“The Road Trip is Over”

Matthew 21:1-17

We have been reading through the Gospel according to Matthew, one of the first accounts of the life of Jesus while on earth. Today’s Scripture verses just happen to match up with our yearly calendar as we celebrate Palm Sunday. Since chapter 16, we have been reading about a road trip Jesus and His disciples have been on towards Jerusalem. Today in chapter 21, they enter Jerusalem. 

It’s taken us a couple months to read through this road trip. Jesus started the trip in Caesarea Philippi by declaring He was indeed Israel’s King and He would become Israel’s King by dying. He would be brutally murdered and executed. The disciples were shocked and just couldn’t wrap their heads around that information. 

So as they have been traveling over the past couple of months we have been reading conversations Jesus had with His disciples and followers. All of these conversations have been about people misunderstanding Jesus, the Kingdom of God and what it means to be a part. 

The road trip is over. Today they arrived in Jerusalem. Not only is it over, this is where the story makes a dramatic shift. From this point on, Jesus will change how He behaves in public. You see, up to this point, Jesus has remained basically under the radar. He has spent the past few years traveling around creating a Kingdom movement that the religious leaders have watched grow with interest. However, as soon as Jesus enters the city gates, the story changes. He comes to Jerusalem to bring His upside-down Kingdom. There were some who were elated! Finally! And there were some who were disgusted. How dare He? 

The events in today’s entry occur in two scenes that are both dramatic.

Scene One: Read Matthew 21:1-11 (Scripture reader)

Things don’t just happen by chance with Jesus. He has deliberately chosen this day to enter Jerusalem. He has orchestrated His entry down to the smallest detail. In the Christian calendar this day is called, “Palm Sunday,” the beginning of what we know as “Holy Week.” For the Jewish people at the time of Jesus, it was the first day of their celebration of Passover. The most significant week of their whole year, when everyone comes to its capital city. 

Let me try to provide a picture of what this day would have looked like for Jesus and His followers. Historians tell us that there were approximately 50,000 people living in the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. 

They also tell us that for Passover, over 150,000 pilgrims from around the world would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate. How many of you have been in this sanctuary when it is full? It holds about 280-300 people. What if we were to try and put 900 people in this room? Sardines! That is what the city would have felt like. Hundreds of thousands of families would come and they would have to camp outside the city at night. We are told Jesus had a large crowd following Him into the city so we need to add that to the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims coming into the city. Everyone pressing against each other trying to enter through the gates. 

Jesus’ timing was planned and somehow He had prearranged to even have the correct mode of transportation. We read that Jesus comes over the Mount of Olives from the east towards Jerusalem. 

He stops and tells His disciples to go into a village and get a donkey that He has already organized to pick it up, including a secret code word. You will know you have the correct donkey because someone will come up and talk to you and your response should be, “The Lord needs them.” It’s like some sort of spy movie. This will happen again when they need a room for the last supper. It will all be pre arranged with a secret code word. I love this kind of stuff. 

The point is that Jesus has orchestrated all of this. Every move, every step is predetermined. Every word Jesus says for the next seven days, is all intentional. 

This is it! 

The climax of everything Jesus has been teaching. 

The Kingdom of God, 

the Messiah is revealed. 

Notice, there are all these people with Jesus. 

They have followed Him and have seen His miracles and healings and word has gotten around and they all think He is the real deal. They were shouting, 

“Hosanna, Son of David!” 

They put together an impromptu red carpet with their clothes. 

Think about it! 

This was a muddy dirty road and you only have one jacket. 

No second thoughts, these people really believe, for this moment that Jesus is the Messiah, He is the King! 

Jesus has anticipated this moment. He has planned to enter Jerusalem with all of this fan fare. 

Check in time. 

Up to this point, has this been the manner in which Jesus has been acting? 


This is the exact opposite way in which Jesus has been doing things. Do you remember a couple of times when Jesus healed someone who wanted to tell everyone, 

“Wow! You are amazing, you are the Messiah, the Son of David.” And what did Jesus say to them? 

“Shhh! Keep it quiet, don’t tell anyone.” 

He has had some small confrontation with Israel’s leaders, but for the majority Jesus has kept Himself under the radar. 

But today, Jesus has gone public. We don’t read that He was trying to keep anyone quiet. In fact, Jesus has orchestrated a reenactment of a previous king who also rode a donkey, down this very hillside. 

King David, 2 Samuel 16, after his son rebelled against him, he was reinstated as Israel’s king, after riding a donkey into Jerusalem. 

King Solomon, David’s son, also rode to his coronation on his father’s donkey. 

All of the things that happen from this point on are full of meaning and connection. Jesus and all of those around Him completely understand the connection Jesus was making by entering Jerusalem on a donkey. 

Jesus has been waiting and teaching and building up to this very moment. As we continue to read the book of Matthew let us take notice that from this point on, Jesus’ every move has intention and every word He says has deeper meaning that for those listening would have immediately connected Him to being the Messiah. 

However, the irony exists. Jesus knows as He sits on that donkey that He is riding into the city to die. I suspect there is not one person waving a palm branch who has that on their mind. 

The crowd was shouting, “Hosanna!” which translated in English means, 

“Save Us! Son of David!” 

Let’s take on the Romans! You’ve got this! 

We are with you! Finally the Messiah has arrived! 

We are free!

This entrance was charged! Dramatic! And energizing for those who had been following Jesus. Can’t you just see the gleam in the disciples’ eyes? Finally all that we have been thinking and believing about Jesus being the Messiah is happening!

Verse 10 tells us that the whole city was stirred, 

The word used here actually means more of a turmoil. This was definitely not expected. 

News may not have traveled as fast as tik tok, 

but it wasn’t long before everyone knew that the “Messiah” had supposedly entered the city. 

Just how was this news received? 

For those caught up in the parade they were excited. 

But what about the religious leaders? 

They already had their leaders and Jesus certainly didn’t fit in. 

What about the Romans? 

They already had a king, his name was Caesar. 

So not everyone was shouting, “Hosanna.” 

Let’s take note of this pivotal point. 

We have yet to see this side of Jesus. 

And for the next few months, as we continue to read through the book of Matthew,  we will be going through the next seven days of Jesus’ life. What we will notice is that every single event from now on is going to be just like this. 



Where Jesus will be communicating more than just the surface event itself. 

Jesus wasn’t the first person to be asked by God to create calculated, public stunts to get people’s attention and to make people think. Let’s go back to the Old Testament and recall some others. 

Look at Isaiah, chapter 20. 

Do you remember what God asked Isaiah, a very public figure to do? 

He asked him to walk around Jerusalem, for three years, totally naked 

and he did it. 

He was to represent the naked captives that would be taken to Assyria when God allowed Assyria to come and take over part of Israel because of their sin and idolatry. 

Or what about Ezekiel? 

God told him to shave off all his hair with a sword, 

not exactly clean shaven. 

Then he was to go out in public and throw his hair up into the air and chop it in the air with his sword as a symbol of the Babylonian army heading towards Jerusalem to conquer it. 

This was like street theater. 

What prophets of God do. 

They were shocking symbols of what God had to say. 

If you know Israel’s scriptures you get the symbols. 

So, if we were Israelites back in the day of Jesus, we would recognize that Jesus was taking up the mantle of the Hebrew prophets with very 



attention getting, 

shocking behavior. 

Just like every other prophet, 

He has a message from the Lord, 

to the people of Israel. 

The time to respond to His offer of the Kingdom of God was closing fast. 

Okay, Jesus was riding into the city of Jerusalem with a crowd of people shouting and where does He immediately go? 

Scene Two: Matthew 21:12-17 (Scripture reader)

Jesus shows up at the temple. It would be like us having a parade of people going directly to Washington, D.C. with a crowd of followers to announce our running for president. 

No one has asked Jesus to make Himself King, 

especially those in charge of the temple. 

He has chosen to make Himself one. 

And as King, He went directly to the central place of power, the temple. 

What does He do? 

He gets angry. 

He goes on a rampage. 

According to John, this required a whip and He demonstrated just how serious He was. 

He made people run!  

Well, not everybody. 

Did you notice the children, the blind and the lame were actually pleased with Him? 

But not the leadership or the money changers. 

What’s happening here? 

Think about it. 

It’s Passover. 

There are hundreds of thousands of people coming from everywhere to do what? 

Make sacrifices. 

They wouldn’t have been able to bring the sacrifice with them, so they would need to purchase one. In order to purchase one they would first need to exchange their money for the money used in Jerusalem. 

Thus the need for money changers. 

So what is Jesus angry about? 

It’s where they are exchanging this money and ripping people off. You see, Caiphus, the religious leader we will meet later, decided a few years ago to move the location of the money changers from outside the temple, inside. This would have assured him of significant profits. Not only that, notice the table Jesus goes for, the table where they are selling doves. Let’s not miss this fine detail. If you were a poor Israelite and you still wanted to make a sacrifice to the God of Israel to say thank you, and you couldn’t afford a lame. God had provided a way, in the book of Leviticus, for you to purchase a dove. 

Jesus walks into the temple, the house of His Father and He sees some renovation. Caiphus has moved the business center right into the temple courts. 

He sees rather than a place where one can praise and lift up the God of Israel, it is a place where the poor are being taken advantage of through extortion as they exchange their money in order to obtain a sacrifice to give to God. And Jesus loses it,

He’s peeved. 

In Jesus’ mind this is the ultimate example of corruption of the religious leadership of Israel. It’s the proverbial “last straw.” And like any good prophet, He quotes the poetry of Israel. He started with quoting Isaiah, 

“‘My house will be called a house of prayer,

That wasn’t happening.

He then quotes from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 7. 

In order for you to truly comprehend what was going on in the minds of the religious leaders who were listening to Jesus I want to read the entirety of the quote Jesus was referring to, every religious leader had this memorized and would have immediately gone to this passage after Jesus spoke,  Jeremiah 7:1-11

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and there proclaim this message. 

“‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury,burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.

We can imagine what was going on in the minds of the religious leaders? 

Jesus was intentional and He intentionally wanted the religious leaders to wrap their heads around the idea that Jesus was claiming, like Jeremiah, that the temple was going to be destroyed. The temple was supposed to be the place where the God of Israel could meet with His people. A place where the Holy of Holies existed and within certain boundaries all the people of Israel could come to give thanks, rich and poor, religious and common. Yet, the religious leaders had turned God’s temple into an idol. A place where as long as they did the do’s and said the correct things, they were fine with God. 

Jesus arrives, as Israel’s king and lets them know in no uncertain terms, things are not fine. In fact, Israel was just repeating itself. Things were the same as they had been 700 years ago when Jeremiah uttered his words. 

And this makes Jesus angry. 

What is anger? 

The experts tell us that anger is actually not an emotion. What it really is, is a reaction due to a deeper emotion. Now that emotion can be bad or it can be good. For Jesus, He was reacting to His passion for His people and His true understanding of who God is and what the temple is supposed to be all about. Out of His passion for people and especially those who were being taken advantage of, He responded. This response was seen as anger. 

Since the beginning of time God has wanted nothing more than to be reconciled with His creation. But people keep doing things that get in the way, even the religious leaders. It’s like Jesus knows the final outcome. He walked into the temple and it was morphed into wall street and was no longer focused on worship. Jesus was aware of the price He was going to pay and it was not for money, it was for love. 

Here is what I think is amazing. We live in a time where we can read this story and yet still participate in its outcome. The price Jesus would pay is death. Not just a simple death, but one where He was mocked, spit upon, humiliated, brutally whipped and left to die by hanging on a cross.  He felt every word and every blow. He did it out of love. The love that brought about anger with the money changers is the same love that hung on the cross. We participate today in the remembrance of this love.  

Lord’s Supper.