Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A King Anointed for All

Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!
(Matthew 21:9)
Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Though this may seem odd to us today, it carried great significance. Matthew, in his characteristic way of linking prophecy with fulfillment, quotes Zechariah 9:9, a text concerning the Messiah:
All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
(Matthew 21:4-5)
In this instance, entering Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey identified Jesus, not just as a king, but as the King, the Son of David who would fulfill the royal lineage. He was entering as Messiah — the Anointed One.

None of this was lost on the multitudes, which went before and after Him crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” They were quoting Psalm 118, a key passage for the annual Passover pilgrimage. “Hosanna” is from the Hebrew and means “Save now.”
Save now, I pray, O LORD;
O LORD, send now prosperity.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!
(Psalm 118:25-26)
The crowds recognized Jesus as the long-promised King of Israel, the Anointed One who was to deliver them and restore to them the blessings of covenant relationship with God. They were exuberant in their celebration.

Matthew continues this theme as he takes us into the next scene, the temple, where Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves, saying
It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you have made it a den of thieves. (v. 13)
Jewish law required that a half-shekel be given in tribute by every man over twenty years old. The moneychangers served to convert the various currencies into what was required for this temple tax. The dove-sellers provided animals for the poor to be able to bring a sacrifice to the house of God, as provided for in the law. These were not inappropriate activities of themselves, and deserving of reasonable fees, although some, no doubt, would take advantage of the pilgrims.

Jesus charged them with making the house of prayer into a “den of thieves,” but overcharging travelers was not their greatest robbery. The verse He quotes is very significant here “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). Matthew leaves out “for all nations,” but Mark includes it in his parallel account (Mark 11:17). The “nations” refers to the Gentiles, the “foreigners” who were outside of the divine covenant, but whom God greatly desired to bring in:
Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants —
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant —
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
(Isaiah 56:6-7)
The problem with the moneychangers was not so much what they were doing as where they were doing it. They set up shop in the outer courts of the temple, in the section reserved for the Gentiles. This “Court of the Gentiles” was established so that they, too, could come and honor the God of Israel. But the money handlers and dove merchants conducted business with little regard that the sprawling commotion hindered what little opportunity the Gentiles were given to worship. The Father’s house was to be a house of prayer for all nations, and these merchants were robbing them, turning it into a den of thieves by their activity. With righteous indignation, Jesus called them on it. Mark tells us that the scribes and chief priest wanted to destroy Him for that (Mark 11:18).

Jesus was not quite through offending the temple authorities. Next came the blind and the lame to be healed by Him — right there in the temple. Old Testament law prohibited blind and lame priests from serving in the temple, but religious tradition expanded this ban to exclude all the blind and lame in general from entering in. But Jesus received them gladly into His Father’s house and healed them. The scribes and chief priests could not complain about this openly, but inwardly they seethed.

That is not all that had them angry. There were also children who came into the temple and cried out the same thing that multitudes had cried out in the streets: “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:15). The scribes and priests were incensed. They went to Jesus and said, “Do you hear what these are saying?” They knew full well what the significance was — and coming from the mouths of children, who were not even supposed to be in the temple. But Jesus made room for the children, just as He did for the Gentiles, and the blind and lame. He answered the scribes and priests and brought them up short:
Yes. Have you never read,“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise”?
(Matthew 21:16)
He was quoting Psalm 8:2, which is about praise given only to God. But the children were speaking it about Jesus, and Jesus received it, in effect acknowledging He is God.

When Jesus came into Jerusalem that final week, He presented Himself as King, Messiah and God. He was anointed, not just for some, but for all — from the humblest child to the greatest nation. None is excluded; all who come to Him by faith may enter into His kingdom.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.