EDITOR’S NOTE: This groundbreaking series is being offered in celebration of a previously top-secret project and now unprecedented new 3-Volume book series (over 10-years in the making) from best-selling scholar Dr. Thomas Horn and acclaimed biblical history and theology majors Donna Howell and Allie Anderson: THE MYSTERY OF JESUS FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION—YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW
When a newly known, up-and-coming rabbi from Galilee named Jesus started getting attention, most people within the Jerusalem elite were immediately on guard. While He seemed to have a flawless understanding of Scripture, He also spoke like a radical—a dangerous thing to do in a community under tight Roman oppression. His revolutionary “Kingdom of God” talk was both ambiguous and groundbreaking. For the Jews who had been subject to enslavement or harsh governmental rule for centuries, such talk could mean a victorious takeover of earthly kingdoms, or the provocation of doom by opposing forces that would quickly remind Jews of their place.
And yet, “this Jesus guy” seemed to speak with authority and have all the answers. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), He spoke of a place where: the downtrodden would inherit a kingdom; the sad would be comforted; the meek would inherit the earth; the hungry and thirsty would find satisfaction and righteousness; the people who were brave enough to show mercy would see it reciprocated; the peaceful would be close to God; and the persecuted would be vindicated. Such a kingdom would make the most successful and progressive government of any the world had ever seen. Everything was a reversal of the norm. Over and again in this “Kingdom” teaching, Jesus made “replacement” sayings: “You’ve heard it written…” followed by, “But I say to you…” Though, for scarcely appearing, wisdom-fed Jews, it was a sign that the New Contract was replacing the Old (see brief synopses of these immediately under the “Old Testament” and “New Testament” major headings in this book). For Roman and religious-spirited Jews, a man was growing to replace the old world government and civilization with a new system. To anyone without the knowledge we have today, it sounded as if He was saying the “poor” will get the kingdom (Matthew 5:3); the “meek” will “inherit” (read: “take over”) the earth (5:5); the “persecuted” (those whom the Romans oppressed) are those whose kingdom is heaven’s (read: “the persecuted will rise up against oppressors and establish earthly kingdoms to match what God has planned; 5:10).
It certainly would not align with how Rome, or the Jews, liked to run things, which made this type of talk dangerous. Rome saw that if this radical Man could actually back His claims, then there was a new kingdom coming wherein the peasants got to rule things. So earthly religion and politics were both threatened by Him.
As for the Jews, many ignored Him at first, then became increasingly off-put by Him. Whispers about His teaching were reaching the privileged and influential religious men, and they didn’t like some of the things they were hearing. Whereas His intent was to show an internal matter of heart in His words on adultery, the divorced listeners in His gathering (and there were many, as a Jewish man needed only hand a paper to his wife to make it legal for him to kick her out and move on) would see the following words as a direct attack against their spiritual and cultural integrity and identity: “It hath been said, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement’: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31–32). Certain words would have landed on His listeners’ ears as a doctrine of violence or revolutionary action if they applied it literally: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee… And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee” (5:29–30). With only the “filter of warning” activated over the ears of those who were present, Jesus’ new ideas resembled those of a cult leader. As reports kept spreading across Palestine, it was clear He was beginning to get a little too bold. Jesus said He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (what?!), but, as His following statement would suggest to the unlearned listener, “fulfillment” equaled the current “heaven and earth system passing away” (5:17–18). Christ’s statement about how we must be more righteous than the “Pharisees and scribes” to enter heaven (5:20) would have provoked any listeners who may have been high-ranking Jews.
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WILL BLOOD OF THE ANTICHRIST “SAVE” PEOPLE FROM THIS!?
Many Jews of Jesus’ assemblies heard His “Kingdom of God” teachings, but didn’t understand their full implications. (Unfortunately, this trend continues today. The concept of God’s Kingdom, to many, has become an ambiguous collective of moralistic teachings. These folks fail to truly grasp the notion that this is the very reason Jesus came to earth: to usher in a Kingdom wherein man can live free of sin, abundantly, and infused with supernatural power and victory while living in continual communion with our Creator because the barrier of sin is removed by the soteriological [salvational] work Jesus accomplished. To them, these are pretty ideas we can all dream about, but their primary focus remains on the practical and material amenities human life requires. For example, someone may recognize that Jesus came to provide salvation [initiating His Kingdom], but he or she often reduces His work to the facilitation of material wants and needs. Similarly, the “power of God” is often misunderstood to be the rights by which we claim material goods or wealth.) For the people who were listening to Jesus in His own time, the Kingdom concept likely was somewhat well accepted, but the audience largely missed its meaning then, remaining focused on when Jesus planned to overturn the Roman Empire and become the political leader of the world. The Old Testament Messiah of David’s lineage would reestablish the Davidic monarchy, wasn’t He? Passages such as Isaiah 24:23—“when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously”—didn’t they foretell of a literal, earthly kingdom the Messiah would rule? Didn’t the prophet mean it when he said in Zechariah 14:9 that the Lord will be “king over all the earth”?
What the Jews thought Jesus would be is covered in the “Jewish Expectations” section of this book (under the heading “Intertestamental Period”), but as a reminder: See what The Life of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels author Mike McClaffin explains regarding this perception held by the Jews of this time:
Whatever else might happen, of this they were sure: the Messiah would come, and foreign rulers would be overthrown.[i]
Unfortunately, the Jews operated under the assumption that the kingdom would be a physical one, as the “Davidic” emphasis implied to them. They just couldn’t fully grasp that Jesus had a bigger Kingdom as His primary focus, because the tangible and visible kingdom of rulers had the attention in their daily lives. We know today Jesus didn’t come to overturn the worldly government (although that happened, too, as Roman history attests that all this political unrest greatly intensified after His death); He came to shift the focus of mankind from their earthly troubles by engaging them in a Kingdom that would carry them always, even after their lives on earth had ended. Yet, it is unfortunate that this message wasn’t then (or now) fully received by many, since it is the central theme of Jesus’ teachings during His ministry on earth: “[T]he term kingdom appears a total of 121 times in the synoptics.”[ii] Clearly a teacher as important as God, Himself, coming to earth in the flesh would be carrying a vital message, yet people missed the central point.
Jesus Himself explained this in His parable of the sower. Ironically, as He described humanity’s inability to understand the Kingdom of God, He was also describing the different types of people within the entourage who would acquiesce to and even encourage His own execution: “When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side” (Matthew 13:19). His meaning was that some would hear of the coming Kingdom and misunderstand its meaning, leaving them vulnerable to being misled by the enemy. He then went on in subsequent verses (v. 20–23) to explain that others would understand what was being explained, but they would be unable to withstand the persecution, and for this reason, would hide. Others would perceive truth, but would sell out for things such as riches and social comfort.
Furthermore, as He described the Kingdom He was bringing to the earth, He explained in shrouded, parabolic language that it wouldn’t look the way people had imagined. In Matthew 13:31–32, we read: “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.’”
In this, He was explaining that the Kingdom doesn’t come from a seed that appears mighty and fortified; but rather its beginning is humble and not seen as having great strength. However, as it grows, it becomes stronger, hardier, and more resilient than those otherwise assumed would see greater growth or success. Further, this unpresuming origin eventually becomes a source of nourishment, nesting, and stability for those who gather in its branches. One would think likening an earthly-kingdom-conquering establishment to a seed would connect its origin to a more robust seed than Jesus’ example. Instead, He explained that it would be the “least of all seeds”: an origin they would never suspect. This is one of many ways Jesus described His Kingdom in a way quite opposite of what people were expecting.
(One important clarification: It’s true that, while Christ was among us in human form, His Kingdom was “not of this world,” as He repeatedly taught [both in direct statements as well as descriptions of a Kingdom that couldn’t be interpreted as an earthly one]. It is also true that, while Jesus was here, as well as in this very day, the “god of this world” is Satan [2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19; Ephesians 2:2; John 14:30; and many others]. One might ask why some premillennial theologians [premillennialism is discussed in the Revelation study in volume 3 of this set] would believe the coming millennial reign to be a literal time when Christ’s Kingdom becomes a literal and earthly one. Doesn’t that contradict everything He taught? Actually, no, it doesn’t, because of the transference of power that occurs in the future, as described in Revelation 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become [have transferred to] the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.’” So this “Kingdom seed” wasn’t only planted for a great harvest during Christ’s time in the first century [when the Kingdom was not of this earth and therefore not a true threat to Rome]; it was also planted for a Kingdom that would rise in the very last days, the end times. The little mustard plant would spring into full blossom just after the earth as we know has been severely shaken to its core by the events of Revelation… Everything about Yeshua’s Kingdom of God message that emphasized the internal would be finished at the cross. There was another, physical, literal Kingdom of God coming as well, but it would not transpire until the Second Coming of Christ [more on this later; tuck it into the back of your thoughts for now as we continue].)
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HOW OBAMA, HITLER, AND THE THRONE OF SATAN ARE CONNECTED TO “THE MYSTERY OF JESUS FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION”
In addition to mounting tension over the mismatch between expectation and delivery, teachings that described the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven were formerly understood to refer to a realm that belonged to God the father, Yahweh, the great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), the Jehovahjireh (Genesis 22:14) of the Old Testament. But there was Jesus claiming that that Being and He were Father and Son: “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). This created a point of contention for devout Jews who—for a variety of reasons ranging from righteous indignation to malevolent ulterior motives—became suspicious of how such a claim might be true. Upon what—or whose—authority, did Jesus make a statement like that? It would certainly be blasphemy if made by one who didn’t truly hold such status, yet Jesus boldly said He was a shareholder in all the sovereign authority the people had previously attributed only to their God the Father of the Old Testament.
The Jews of Jesus’ day demonstrated their holiness with external symbols and practices, including their clothing (Matthew 23:5; Mark 12:38; Luke 20:46). Despite Jesus’ grandest efforts, both secular and religious crowds couldn’t let go of their belief that the external Kingdom was Christ’s focus. It wouldn’t be until after Paul’s time that nearby regions would have such writings in circulation as: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
The Kingdom of God called for different obligations for its inheritors than any earthly kingdom would mandate upon worldly inhabitants. Citizens of God’s Kingdom, listeners often thought, have a duty to: keep the heart pure (which is true; Matthew 5:8); keep the mouth pure (also true; 12:36); deny one’s own earthly self (true when the temporal life distracts us from the spiritual life; 16:24); be willing to self-mutilate (obviously a misunderstanding based on hyperbole in Christ’s teaching—meaning we would prioritize spiritual cleanliness over the physical body; 5:29–30); show mercy always to everyone (always true; 5:7); be willing to be persecuted without retort (accurate of all ages who follow Christ; 5:10); “hate” one’s family (a teaching that really means to prioritize Christ over family; Luke 14:26); “carry one’s own cross” daily (to live spiritually; 14:27); be watchful and prayerful (true of both the kingdom and Kingdom; 21:36); and recruit others into this system (which must have sounded quite bizarre under an Authority who could rule with force; Matthew 28:19). As we can see, just as the “Jewish Expectations” section showed they got some things correct and not others, Jesus’ audiences only comprehended a limited number of His statements, while they misconstrued other teachings.
These “crazy ideas” just went on and on, and it wasn’t just Jesus’ theology that made religious leaders mad, it was also His fearless willingness to lead religious practices on a public level that dug under their skin like an irritant no ointment could cure.
Throughout His ministry and teaching, Jesus was “above the rules,” having “the audacity” to “work” (read: “heal”) on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9–14; Mark 3:1–6; Luke 6:6–11; 14:1–6), going on to claim the Sabbath was made to benefit people, not the other way around (Mark 2:27–28)! In that Jewish culture, females weren’t considered to be equals to men, and they certainly weren’t allowed to learn theology, but Jesus taught women theology in their own homes, saying the practice was good and could not be taken away from them (Luke 10:38–42); females were segregated in the “women’s court” of the Temple (where the treasury was housed), and Jesus regularly visited that area (Mark 12:41).
To make matters worse, Jesus upheaved religion as traditional Jews knew it by overhauling the way it intersected with culture. He broadened eligibility for Kingdom entrance to include Gentiles—those rascals! He diminished the importance of time-honored rituals, disregarded the status or perceived “holiness” of the highest of institutional religious leaders, and brought church to the street! He enraged religious leaders and their condescending, pious-appearing, elbow-rubbing political counterparts by promising the lowliest individuals in society an inheritance in the Kingdom (Matthew 5:3–12). People could now minister and be ministered to without having to first pay the Temple fees, buy a sacrificial animal, build a reputation among the religious elite, etc., which stomped on the lucrative worship commerce the Sanhedrin had built, usurping their religious control, as if God had cut them and their “hoops” out of the process of religion and relationship with Him. And, the fact that it was working could only mean “this man worked via blasphemy and evil spirits” (or so they accused in 12:24–37). To add insult to injury, Jesus revealed that their Law (including Oral Tradition) not only was incomplete, but that He, Himself, will be the fulfillment of that Law (5:17). This invalidated their religion as it had been known, amending it with the new and additional terms that religion without Christ, Himself, had become insufficient. Essentially, Jesus flipped their religion upside down. Legalism had been pushed aside while Jesus asserted Himself as the new way to God (John 14:6). Not only would the Kingdom not be a physical, governmental monarchy that would rule the world with an iron fist, but the intangible, spiritual territory was now open to non-Israelites as well.
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GOD BROKE THE POWER OF “THE CHRISTMAS MAGI”? BUT IS SUCH “MAGI-CALISM” RETURNING NOW FOR THE RISE OF A DIFFERENT “CHRIST CHILD”?
Jesus’ revolutionary approach to religion was a game-changer for those whose power had been amassed through the day’s religious systems. In many ways, this increased His infamy: He went from being only an enemy of the state to being an enemy of the religious institution as well. Those who previously had status suddenly did not, while those society looked down upon were now elevated. And, because Jesus changed the criteria for entering the Kingdom (inviting Gentiles), it seemed that the most deviant scoundrels would gain access with preference over many who believed themselves righteous: “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” (Matthew 21:31).
Jesus’ approach to sacred matters was always “come one, come all,” which stung like a bee to the holy men. Jesus had taken the Church outside the synagogue or Temple and to the people of the “filthy” roadways, had performed healings, and even forgave sin (Matthew 9:1–8, Mark 2:1–12). These actions (and others) all made access to God available to the common people without their having to play the institution’s games, and their way of life was threatened. The religious leaders accused Him of operating by the power of demons (Matthew 12:22–37); He responded by continuing the theme of “His Father, in heaven,” claiming to be the Son of God (John 10:30).
And just when it couldn’t get any worse (or so they thought), Jesus marked Himself, literally, as King.
Imagine this scene…
It’s hot inside, while the sun outside is beaming and inviting over the yellowed stones of the Jerusalem walls. You’re a young child who has been asked by your parents—Hebrews like their parents before them—not to leave the house and to stay by the window. You have it in mind to obey them explicitly when quite suddenly you overhear two familiar, well-educated local rabbis conversing down a brick alleyway in what sounds like a fit of hysterics. One is quoting Scripture, speaking rapidly and claiming the demonstration occurring down the road this very day could actually be a fulfillment of the words of the Hebrew prophet, Zechariah. Driven by extreme curiosity, you arch your neck out the window as far as you can reach, but the other rabbi is just out of sight. Without considering the consequences—and driven by an insatiable curiosity—you slip from your seat by the window and run outside to see what’s going on.
In the faraway distance, you can hear shouting, but you can’t make out any words. Through the back end of the alleyway, you see people running in the direction of the commotion. The second rabbi is scolding the first, making uncharacteristically harsh accusations against the first rabbi’s faulty logic. He waves his arms about, pointing in the direction of the distant crowd, asking why, if this “Yeshua” is legitimate, there doesn’t appear to be any accompanying military to help Him conquer their oppressors. The first rabbi shakes his head, muttering something about prophecies and insisting this “Yeshua” resembles them all.
I have heard this before, you think in your young mind. Zechariah the prophet spoke of a humble colt carrying a future king.
As the rabbis continue arguing, your mother bursts from the open door to your home. At first, she’s angrily bellowing at you about your disobedience, but stops short just as a small crowd of folks rush past the alley, making no mind of your mother as she is bumped by several of them. Her expression turns from one of fury, to wonder, then to surprise as she turns to listen to the noise in the distance. Grabbing your hand, she escorts you around the corner to a long set of stairs overlooking an enormous throng of citizens, many you recognize as fellow Jews in your area of Jerusalem.
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Beyond them is a gentle-looking man riding a colt in the direction of the Temple. People around him are taking off their outer layers of clothing and throwing them anxiously to the ground in front of him so his small, humble mount can walk atop them. Others are rapidly cutting branches from the trees and tossing them farther down the path in the same manner (Matthew 21:8). On both sides of the forming trail, people press in with palm leaves in their hands, similar to those that your neighbors carry during the Feast of Tabernacles (John 12:13; see also Leviticus 23:40). You vaguely recall a lesson from your father regarding this particular leaf being a symbol of triumph and victory, an act of homage to a king.
“Who is this?” your mother asks a few women nearby, pointing at the man in the center of the procession (the question was asked in Matthew 21:10).
The eldest turns quickly toward her, appearing to be either excited or startled, saying, “This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (this answer was given in Matthew 21:11).
You glance at your mother to see if the news is good or bad, but she remains merely bewildered as she follows the women down the long steps and closer to the multitudes. The shouts become clearer: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (the praise given Jesus in Matthew 21:9).
As the words sink in, your mother’s eyes widen. She raises a hand over her mouth and shakes her head.
“Mother?” you inquire nervously.
In a tone you have heard many times, one your mother uses when she’s forcing herself to remain calm, she answers, grabbing you firmly by the shoulders. “Run. Summon your father, immediately.”
In obedience, you dash back to your house, yelling for your father before you even reach the door. He emerges with concern wrinkling his brow and, just like your mother’s did, his countenance shifts from worry to disorientation as he sees a growing number of his companions hurry past without giving him a second thought—unusual for a man with your father’s prominence in the community. Gesturing for him to follow, you grasp his hand as you lead him back to your mother, who is now standing nearer to the bottom of the steps as she tries to see through the mass of heads in front of her. As your father sees the enormous gathering and hears the expressions of adoration ringing in the air from a few trusted, learned men, one of his hands slowly comes to rest on your mother’s shoulder while the other clasps more tightly around yours than ever before. Largely oblivious to the implications of the event and feeling a bit nervous, your eyes dart to your father’s for reassurance, but he doesn’t return your gaze. He is looking intensely onward at the man on the colt, breaking his stare only to observe the outbursts from those around him who have joined the recitation about the Son of David and something regarding Nazareth.
“It cannot be,” he says. “Yeshua? Is not he the son of that carpenter?” (a question asked in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3).
The rabbis from the alleyway appear in your peripheral vision, the first offering a swift answer to what your father had evidently overheard.
“Yes!” he answers loudly, with pride and excitement, straining to be heard in the growing volume of the noise around him. “He is the son of a carpenter, but it matters not. This is the prophesied Son of David. For His works have gone before Him, and those who have eyes to see will recognize the fulfillment. This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Zechariah. Hosanna in the highest! Behold, upon the colt he rides! The day has come!”
The second rabbi from the alleyway approaches, shooting a cold glare at the first.
“Foolishness! Gather your wits about you! This man is no king! I care not how many men approach him waving the palm or other branches!”
You watch as your father takes in the words of both teachers, who until this moment had never disagreed as far as you know. The tension between them is rising and your father, against his typically bold nature, only shakes his head. At first you expect him to dismiss it all as rubbish and escort his family back home, but his hesitation is enough proof to you that he is actually deliberating the testimony of the first rabbi.
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Could this man on a colt truly be a king?
In an instant of anticipation so strong it defies description, you risk the wrath of your mother and father and break away from them, ignoring their call for you to return and weaving your way through the crowd to get a better view. For what seems like an eternity, you duck, sidestep, and squirm through what feels like an endless sea of bodies until, at last, you’re standing at the front edge of the fray, only a stone’s throw from the man on the colt.
Thoughts buzz through your mind as you take in the bizarre scene. A king would be surrounded by officials, soldiers, servants, women, gold, riches, and spectacle, not commoners… His entrance into Jerusalem would no doubt be a grand display of wealth and power…yet this man isn’t the slightest bit ashamed by his lack of such grandeur. He almost resembles a servant, himself, though he sits straight, confident, and regal in his modest robe, like a great leader, in ironic juxtaposition to his surroundings.
The voices crying “Hosanna!” are now almost deafening. You bring your hands to your ears, but your eyes don’t move from the rider.
As a meager child, and therefore largely unversed in the synagogue teachings, you can’t imagine you would ever be important enough for the rider to look your way. But suddenly, he does.
The impression is instant, and somehow, you know it’s a connection you will never forget. There is a kindness in his eyes that inspires deep warmth within—and the smile he offers somehow tells you He is open to being approached by little ones who would be considered an imposition to most important adults (Matthew 19:14)—but beyond that, there is something else…
As the rider bores into your soul with a mere gentle gaze, an impression of his authority and truthfulness boils up from your spirit. In an instant, you know.
This Man is the King!
Readers, can you only imagine?
The Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–9; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:28–38; John 12:12–15) was—for believers in and followers of Christ—the grandest and most comforting announcement in the history of Jerusalem. For unbelievers, skeptics, and the “holy men” whose corrupted hearts made a self-serving game of Yahweh’s religion, this was a brazen show put on by a “blasphemer.”
It is easy to miss the significance of this moment in history. Jesus was, in this very moment, fulfilling a very important prophecy from Israel’s history: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
The educated Jews in the assembly who knew of prophecy would have recognized this. On that day, these observers had to either believe in Jesus as Messiah or see His daring gesture as sacrilege. Because Jesus did not appear to be overthrowing earthly governmental powers, the conclusion for many Jews quickly became that He was a false messiah—thus a blasphemer, a pretender, another “Judas the Galilean” of days gone by.
To the commoners in the crowd, Jesus’ entry showed Him as their Champion and Savior. In ancient tradition, when a soldier went to war and was victorious, he would make a triumphal reentry into the city—known as a “parade of triumph”—carrying His spoils of war.[iii] When such a warrior was entering a defeated city and claiming it as his own territory, the preexisting king and cohorts would be stripped of their throne, power, and royal garments, and sometimes they were even executed publicly. The conqueror would then claim or install the role of king and receive the keys to the city. Public response fell into two categories: celebrate and embrace the new king, or become part of the defeated population (and be enslaved, executed, etc.).
Jesus had endured the temptation in the wilderness and emerged victorious. This triumph solidified (not that there was ever any doubt!) the fact that He was ready, capable, and resolved regarding the final, brutal battle ahead. He was there established as the victor, riding as Champion through the streets of Jerusalem, announcing Himself as the conquering Warrior and soon-to-be-crowned King.[iv] The public response involving palm leaves indicated their acceptance of Him. However, His wilderness conquest had been a spiritual one, and His announcement as King, Champion, and Savior staked His claim in the unseen realm as well. This was His announcement to the crowd of “regular Joes.”
In His announcement to Rome and Israel that a new King had arrived via a Triumphal Entry, He was not only carrying out a prophecy and announcing Himself Victor, He was also reenacting an important Old Testament parallel. Toward the end of David’s reign, as the king grew old, his son, Adonijah, attempted to exalt himself as David’s successor (1 Kings 1:5). He did this without consulting advisors or his brother, Solomon (verse 10), despite the fact that God had told David his immediate reign would continue through Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:9–10). After some intervention from Nathan, the prophet, and Bathsheba, one of his wives, David was made aware of Adonijah’s political tactics and swore Solomon would be his successor (1 Kings 1:24–30). David then handed over his personal mule to Solomon and ordered his son to ride it to Gihon, where he would be proclaimed and anointed as the new king of Israel. From there, he was to ride in a procession to Jerusalem, where he would sit on David’s throne and officially claim kingship (1:33–35). This order was obeyed, and during the march toward Jerusalem, the accompanying entourage played music and celebrated so loudly that from a distance it sounded like a great uproar (1:38–41). (All the while, Adonijah’s group was unaware of what was going on; they remained so until the noise of Solomon’s parade caused them to investigate the source of the hubbub.)
Don’t miss the significance of this: The kingdom of Israel had eagerly awaited the announcement of the new king. The contested throne had sat empty, waiting for its new champion to take his seat on it. Then, majestically, the answer came riding in on the royal donkey. It didn’t matter who attempted to contest the throne or upon what grounds—there was no altering the truth of precisely who would reign.
The arrival of Solomon—the biological son of David—at Jerusalem was a historic moment when God’s “anointed one” (as kings were often called) was officially established as the king over Yahweh’s people. The arrival of Jesus—the fulfillment of the prophesied Son of David—at Jerusalem was the historic moment when God’s Anointed One was officially and forever established as the one and only King over the Father’s people!
The King of all kings. He came riding in on a donkey and an entourage followed Him, rejoicing, proclaiming: “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” They praised loudly enough to catch the attention of every other competing governmental power. Just as Solomon peacefully reclaimed a contested throne by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus boldly, yet peacefully, rode into Jerusalem, and made the statement: “I am the true, Anointed One, the Son of David, and I’m here to reclaim the contested spiritual territory of this world.”
The revelers and believers couldn’t be more thrilled! They simply couldn’t believe this was finally happening!
…But the religious leaders and unbelievers couldn’t be more insulted. They, too, could not believe this was happening. It was likely in this moment that several began to hatch a plan to kill Him. Yet, Jesus wasn’t done ruffling feathers—not by a long shot. Nor would His cheerful waves last long. He was now arriving at His Father’s holy city…and He would not be happy to see how the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and Jewish elite were running the Temple. He went as far as to storm in and say so without batting an eye.
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WOW! WATCH DR. THOMAS HORN and DONNA HOWELL INTRODUCE “THE MYSTERY OF JESUS FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION!”
You see, Zechariah had prophesied that, one day, “there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts” (14:21). Canaanite, in this context, referred to traders. Hezekiah and Josiah made the Hebrews’ holy places sacred again (2 Kings 18:4; 2 Kings 22:3–23:25), and no Jew would question such a thing—the act or the one who carried it out—from the scrolls of the past.
But it was a completely different picture having this “impudent” Jesus of Nazareth carry it out like He did (Matthew 21:12–13; Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46; John 2:13–22). When He found out the outer courts of His Father’s house of prayer had become a marketplace, He was furious! That was the only area the non-Jews were allowed to worship in. The squawking of the manhandled birds, the scuffling about of the cattle, the bleating of the sheep, and the voices of men calling out from their booths—all of this noise was permitted by the most highly respected Jewish leaders because of their blatant disregard for those who weren’t lucky enough to have been born and raised Jewish. (It would be similar to someone charging into a local church in the middle of a sermon or prayer-hour with a circus every Sunday.)
Surprisingly, this was only one tiny part of the problem, though.
All the commerce of this area of the ancient world operated with the Roman currency, but those coins featured the faces of pagan rulers and were not worthy to exchange in the house of God. The Temple, however, required an offering (a tax, really) of Jewish money for its services (Exodus 30:11–16). A Jew would arrive with his family, give a moneychanger his Roman money, and for a hefty fee, he would receive Hebrew coins with which he would pay the Temple tax. Over time, this money-changing “convenience” had become a lucrative scheme that rendered the religious leaders as being guilty of the same atrocity as the tax collectors in that they were pocketing (for themselves or their supervisors) more money than needed for the exchange. Yet, it goes further: Those who brought their own animals had to pass the “perfection inspection” at the Temple’s entrance prior to offering the sacrifice. A wicked trade trick developed wherein the inspectors would declare any animal (no matter how spotless) unfit for sacrifice. Then they would make a grand sum of money by reselling their own sacrificial sheep to the poor men whose animals were deemed unworthy. Then, the con men would wait until heads were turned and would escort the “unfit” sheep to the back of the pen, selling it as “fit for sacrifice” to the next victim. Additionally, the people traveling from afar for the Passover found their trip to be very difficult to take with animals along for the ride. So, in the interest of profit, religious leaders set up a marketplace with “perfect” animals and moneychangers right there in the outer court of the Temple. The noise was deafening at Passover time, and the corrupt dealings—the financial profit raked in from the worship of God—on God’s property was an offense both to Yahweh (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:34), as well as to His Son, who observed this “marketplace” trickery in person.
Isaiah 56:7 states: “Even them [foreigners] will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” The joy of the Lord was on this prophecy, imagining a day when Jerusalem’s Temple would be a place of honest worship for all who wanted to commit their lives to the Father, including foreigners and Gentiles. His Temple, then, would be known to all as a “house of prayer.”
Jeremiah 7:11 states: “Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord.” This rebuked those who were abusing Temple worship in the Old Testament by oppressing the poor. God, through Jeremiah, called these men “robbers.” Yet this was the same grievance the Jewish leaders were guilty of when King Yeshua came to the Temple just after His Triumphal Entry.
Jesus made a whip out of cords (John 2:15) and shamelessly marched into the Temple courts, overturning tables and running both the animals (sheep, cattle, and doves) and the moneychangers from their booths, saying, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves!” (Matthew 11:17). By using the contrast of a beautiful picture in Isaiah and the reproach of oppressors in Jeremiah, Jesus didn’t just run around throwing furniture and coins and shooing away the animals of a corrupt sacrifice scheme. He threw a word dagger at every Jew in His vicinity, using Old Testament words that would sting. He accused the Temple brethren of turning their backs on God’s hopes for a place of prayer and worship while spitting on His sovereignty as they tyrannized the destitute. That was about as colossal of an affront to Jewish leaders as any of them had seen in multiple generations.
And, if some interpreters are correct, Jesus did this twice!
John 2:11–12 might describe this event as happening shortly after the wedding at Cana, and it notes Jesus was confronted by Temple leaders during the cleansing event (John 2:18). The Synoptics describe it as happening just after the Triumphal Entry during the Passion Week, and Jewish leaders confronted Jesus the next day (Matthew 21:17–23). (Also, only John mentions a whip of cords.) So, either John’s wording can be interpreted to mean the same time as the Synoptics, or, Jesus actually drove the moneychangers, thieves, robbers, crooks, and animals out on two occasions. (We can’t be sure either way, but if it was, in fact, two cleansings, Jesus would have been seen as even more of a blight by these debased men.)
Jews ran to challenge Jesus, asking for a sign to show them whose authority He was working under that allowed Him to do these things (John 2:18). His answer came as a shock: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). John’s Gospel immediately explains that Jesus “spake of the temple of his body” (2:21), but the pious men didn’t get it: “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” (2:20). Someday soon—someday just around the corner from then—a lot of people would “get it.”
Most films depicting this scene tend to present it as a moment when every single jaw drops and people are startled. However, the poor folks among the crowd that day likely cheered and spurred Jesus on. Scholars are nearly unanimous in asserting that the wealthier Jewish classes were accustomed to this sort of treatment and it didn’t faze them much. The lower-class Jews, however, put in a lot of time and effort to be in Jerusalem every year, and each time, they were taken advantage of in a way that no prior preparation or arrangements could prevent. No matter how kosher (lawful) their sheep, the unscrupulous inspectors would still find flaws in them, refusing them entry into the Temple unless they sold the animal for half what it was worth and purchased one of the blessed “approved” animals for two or three times what it was worth. (No doubt some were aware that their “flawed” sheep were being escorted to the sale pen for the next guys to buy as “perfect.”) Jesus, in this scene, wasn’t just a madman to everyone. To some, He was a hero, and that likely wouldn’t have settled well with those He found in need of reproach.
And it would definitely be brought to the attention of the high priest!
By now, Jesus was making the wrong people angry…and when He drove the mob from the Temple, He was making a strong statement: “Religion as you know it is over!” Not only did this anger the religious leaders, it also made them insecure that their carefully crafted world was changing.
Considering the delicate religio-political relationship between the Sanhedrin and Rome, this would put the priests on guard.
And this Jesus wasn’t just any Johnny-come-lately. This Man had the power to heal, and cast out devils, and He even had the audacity to tell people their sins were forgiven—an act only carried out by God or the gods before His time. Who did this guy think He was? It likely caused many to wonder: Is this really the Messiah? Or is He only the latest to provoke Rome into retaliation? Will He, just as Simon of Peraea, Athronges the Shepherd, Judas the Galilean, and so many others, also fall victim to Rome’s cruelty?
As Jesus’ teachings, healings, miracles, and other interactions began to gain attention, local authorities became aware of Him. And, the more He spoke of the Kingdom of God, the more He was cast as a potential political rebel. While this marked Him by local authorities as a character to watch closely, it deemed Him among the civilians as one who could show with proof that He could accomplish what He said (which was why He did gain a great following).
However, when such talk was not accompanied by political action, it served at times to breed resentment among the crowds. They wanted Rome gone—and if this wasn’t possible, then it was better not to provoke Rome in the first place. Jesus’ talk regarding His Kingdom was accompanied only by peaceful promises—none outlining victorious warfare, and when He was questioned about it, He answered in ambiguous tones about it “not being of this world.”
What was that about? That wasn’t at all what the Jewish men had been telling everyone the Messiah would be!
With these and nearly countless other examples, Jesus made people nervous by just about everything He did, because He acted like the Messiah, but He was not pulling the political deliverer act. People didn’t like the negative attention being drawn to their area, unless the person drawing such attention was going to make good on the promises of delivering Jews from Rome. It was an earth-shatteringly important “do it or don’t” moment because of the inflammatory and seemingly confrontational teachings of Christ’s Kingdom.
Then, in the midst of this, Jesus raised the dead (Matthew 9:18, 23–26; Mark 5:21–24, 35–43; Luke 7:11–17; 8:40–42, 49–56; John 11:1–45).
The buzz throughout the region of this event was the very, very last straw…
These acts were completely undeniable, and rumors spread all over the place fast. Teaching radical ideas, calming seas, or healing people was one thing, but the words that came out of Christ’s mouth when raising the dead set the stage for His execution. When Jesus was told, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother [would not have] died” (John 11:21, 32), His response was, once again, that it had been done for the glory of God (11:40). In other words, “This happened because God is going to show you His power—right here, right now, not through Rome, not through the synagogue, but through Me.”
Whoa… The resident “rabble-rouser” had crossed a line for the last time. He had authority over life and death, and it wasn’t benefitting either the Jews or the Romans! What’s worse, if He was as powerful as being able to call a soul back into its body, He might actually have the power needed to conquer Rome after all!
Jesus had done what no other rebel before Him could do: prove Himself to be a completely unpredictable wildcard. And He took it all to the maximum, trumping all prior “would-be” messiahs who talked a lot of talk and even conjured political rebellion, but who were ultimately proven to be…just men. Yeshua of Galilee had now ascertained He had unlimited supernatural power at His command. Romans who weren’t worried about saving the religious institution didn’t seem to care where His power came from. If, like the Pharisees said, His source was demonic, it made little difference to them, so long as He was actually holding the power of the unseen realm in His hand.
With the raising of Lazarus and others, what would stop Jesus from going against the state, then the Empire, with unlimited armies of men who, once killed, could be easily resurrected and fully restored for other rounds of battle?! Even Rome was beginning to think this guy had to go… And this made the religious leaders very, very happy indeed.
If He was that powerful, who would be the unlucky sap who had to take Him down? How would he go about doing it?
UP NEXT: Tension Builds Toward Execution
[i] McClaffin, Mike, The Life of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels (4th ed., Springfield, MO: Global University; 2013) 218; emphasis added.
[ii] Ibid., 216.
[iii] Booker, Richard, Celebrating Jesus in the Biblical Feasts (expanded ed., Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.; 2016), 116.
[iv] Ibid., 115.
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