Jesus sends these two disciples into town to pick up a colt. Not to buy or barter for one, just to pick one up. And whether or not He had this planned ahead of time, we do not know. He told them to go do it - He didn't tell them why, and He didn't tell them how it was going to work out. They were simply told to go, and if anyone asked them, to say, "The Lord has need of it." You know, in obeying His command, they easily could have been either arrested for theft or beat to death, depending on whose donkey it was! But they just went - total obedience and trust that He knew what He was doing.
It is valuable instruction for us to put ourselves in the place of these disciples Has the Lord ever instructed you to do something that totally went against common sense? Or told you to do something without telling you the outcome? How did you do? Were you obedient?
Notice that when they were confronted, its owners saying, "Why are you untying that colt?", they didn't do what you or I would have done, saying, "Well, um, you see, there's this guy Jesus, and He told us to come get this, and if anyone asked us, just to say "The Lord has need of it"... No, they simply said, "The Lord has need of it." No explanation, just complete obedience to do what they were instructed to do. I like that. I want to be that kind of disciple.
A king's welcome! Strange that He would choose to ride a little donkey. Seems to me, if I were going to ride in to Jerusalem, everyone proclaiming me as king, I'd have an army of white horses, and I'd be on the biggest, tallest white horse of all - inspiring awe and wonder in the hearts of the people. But God's ways are not man's ways. In doing this, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9...
Zech. 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The people recognized Jesus as their just and saving king - entering in just as it was prophesied. And so they began to sing to their Messiah the messianic Psalm 118,
Ps. 118:22-26 The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, do save, we beseech Thee; O LORD, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD!
"This is the day that the Lord has made! Here comes our conquering king! Here to free us from the Roman occupation and oppression!" That old favorite expressions of many Christians who wake up to a beautiful spring or summer day, as they praise God saying, "This is the day that the Lord has made!" are not being quite Biblically correct. Oh certainly, the Lord has made for us a wonderful day, but that Scripture from Psalm 118 speaks of one specific day - this day in history that Jesus came into Jerusalem, humble, and riding on a donkey.
Strange that on such a glorious day Jesus would be weeping. But He knew what was in men's hearts, what they were expecting from Him And as soon as they saw Him arrested and beaten, they would come to the conclusion that this was not the conquering king they'd been expecting. By the end of the week, He knew that almost all of these people would all reject Him.
In weeping over the city, He says, "If you had known this day... the time of your visitation." What did He mean? Back in Daniel 9, the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel, saying,
Dan. 9:24-25 "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks"
This word for "weeks" is actually "sevens". Just as a week is a group of 7 days to us, in the Jewish mind, a week could be any group of 7 periods of time. So there will be 70 periods of time in groups of 7. They turn out to be years - more specifically, the 360-day years of the Babylonian calendar that society was operating under at the time this prophecy was given.
Now this prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel was specifically to "your people and your holy city" - to the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. All the prophetic dealings of God with Israel were now being wrapped up in these 70 groups of 7 Babylonian years. But notice too that he divides them up into 62+7 weeks, when Messiah the Prince would appear, and then 1 final week. When did this time clock begin? "From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks"
This part of the book of Daniel was written in the "first year of Darius", which was 538 BC. Nearly 100 years later, in the year 445 BC, Artaxerxes did issue the decree to Nehemiah to restore and rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem - which you can read about in the beginning of the book of Nehemiah. We know from Sir Robert Anderson's archaeological and historical work that the date was exactly March 14, 445 BC.
Gabriel told Daniel "so you are to know and discern" these times. All they had to do was count the days, and 69x7x360 works out to 173,880 days from March 14, 445 BC. At the end of those days, they could expect to see their Messiah entering into the holy city as a king. And today, if you were to go back and count that many days on a calendar, you would find that 173,880 days from March 14, 445 BC is April 6, 32 AD. It just so happens that it was on this very date, April 6 of 32 AD, that Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a king. Remember that although the people had desired and requested His kingship earlier, He was always going out of His way to avoid it. Remember earlier in His ministry when He had fed the 5,000...
John 6:14-15 When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
But on this specific day, 173,880 days after the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, April 6, 32AD, He allowed them to sing, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!", the Messianic words of Psalm 118. We might miss the kingly proclamation they were making, but the Pharisees sure didn't! They told Jesus to rebuke His disciples for such a blasphemous thing as this!
So they didn't recognize that this was the day that the Lord had made. And since they didn't know and discern the time, as Gabriel had ordered them to, Jesus knew what would happen soon after:
Luke 19:43-44 "For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
Less than 40 years later, Jesus' lament over Jerusalem came to fruition. Titus Vespasian laid siege to Jerusalem, bringing famine, sorrow, and ultimately, death to its inhabitants. We read in the gospel of Matthew that the stones He was speaking of were the massive stones of the temple. This was unthinkable to the Jew, for these stones were massive - 40 feet by 20 feet, and each weighing tons. History tells us that Titus gave orders for battering rams to bring down the western wall of the inner temple, since there were Jews holed up there protecting the house of the Lord. The Romans hit that wall for six days without making a even a dent. Then the Romans got the great idea of climbing over it with ladders. The Jews were waiting for them at the top to kill the Romans as they climbed over. Some of the ladders were even pushed backwards while they were full of soldiers! When Titus saw how many of his men were dying, he gave orders to set the temple gates on fire - this would provided them a safer entry to the temple. Once this was accomplished, Titus ordered the fire to be put out. But the Jewish historian Josephus tells us,
...One of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window... (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.249)
The entire temple burned. The untold amount of gold and silver which had covered the surfaces melted down into cracks and crevices. The Romans pulled every one of those massive stones off of one another to get to the precious metals that had melted inside. Just as Jesus had said, "Not one stone left upon another." Just as Gabriel had said,
Dan. 9:26 "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary."
Knowing all this would come to pass, no wonder Jesus began to weep and cry out, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" We know of course that the Jews have one seven year cycle that has not yet transpired. At the point where the Messiah was cut off, God's prophetic time clock was stopped. And has remained stopped until the church is complete, until the "fullness of the Gentiles be come in." And in our studies of the book of Revelation on Thursday nights, we're going to be looking in depth at that final week of years.
We can read some of the other gospels to capture the violence of the moment. Jesus walks into the temple and becomes enraged. Zeal for His Father's house consumed Him, and He went ballistic. Running from table to table, flipping them over, driving out these men with a whip of cords, knocking over their chairs. Causing a stampede of sheep and oxen, pouring out their moneyboxes, littering the ground with coins, shouting, "Stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise! This should be a house of prayer, but you've turned it into a house of thieves!"
Now this account has been interpreted by many to mean that you cannot sell anything in a church. And that is worthy of our serious consideration if that is the true meaning, for that would eliminate book tables, bookstores, tape ministries, and the like. But if we are careful to look closely at the context, we see what Jesus' motive and message was in doing this.
Remember that the Jew was obligated by law to bring sacrificial animals to be slain to cover the guilt of their sins. Part of the regulations were that you couldn't bring a sick, injured, or otherwise imperfect animal for your sacrifice. God didn't want your leftovers, He expected the best. Unfortunately, that opened the door for corruption and extortion. As people would bring their animals for the sacrifices, the corrupt priests would say, "Oh, I'm sorry, there is a slight defect here in this dove's wing." or "Unfortunately, I can't accept this ox, for it's left back hoof is a little deformed." The priests had a side deal going with the sellers. They referred the customers to them, and the priests got a commission. "You'll need to bring back an animal worthy of sacrifice - one without a defect or deformation," the priest would say, "why don't you go by Trader Tom's table there in the outer court?"
Corruption in the priesthood. Extortion of people who desired to be right with God. Prevention of the sacrifices of people who needed atonement for their sin. Inflation of the standard that God had set forth for His people. Today, a similar situation in the church would not be a book table, it would be a corrupt system in the church that puts unbiblical burdens on the people, to the benefit of the clergy. Pounding the pulpit, proclaiming that God requires this much money from you, or that much service of you. Rules and regulations that aren't in the Bible, but somehow make their way into the sermon because they benefit the preacher. That is the kind of situation that would cause Jesus to come in and overturn the tables.
They challenged, "By what authority do you do and teach these things?" Notice that Jesus didn't evade the question.
The answer was in the truth of where John's authority came from - heaven. But they couldn't say anything about John - he had been a true prophet, but the Pharisees hadn't listened to or done what he said. They couldn't answer without proving themselves wrong.
The Pharisees knew from Isaiah that the vineyard was Israel, and deduced that they were the wicked tenants. When God sent His prophets to His vineyard, they were killed. When He sent His Son, they killed Him too. What else would God do but destroy the vine-growers and give the vineyard to others?
Now, trying to catch Jesus preaching some sort of civil disobedience that would motivate the Roman authorities to arrest Him, they question Him regarding paying taxes. Never will you find Jesus preaching to disobey the authority of government or civil law. On the contrary, the Bible is specific in saying,
Rom. 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
As you go through the Word of God, you will find that the only justifiable civil disobedience is when the government of the land is forcing you to personally sin, as when Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to bow down before the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar.
The Sadducees come up with a ridiculous situation to show Jesus how 'wrong' He was for believing in the resurrection of the dead. He addresses the situation biblically, saying, "There's no marriage in the resurrection." (That's a good Scripture to share with your Mormon friends, who believe that they'll be married to lots of women in the next life!) He quotes the book of Exodus, when Moses was in front of the burning bush, and the Lord had said to him,
Exod. 3:6 "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."
You see, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all dead by then, yet the Lord said "I am their God" - present tense. They were alive! Of course there is a resurrection of the dead - He proves it biblically. That is where we all need to be in our knowledge of the Word of God - being able to biblically address issues that arise. It is always very sad to me to hear the extreme examples people go to to avoid being accountable to God, just as these Sadducees did with their story. A couple of months ago, I was addressing an unbiblical issue that had arisen. I said, "Brother, this clearly isn't biblical, it is direct violation of the Word of God." His response? "Oh, and so since cars aren't in the Bible, then I guess we shouldn't drive them either, should we?" Irrational extremism in discussion of Biblical matters is always indicative of those who are disobedient to God, who have no desire to truly sit down and reason from the Bible. There is of course the famous skeptic's question, "So if God can do anything, can He make a rock so big that He can't lift it?" Irrational and extreme! I'm not going to play games about the Lord. If you want to talk seriously about God, if you have genuine questions about the nature of the Lord and His Word, I'll be glad to share with you. But I'm not going to waste my time with irrational extremism. Paul told Titus to
Titus 3:9 ...shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless.
Jesus now saying, "If you want tough questions, I've got one for you: How can the Christ be the Lord of David and yet be the Son of David?" They could not answer Him, because they had hardened their hearts to the truth.
Jesus Christ was David's Lord - He is God, the Creator of the universe -
John 1:3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
But He also became the descendant of David, both biologically through Mary, and lawfully through Joseph. He came in the form of a man, to live a sinless life, and to take the punishment for our sins upon Himself. This was all prophesied so long ago - and every word of it came true:
Isa. 53:5-6 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.