Matthew 21-22
(Jesus Cleans Up in Jerusalem)
October 9th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’;
   but you are making it a den of robbers.”

- Matthew 21:12-13 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

The Gospel of Matthew nears its climax in these two chapters as Jesus enters Jerusalem in a triumphant manner and in fulfillment of prophecy. While there he cleansed the temple of dishonest moneychangers, continued to teach in parables, quoted from the Hebrew Scripture, and healed the lame, thereby further antagonizing the Pharisees who became resolute about plotting his death.

Chapter 21 begins with Jesus asking some of his disciples to retreive a donkey that he will mount in his entrance to Jerusalem, where over 250,000 faithful are gathered for Passover. Matthew notes that this action fulfills the prophecy that we recently read in Zechariah:

    “Say to Daughter Zion,
        ‘See, your king comes to yo
    gentle and riding on a donkey,
        and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ "

    - Matthew 21:5 and Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)

The people in Jerusalem laid down their coats in front of Jesus and greeted him with shouts of Hosanna, which can be translated as Save Now or Save Us. While in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple and kicked out the money-changers and quoted two prophets as he did so: "It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7)' but you are making it ‘a den of robbers (Jeremiah 7:11)’ (Matthew 21:13 - NIV).”

The chief priests questioned Jesus' authority to teach. Jesus refused to yield to them and then told two parables that symbolized the hyprocrisy and treachery of these religous leaders. At the beginning of chapter 22, Jesus follows up with a parable about the chosen ones who will ignore his invitation and miss out on the eternal feast.

The remainder of chapter 22 records a tag-team attack on Jesus by the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadduccees - three groups that normally don't all cooperate with each other. First, the Pharisees and Herodians team up to ask Jesus if it is right to pay taxes to Caeser (which would imply worshipping him). Jesus slam dunks them with what has become a well-known quote: “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21b - NIV)." Next at bat was the Sadduccees, who asked a trick question about who will be the heavenly husband of a widow who has remarried. Jesus shut them down by pointing out their error: “You’re off base on two counts: You don’t know your Bibles, and you don’t know how God works (Matthew 22:29 - MSG)." He elaborated further on this message and left the crowd speechless.

Then the Pharisees returned with a legal question that they figured would stump the teacher, but he outwitted them again as he defined the contents of the Greatest Commandment while using Deuteronomy as a reference:

    But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.

    Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

    Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    This is the first and great commandment.

    And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    - Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV)

The chapter closes with Jesus turning the tables on the Pharisees by asking them who's son the Christ would be, and then quotes scripture to point out the error of their answer.

Reflection and Application

You can find further discussion of Zechariah's prophecy in our study from that book: Study of Zechariah 9-14 (Your King Comes on a Donkey) , and can read other versions of this story in upcoming Gospels. The image of Jesus riding into the city in this manner shows his royalty, humility, and courage. This act and the cleansing of the Temple helped to accellerate the rebellion against him.

The problem at the Temple was that the money-changers were over-charging the out-of-town visitors to exchange their currencies for the local currencies that were requried to buy sacrifices. Every pilgrim was required to participate in the purchase of a sacrifice so these con men figured they could make some easy money. The occupation of money-changer does not necessarily indicate that the merchant is a cheat, but God had laid down very clear instructions of treating one another fairly in business. The traders deserved some profit for their effort and risk, but were apparently making an exhorbitant profit. Moreover, they were conducting this crime on the property of the temple. Of course, Jesus knew exactly what was going on and reacted accordingly.

The show-down between Jesus and the local leaders looked like an unfair match. It was as if the President was debating a middle-schooler on economics and foreign policy, but the Pharisees, Sadducees, and others would not back down. Their hearts were truly hardened in such a way that they could not see the truth. Pray that our hearts are soft enough to recognize when we are wrong regarding our own actions and regarding the Truth of the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

One way to keep our heart open is to seek to Love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind.” But how do we do that? One answer can be found in a book called What’s That Noise? Listening for God in a Busy World:

    Perhaps we have heard that scripture so many times that it might be hard to stop and think about what it means for us to follow it. In anticipation of this dilemma, the Rev. John Hart provided an illustration and advice at one of our men’s retreat weekends. Rev. Hart emphasized to us that if you love someone, you want to spend as much time with that person as possible. He asked those of us who are married to remember what it was like when we first dated our wives-to-be. Hart reminded us that back in that time we probably wanted to spend all of our waking hours with each other, and that we literally ached when we were apart.

    That is a model for how we can love our God with all of our heart, mind, and soul. If we long to be with him, and spend time thinking of him, reading his word and trying to follow his will, then we will be on track to following the greatest commandment. When we follow that commandment, we enhance the relationship with our Lord, and become more open to hearing his word in our world—above the noise and din, and distractions (1)”

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What was your favorite parade?
    2. What does it mean for you to love your God with all your heart?
    3. What does it mean for you to love your neighbor as yourself?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in Heaven, you deserve our Hosannas. Help us to love you with all of our heart.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Professional Money-Changers


    (1) Sanborn, Theodore J, What’s That Noise? Listening for God in a Busy World, Tate Publishing, Mustang, Oklahoma, 2010, p. 169

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Matthew 23-25 (People Get Ready)

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