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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Christ, and the Fulfillment of Scripture
Text:Matthew 21:1-17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

The Glorious Gates of Righteousness
In God Will I Trust
At the Name of Jesus
Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Christ, and the Fulfillment of Scripture”
Matthew 21:1-17
Biblical scholars point out that Jesus fulfilled more than three hundred Old Testament prophecies. Each fulfilled prophecy is remarkable. For instance, his virgin birth was predicted by Isaiah centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Micah predicted where he would be born, and his prediction was given to Herod when the wise men came looking for Jesus. The scribes and teachers of the law quoted from Micah 5:2, (as recorded in Matthew 2:6), giving the location where the wise men could find Jesus.
During his life and ministry Jesus continued to fulfill prophecies that had been made about him in the Old Testament. Not only were his birth and life prophesied about in detail, and fulfilled by him, but also minute details about his death and resurrection were prophesied. The events leading to his crucifixion were fulfilled in every way imaginable: The betrayal, the mocking, the crucifixion between two criminals, his hands and feet pierced, the casting of lots for his undergarment, the blood and water from his side, his bones remaining unbroken, all this and so much more was prophesied concerning Jesus Christ and fulfilled by him.
In our passage this morning we again see that Jesus fulfilled Scripture. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the people praised him fulfilled both Zechariah 9:9 and Psalm 118:26. This is a familiar passage to most of us since we often read it on Palm Sunday. We won’t spend time on the triumphal entry of Jesus this morning, outside of pointing out that his entry into Jerusalem wasn’t just by happenstance, not a whim on the part of Jesus, or a proposal submitted by his disciples. 
Quite the contrary, the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was prophesied hundreds of years earlier by Zechariah, and even long before that by the Psalmist who wrote in Psalm 118:26: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was a fulfillment of prophecy by Christ, just as so many other events recorded in the Old Testament were fulfilled by him.
We see Jesus fulfill Scripture in the clearing of the temple as well. We know from parallel passages that this took place the next day. As Jesus went to the temple he was infuriated by the way people were desecrating God’s house of worship for monetary gain. 
The background springs from the Old Testament sacrifices that were made at the temple. Animals that were presented to the priests for sacrifice had to be without blemish. However, if you chose a lamb from your flocks that looked perfect to you, the priest might still decline to sacrifice that lamb. He would find a blemish, even if he had to make one up, and he had the authority to accept or reject the sacrificial lambs and other animals.
However, very conveniently, there were many vendors selling sacrificial lambs that had been approved by the priests as unblemished. Consequently, people would buy those animals, for they were “pre-approved,” rather than taking an unblemished sacrifice from their own flock which might be declared unfit by the priest.
Now if you were poor and could not bring a lamb to be sacrificed then you could offer two doves or a pair of pigeons instead. Perhaps you recall that is what Joseph and Mary did when they presented Jesus, on his eighth day, to be circumcised at the temple. Luke describes how they brought two doves (Luke 2:24).
Doves and pigeons are common birds. They weren’t costly unless, of course, they were “preapproved” by the priests. Then they were very costly. William Hendriksen, in his New Testament Commentary on Matthew, writes: “…Even the poor were often being grossly overcharged. Imagine having to pay at least $4.00 for a pair of doves worth not much more than a nickel.” Other writers point out that the doves and pigeons sold at the temple – preapproved for sacrifice – were often fifty times more expensive than those in the markets outside of the temple.
It was because of those types of abuses that verse 12 says, “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there.” It was a chaotic mess as greedy merchants took advantage of those who came to sacrifice at the temple.
But the merchants weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the people. Verse 12 goes on to say: “He overturned the tables of the money changers, and the benches of those selling doves.” If you were going to buy a pair of doves, a pair of pigeons, or a sacrificial lamb or some other animal, you had to use the currency that was approved by the priests for temple related purchases.
In other words, you needed special “temple coins” to purchase any of these sacrificial animals or birds. And, of course, there was a transaction fee, a very high transaction fee, to exchange your money for the temple coins that were needed to buy the sacrifices. That is why Jesus quoted from both Isaiah and Jeremiah, there in verse 13, “‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’”
The third time Old Testament Scripture was fulfilled by Jesus in this passage is in verses 14-16.  Verse 14 describes how Jesus healed the blind and the lame, and verse 15 describes how the children called out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The children had heard the great multitude at the triumphal entry shouting those same words of praise, so it was natural for them to do the same as they witnessed the blind and the lame being healed. But the praise of the children infuriated the chief priests and teachers of the law. They were indignant and asked, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’ ?” And through the praises of the children and the statement of Jesus, Psalm 8:2 also became one of the more than three hundred Old Testament texts fulfilled by Christ.
The Second Commandment and Acceptable Worship
As we see the fulfillment of these texts, we also see a number of practical applications for our lives. Certainly, we see that the Lord is concerned about how we worship. In the sacrificing of birds and animals the people were doing what was required by Old Testament law.
Initially, when priests first began having preapproved sacrifices available for purchases their motives may have been good. They were perhaps serious about sacrificing only the best animals to the Lord, for that is what his word required. But as the years went by the motive of having the best animal – without blemish or defect – was overshadowed by another motive, a monetary motive.  
Money is still the motive behind many ministries. We have all heard the excuse given by people who don’t go to church because they say, “The church just wants my money.” We may cringe at that and recognize that for many people it is just an excuse not to worship the Lord. But unfortunately, we also recognize that many churches are run for the profit of their pastors and denominations. Paul described some of the false teachers of his day as being greedy for money and told Timothy that an Overseer – a pastor or teaching elder – must not be a lover of money (1 Tim. 3:3). 
However, it is not just greed for money that concerns the Lord when he looks at how the church worships. God has described in his word how we are to worship him, but few churches emphasize biblical, God-centered worship. Worship for many has become a time to be entertained as churches do what they think will please people instead of what pleases God.  
I’m thankful that our church is part of a federation of churches that takes to heart the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 35. In teaching about the second commandment, Question 96 asks, “What is God's will for us in the second commandment?”
Answer: “That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word.”
Question 98: “But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?” 
Answer: “No, we shouldn’t try to be wiser than God. He wants his people instructed by the living preaching of his Word— not by idols that cannot even talk.”
Many commentators have pointed out that the cleansing of the temple by Jesus is a foreshadow of the way he will judge and cleanse the church. The church is called God’s temple in the Bible, just as our physical bodies are the temple of the Lord. Peter writes about the cleansing – the judging – of the church in 1 Peter 4:17-18: For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’”
We understand that there is both the “visible church” and the “invisible church.” The visible church is who we see in churches, all the people, including ourselves, who say that they are Christians. The invisible church is the actual number who are truly saved, who are now or will be, in heaven with the Lord.
Needless to say, the numbers are not the same. There are many people in the visible church who are in it for their own gain, whether for monetary profit by pastors, social contacts and prestige by business people, or entertainment for those who want to come and see a great skit, hear a short inspirational – to human ears – message, and listen to a band. They fit the description of 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
How we worship matters to the Lord. Those in the temple in the first century incurred the wrath of Christ because they went through the motions of religion, but their hearts weren’t focused on the Lord in spirit and in truth. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, in John 4:23-24: “... A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Compassion for Those the World Disdains
We also see in this passage how the Lord receives weak, downtrodden people and often uses them to shame the “wisdom” of the world. That the Lord received those who were rejected by society – the downtrodden nobodies of the world – is evident in verse 14 where the Lord healed the blind and the lame. 
One reason for the indignation of the high priests and teachers of the law when Jesus healed the blind and lame, in addition to their hatred of Christ, is that the chief priests and teachers of the law kept the blind and lame out of the temple, at least as much as possible. And now Jesus welcomed and healed the very ones whom the religious leaders disdained.
The Lord received and was compassionate to the downtrodden of society: Not only the blind and lame, but also the morally corrupt, including prostitutes and other women of ill repute, along with disreputable tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus, and common fishermen like Peter. Admittedly, Luke was a physician and Paul was highly educated. But most often the Lord used, and still uses, common people for service in his kingdom.
Consider 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, where Paul writes: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”
Because the Lord has compassion for the blind, lame, and other people whom society may disdain, we too are to share that same compassion. God may use those whom we think are nobodies in a powerful way for his glory and honor and for the good of his kingdom.
I served a church once where a woman began attending just the evening service. She left during the doxology so there was no way for me to meet her. I inquired of the greeters and others who had sat near her to see if they knew who she was, and they did. One of the prominent ladies in the church, from one of the original founding families, said, “Pastor, you wouldn’t want to see her. She’s a crazy lady.” And the implication of her statement was, “Pastor, we don’t want crazy people like her in our church.” 
I found out where she lived and went to see her. When she opened the door and invited me in, I almost threw up. Her house reeked, and it was obvious why: there were dogs and cats everywhere, newspapers were strewn all over, and none of the mess had been cleaned up. The lady at church who had warned me not to see her was absolutely right. She was crazy. She was suffering from dementia and would end up living in an Alzheimer’s unit for close to a decade before she died. 
But the lady at church who warned me not to see her was absolutely wrong in that she thought someone like that wouldn’t be received by the Lord and shouldn’t be encouraged to attend church, even if she sat in the back row and left before anyone could speak with her. From my visits with her, I believe that the lady had a child-like faith and despite all the troubles in her life was a true child of God who is now in glory with the Lord. 
And years later, after she died, a lawyer called the church to let them know that this lady –who so many had disdained as “the crazy lady” – had named the church in her will, and it turned out that she had a substantial amount of money. That little church would have had to close her doors long ago had the Lord not used someone who was foolish in the eyes of the world – and foolish in the eyes of some in that church – to shame the wise. 
A third application: Praise must mark the lives of God’s children, of every age. We have read how God has ordained praise from the lips of children and infants, but he has also ordained that the lips of all his children, no matter what their age, praise him.
We have seen the love of the Lord for little children, and their love for him, on other occasions. When the disciples rebuked parents for bringing their children to Jesus, he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)
But it’s not just little children who are to sing God’s praises. All of us who have saving faith in Christ are adopted into God’s family and are God’s children. As his children we are to always praise him, no matter what age we may be.
As I grow older and see the gray hairs in the mirror, I’m reminded of the wonderful promise of Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Our lives are to be filled with praise for the God who faithfully cares for us, even to the very end, when he calls us home to himself.
And in whatever we do we are to praise him. In the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” for through the journey of this life he provides our daily bread and so much more. 
Above all, our lives as his children must always be marked by praise for the salvation from sin that he has given us through faith in the shed blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. Scripture reminds us that we are “people belonging to God that (we) may declare the praises of him who called (us) out of darkness into his glorious light” (1 Peter 2:9).   
There are over three hundred Old Testament Scriptures fulfilled by Christ, which is not surprising, because all of Scripture, Old Testament and New, focuses on Jesus Christ.
May he also be the focus of your life and mine, through the study of his Word. And as we grow in the knowledge of our God and his Word, may we live lives of grateful adoration and praise to the one who in fulfilling Scripture, sacrificed himself, so that through his death and resurrection we who believe in him have eternal life! Amen.
bulletin outline:
        “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him.
         “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
            “‘From the lips of children and infants
                You have ordained praise’?”   (Matthew 21:16)
               “Christ, and the Fulfillment of Scripture”
                                   Matthew 21:1-17
I.  In this passage we see that Jesus fulfilled Scripture:
     1) The triumphal entry (4) fulfilled Zecheriah 9:9 and Psalm 118:26
     2) The clearing of the temple (12), fulfilled Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11
     3) The praise of the children (15), fulfilled Psalm 8:2
II. Applications:
     1) The Lord is concerned about how we worship (13; John 4:23-24)
     2) The Lord receives the downtrodden (14) and often uses them to
          shame the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
     3) Praise must mark the lives of God’s children (16), of every age
          (Isaiah 46:4)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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