The Context of Matthew 24
Like prophetic bookends, the proceeding and following chapters surrounding Matthew 24 frame Messiah’s teachings on the destruction of Jerusalem. The Triumphal Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, beginning in chapter 21, establishes the setting. Chapter 25 gives many parables to encourage the readiness of His followers for the final Kingdom of Heaven; and the future judgement of nations.
The focus of Jesus’ teaching was that the kingdom the Elders had constructed around the temple was about to be destroyed. A spiritual kingdom was about to be established upon The New and Everlasting Covenant. But, what shocked His audience to their foundation was that this new kingdom would not be Jewish in nature. The temple ritual sacrifices were to be “forsaken” and the kingdom of God was to be given to another “nation.”
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” Matt. 21:43
Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. Matt. 23:38
The Triumphal Entry of The Lamb
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was on the tenth of Nisan the day the Jews were to choose their lambs for Passover. One of seven feasts of the Lord, the Passover and Feasts of First Fruits, was prophetic of the covering of sin by blood and the newness of life. These lambs were to be inspected so that they were without spot or blemish, they were to be Holy. There He stood fulfilling all the symbolic meaning that is contained in the rituals of the Passover and they did not see.
3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; Ex 12:3-5
Our Messiah entered into Jerusalem as their humble king. He spent the last few days of His life presenting Himself for examination showing that He was the Lamb without spot or blemish. John, the Baptizer, said Jesus would Himself be the Passover offering.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29
FYI: The lamb was to be slain on the fourth day of the last prophetic week of Daniel Chapter 9.
1 And when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If any one says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments on them, and he sat thereon. 8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.” Matt. 21:1-11
Interestingly, the crowd outside the city recognized Jesus was the Son of David. However, the people in the city did not recognize Him. Although He had come up to Jerusalem and taught in the temple on previous Passovers, they don’t seem to know Him.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” Zech. 9:9
Fulfilled prophecies in the New Testament require a reading of the complete context of the prophecy as first written in the Old Testament. The fulfillment is not often what anyone would have understood the prophecy to mean. Zechariah 9 talks of the king being triumphant and victorious. One could hardly have imagined by reading it that this would mean the Messiah was on His way to His own sacrifice as the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the universe.” [Rev. 13:8] There is nothing about crucifixion that sounds the least bit triumphant. Yes, we how know that He was victorious in defeating sin and death, but even that has yet to be realized.
23 But the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Rom. 4:23-25
As Messiah came to Jerusalem riding on an ass’ colt, the crowds rose up and affirmed that the itinerant Rabbi from Nazareth was their king. They shouted the words from the Psalms.
“Blessed be he who enters in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.” Psa. 118:26
They called him the Son of David and they shouted, “Hosanna” meaning, “save us.” They were so excited that many spread their cloaks on the ground while others cut palm branches so they could present their king with a make shift “red-carpet.”
That grand dream and the acclamation of their king as triumphant only lasted for a few days. They were truly expecting a Messiah that would announce a grand call to arms against the Romans. The Rabbis had taught since the writing of Daniel, that Nationalist Judea would overthrow the Roman oppressors with their Messiah leading the troops.
The disappointment that would come in just a few short days was real. They now saw this Jesus as an impostor, and shouted for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of the man who was clearly a “false messiah.” In the end, He was not what the rabbinical interpretation of a Messiah was supposed to be. He made it clear He was there to fulfill the temple ritual system of sacrificing to cover sin, by His own blood. He was not there to overthrow the Roman Empire.
Their confusion was real. The kingdom He came to build was not a political one. Nor was it a kingdom that needed the temple or priesthood, mere shadows of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was a spiritual kingdom, with every believer as priest in service to the Lord, seeing the marvelous light with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1Pet. 2:9
The confusion of the Rabbis as to who the Messiah would be, is a warning to the present congregation of the Lord. We should not let our ill-conceived notions or biases of what the prophecies should mean to “us” form an incorrect interpretation. Popular doctrines should not cloud our judgment as to how the fulfillment must come about.
Like the Rabbis, we all tend to read the prophecies a bit too literally. Yet, the prophecies the apostles knew had been fulfilled in their generation cause us to shake our heads and wonder how they knew to pull one verse out of a whole passage, or how the literal sounding prophecy became symbolic. However, it is in their methods that we will find the pattern on how prophecies are supposed to be looked at, for Scripture interprets Scripture.
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