Matthew 21:12-21 Jesus Smashes the System

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “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, Lord, have called forth your praise’[g]?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Jesus Smashes the System

Jesus, you overthrew the temple system.  You were violent in your opposition to violent and corrupt people.  You cursed a system by cursing a fig tree.  You were bold and strong in this instance in quite conventional ways.  We perceive might in aggression and violence.  There is something manly in what you did.  You were fighting for what is right. Actually for the first time apart from the second coming, I see you as a warrior.  Not an impersonal knight on a white horse, but a human fighting for what is right.  Jesus, I want to know how to be a warrior like that.  I want to know how to be strong and to fight at the right time and in the right way.  I don’t want to be a violent brigand or robber working against the kingdom, but I want o be an aggressive advocate working for the kingdom.


  1. What did Jesus do in the temple?
  2. In what ways did Jesus’ actions both have permanence and transience?
  3. How was the religious system in Jesus’ day like the fig tree?
  4. Do you have a religious system that bears fruit of real spiritual growth?
  5. In what ways do religious systems today miss the mark?  How can a person cultivate the formation of Christ in themselves?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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