11:1-11 God must have told the owners of the donkey colt that someone’s coming for his donkey, which is why they were so willing to let complete strangers take their animal.
This passage is often titled “The Triumphal Entry.” Luke’s longer account of this (Luke 19:41), however, it records that Jesus wept as he approached the city. This is interesting, because why would Jesus weep right after people celebrate him coming into Jerusalem in his “triumphal entry”?
Palm branches were the symbol of the Hasmonean dynasty, the last time Judea was self-ruled by Jews. You can read about this fascinating story in 1 Maccabees. (I highly recommend reading it. Even though Evangelicals don’t believe it to be scripture, pretty much everyone agrees that it’s historical, and gives a good insight into what happened in Judea between Malachi and Matthew. You can read a modern translation of it here: https://goo.gl/TeSC91 )
So, this passage actually was very Jewish nationalistic. It’s as if some foreign country had conquered Malaysia and banned the Jalur Gemilang, then this saviour arose and lead a procession into Kuala Lumpur and everyone came out and waved the Jalur Gemilang in defiance of the foreign overlords.
But do you see, why Jesus wept, then? Because, even here towards the end of his earthly ministry, he knew that the people misunderstood his purpose for his first coming -- to die for the sins of the world, not to become a political messiah like King David and wipe out the Roman overlords.
11:15-33 Here is a really interesting set of events. We like to point out the cleansing of the temple event, but the cursing of the fig tree always had bothered me. I mean, doesn’t this show Jesus being petty and impatient? After all, it wasn’t that the fig tree wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do -- it was, after all, not fig season.
But the cleansing of the temple, and the answering of the chief priests and lawyers, showed Jesus’ authority. So perhaps this fig tree incident also shows Jesus’ authority?
Christian radio talk show host Brant Hansen, whose podcast http://branthansen.com/category/podcast/ I enjoy listening to, pointed out that it is not surprising that the infinite God does stuff that we don’t understand. Isn’t it silly to expect that we would understand *all* of God’s motives?
Back to the cleansing of the temple: the merchants had taken over the court of the Gentiles -- the part of the temple that God had designated as a place for people who don’t know Yahweh yet to come to find out about Him. So by turning this into a marketplace, it meant that it was no longer a place that Gentiles could come to find out about Yahweh. The Jews had forgotten the essentially evangelistic mission that they had from the time of Abraham -- that through Abraham’s seed all the nations on earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). So, as someone (Thomas?) pointed out earlier, Jesus was very focused on his mission.