Let’s open our Bibles, this morning, to Matthew chapter 21, for another wonderful and thrilling adventure with the Lord Jesus Christ in the week in which He was crucified. We have entered into the twenty-first chapter of Matthew, and thus have come to the final week of our Lord’s earthly life and ministry.
On Friday, He will die. But our text today is on Tuesday, the day after His inauguration, His coronation, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Monday, you remember, He had entered into the city of Jerusalem to the cries of, “Hosanna to the son of David. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest,” as tens of thousands of people hailed Him as the King, the Messiah, the Deliverer, the Savior.
It was a wonderful day in one sense, because He was receiving praise that is due His name. The procession Monday had really begun outside the eastern gate, as Jesus, coming from Bethany, had already gathered a large group of people with Him, and another large mass of people inside the city were coming to meet Him. So, the two groups surged together outside the eastern gate, and then the procession began, and it went through that gate into the city. And the hosannas rang out; for how long a period, we don’t know, but the procession finally ended at the temple.
In Mark 11:11, Mark tells us that Jesus came, in that procession, to the temple. And the procession ended there, and He returned to Bethany, there to spend the night with Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the 12 disciples. It’s now Tuesday morning; another day has dawned. One day closer to Calvary. And on Tuesday, He goes right back to the same place He had left Monday night, back to the temple. And in verses 12 to 17, we find out what happened when He arrived there.
Now, before we look at the text, let me just give you a little bit of a setting. At this particular time of Passover, as I mentioned last time, Jerusalem is literally teeming with people. It has swelled maybe three, or four, or five or more times its normal size. Pilgrims from all over that part of the world have pushed their way into the city to participate in the Passover.
And the Passover tradition said that in order to celebrate the Passover, you had to be inside the city of Jerusalem. Now, the only way that everybody could get into the city of Jerusalem was if they moved the boundaries, because inside the wall, the people could not be contained. So, it was customary, at Passover time, to put out a little edict that extended the boundaries of Jerusalem to encompass at least the villages of Bethany and Bethphage and other surrounding areas. Why? Because the city couldn’t contain the pilgrims.
The inns were all full. The homes of friends were all full. The people who would rent out a room were all filled up. The people who owned a home in Jerusalem, which they only used during this season, had come to use that home. The hospices, run by Pharisees, or Zealots, or any other group, were occupied. The open areas within the walled city were filled up with little tents and campfires where the people were settling in for the Passover season. And with all of that, there was still too many people to fill that city any more, and so they spilled out beyond the wall into the areas surrounding the city, and set up their tents and their camps. They stayed with friends in Bethphage and Bethany and other surrounding villages.
And so, Jesus, along with a lot of other folks, and His 12 disciples, were staying in a home in Bethany – the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. One of the places in the city that was most crowded with pilgrims was the temple. And although the Jewish law forbid that anyone should sleep in the temple, they were not allowed to do that. They would camp as close to it as they could. And so all around the temple precinct, the outer wall of the outer courtyard would be pilgrims in their tents and their little blankets, sleeping out in the night. And some of them were sleeping in the buildings adjacent to the temple that were owned by the temple proprietors. So, the city is literally exploding with people. And the temple is the focal point of everything. All week long it is alive with pilgrims coming to see it; coming there to pray; coming into the court of the women to put their offerings in the trumpet-shaped receptacles that hung on the walls; coming with sacrifices and offerings of all kinds to give to God, to seek cleansing from their sin, to deal with other kinds of issues as well - ceremonial cleansings, purification rites. Oh, the temple was the center of everything.
And it is to the temple that Jesus comes and introduces us to one of the most amazing and marvelous scenes of this last week of his life.
Now, as we approach verses 12 to 17, which is the temple encounter, I want us to look at it from a very special perspective. I want us to see it as the presentation of Jesus’ messianic credentials. I believe what He does is give the populace of Jerusalem, and most specifically the chief priests and scribes, a very clear testimony as to the nature of his kingliness and the nature of his kingdom. He makes a statement here that could never be misunderstood.
Now, remember that from the first demonstration that really ever happened around Jesus in Galilee, when He revealed His great power, His miracle ability, the people had tried to take Him and make Him a king by force so that He would overthrow Rome and provide all that they needed socially and economically and militarily and so forth. And all through His ministry, He had resisted those attempts. Whenever they tried to make Him a king, He resisted that.
And on Monday, as we saw last time, in a great statement about the nature of His kingship, He had ridden into the city for His coronation on the foal of a donkey, sitting on a used robe thrown over that donkey by one of the disciples, while principal threw tree branches and old clothes in His path. He was weaponless, and His retinue was a group of common nobodies. And He was saying, in effect, “The nature of My kingdom is not as the kingdoms of this world.” You see no pomp and glory; you see no earthly majesty; you see no military might. But still, in their hearts they hoped that He would do that, that He would overthrow the Roman yoke, that He would break the bands of the Roman oppressor, that He would free them to the nobility they themself believed, as Jews, that they should have, the nobility that comes only to free people.
And just to be sure that they haven’t missed His message, He enters into the temple and demonstrates to them again the nature of His kingliness and the nature of His kingdom. And it is a far broader, a far greater demonstration even than was His lowly inauguration.
Now, I want you to look at these verses and mark the kingly credentials of Christ. First of all, He showed He was on a divine mission. He showed He was on a divine mission. And that is simply pointed out in the first statement of verse 12, “And Jesus went into the temple of God.” Now, there are some manuscripts that eliminate “of God,” some good manuscripts that eliminate it; there are some other good manuscripts that include it. It’s one of the more difficult textual issues to try to resolve, and when those things come up, I tend to want to leave them in, because I would not want to be guilty of taking something out that belonged there.
I kind of enjoyed what Lenski said about this particular problem, that Lutheran commentator who’s so excellent in His understanding of the New Testament. Lenski says, “The temple of God is never used in the New Testament as a phrase anywhere but here; so, it seems unlikely that some scribe would put it in. But if you understand what Jesus is about to do, it makes all the sense in the world that He would have affirmed – that is Matthew would – that this was the temple of God when He’s about to describe the utter ungodliness of its activities.
And so, on the basis of a mixed kind of manuscript perspective, and on the basis of it being certainly a fitting way to set up what happens, we would rather have it left in. And so, though it doesn’t really make any difference as far as letting us know what temple it was, it says Jesus went into the temple of God. And I love that. He went to God’s temple. Now, this to say that He was on a divine mission. I mean that was His turf. Do you understand that? I mean if He had of done what the people wanted Him to do, He would have gone to Fort Antonia, because Fort Antonia housed the Roman army, the Roman garrison. Or we would have gone to the abode of Pilate, and He would have started the military coup. He would have overthrown Pilate and all of His retinue, or He would have eliminated the Roman army and liberated the land and the people.
But He didn’t go there. He didn’t go there at all. He went to the temple of God. That was where He wanted to be. You see, the temple is the issue, not Rome. You see, what is going on militarily, politically, socially, economically is not the major issue. And the Messiah did not come initially in His first coming to solve those problems, although, believe me, beloved, He will, in His second coming, solve those problems. All of them.
But before He comes as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to establish His own glorious and eternal kingdom, and to solve all problems that exist in the earth today, He first of all must come and be received by men in their own hearts. And so, His first coming was as Savior before He could come as full and final glorious King in His kingdom. And so, His business is with worship now, not with society, not with politics. The temple is not the issue – or the temple is the issue, not Rome. Our Lord is not concerned with the people’s relation to Rome; He’s concerned with the people’s relation to God. That’s His focus.
This ought to be abundantly clear to any student of the New Testament, because when Jesus came the first time to Jerusalem, this is exactly where He went also. And if you go back to John chapter 2 and notice verses 13 to 17, you will find there how He began His ministry at a Passover.
“And the Jews’ Passover was at hand. Jesus went to Jerusalem, found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And when He made a whip of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables.
“And said to them that sold dove, ‘Take these things from here; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise.’” So, when He started His ministry, He started it at the temple; and when He ends it, He ends it at the temple.
Now, I submit to you that He’s seen a lot of things in the years intervening. He has seen social injustice. He has seen economic inequities. He has seen oppression by the Romans. He has seen deprivation. He has seen the poor suffering abuse. He has seen a lot of things, but His mission never changes His whole ministry here is given very clear perspective. He was concerned with how people worshipped. With how people worshipped. He was concerned with their relationship to God, not their relationship to earthly kingdoms. It wasn’t so important to Him how it was with men and men as it was with men and God. Do you understand that?
And so, by going to the temple as the first official act after His inauguration, He is identifying for us clearly the turf or the territory of His mission. Three years had not changed that purpose. He goes right back to the temple.
Even though He had passed and seen many things inconsistent with God’s design and God’s will, as it was between men and men, the priority thing was between men and God. For only when Men are right with God can men be right with men. Many things needed a soldier. Many things needed an army. Many things needed a social reformer. But more than that, men needed God, and they needed true worship, and they needed to know God’s standard and God’s will, God’s purpose for their relationship to Him.
Peter picked it up from the Lord and said it this way, in 1 Peter 4:17, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” It begins at the house of God. As long as things were wrong in the house of God, they would be wrong in the nation. You see, the measure of any society is the relation it has to God. Worship is the issue. Read Romans 1; worship is always the issue.
The problem with society is not that it has bad laws. The problem with society is not that it has human inequities. The problem with society is that it has abandoned God. And some would accuse us of being indifferent to the national political issues, indifferent to the social issues and the social scene. That is not true. We are not indifferent to those things, but we know what Jesus knew and what Peter reiterated, that judgment must begin at the house of God.
Christ came to cleanse the temple. I found myself, as I was preparing this message, praying on several occasions, “Oh, Christ, cleanse the Church. Cleanse the Church.” Because that and that alone is the hope of the country, the hope of the nation, the hope of the world.
And what did He find when He came to the temple? What did He find? You know something? He had cleansed it once, and it had gone back and reverted to exactly what it was the first time He came.
You say, “Then why bother?”
Because He came to the temple – listen carefully – to vindicate the holiness of God. The issue wasn’t whether they reacted rightly; the issue was that they should see the holiness of God. It was the revelation of God’s holy will and purpose. It demonstrated His vengeance against sin, and desecration, and blasphemy, and false religion.
When Jesus cleansed the temple, we realized there was no revival really. There was no real reform. There was no real renewal. They’re right back, three years later, doing the very same thing they did when He came the first time. But that doesn’t mean He shouldn’t come. He should come, because God must reveal how He feels about false religion. He must reveal how He feels about blasphemy. He must say, very clearly and unforgettably, how He feels about them who treat Him in an unholy way.
And this was something God must have been used to, because He sent the prophet so many times to call the people of Israel back from idolatry, and often they had a rather immediate reform which degenerated ultimately into an even worse idolatry. But God never stopped doing that because God always must speak the truth and reveal Himself as holy and reveal His hatred against sin. And so, He comes to the temple again, and His purpose is to show again how God feels about the evils of men.
Now, I want to help you to understand what went on. I want you to stand with Jesus in this scene. Now, imagine the city of Jerusalem packed with people. Chaos. Milling everywhere. And the temple is the focal point of all of it. Masses of people there. And as Jesus comes to that place, this is what He faces. A great outer wall of colonnades and columns that surrounds the whole temple precinct as Barclay calls it. The temple area. That is known as the hieron, the temple in the large sense.
Through that main opening, He enters into the Court of the Gentiles. And it was called the Court of the Gentiles because anybody could come in there, even Gentiles. And once into the Court of the Gentiles, you would notice a gate, and that gate was called the Gate Beautiful. You may remember a man begging at that gate in Acts 3. And inside that gate was the Court of the Women, and that was a place where the Jewish women could go, and the Jewish men, but no Gentiles. In fact, there was a sign by the Gate Beautiful that said if a Gentile went in there, he lost his life.
And so, into the Gate Beautiful you’d go, and you’d come into the Court of the Women with the trumpet-shaped receptacles for the receiving of the money that was to be given for certain reasons of cleansing and offering and so forth. And in the Court of the Women, the Jews would be gathered. There was a gate in the Court of the Women called the Nicanor Gate. It was a gate made out of Corinthian bronze that took 20 men to open and close. Massive thing.
And if you went through that gate, you came into what was known as the Court of the Israelites; the men could go in there. And the Court of the Israelites is where they would get ready to give their offerings. The men would take the sheep, or the turtledove, or the pigeon – whatever - or whether it was a grain offering or whatever kind, and they would get it all prepared in the Court of the Israelites, and they would take it to another gate which went into the Court of the Priests.
And in the Court of the Priests was the offering – the burnt offering altar, the altar of incense – and they could look through that opening, as they handed the priest their sacrifice, as he took it in and slaughtered it, or took it in and offered it.
And so, they would stand in that court of the Israelites and watch as their offering was being made. From the Court of the Priests, there was another little door. It entered into a 600 square foot courtyard. At the back of which was what was called the naos, the Holy Place. It was a small, little building which included in it the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was, separated by a veil into which the high priest could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
The interesting thing about the temple was that it starts at a low point, and all of this ascends until the naos crowns Mount Moriah so that there is a sequence of steps, apparently, going from court to court.
Now, Jesus walks in the outer wall and stands in the Court of the Gentiles. And since it was the Court of the Gentiles, I guess the Jews felt if Gentiles could be there, so could anything else. And so, they had filled it with just about everything else.
It was known in those days as the Bazaar of Annas – Annas being the high priest, a corrupt and vile man, who saw the temple as a way to get power and wealth. He had a great idea. He and his priests sold concessions. In other words, you could buy space in the Court of the Gentiles, and there you could come and sell sheep, lambs, doves, pigeons; make money exchanges; sell oil, wine, salt, and other requisites that go along with sacrifices.
And you paid dearly for those concessions, because here’s how the system worked. Every offering had to be approved by the priests. Right? When you finally got into the Court of the Israelites, and you brought what you were going to give, it had to be approved. And maybe they had approving stations even before you got that far in. But the priests had to say, “You sacrifice is okay,” and the odds were that if you bought it outside the temple, it was not going to be approved. If you had raised a lamb way out where you lived and brought that little lamb in to be offered, they’d say, “That lamb is not acceptable. You must have a lamb purchased in the Court of the Gentiles. Go see so-and-so.” And so, you’d go to buy a lamb from him. Only according to Edersheim, the great Jewish historian, you would pay ten times the value of that lamb. So, you were extorted; you were fleeced - to reverse the picture a little. You were taken by robbers.
Poor people, according to the Levitical law, didn’t have to bring a lamb because they couldn’t afford lambs. So, they were allowed to have a dove or a pigeon in the place of a lamb. And most historians feel that in today’s currency, a couple of birds might be worth a nickel or a dime, but you would have paid four or five dollars for them there. And if you wanted to exchange your money because you had to have exactly a half-shekel, so you had to have the right change – and if you came from a foreign country with foreign currency, and it had to be changed, you would pay 25 percent fee just to make small change.
And so, you can see that they would pay dearly for concessions inside the temple. Right? Because they would work along with the priests to extort the people, to cheat the people. All this in the name of religion, if you can imagine. All this in the name of religion.
Jesus walks in. His eyes, His ears, and His nostrils are filled with the sights and sounds and smells. The stench of a stockyard, the wrangling and haggling and haranguing of people bargaining over the price of animals. The noise the animals make. All the chaos of the crying animals being slaughtered. Blood. It is a scene that’s unbelievable.
This is Jesus’ turf, because this is the house of God, and it has been turned into a cave for robbers. And so, He comes and sees this horrifying but familiar scene. And it says to us something so important; it says that Christ came, first of all, to deal with men on a spiritual level. You understand that? That’s the point. He came to throw out corrupt worship and to bring in true worship. He is on a divine mission.
Second point, He has divine authority. He as divine authority. If we can’t see that He’s the Messiah because of His mission, boy, we ought to see that He’s the Messiah because of His authority. Now listen, the most powerful thing going on in that country was the temple. I mean the high priest was a powerful man. And the man who is next to the high priest was equally powerful. And the one who was the head of the temple police was powerful.
And then you had all the orders of priests. And I mean there were myriads of them. There was an organizational structure there that was very strong. And I mean if you walked past the Gate Beautiful, for example, and you were a Gentile, the Romans had given them the right to kill you. They had plenty of power. They had great authority within the walls of that temple precinct area.
But they were about to meet somebody over whom they had absolutely no power. It says in verse 12, “Jesus went into the temple of God and” - follow – “cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of them that sold doves.”
Now, if you think Jesus is just always some meek and lowly, gentle person, maybe you ought to study this a little more deeply. I don’t know how many thousands of people were in there. I do know how those kinds of people, those kinds of extortionists, those kinds of money-grubbing, money-hungry people want to hang onto their money. I know how they want to hang onto their prosperity. I know how they wanted to hang onto their business there. I know how much the priest didn’t want to be shamed and showed up in the face of the whole population. I know how much they didn’t want their power challenged. I know how they would have thought themselves – the last thing that could have happened to themselves would have been to made – to be made shameful in the eyes of the population of the city by some Galilean, would-be Messiah, but that’s exactly what happened.
Against all of what you would think would happen, it happened. It simply says, “He cast out all them that sold and bought.” Just threw them all out. Not only the sellers, but the buyers, too. He just threw everybody out of there that was involved in that enterprise. And the leaders? They couldn’t stop Him. There was no way.
You say, “How did He do it?”
I don’t know; it doesn’t say. It does say He threw them out. That’s rather vivid.
You say, “Well, maybe it was just His word, ‘Out.’”
That could do it. That got Lazarus out of the grave. That also spoke the worlds into existence when creation occurred. So, He could have done it with His word, but there was more than that, because it also says He overthrew the tables of the moneychangers. He went through the place and started flipping tables and kicking them over. I believe He demonstrates not only His vocal authority, but His physical presence as well.
You remember back in John 2, He made a whip, and He threw them out by use of a whip. Maybe He made a whip again. Or maybe He had the same whip. What authority. He overthrew the table of the moneychangers. The word “moneychangers” in Greek is interesting – makers of small change. They were sitting at their little stools, with their little stacks of coins, and He just started flipping them. Can you imagine those people hustling to collect every coin?
And then He threw over the seats of those who sold doves. Guys sitting on a seat with a crate full of birds. And He just started kicking over crates and knocking over stools, and flipping tables, and throwing people out of there. He cleared the place.
And then Mark adds a wonderful note. He says in Mark 11:16 that He wouldn’t allow anybody to carry any vessel through the temple. And what was going on was probably pretty simply understood. The eastern gate of the city was where they would come in. And just to the left of the eastern gate is the temple area, and if you were coming in the eastern gate, let’s say you wanted to go to Zion, and you had something you wanted to deliver, or something you wanted to bring through there, the easiest way was not to go all the way around the temple, but just to go through one of the side entrances to the general courtyard and go right straight through and just use it like a street. And they apparently were using the temple area just like a thoroughfare or a street like any other public street. And He just stopped that immediately, and nobody carried anything through there.
It may also imply that nobody carried anything out of there, that they had to get thrown out and left all their debris there. Now, if you can get all those people to split and run and leave their stuff behind, they’re scared. Now, this is the same Jesus, riding on the colt, the foal of an ass, meek and lowly and humble.
What is the difference? Well, He came meek and lowly. He came as one who was to die in humility. But at the same time, He also gave a glorious demonstration of the reason for which he came, and that is to change men from false worshippers to true worshippers. And so, He went to the temple.
He never used the same power He had to overthrow Rome. The only thing He wanted to do was clean up their corrupt worship. What power; I just wish I could have been there to see it. He kicked over everything, created chaos, and they fled.
You say, “Well, why didn’t they stop Him?”
Why didn’t they stop Him? They couldn’t. They couldn’t. I mean they were pressed, the chief priests. They were really pressed, because the crowd was hailing Him as the Messiah, for one thing. Secondly, the people hated the bazaars of Annas. By the way, they themselves started an insurrection that put them out of business even before 70 A.D., when the temple was destroyed. So, the people were with Him. Plus, they couldn’t handle Him.
And for one moment – for one brief moment, the place was clean. No, I didn’t say it was tidy. It wouldn’t be very tidy. Animals all over the place; birds all over the place; crates, stools, tables, money – it wasn’t tidy; it was clean.
And later on in verse 23, the chief priest said, “By what authority doest Thou these things? And who gave Thee this authority?” Such a dumb question. As if He needed any other authority.
As if He had to say, “Well, I’ve been sent by so-and-so, and here are my papers. Get out!”
They should have known by what authority, shouldn’t they? So blind were they. And it makes us cry, “Oh, God, send Christ again to cleanse the Church. Send Christ again to cleanse the Church.” Because we have moneychangers in our temple. Luther had them, and the Reformation was born out of His terrible anxiety over the indulgences of the Roman Catholic Church.
We have moneychangers today, even in the Protestant Church, hucksters, corrupters of the Word of God who are in it for filthy lucre. And we cry out for Christ to cleanse today as He did then.
There’s a third credential that I want you to see in verse 13. He not only showed He was on a divine mission and demonstrated divine authority, but he revealed a commitment to divine Scripture. He revealed a commitment to divine Scripture. You see, He vindicates what He does by this in verse 13, “He said unto them, ‘It is written,’” and then He quotes Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called the house of prayer” - and Isaiah adds, and Mark also includes - “of all nations.” Matthew leaves it out because His audience is primarily Jewish.
But the Lord says, “I vindicate what I do, because I’m doing something consistent with the Word of God.” Oh, that’s so great. As Messiah, He was always hooked to the Word of God. In John He says, “I never do anything that the Father doesn’t show Me to do. I never do anything that the Father doesn’t tell Me to do.” Everything He ever did was consistent with the Word of God. He vindicates His anger by basing it on Scripture.
He says, “Isaiah said it. God said through him, ‘My house shall be called the house of prayer.’” See, the temple was to be a place of prayer. It was to be a quiet place, a place of worship, a place of devotion, a place of meditation, a place of contemplation, a place of confession, a place of prayer, a place of praise; a place where people went to commune with God, to seek God, to open their hearts to God; not a stockyard, not a crooked bank, not a thoroughfare for people carrying on their worldly business.
I’m reminded of 1 Samuel 1, Hannah. She went to the temple, and Eli the priest sat on a seat by the post of the temple of the Lord. She went there to seek God. She was in bitterness of soul. She prayed to the Lord. She wept bitterly. She vowed a vow. Now, that’s what the temple was for. It was for a person to go and find some quiet. The court was where a Jew or a Gentile could go and seek God. A place of silence, a place of meditation, a place to vow a vow to God. And she was there – you remember? – and Eli saw her lips moving. And she found there the face of God that she sought. God wonderfully heard her prayer and gave her a child.
And do you remember when the temple was dedicated in 1 Kings chapter 8, verses 29 and 30, and Solomon offered his prayer to God? And he said, “I pray that this place may be a place where your people can come and confess and find forgiveness.” A place of quiet, a place of confession.
And I’m reminded, too, of the psalmist in Psalm 27 who identifies the usefulness of the temple with these words, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all they days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and enquire in His temple.”
It’s a place where we can see the beauty of the Lord in worship, and where we can beseech Him, inquiring of Him there in His holy place. And they had turned it into a crooked bank, a stockyard, a thoroughfare. Blasphemous.
And He says to them in verse 13, “But you have made it a den of thieves” – or a cave of robbers. And that’s another Old Testament quote from Jeremiah 7:11. “You’ve made it: – and He borrows the phrase from Jeremiah, “a cave of robbers,” where robbers hole up. Instead of being a place for true worshippers, it’s a place where people can rob and be protected in doing it. You have made it a cave of robbers. They can come here and they’re safe. Robbers used to hide in the caves. Jeremiah alludes to that in chapter 7, verses 4 to 11, where the robbers were hiding in the caves, and they were safe there, out of the way, unfound, secure.
And He says, “You’ve provided a cave for robbers to hide in in the temple of God.” And they can do their robbery right in the place they’re hiding. Such protection of extortioners is blasphemous. Yahweh’s house, God’s house, to be a temple to worship and pray and commune with Him. What a prostitution you’ve made of this.
There’s a fourth thing I want you to see. He not only shows His divine mission, His divine authority, and His commitment to the divine word, but we see Him as the Messiah because of His divine compassion.
As I said, for a moment, the place was clean. And in that moment, verse 14, comes so beautifully to us, “And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.” He’s still there. He’s standing there amidst all the debris, and it’s clean for a moment. And here come the blind and the lame, who always hung around the temple anyway, because that’s where God was, and that’s where the people were, and they needed to beg from the people, and they needed to beg from God. So, that was the best place to be. And they no doubt filled the Court of the Gentiles, begging God and men for help.
And when Jesus did that, you would have thought that they would have also gotten out of there one way or another. I mean if the fury of Jesus was enough to dispense all the able-bodied people, I mean if they ran for their lives under His authority, we would think that these people would be cowering in some dark corner, scared to death. But not so, because ever and always in Jesus Christ is the perfect exhibited balance of holy vengeance and compassion.
And so, those who were guilty see His anger, and those who are true seekers see His compassion. It’s marvelous. And He stands in the temple, and they come to Him. I love that. I love that. You see, if you want to see the compassion of God in Christ, you see it in His healing ministry. That’s where you see it. That’s where you see it.
You see, one of the reasons there are ill people and disabled people is so that God, in His mercy, can dispense to them His compassion and thus reveal that element of His person. If there were no ill people, if there were no crippled principal, if there were no suffering people, we would not see a dimension of God’s character which is revealed to us. And keep in mind, for those that love Christ, all those disabilities are very, very temporary, aren’t they? But they give God occasion to reveal to the world His compassion. Do you think the Pharisees cared about those people? Do you think they cared that they were blind and lame? Listen, if the poor people came and were overcharged hundreds of times for a couple of pigeons, do you think they cared about the poor? They were making money off the poor. They were making money, if they could, off anybody that possibly could come within the grasp; they didn’t care.
They were like Israel of old in many ways. They abused the poor, despised those who were infirm. But not Christ. Oh, what credentials. God is compassionate. Do you remember Matthew 11, when a disciple of John the Baptist comes and says to Jesus, “Are you the Messiah? John wants to know.”
Jesus says, “You go tell John that the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. He’ll know. He’ll know.”
And as I told you then, you see, the Lord didn’t heal just to display His power. It did do that, but that wasn’t the only reason. He could have displayed His power a lot of ways. The reason He healed was to display his compassion, that God is a God of great compassion.
And what beautiful balance. We’re not afraid of Christ. I know Jesus Christ someday is going to come to this world in great and devastating eternal judgment. I know Jesus Christ holds in His hand the keys to hell and death. I know Jesus Christ is the judge, given judgment by the Father. I know that He is the one who controls the eternal destiny of every soul. I know He has the right to send men and women to hell forever, and I know He can breathe out any judgment He wants anytime on anybody. And yet I come to Him in absolute trust and confidence and love because I know that He loves me. Because in balance to that is His divine and merciful compassion.
And so, we see them come, and in compassion, He heals them. And may I suggest to you that that’s the truest kind of worship? True worship is in the name of the Lord meeting the need of someone. That is a far greater worship than a sacrifice, is it not? Sacrifices, sacrifices, sacrifices by the millions. But where was the worship of love to one in need?
And then another mark, a divine credential, if you will. We see His divine mission; His divine authority; His commitment to the divine Word; divine compassion, and also His divine power. And we can ignore that.
Verse 14 says that He healed them. I mean that is a display of divine power. He just healed them all: the blind, the lame – and they’re probably only representative of the deaf and the dumb and whoever else was ill and begging. And He healed them in front of everybody that was left. And everybody else would have known very soon, when they started running around town saying, “Hey, it’s us, only now we see, and hear, and speak, and walk.”
“And even the chief priests” - in verse 15 – “and saw the wonderful thing that He did.” Wonderful? What’s that? Wonderful things, thaumasia, the marvels, the miracles, the astonishing, amazing, wonders that only God could do. Only God can create eyes; only God can create legs; only God can create eardrums where none exist; only God can do that. Powerful testimony.
We see the compassion of God, the power of God in His healing. He healed them. And this maybe is the most important of all. Notice the end of verse 15. “The chief priests” – it says at the beginning – “and the scribes saw the wonderful things He did.” Then at the it says, “They were very displeased.”
Well, how could they be displeased? First of all, they could care less about the crippled people and the blind. Hey didn’t care about those people. They had no thought for them at all. Of course we know they had no thought for them. There was no compassion in them. And a compassionate person intimidates an uncompassionate person. And a powerful person intimidates an impotent person. You understand that? So, they’re so intimidated; they are so angry; they are so resentful. They are so jealous.
The word used here “very displeased” is translated in chapter 20, verse 24, “indignation.” It means fury. They were full of wrath. They were angry. They could have cared less about the healing of those people. The only thing they were mad about was Jesus Christ was putting Himself on display, and they couldn’t handle Him. They were such hardhearted rejecters.
I mean if they’d of just remembered Malachi, they would have remembered that He would suddenly come to His temple. But they wouldn’t have Him as their Messiah. No way. He didn’t check in with them. He didn’t check in with them; He didn’t ask their advice on anything. He came from Galilee, to add to that, and He kept confronting their sin as if they were sinners. He wouldn’t recognize their righteousness. He wouldn’t recognize their self-styled holiness. He blasted them with the fact that they were sinners and in need of something they did not possess and couldn’t earn on their own. And they rejected that; they were so locked into their self-righteousness. And all they could come up with was being jealous. He didn’t fit their picture.
Later on, they cried, “We’ll not have this man to reign over us; we don’t care what He can do.” They were just angry. So, He gives Himself: demonstrates His kingliness, demonstrates the nature of His kingdom. And all they do is get mad.
But there’s one other thing that’s so marvelous, and this is the coup de grâce. This is the high point. One other credential that I see in a positive sense, He accepted divine worship. He accepted divine worship. Look at verse 15, right in the middle, “And the children” – and the word there is “boys” in the Greek, boys. Boys old enough to come to the Passover. The boys that were there. Maybe they were boys getting instructed in their first Passover; I don’t know. But there were boys there, “crying in the temple, and saying, ‘Hosanna to the son of David.’” I mean they got the message. Right?
I mean the astute, erudite leaders of Israel may not have known who He was, but it was pretty clear to the kids. You ever met an atheist kid? I never met one. Very simple for them to believe. I mean the evidence was overwhelming. They had just seen somebody who healed people. They had just seen somebody throw out all of the corrupt and evil people in the temple. It was pretty clear to them who this was.
And Tissot, the French painter, has a magnificent painting of this in which he portrays all these boys with their arms locked like this, marching back and forth through the temple, shouting in unison at the top of their voice, “Hosanna to the son of David,” which just makes the chief priests livid But that’s true worship, see? All the garbage stops, and some children worship the King.
Well, they said to Him, in verse 16, “‘Hearest Thou what these say? Are You listening to those children? Are You hearing what they say?’” You see, they wanted those children to stop. “That’s blasphemy. You can’t worship this man in the temple of God.” I mean, can you believe that? You could sell cattle at an exorbitant price, cheat people out of their money, do all the rest of the stuff, but you couldn’t worship the Messiah there? That’ll show you where they were. I mean any true worship had to be stopped. The worship of the true God in the true form just could not occur in that place.
So, they said, “Do You hear what they say?” And what they mean is, “Are You going to allow this?”
And I love His answer, “And Jesus said unto them, ‘Yes.’” I like that “Yes, I hear. Yes, I’m going to allow it. Yes.” I imagine He smiled a little to think of the incongruity of this whole amazing event. You see, if the Lord can’t get the praise out of the mature people, He gets it out of the immature.
You say, “Well, how could these kids be so perceptive?”
Oh, we don’t know, really, how perceptive they were. I’m sure they were perceptive enough to see that He had healed people, and that’s pretty overwhelming.
You say, “But where did they get the idea that He was a son of David?”
Hey, what had been going all day and the day before? And kids learn from their parents. They were just echoing what they heard the day before, only it was no problem for them, boy; it seemed really clear now. Mom and Dad yesterday had been shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David, the one coming in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” They’d been praising Him as the King, and as far as these kids could see, it was pretty clear that that’s who He was.
Now, you remember in Luke’s account of the coronation day, the triumphal entry, the chief priests came and said, “You better tell these people to stop.”
And Jesus said to them, “If they don’t sing My praises or praise Me, the stones will” – what? – “cry out.” Here He says the same thing. He quotes Psalm 8:2.
“They say to Him, ‘Do you hear this?’
“And Jesus says, ‘Have you heard this? Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings’” – two Hebrew words used in Psalm 8:2 to refer to infants under the age of three, because Hebrew mothers suckled their babies until they were about three - “‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.’”
In other words, even little babies can simply, and in an uncluttered way, praise God. Now, I don’t know that we need to get into all of the implications of that statement in its context in the Psalms; time doesn’t allow us to do that. But for this text, I think what He’s simply saying is this; He’s using that Psalm as an illustration of what is going on. If God will not be praised out of the mouths of the mature, He will be praised out of the mouths of the immature. God is going to get His praise to His Son, “even if the stones have to cry out,” as Luke 19:40 said.
Like the stones, Christ is to be praised. Like the children, Christ is to be praised. Like people, they are to praise Him as well. He will get the praise either from mature people or infants or rocks if need be. He just alludes to that Psalm as an illustration of what is happening.
And I say that so that you’ll understand it isn’t to say that these were zero to three-year-old babies all chanting together, “Hosanna to the son of David,” but rather an allusion to that principle there. What a glorious event. And the fury of those leaders simply because of their unbelief. All the evidence was in; even little children could see it.
There’s one other thing. He gives His credentials: divine mission, divine authority, divine word, divine compassion, divine power, divine worship, and one other thing. One other thing that proves He was the Messiah. It’s this: He was rejected. He was rejected.
Verse 17, haunting words, “And He left them.” You see it there? “And He left them.” And in that simple, physical act, there was a volume of truth. “He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.” He really left them, because the next day, in verse 23, they come and say, “By what authority do You do these things, and who gave You this authority?” And in verse 27, He gets around finally to saying, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” He left them. He had nothing more to say.
It’s reminiscent of Genesis 6, where the Bible says, “God’s Spirit will not always strive with man.” There comes a time when He leaves. Let’s bow in prayer.
It may be that in our life Christ has revealed Himself, showing Himself to be a divine Savior on a divine and spiritual mission to clean your life and bring about true worship. It may have been that He comes with divine authority, based on the Word of God, demonstrating compassion and power - all of these things that we’ve seen.
It may have been that He has revealed Himself to be worthy of worship. What’s your verdict? Are you like the little children, who in the wonderful simplicity of their youth, taking into their little hearts what they saw, could cry out, “Hosanna, save now, O son of David”? It was proof enough for them.
Or are you like the hardhearted religious leaders who are only angry because He’s making such claims on your life, because He’s calling you to accountability, because He’s confronting your sin? It’s either one or the other; no middle ground. “He that is not with Me is against Me; he that gathereth not together scattereth abroad.” You either embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior or you refuse Him. You either stand with, as it were, in the symbolic sense the children singing His praises or the religious leaders whom He leaves and to whom He has nothing more to say.
So, our prayer, as we close the service this morning, is that you might hear the voice of the Spirit of God calling you to see and know and understand and embrace the Savior, and that you might respond. Open your heart to Him even now, who came to die for you, to rise again for your salvation.
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