Obeying Instructions, Following Directions – Sunday April 13th, 2014

Matthew 21:1-13

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SPECIFIC – Matthew 21:1-3

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SIMPLE – Matthew 21:3

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SCRIPTURAL – Matthew 21:4-5

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SURE – Matthew 21:6-7

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE STIRRING – Matthew 21:8-9

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SOUL SAVING – Matthew 21:9

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SPECTACULAR – Matthew 21:10-11

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SPIRITUAL Matthew 21:12-13

 

It is spring, the time the Passover feast took place in Jerusalem. 

On the Jewish calendar, this event falls in the month of Nisan.

Nisan, on our calendar is April. 

Passover always began on the 14th of Nisan, so that year it fell on Friday. 

I’m not an expert at this but using astronomical data, scholars have determined that the date of the Passover feast during which Jesus was crucified was either April 3, AD 30 or else April 7, AD 33.

You can tell the difficulty in ascertaining the exact date; even the scholars can’t agree. 

One thing we know is that it did happen and that’s good for me. 

But if, as they say, this event I’m referring to falls on Nisan 9 on the Jewish calendar, it is the day we call Palm Sunday. 

Just in case some amongst us are wondering why Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is called “Palm Sunday”, the answer is because: 

According to the Gospel of John, the crowds in Jerusalem came out to greet Jesus carrying palm branches, which they either waved or strewed in His path.

But actually, it is more than Palm Sunday; it was Jesus’ coronation. 

In fact this event was so significant that all the 4 Gospels record it.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives and headed towards Jerusalem. 

As He came the crowds lay their clothes on the ground to welcome Him and He triumphantly entered Jerusalem.

What a day! The crowd was huge and the people were jubilating all over the place. 

That day also recorded His last major public appearance before His crucifixion.

This was the moment Jesus was crowned King and He victoriously entered Jerusalem! 

The apostle John says this event took place just a few days before the Last Supper.

John 12:1says it happened 6 days before the Passover – Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany.

Writing about the same thing, Matthew 21:1 and Mark 11:1 open their version by saying: 

approaching Jerusalem,” which tells us that Jesus was coming from somewhere. Where? Our answer lies in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 19:1-2 says 1And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

 

Let us look at some historical context and also at a map of the place including the processional route.

Bethphage

Luke 19:29 adds: And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,

So Jesus was coming from the direction of Jericho, Bethphage and Bethany.

Bethphage means House of Figs, House of Unripe Figs. This village was on the Mount of Olives. 

It is interesting that 2 days later, Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had lots of leaves but no fruit.  

Cursing of the Fig Tree

That fig tree was a Tree of Unripe Figs next to the village of the House of Unripe Figs (Bethphage) 

It was also the site where the Sanhedrin determined the limits of things that they consider either holy or unholy.

So when Jesus’ curse miraculously withered the fig tree, it pointed to the eventual demise as well as the last and final authority of the Sanhedrin to make decisions. 

It may be a symbolic act but it showed that there was a new order or, soon to be a new order:

The authority of the Sanhedrin is being taken away and given to a new nation that will bear fruits. 

If you are with me, you will see that it is therefore no surprise that a few days later, Jesus went into the Temple and what did He do? 

He overturned the tables and whipped the money-changers out, emphatically stating: “Therefore say I unto you. The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43).

The other city mentioned in our test is Bethany.

Bethany

Several meanings have been given to the name Bethany: house of dates; house of misery/poverty; the house of song; the house of affliction and it was home to the siblings Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. It was also the home of Simon the Leper (Matthew 26; Mark 14). 

Today it is now known by a name derived from Lazarus–el-Azariyeh or Lazarieh

When we read the Gospel of John, we learn something interesting as to why Bethany is included in Jesus’ itinerary: 

Jesus and the disciples actually spent the night in Bethany on their way to Jerusalem. Why?

Because Bethany was the home of Mary and Martha, and it was their brother, Lazarus, that Jesus raised from the dead.

John 12:1-2 says 1Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.

Thus coming from Jericho that morning, it appears Jesus arrived in Bethany in the late afternoon where there were some true friends who were waiting for Him; to share their meal with Him. 

So a party is thrown in His honour six days before the Passover and He enjoyed supper with these friends 

As it turned out, they even had more than food to share with Him because it was during this supper that Mary anointed Jesus’ feet a very precious ointment and then wiped those blessed feet with her hair. 

Meanwhile,

It is obvious that Mark was aware of what occurred at Bethany. But, look at the approach he took in recording his version of the event.

He addresses it in another context in chapter 14:3 of his gospel.

In addition to his version, Mark notes (Mark 11:11, 19) that during the final week of His life, Jesus did not spend nights in Jerusalem. 

Rather, He would go back out to Bethany each evening. He really had some real friends. You know how it is, accommodating people in your home isn’t easy as it requires a lot of work: cleaning the house, doing the groceries, preparing the meal, etc; moreover, Jesus was with His 12 disciples and probably some more followers. 

 

The other question we want to address is, why were there so many people welcoming Jesus? Let us read John 12.

John 12:9-11; 17-18 9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. 17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. 18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

Do you see that?

satan is always around God’s people. Always! Look at vv.10 and 11. satan didn’t want testimonies of what God had done for Lazarus to spread, to be shared.

Also, it is obvious that the people are like many today, running after signs and wonders and so it is no wonder that they easily turned on Christ that Friday when they shouted “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

But this was a very unique day. We call it “Palm Sunday,” and the disciples obeyed the Lord’s instructions and followed His directions. Like the disciples, we should obey and follow the Lord’s instructions and directions. Why? In answering, I have a few points that we want to look at. These points also form the basis of my outline and I have nine in total. I have them on the overhead for your convenience. We will also be putting them on our website for all to consult. I will start with the first, “The Lord’s instructions are Specific.”

 

1. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SPECIFIC – Matthew 21:1-3

1And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, 2 saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 

Jesus told the disciples where to go, what to do, and what to say. He was specific, direct. And know what?

Through the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we also have been given specific, direct instructions on how, for example, our lives ought to be a living sacrifice to God, (Romans 12:2) as well as in several other areas of our lives.

He says in Psalm 32:8, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. His instructions and guidance are very specific and to the point

 

2. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SIMPLE – Matthew 21:3

And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them

When He told the disciples to get the donkey, Jesus referred to Himself as “The Lord.” 

 “The Lord.” The equivalent is “Jehovah,” or the King Messiah.

This is something Jesus doesn’t really do, referring to Himself in this manner but in so doing, He definitely proclaimed His divinity. He is God and He is the Messiah.

And as God and Lord, He gave some directions, some instructions to His disciples.

He is our Lord, and your Lord, and the Lord of these creatures, the disciples seemed to be telling the owners of the ass and the colt.

The instruction was so simple and specific that the disciples could pass it on and the owners understood what the message meant. Even the animals understood the message because they didn’t fret or fuss. The King and Creator was calling. They docilely and calmly followed the disciples. 

After all, Psalm 24:1 assures us that The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. This includes the ass, the colt and the owners themselves.

Look at some of His instructions to us all:

He said, Matthew 11:28Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest unto your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He said, John 14:1I Am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me

Simple, very simple instructions.

The same direction and instruction has been given us too: 

Present your bodies a living sacrificeRomans 12:1

Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creatureMatthew 28:19

Rejoice in the Lord always and gain I say rejoice Philippians 4:4

Pray without ceasing 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Love thy neighbour as thyself Matthew 22:39

Honour thy father and thy mother Exodus 20:12

Thou shalt not kill Exodus 20:13

Thou shalt not commit adultery Exodus 20:14 

Thou shalt not steal Exodus 20:15 

Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour Exodus 20:16

3. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SCRIPTURAL – Matthew 21:4-5

All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

Since He was born, Jesus always fulfilled Scripture and always did God’s will. John 4:34, 9:4, Matthew 5:18

I want you to note as well that this is the only recorded instance in the Gospels where Jesus rides, rather than walk.

It is interesting that He rode because the distance is short, only about 2 miles, and further, pilgrims coming to the Passover feast normally came by foot.

So to ride, Jesus was showing the people, telling them something; those who went to church and read their bible would know what was happening, what was unfolding at that time. He was fulfilling prophecy.

Here, Matthew is telling us that Zechariah 9:9 is being fulfilled and so he quotes it,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

No wonder the people gave Him the royal treatment, spreading their cloaks, garments on the road for Him to ride over. Tell Hollywood and its Oscars that the first and real red carpet was some 2000 years ago. Tell Hollywood and its Oscars that this red carpet was special, for only one individual: Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Here was pomp and pageantry unsolicited but willingly endowed upon the Man of Sorrows by the people.

Also, let us note another thing, that Christ’s instruction is a very clear proof of His Omniscience. 

He knew that there were an ass and a colt, in such a town, fastened to such a door, just at the entrance into such a town: 

He knew the owners would question the disciples as to why they were untying and taking the beasts of burden away, and so He prepares His disciples as to what answer to give

We should do the same! When people come to us saying “God told them,” ask them questions.

By the way, I would like to have you know that in all the 4 gospels, Matthew is the only one who mentions two animals: the ass and the colt. The other evangelists do not. The reason why I’m drawing your attention to this is the fact that in a way: 

The ass represents the Jewish people, which for a long time bore the yoke of the Law; 

The colt, on the other hand, is an adumbration of the Gentiles; yes, it foreshadows the Gentiles who then were still unbroken; look at what the Scripture says, “whereon never man sat.”

The colt was, like the Gentiles, unbroken but now, something new was going to happen.

 

4. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SURE – Matthew 21:6-7

And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

Anyway in v.6, we see that when the disciples got to the town, they found things just as exactly as Jesus told them.

This was definitely supernatural. There was no pre-arranged meeting between Jesus and the owners. Luke 19:32 says And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them.

They brought the ass, and I want you to note that Jesus did not use it without the owner’s consent. Isn’t that a wonderful example for us to follow? I think so too!

Another supernatural thing was that even though no one had ridden that colt on which the Lord rode, and even though that colt was yet unbroken, it didn’t resist our Lord. If He is Master over the raging tempest and waves and the wind then surely the colt wasn’t going to, and can never resist Him.

You know, we can surely count on God’s instructions and directions as very accurate, accurate to the tee, just like the prophecy being fulfilled by Jesus was fulfilled to the letter, Mark 11:1-6.

 

5. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE STIRRING – Matthew 21:8-9

8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 

Because the disciples followed the Lord’s simple instructions, the people responded amazingly, fulfilling prophecy.

In fact, 2 groups converged on Him. 

Those who followed Him and those who came out to meet Him.

And look at what the people did, v.8. They covered the dusty ground with their clothes.

(a) Spreading their clothes meant submission. 

The disciples themselves were the first to take off their garments and put them on the donkey (v.7); something was stirring in them and so they didn’t just bring the colt to the Lord but they covered it with their garments. As Christians, we should be trailblazers instead of allowing or in some cases inviting the world into the church. 

It is absurd what is going on these days. The church operates like it has no Master and is imitating everything the world does: in dressing, in music, in worship; just name it. We should be setting the examples for the world to follow. Look at what the crowd did after the disciples laid their cloaks and mantles on the colt.

The crowd responded, spreading their garments on the ground in the way, all the way for Jesus to ride over.

As I said, this meant submission. In 2 Kings 9:13, that is what the people did when Jehu became king.

13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

Now, there is also the spreading and waving of the palm leaves by the crowd.

(b) Spreading palm leaves meant victory.

Look at those who came out of the Great Tribulation:

Revelation 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands

Military conquerors were welcomed home by their citizenry who waved palm fronds as the army, led by the triumphant commander, entered the city. The crowd on Palm Sunday also recognized Jesus as such.

And do you see how He receives the worship and praise of the people? 

Before, He would have told His disciples not to say anything, to be quiet about Him. 

Look at Matthew 12:16 and ordered them not to make him known” and 16:20 “Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.”

But now, He doesn’t forbid them because the fullness of time was come and further, and more importantly, only He deserves it. He knew that the waiting was over and the fullness of time was come. In fact, as I said before, He referred to Himself as “Lord.”

 

6. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SOUL-SAVING – Matthew 21:9

And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 

Hosanna means, Save now, we beseech thee

Sure, the people changed their tune later but at that particular instant, they were screaming “Lord Save.” They were shouting, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” Sadly, many of the people praised Him not because they recognized Him as their Messiah. 

They had ulterior motives. They welcomed Him because they were looking for a deliverer, you know, someone who would lead them in a revolt against Rome.

Are you praising Him because of what you want or because you truly want to be saved?

Are you running from church to church because you want to be delivered from something? Is it debt? Disease? What is it? Is that the reason why you “follow” Christ? If so, then you have the wrong motives.

Remember this: all Christ’s miracles point to the future; He is looking for the eternal, not the temporal, which sadly, many are still running after.

Let me say something that is very unpopular these days:

Jesus doesn’t always meet our expectations. 

The Jews were expecting a king who would be a great military leader like David, a king who would overthrow Rome’s iron yoke, melt Rome’s iron heels and impose God’s kingdom on the earth (at least in their part of the earth) through brute force.

But Jesus as usual, is radically different than our expectations. 

Isaiah 55:8-9 says 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

So when He rode into Jerusalem, it was not on a horse, which always symbolized warfare and was the most preferred, the choice of conquerors. 

He did not ride on a mule, which was the steed of Jewish kings like David. 

What did He do? Instead, Jesus picked a donkey, a pack animal, a lowly beast of burden.

That was His royal mount. So my question again is, for what reason do you go to church? Jesus is looking for humble servants because with such He can do many spectacular feats for the furtherance of His kingdom on earth.

 

7. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SPECTACULAR – Matthew 21:10-11

10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

Because the disciples followed Jesus’ directions, they were part of a great day, a spectacular day when God’s Word was fulfilled right before their very eyes.  

Whenever we follow God’s instructions and directions, the results will be spectacular and special. What do I mean? Sinners will be challenged, stirred and saved. Saints will be stirred and edified. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit will be glorified. We will see the spiritual manifested over the physical.

 

8. THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS ARE SPIRITUAL Matthew 21:12-13

12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Our Lord is all about the spiritual. All His teachings are about and point to the spiritual. After all, God is spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, says John 4:24. So Jesus rides into the royal city of Jerusalem, His capital city as the conquering King. 

The people hail Him with shouts of Hosanna, Hosanna. 

Jerusalem and its streets are open to Him, strewn with garments and palm fronds and people.

He is indeed the recognized King and as such He ascends to His palace. 

Let me be clear: I’m not talking about a palace made with human hands though that temple in Jerusalem represented exactly that.

He ascended to the spiritual palace, which is the temple, His house, a House of Prayer. Just in case you are not aware, the temple is not a temporal structure; it is His palace in His spiritual kingdom. Revelation 21:22 talking about the new, the heavenly Jerusalem, reminds us thus: And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

In that House of Prayer, the temple that was being abused, what does He do?

He cleans the place up, both physically and spiritually. He tidies it up, no holds barred!

You know, when you follow Jesus’ instructions and direction, you will end up in His house doing His will. Following His direction leads to the sanctuary. As a child of God, you are the temple and you should be examining yourself.

And when you find yourself in the sanctuary and you begin to examine yourself, you would want to be as spiritual like He is.

And ultimately, you will end up with Him in His eternal palace where He is the Light.

THE LORD’S INSTRUCTIONS LEADS TO THE SANCTUARY

As I said, you are the temple and you will end up examining yourself. Have you been examining yourself? Follow the Lord’s instructions and you will end up in the sanctuary serving Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Hallelujah! Shall we pray.

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