Matthew 19-21

As Jesus headed south from Galilee to Judea, Jerusalem, and the cross, He taught His disciples that the kingdom of God was among them via His presence. Jesus wanted His followers and the crowds to understand how the Old Testament anticipated His arrival.

(1) In Matt 19:4-5, Jesus quoted from Genesis 1-2 to answer the Pharisees’ question about what would constitute grounds for divorce. By noting that God created male and female, and that what God had joined together, man should not separate (Matt 19:4-6), Jesus effectively censured the Pharisees’ quest for easy divorce. But the Pharisees maintained their position, citing Moses’ requirement in Deut 24:1-4 that a man give his spouse a divorce certificate if he wished to send her away (Matt 19:7//Mark 10:4). In the end, Jesus and His opponents differed in that the Pharisees understood Moses’ words to be a commandment while Jesus said that they were a statement of permission. Jesus proclaimed that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of the people’s hearts (Matt 19:8//Mark 10:5). The Pharisees consistently viewed themselves as the authority of the kingdom, employing the Mosaic law for their own selfish ends (Matt 5:21-48; 23:1-36). Jesus would have none of it. Now that He had arrived, His interpretation was final and that meant a return to the creation ordinance of one man and one woman for life. Only sexual immorality constituted grounds of divorce (Matt 19:9).

(2) In Matt 19:18-19, Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments and Lev 19:18 to answer the rich young ruler’s question about how he might gain eternal life. When Jesus blessed the children that were brought to Him (Matt 19:13-15//Mark 10:13-16//Luke 18:15-17), He established humility as virtue of discipleship. Jesus’ discussion with the rich ruler exemplified Jesus’ point. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life (Matt 19:16-22//Mark 10:17-22//Luke 18:18-23) Jesus quoted the commandments that forbade murder, adultery, theft, and deceit, and then told the rich young ruler that he must also honor his parents (Exod 20:12-16; Deut 5:16-20) and love his neighbors as himself (Lev 19:18). When the rich young ruler said he had done all of these, Jesus added another: sell all of his possessions, give them to the poor, and then come and follow Jesus. Once the rich young ruler understood the demands of discipleship, he departed with grief because he was unwilling to part with his many possessions.

(3) In Matt 21:5, Matthew stated that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilled Zech 9:9. Zechariah described both the gentle character and demeanor of Israel’s Messiah, and the peace that He would bring upon Judah through military conquest (Zech 9:9-17). In Zech 9:9, the prophet proclaimed, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus entered the city on a colt, in accord with the words of the prophet (Matt 21:5//John 12:15).

(4) In Matt 21:9, Matthew wrote that the crowds shouted phrases from Ps 118:25-26 in praise of Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. The psalmist wrote of God’s power to deliver him from his enemies who had rejected him. The psalmist asked God to send a deliverer to save His people, saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD” (Ps 118:26). According to the Gospel writers, the crowds recognized Jesus as the deliverer God had sent to save them (Matt 21:9//Mark 11:9//Luke 19:38//John 12:13).

(5) In Matt 21:13, Jesus quoted Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11 to confront those buying and selling in the temple during the Passover celebration. In Isaiah 56, the prophet proclaimed that in the days of the Messiah, the Gentiles would align themselves with Israel and join the descendants of Jacob in the temple praying and seeking God. In Jeremiah 7, Jeremiah chastised the people of Judah for their idolatry. The people were robbers, Jeremiah said, so when they entered the temple, it became a den of thieves. Jesus overturned the money tables because the Passover commerce had impeded the celebrants from seeking God in His house (Matt 21:13//Mark 11:17//Luke 19:46).

(6) In Matt 21:16, Jesus quoted Ps 8:2 to justify those who praised Him in the temple complex, while the Jewish leadership looked on with disgust. The psalmist exalted the Lord’s majesty over all creation and recognized humankind as the chief over all the Lord had made—even to the degree that when infants gaggle they declare God’s praise. When the Jewish leadership told Jesus to make the children in the temple cease praising Him as the Son of David, Jesus cited Ps 8:2 to justify the children’s actions. Jesus argued that if a baby’s unintelligent speech brings glory to God, children volitionally praising Him should be allowed to have their voices heard. If Jesus were not God in the flesh, His actions would have been blasphemous.

(7) In Matt 21:42, Jesus quoted Ps 118:22-23 as a scriptural precedent for the Jews’ rejection of Him. As noted already of Ps 118:25-26 in Matt 21:9//Mark 11:9//Luke 19:38//John 12:13, the Evangelists saw connections between Psalm 118 and Jesus’ ministry. In Ps 118:22-23, the psalmist spoke of a stone being rejected by those more powerful, the builders. But when God delivered the needy, the rejected-one became the cornerstone of God’s work. Jesus concluded the Parable of the Vineyard Owner by quoting from Psalm 118 (Matt 21:33-46//Mark 12:1-12//Luke 20:9-19). Jesus saw in the reversal-of-fortunes theme of Ps 118:22-23 a picture of how the Jews had rejected Him with the result that God had rejected them.