, but to reveal by whose authority He was acting. The chief priests and elders taught that they had authority from God to control all teaching of the Scriptures. They thought that they had the authority to authorize these men to set up their market in the temple, and they wanted to know what authority the Lord claimed to have that could trump theirs, the self-styled heirs of Moses’ authority and keepers of God’s religion. They ask Jesus whose authority He is teaching under, hoping to declare Him as having no authority to teach and thus to attempt to put a stop to His ministry.

24. But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:
25. “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
26. “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”

The Lord’s response to their indignant demands is to ask them a question about the authority of John’s baptism. Was it from God or from men? By doing so, He backed these men into a corner that they could not figure out how to climb out of. Thus the Lord Jesus gave a brilliant answer and avoided their question as only God could. These men didn’t have a chance of stopping Him if He didn’t wish them to.

27. So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

The chief priests and elders admit defeat. Indeed, who can hope to win against God?

28. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’
29. “He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
30. “Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.
31. “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 enter the kingdom of God before you.
32. “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

The Lord Jesus does not stop with defusing their attack. He goes on to make one of His own. This parable of the two sons, one who obeyed after saying he wouldn’t and one who did not obey after saying he would, pointed out what these wicked religious leaders were doing. Although they said they were obeying God, they in deed refused to do so. Yet the tax collectors and harlots, who admitted that they were not obeying God, were happy to accept John when God sent him to them. Thus, the Lord teaches that the tax collectors and harlots are viewed as obedient in God’s eyes while these men aren’t. What a statement! What a rebuke of these wicked and hypocritical men! He even got them to condemn themselves by admitting that it was the first, not the second, son who did the will of his father. They were of the second sort, and they condemned themselves by admitting that this second son did not do his father’s will. Their pious acts may have fooled the people, but they are shown for what they are when they face off with God’s Messiah.

33. “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.

There were three kinds of leases in that day. This lease appears to have been one in which the lessees would give a certain part of the produce to the master year by year. Such a lease could be given yearly, or for life, or even be hereditary. Thus, this type of lease was an excellent figure for the responsibility God had given to the leaders, and which they had so misused!

34. “Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.

This would have been per the terms of their lease agreement.

35. “And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.

Thus these vinedressers callously broke the terms of their lease. Of course, this symbolizes how the leaders of Israel ever treated God’s servants whom He sent to them. Perhaps the Lord even had specific men in mind when He said this.

36. “Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
37. “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

No earthly landowner would have such grace towards such undeserving vinedressers, nor would he risk his son in such a venture. Yet this landowner’s actions are the actions that God took towards these very religious leaders He was speaking to.

38. “But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’

What a mad thought! As if killing the heir would cause the landowner to give them the inheritance! Yet this was exactly the madness of the religious leaders. They actually thought that if they killed God’s Messiah that He would let them alone and allow them to keep their control over the nation of Israel! Their utter foolishness is pointed out by this story. And God did not allow them to keep the vineyard. First He replaced them with His new leaders in the Acts period, and then allowed them to be utterly destroyed by Titus in 70 AD.

39. “And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

Notice the reference to how Christ was led out of Jerusalem to be crucified.

40. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
41. They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

Of course he would! And again the Lord causes these religious leaders to condemn themselves with their own words. They knew very well what would happen to them when it was put to them in this manner. Yet they still unthinkingly stuck to the same course that they had condemned! How blind we as humans can be, seeing and condemning in others the actions we can never seem to see or condemn in ourselves.

42. Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes”?

The Lord Jesus ever used simple stories to get across the truth He was trying to convey. Just as Nathan did with David, Jesus uses the very words of these men themselves to condemn them, pointing out that they were doing the very thing that the men in His story were doing. So what was God likely to do to them?

The Lord quotes from Psalm 118:22-23. This verse was talking about what these wicked men were about to do in rejecting Him. He warned them of it from the Scriptures, and yet they still refused to acknowledge it and repent.

43. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

What the Lord meant by this was not that the Jews were to be set aside and that the Gentiles were to take over, which is what is commonly taught today. Notice that it says the kingdom (or government) of God will be taken from them and given to a NATION (singular) bearing the fruits of it. This “nation” was the Israelites who trusted in Christ and obeyed Him. We see this very thing being acted out as God chooses His Own leaders for Israel in the Acts period, totally bypassing these wicked and corrupt men.

44. “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

We who fall on the stone will be broken, but thus we will be made useful to the Lord’s hands. Yet those on whom the stone falls are totally destroyed, and never will be useful again. Of this second sort were the chief priests and Pharisees.

45. Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

They realized this, but never did they even consider taking His words to heart.

46. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

The Lord’s popularity kept the chief priests and Pharisees from harming Him. He was not being rejected by the common people…far the contrary! They held Him to be a prophet, or a man of God, as it says here. They did not realize that He was not just a prophet, but was the Messiah, God’s Son. Yet this is all they could be expected to believe, as He had purposely hid His Godhood from them, as we saw earlier.