Matthew 21 Overview

This chapter brings us to Jerusalem with Jesus. There are many important events that take place in chapter 21. Here’s a list of the highlights:

1. Triumphal Entry

2. Second purification of the Temple

3. Barren fig tree cursed

4. The secret of answered prayer

5.  Jesus’ authority questioned

6. Parable of the two sons

7. Parable of the householder


The scene is set for the incredibly dramatic events that take Jesus to the cross and the tomb, and to His glorious resurrection.  If you ever get the opportunity to see a good Passion Play, it is an experience you will always treasure.  My daughter and I were privileged to see the play in Oberammergau, Germany, in 2000. We went with my son and his wife.  It brought the events of that week to life in a whole new way, and I’m so thankful we were able to be there.

Jesus had Compassion

Matthew 20:33-34. “They say unto Him, Lord that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.”

  1. sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
    “the victims should be treated with compassion”
    synonyms: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude,sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance,kindness, humanity, charity

    1. antonyms: indifference, cruelty
    Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati‘suffer with.’

 Jesus had such pity for people that He actually suffered with them in their pain. He had compassion on all of us, didn’t He?

This beautiful picture of Jesus simply touching the eyes that He had created is evocative of the personal, intimate way in which He wishes to interact with each one of us.  He wants healing for us in more than our physical needs; He wants to heal our sinful souls, and take us to live with Him forever in heaven.

I love it that the two healed men immediately followed Him. No hesitation.

And Jesus Stood Still

Matthew 20:32. “And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?”

Sometimes, in God’s Word, I am just stuck on a small phrase, a few simple words.  This time, it’s “And Jesus stood still.”

During most of His ministry, Jesus was active.  He walked miles and miles. He healed, fed, and ministered to thousands of people. He taught, speaking from the Old Testament scriptures. He debated seldom, because His answers usually silenced His opposition.  He rode out storms, walked on water, cast out demons, stilled the wind and the rain, raised loved ones from death, visited with the throngs, comforted the grieving.  And He occassionally went off by Himself to rest, and to pray.  Seldom did He simply stand still.

The crowds must have been pressing in on Him.  Hot, sweaty, demanding, and curious to see what He would do next, they didn’t want to be slowed down by a couple of lowly blind beggars.

BUT!  Jesus. Stood. Still.  Not for a king, a prince, a high priest, or a Roman centurion, but for two blind men whose faith was so great that they recognized Him and cried out to Him, in spite of the efforts of the crowd to hush them up.

You know, I’m just a nobody. When I die, some will remember for a while, but not for long. I’ve read that most of us pass into oblivion in the world’s memories in about 60 years. And yet, when I cry out to my God, do you know what happens?

He Stands Still–for ME! He listens, He heals, He comforts, He speaks to me through His Word and gives me what He knows I need.  He ignores the noisy crowd who want something else from Him, and He ministers to my need.

That’s the kind of God I serve:  One Who will stand still when He hears me cry out to Him; One Who loves me in spite of my insignificance in the world’s eyes, because in His eyes I am significant indeed.

Do you know my Jesus?  Do you know my Friend?

The Multitude

Matthew 20:21. “And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David.”

I believe it is safe to assume that it was the Holy Spirit Who touched the hearts of these two blind men, leading them to recognize Who Jesus was. It is interesting, then, that the great crowds who followed Him were apparently not of the same mind, or the same degree of faith; otherwise, they would not have rebuked the blind men and tried to keep them out of the way.  Apparently the crowd did not share the blind men’s faith the this was indeed the Son of David, Messiah, He Who had come as the Anointed One to redeem Israel and all sinners from the result of their sin.

There are great crowds today who “follow Jesus.” I even read recently about the publishing of a gay-friendly version of the Bible, which by its very nature must have had to omit several important passages.  President Obama himself once claimed he was a Christian, but all of his words and behavior since then have pointed in a different direction. 

Matthew 7:21-23 makes it clear that in the final judgment, there will be many who have claimed Christ, but that He, Who knows our hearts, will send away because He never knew them. You can read my post about this passage here.

The lesson for us today is that it can be very dangerous to follow the crowd. Of course, that is not the only thing that can be pulled out of this passage. But for me, today, this morning as I study and write, that’s the thing that speaks to me. It is dangerous to follow anyone other than Jesus. It is dangerous to become enamoured of a man or a woman and to honor that person’s words and writings above the Word of God. There is a lot being written today that true believers need to sift through the Word.  There is more being said from pulpits, and from TV and radio microphones, that we need to hear with great discernment and not follow simply because everyone else is.

Jesus certainly did not follow the crowd, as we’ll see tomorrow. 

Friday Counseling Issues: Abandonment, Part 6

People who are plagued with fear of abandonment, or who have experienced it, find that it controls their thinking.  It is always at the forefront of their minds, even as they are in the process of developing a new relationship.  Because they  can be obessessed with the fear of being abandoned again, it becomes almost certain that they will cling to a new relationship so tightly that the other person feels smothered. Escape from such a cloying relationship becomes the goal, and the abandoned person is abandoned again. The cycle continues, with every repetition of the cycle convincing the person more deeply that he is unloved, unloveable, unworthy, and guilty.

The next thought pattern is to wonder why God has abandoned me, if indeed there is a God. When we can’t figure out any logical reason for our pain, it is in our nature to blame God, to deny His existence, to believe that He is a Being Who sits in heaven with a scorecard in His hand, keeping track of our bad behavior and punishing us in a variety of awful ways.

So the first thing I want to address, by way of help for those who deal with abandonment, is  how they think about God. It is always our thinking that, when we change the wrong and replace it with the right, will help us dig out of our despair.

First, we need to understand that God’s nature makes it impossible for Him to behave contrary to what He has said. It is one thing to believe in God; it is quite another to believe God. If we believe God, then we can appropriate His words into our lives in such a way that our lives will be changed.

What has God said?  “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth” (Matthew 28:20).

Here is a website that gives a list of ten biblical proofs that God will not abandon us:

Jeremiah 29:11 is a wonderful promise.

Do you struggle with fear, doubt, and discouragement because you were abandoned?  Do you have a sense of emptiness that you just can’t fill?  I want to challenge you this week to dwell on the scriptures I’ve given  you here.  Pray, asking God to help your unbelief; asking Him to help you understand Who He is. Don’t focus on the people who have hurt you. Focus on the God Whose plans for you are to prosper you, not to harm you; to give you a hope and a future.

And come back here next week for more help.

Two Blind Men

Matthew 20:29-30. “And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.  And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David.”

How do you suppose those two blind men knew that Jesus was the Lord, the Son of David? They couldn’t read, after all. Clearly they had some education, though, and had listened to the Law and the Prophets being read. Clearly they understood Who Jesus was, though their eyes could not see Him. In simple faith, they called to Him for mercy, believing  fully that He was the Son of David, the Son of God.

Wouldn’t you love to have been there?

Let Him Be Your Minister

Matthew 20:24-28. “And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Can you imagine?  The other ten disciples heard about James’ and John’s request, and they were jealous, muttering and murmuring among themselves at these two upstarts who dared to place themselves in positions of importance.

Jesus gathered them together to scold them–mildly, but kindly.  “You men know that among the Gentiles, the kings, princes, and men of power rule over them and expect to be treated accordingly. But among you, this is not to be.  I’m teaching you something new here, and this is what I say:  If you want to be chief, then you must be willing to serve.  If you want to be first, you must be willing to be last.  If you would follow in My footsteps, you must be willing to minister rather than to have others minister to you.  This is a new and better way. Put aside your petty desire to be SOMEONE, and be willing to be NO ONE.

How the disciples must have blushed in embarrassment. I’m thinking it was very quiet among them for some time. They were still learning, still seeking to understand this new and very different attitude that Jesus modeled for them.

It is in our nature to desire recognition, praise, and esteem. Sometimes, when we do rise to places of leadership, we forget our own weakness and trumpet our own success and importance.

There is an old saying that I love: He who blows his own horn generally plays a solo!

Ye Know Not What ye Ask

Matthew 20:22-23. “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto Him, We are able. And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.”

Indeed, these two brothers had no idea what they were asking. Jesus’ response to them was clear:  “Only if you are able and willing to follow in My footsteps, to suffer as I will suffer, to endure as I will endure, can you ask such a favor. And you shall. You will endure suffering. But only My Father knows to whom will be granted special places of favor. It is not Mine to decide.”

How eagerly they responded, “Yes!  We are able to follow You in suffering!”

The scriptures and historical accounts tell us that James, who was the first of the twelve to be killed, was beheaded by Herod. His brother John, who was the disciple that Jesus loved, was the writer of the Gospel of John, the epistles of John, and the book of Revelation. Tradition tells us, and many historical writings bear it out, that John was at one point thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil but received no injuries. In his old age, he was exiled to the isle of Patmos. He lived to be 100 years old, which was a very old age in that time.

Do you wonder. . . .if they had known what faced them, would they have been so eager to proclaim their ability to follow in Jesus’ path?  

Are we?




What Wilt Thou?

Matthew 20:20-21. “Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him. And He said unto her, “What wilt thou? She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, and the other on the left, in Thy kingdom.”

Jesus had just told His disciples that He would suffer betrayal, torture, and death in Jerusalem, but that  He would rise again  three days after His death. We aren’t invited into the conversation that must have taken place following this announcement.  Instead, we are shown the picture of a loving mother who is concerned for the future of her sons. I don’t think we should be too quick to condemn her. 

In Matthew 27:56 coupled with Mark 15:40, we learn that the “mother of Zebedee’s children” (James and John) was named Salome. We are told that she worshipped Jesus. The language would indicate that she knelt before Him, acknowledging Him in a reverential way. Then she asked Him for something very special. 

It is at this point that we often tsk-tsk this woman, feeling that she is out of place in seeking special favors for her sons. However, when we look at the same incident in Mark 15, we see clearly that James and John were with her; that, in fact, the request had come through their mother from them. Jesus did not address her again in this incident, but spoke directly to the two disciples, whom He loved.  

Salome received no rebuke from Jesus. i believe that He understood her heart, and felt no anger toward her.  Salome is among the women who stood away from the cross and watched during His crucifixion, women who had followed Him and ministered to Him and the other disciples during His ministry.  Salome was not a greedy helicopter mom. She was simply relaying a request from her sons–who should have known better!

James and John had doubtless hear Jesus’ response to Peter when he had asked about rewards. They had heard that the twelve would be seated on thrones, judging (having authority over) Israel in the Kingdom. It was customary then that an Eastern king would seat his two most important followers on either side of his throne, indicating their place of position and favor. James and John coveted those positions, and apparently felt they had earned the right to request those places next to Jesus. 

Favor always comes with merit. Tomorrow, we’ll see what Jesus’ response was.