He condemns the “false shepherds” who have done nothing but “tickle ears” and made their congregations sons and daughters of hell
By Donald Whitchard
Matthew 21:1-17,Mark 11:1-17,Luke 19:28-48,John 2:13-22,John 12:12-19,Psalm 118:26,Isaiah 56:7
Summary: The Lord Jesus arrived in Jerusalem hailed by the Jews as the Davidic king who would restore Israel. He arrived not for that purpose, but to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant who restored all of His people back to God. The first step was to restore His house.
The final week of Jesus’ public ministry had started with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, being hailed as the rightful heir of David and the One who would finally drive out the hated Roman Gentile oppressors and restore the nation of Israel back to its former glory, or so the people thought. Their preconceived notion was based on the past glory of the nation. They seemed to have forgotten that God’s relationship with Israel was more important. They also conveniently left out the periods in their history where they abandoned God’s rule and protection in order to go after the foreign idols of the neighboring nations which included the barbaric and forbidden practice of sacrificing their children to the bloodthirsty “god” Moloch (Leviticus 18:21, 20:3; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35). They also seemed to have forgotten the years of pleading with the kings and people by the prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel to repent of these and other sins and debauchery that brought down their nation, placing them under the rule of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and now the iron hand of Rome.
The High Priests and other religious officials did not mind Rome being over them as long as their rituals and practices were left alone. They based their own preconceived notion on their roles as “the representatives of God’s holiness” and “keepers of the Law.” The Pharisees and Sadducees believed that these observations of the Law and traditions were sufficient enough to please God, but they had abandoned the true worship of God long ago. The rituals for atonement of the people’s sins had become a rote, emotionless, and dead series of practices, but yet were seen by these groups as a means of income not just for the alleged “upkeep of God’s Temple” but to line their own pockets with illicit gain. The High Priests had established a type of “racket” where they would “inspect” a lamb or other animal that a Jewish pilgrim would bring with them for the annual Passover sacrifice and feast (Exodus 12), declare that the animal was ‘unclean” or somehow “blemished” and rejected. For a “nominal fee”, the Temple authorities would have on hand an “unblemished” animal that one could use for the sacrifices. The “fee” was much more expensive, naturally, and so were the rates of money exchange. Greek drachmas and Roman coins were not acceptable as donations for Temple upkeep. They had to be shekels, the Jewish coins only. The rate of exchange fee? More than likely a huge sum that few could afford. All of these schemes in the name of faith were nothing more than “cash cows” for the religious elite.
The fig tree (Mark 11:12-14), although it had leaves and bore the signs of preparation to produce fruit, had nothing. Mark wrote that it was not yet the season for figs, yet this tree looked “right” and “ready” to produce its fruit early. It was symbolically all a “show” and a representation of the apostate worship and lives of the people of Israel. On the outside, the Jewish leadership and many of the citizens looked pious, holy, reverent, and ready to please the LORD, but it was nothing but a farce, and Jesus knew it. While Israel has been and always will be His chosen nation to give the world the Word of God and to obey Him, they have been disobedient, rebellious, idolatrous, and often played the game of devotion and religion to make themselves look good before God. They also had times of deep and earnest repentance for their sins, and turned to God after periods of chastisement, and we read about these times within the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures, or what is referred to by some as the Old Testament. We are no better, and many of you reading this message know it.
So, as Jesus prepares for what will be His last week of public ministry and final instructions to His disciples before he goes to the cross and completes His mission of atonement for the sins of humanity, He sees three problems for Israel and needs to confront them, rebuke them, and to open the eyes of the remnant of true believers that what they tend to expect from the LORD is all too often the exact opposite, and either a riot or revival occurs. There never has been any neutrality when it comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is either love or hate. With this in mind, His actions are going to stir up hatred from the majority of Israel. He will destroy any concept of the restoration of the country. He will destroy the false and vain religious systems that have replaced the love of God into the hearts of Israel, and He cursed the symbolic holiness and righteousness that Israel claimed to possess, but like the leafy fig tree, it was nothing but empty formalism and ritual that appeared to be the fruit of genuine devotion to God.
We cheer Jesus on from a vantage point of two thousand years as He turned over the tables of the greedy money changers and drove out those who bought and sold in the Temple for gain and material prosperity (sound familiar?). We say “Amen, Brother” as He condemned the Pharisees for their rank hypocrisy and adherence to rituals, traditions, and interpretations of God’s laws that oppressed the average citizen instead of being a source of instruction and enjoyment of the Word of God in their lives. We praise the LORD when He quotes the Word to justify what He did in the Temple, which for the first time in years, was cleansed of its wickedness and empty formalism that did nothing but send people to hell in the name of piety and goodness. For a brief moment, the house of God was restored to its original purpose and the genuine worshippers breathed a sigh of relief from the sounds, smells, and outright debauchery that had invaded what should a been a place of holy reverence and area to bow before the Sovereign LORD and give Him thanks and praise for His grace, mercy, and salvation.
I am not a betting man, but I would venture to say that if the Lord Jesus entered some of our own houses of “worship” and did things such as overturn the Bingo tables, tear down the coffee bars and bistros, and eliminate the laser shows and worldly music that substitute for “praise and worship”, it would cause shock, awe, and rage. He would rebuke “pastors” who preach the false doctrines of “prosperity”, “self-esteem”, “you’re a champion”, or “you are a little god”, or “making a deal with God for your best life now” instead of the Holy Scriptures, “services” that are nothing more than amusements thrown in to keep the crowds coming, or denying the truth of the Word and the person of Christ, or “buddying up” with causes and groups who demand that we acknowledge them without demanding repentance and a change of heart to the things of God. He would come in with whips ready and a curse on such practices that are allegedly done in “His name”.
He would refer to many “worshippers” as nothing more than those who will be in the group He warned of in Matthew 7:21-23. He would quote the Scriptures (Isaiah 1:11-17, 41:24, 29, 45:20, 57:6; Jeremiah 10:5, 51:17) as He condemns the “false shepherds” who have done nothing but “tickle ears” (Acts 20:31-33; 2 Tim. 4:1-5, 2 Peter 2:1-3) and made their congregations sons and daughters of hell as much as they are now (Matthew 23:15, 33). Watch the attitudes change from adulation to anger and from worship to rage as their preconceived ideas of Jesus “restoring America” or being only a “God of love who would never send anyone to hell,” or blessing the work of “our little church” comes crashing down around them and they are faced with the real Lord Jesus Christ of the Scriptures. Their “faith” would dissolve into rank apostasy because what they “thought” about Him is not in any way, shape or form with what they placed on an altar of their own design of Jesus on it and be content with it. Perhaps part of the great “falling away” of 2 Thessalonians 2 will be those who were faced with the demands of the Lord Jesus and decided that their brand of “Christianity” was better and they will deliberately walk away from the reality of Christ to embrace the coming deception and blindness that God will put on them and all who reject the Gospel message.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the rightful King of Israel and the coming world ruler who will govern His creation with justice and a “rod of iron” in the approaching Millennial reign and eternal state. He is the rightful and just judge who will expose the sins of everyone who has rejected Him for one reason or another and condemn them to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). He will judge the work of His children (2 Corinthians 5:10) and reward them for the great or small things they did for Him in His name. He will cast the devil, demons, and the coming Antichrist and his brood into hell and evil will be at an end forever (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 19:20-21). He knows who is genuine in their faith and who is just playing some kind of religious game (John 2:23-25). He is returning to this world to clean house and be done with the sins, debauchery, wickedness, and reprobate acts of the wicked who will still be cursing Him and trying in vain to be rid of Him as He appears in the clouds with His saints at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 4-19).
Those of us who have genuinely turned our hearts to Christ and given Him our lives will one day be taken off of this wicked world (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 3:10). I am afraid that it will not be as large a crowd as some of us expect, because like the crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem cheering Him one day and later cried for His death, there will be many who gave the LORD “lip service cheers”, but not their hearts, and will turn their affections to the coming Antichrist and his deceptions that will sound so good and noble, but lead straight to hell (Revelation 14:11). Please listen to me. This present world is coming to an end and the days will get more evil and wicked. It is NOT going to get better and all the “flag waving,” “prepping,” “patriotism” and hopes for a better nation will not come, period. More and more people are turning to evil and calling it good (Isaiah 5:20-21). Give your life to Jesus Christ NOW (2 Corinthians 6:2). You have no guarantee of tomorrow (James 4:17). If this were my last sermon, let it end with a plea for you to repent of your sins, surrender your life to Jesus Christ, and then cheer Him as the righteous King of Kings as we enter the portals of glory and then to a new heaven and earth. Come to Him today. If not now, friend, when?
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.