Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 21: 1-17

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Hosanna in the Highest!

Hosanna in the Highest!

General Idea: And so it begins! This passage begins the narrative of Jesus' last week on earth and the events leading up to His Passion and our redemption. Traditionally, the Triumphal Entry happened on a Sunday, with the Resurrection occurring the following Sunday. Within this week, Monday is when Jesus cleansed the Temple; Tuesday, He gave the Olivet Discourse; Wednesday, He rested; Thursday was the Last Supper, the betrayal, and the Garden of Gethsemane experience, and on Friday came the Passion of the Scourge, the trials, and the Crucifixion. 


Jesus is the Great King! Jesus entered Jerusalem greeted as a king. This greeting of praise and worship eroded to disgust within a few days. Some of the same people who praised and called Him king then were calling for His death on Friday. The people were so blinded with their expectations of a Messiah they did not see what God foretold, or what they needed (Zech. 9:9).


Jesus saw His Temple in debauchery,  with people actually selling indulgences, leaders fleecing the flock, taking money for worship, and charging exorbitant fees for what was supposed to be a matter of the heart-a  love offering. 


1.   Donkey was a symbol for a royal emissary or a king bringing peace, whereas a horse was a sign of action and war. Jesus uses this image to point to His Kingdom of Peace (Gen. 49:10).

a.   Donkeys were never used in war and rarely in farming; they were usually only for civil commerce (1 Kings 1:32-35).

b.   To allow someone who was a distinguished visitor to ride your donkey showed great honor to that person. Perhaps the owner saw the term, Lord, or knew about Jesus and was honored to offer his donkey.

c.   A colt was a young donkey not yet separated from its mother. Most colts were never ridden.

d.   This passage fulfills the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 where a donkey and colt are mentioned.

                                                  i.      Is there a contradiction with Mark? Matthews's audience was Jewish, so he sticks to the fulfillment of prophecy; Mark (Mark 11:2) only mentions the donkey because his audience is Greek, and would not know of or care about the colt.

                                                ii.      The Zechariah passage gives us, in Jewish tradition and writings, the picture of  the attributes of the ultimate, perfect king (2 Sam. 23:3-4; Psalm 72:1-3; Isa. 9:7; 11:4-5; 53:11; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16).

e.   Spread their clothes on the donkey and the road. This was a sign that the Messiah was here (1 Kings 1:33-34). Clothes were the most expensive possession then, sometimes greater than even a home.


2.   Hosanna means "O-save!" as in save us now and continue to save and sustain us!  It is an expression of praise from Psalm 118:25-27 (Psalms 113-118).

a.   This was also a "saying" shouted at Passover in Jesus' time. Ironically, (perhaps, deliberately) they did not see the verses 22-23!  Knowing the Bible does not always mean knowing the Lord!

b.   This has been called the "Triumphal Entry" in Church tradition; it was victory over darkness and the oppression of sin, but not in military terms, as the Romans did in their victory processions, or as many worshipers expected of Jesus.

c.   Son of David. Here, it is not necessarily referring to a title for Jesus; rather, the crowd is recognizing Jesus' ancestry. This term also expresses a hope that He is the militant messiah they have sought. 

d.   Who is this? The people in Jerusalem did not know Jesus as well as the people in Galilee. Josephus records other "would be" messiahs who, at that time, were competing for public recognition; perhaps this was also a statement of jealousy.

e.   The character Jesus emulates here is that of always seeking to be gentle and humble (Isa. 53:2-3, 7; Matt. 11:29). Jesus is exhibiting "meekness," which is not weakness or a lack of strength, but, rather, humbleness. Meekness is not about being weak! It is strength under control, as we yield our personal rights and expectations to God. This means when we feel like hurting others or over powering them in personality and expectations, we do not-period! Because, God does not do this with us (Psalms 62:5)! We are to seek to please God and submit our will to Him; in so doing, we are being gentle toward God and others (Ex. 32:19-20; 30-34; Num 12:1-3; Psalm 37:11; Matt. 5: 3-12; 11:29). Later in the Passion, Jesus models the ultimate meekness as He is able to endure being heinously and personally attacked while keeping His focus on God's plan and our redemption. If we would be meek, we must focus on Christ and humility.


3.   Drove out. This passage follows in the spirit of Jeremiah smashing the pot, demanding repentance, and proclaiming judgment (Jer. 19).

a.   John records (John 2:13-17) that Jesus drove out the money changers early in His ministry. Contradiction? The answer is that both occurred. The liberal interpretation is that the writer of Matthew or John changed it to fit their theological agenda. However, this is not true.

b.  Bought and sold in the Temple. This refers to the people selling sacrificial animals, as required by the Law, to visitors who did not live in Jerusalem. Most foreign visitors would have different currency that needed to be exchanged. Even different provinces in Israel, such as Galilee, would have different legal tender that would not be accepted in Jerusalem. 

c.   Den of thieves. They were violating God's call that Jesus quotes from Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11). The issue that angered Jesus was not the sale of the doves, as this was needed and necessary; it was the usury and abuse. It was about the seeking of gain and the exploitation of God's work for profit rather than seeking the Father's glory. An honest profit was O.K., but the attitude and location were wrong. The sellers were, perhaps, taking up space in the "Court of the Gentiles" which was needed for the Gentiles, and perverting the worship of God for commerce. One of the roles of the Temple was to evangelize God's message to the world (Gen. 12:1-3).

d.   The Temple had special places set aside for women, children, visitors, and the men who were Jews, as well as for the priests. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah dealt with wicked priests who sought profit rather than God, and perverted the Temple for selfish gains-a heinous sight before the Lord. Profit is not wrong; exploitation and preventing true worship is! It is acceptable to have bake sales in the church, just not in the place of worship, distracting from the purpose of the church or making it a requirement to enter.

e.   Blind. Jesus goes against His culture, not the O.T.; furthermore, He advocates the rights of the blind! Blind priests were not allowed to enter the inner sanctuary (Lev. 21:18; 2 Sam. 5:8). Many Rabbis did not allow the blind to worship, but they were allowed in the outer courts (Acts 3:2). Jesus was angry at those people who prevented others from seeing God; He said they were blind themselves, and unworthy to be in the presence of God or to serve Him!

                                                  i.      When the priests. They sought a militant messiah from the upper-class who would have nothing to do with the blind and poor, but who would join their ranks and be aligned with their philosophy. Seeking disciples from the working class and healing the infirmed was considered a sign of weakness.

                                                ii.      Indignant showed a form of extreme anger because their power and purpose as pious frauds was in jeopardy. Nothing upsets a "fake" more than when the "real" one shows up! They had contempt for the real things of God and were stuck in their pride.

                                              iii.      Have you not read? Jesus speaks Greek here from Psalm 8:2, and shows them up by saying that children are wiser and worthier than they! Worship is to be directed to God-something the children knew, but the priests did not!


          This passage is about expectations and disappointments. The people expected a king who would redeem them from their temporary oppression. They did not see the real oppression, that of sin, and did not see the Scriptures foretelling the real King Jesus, the King who would redeem! So, they felt betrayed, and called for Jesus' crucifixion a few days later when they did not get their way! Then Jesus ventured into the Temple that was meant as a place to worship God, but was entrenched in sin. We are made in Him, to worship Him (Rom. 8:26-27; 1 Cor. 16:9), yet we all too often have our own den of thieves-distractions and lusts that seek to satisfy our needs rather than God's glory. They become the basis of our actions and builders of our life. Yet, their components are evil! We need to be cleaned out from time to time. Jesus did this twice to the Temple; how many times have you done it to yourself? We must allow our lives and churches to be houses of prayer and not dens of thieves! Our responsibility is to attract people to Him, not distract people from worship!




1.   Have you ever been in a parade or procession? How did you feel?


2.   How did Jesus handle being praised and greeted with a kingly greeting as He entered Jerusalem? How would you react if people treated you that way?


3.   Why do you suppose the people were blinded by their expectations of a Messiah, therefore were unable to see what God foretold or what they needed?


4.   How and why did Jesus react when He saw the people actually "fleecing the flock," taking money for worship and charging exorbitant fees for what was supposed to be a matter of the heart-a love offering?


5.   Why did Jesus choose to ride a donkey?


6.   Look over one or more of these passages (2 Sam. 23:3-4; Psalm 72:1-3; Isa. 9:7; 11:4-5; 53:11; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16): How is Jesus the ultimate, perfect King? How and why are these traits important? Which of these traits are we called to emulate?


7.   What do you suppose their motivation was when the people took the most expensive possession they had and spread it on a donkey or on the road?


8.   What were the people expecting in Jesus? How did He disappoint them? Has He disappointed you? If so, why?


9.   What does Hosanna mean to you? Have you said it? What did it mean?


10. How has Jesus continued to save and sustain you?


11. How has Jesus given you victory?


12. What is meekness? How does Jesus exemplify it? How are you modeling it?


13. How would you react if people were charging you a fee to go to church, or requiring that you purchase something before you could worship? Why is this wrong? How do some churches do this today?


14. Why did Jesus call them a den of thieves? How would you react if someone said that to you?


15. What might have been the motivations of the leaders of the Temple to take advantage of their people? Do you think that they realized they were distracting people from God? Did they care; or, were they just caught up in the money?


16. In what ways do you become distracted from God's precepts or what He is calling you to? (Remember God's principle call is for us to pursue maturity and spiritual development over anything else!)


17. Has Christ met your expectations? How so? Why not? Are your expectations in line with His principles?


18. What are the real oppressions you face? What can you do about them?


19. What are some of the real and possible distractions and lusts that cause us to seek our own needs and not God's? What can you do to guard yourself from them so they do not take up root in you?


20. What do you need to clean out from your "temple?" (1 Cor. 16:9) How can you be better at committing to it?



© 2004 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries

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