Holy Monday – A Crowd’s Change of Heart
Holy Monday occurred one day after Palm Sunday. Only one day before Holy Monday, the Pharisees had ordered Jesus to silence the crowd’s joyful praises (Luke 19:37–39). Five days later, Pilate would not be able to silence a crowd who condemned the Son of God (Luke 23:22–25). What did Jesus do and say during this final week that caused the crowd’s conflicting responses? Jesus would use this second day of what we now call Holy Week to demonstrate genuine faith in God and to affirm His Messianic authority.
Holy Monday – A People’s Fruitless Faith
The nation of Israel had failed to exercise their faith in Jesus. They were professing to be fruitful/faithful (waving palm leaves as He entered their city), yet the Jewish people were fruitless (non-productive) in practicing their faith. Within a few days of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, they would deny their King and crucify Him.
Following His arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus spent Sunday night in Bethany, the village at the foot of Mount Olives (Matthew 21:7). Whether He spent the night in a house in town or in the open air is uncertain. As Jesus returned on Monday to Jerusalem, He noticed a fig tree that had produced leaves ahead of the season. Jesus knew that fig trees bear fruit twice a year -- in June and September. This was April, so even the unripened fruit should have still remained for Him to eat. But since the fig tree bore leaves, He expected to find figs, yet it was fruitless. Jesus cursed the tree and it withered the next day.
The disciples were surprised to see the tree wither so rapidly. Just as Jesus had cursed the fig tree, He would judge a generation that rejected Him (Luke 21:20). “Profession without practice was the curse of the Jews.”1 Jesus used the disciples’ surprise to teach on genuine faith in God -- rather than doubt or simple amazement. Even a mustard-size faith is sufficient to move mountains when it aligns with God’s will (Matthew 21:21-22). The faith of Jesus’ followers would be greatly tested in the days prior to His resurrection.
Holy Monday – A Temple Cleansed
Another event of Holy Monday is the Temple cleaning. John 2:13–17 bears record of Jesus’ first cleansing of the Temple, presenting Himself as the Messiah. This first cleansing was for teaching and admonishing. The second cleansing occurred during Jesus’ final week before His crucifixion. As part of prophesy, Jesus pronounced a symbolic judgment upon the irreverence for the Lord’s house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11).
The thirty-minute journey from Bethany to Jerusalem provided Jesus the time to reflect on how the city had changed. In the past two years, some had forgotten whose house the Temple was. Commercialism and greed had altered the character of the Temple. Currency (temple money), used to purchase sacrifices, was subject to extortion. Jesus chose to clean out the Temple one last time. In righteous indignation, “He who comes in the name of the Lord,” overturned the moneychangers’ tables and benches in the outer court of the Gentiles (Matthew 21:9; 12–13).
Having heard the commotion, the courtyard was in chaos. Yet those who had needs did not hesitate, nor did the children. First, the blind and lame came when they heard Jesus was in the Temple. As the children saw Jesus standing there and teaching, they began to shout again, “Hosanna, Hosanna, to the Son of David.” There was nothing the Pharisees could do to stop Jesus as the Messiah. “[Jesus replied] ‘Have you never read, From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:14–16).
1 William Barclay. The Gospel of Matthew. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975. Vol. 2, pp. 253-255.
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