Matthew 21:1-11 My Commitment to God
In his book Concentric Circles of Concern, Dr. Oscar Thompson wrote that “the gospel moves on contiguous lines – on lines of relationship.”1 The key to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ he said is relationships. This passage addresses a pathway of relationships. First, I have my relationship with Christ. Then I have my relationship with my crowd. Then, I have my relationship with my community. One sees this relationship on social media. You have your crowd. These are the people who like and comment on your posts. Your community is the people with whom you are connected. You will have more connection with your crowd than your community. You will never reach everyone in your community.
Not all 800 people on my Facebook community likes or comments on my posts. But I can still reach out to them through what I comment, like, write or record. The same is true in the real world. I want to share with you how to identify the five different circles of commitment to God and then help you see how the Bible describes that we reach out to each of these levels.
As Jesus prepares to enter Jerusalem, we see five different decreasing levels of commitment to God.
FIVE CIRCLES OF COMMITMENT TO GOD2
“When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.” (Matthew 21:1–2, HCSB)
Jesus has a commitment to follow God and His plan. He has a unique and complete commitment to God. This is the reason why He quotes Zechariah 9:9:
“This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: Tell Daughter Zion, “Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”” (Matthew 21:4–5, HCSB)
As Christ is following His loving Father God with the ultimate level of commitment, He teaches that commitment to His disciples. The only way to follow God is to trust Christ. Therefore, in order for someone to come to God, they have to go through Jesus Christ.
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6, HCSB)
A person who wants to commit to follow and trust God can only do so through Jesus. This is the reason why He is called King. This leads to the second circle of commitment to God – a Christian.
2. Christian (Disciple of Christ)
“When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples,” (Matthew 21:1, HCSB)
“If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”” (Matthew 21:3, HCSB)
Christians are called to follow Christ. Christians are disciples of Christ. This passage defines a level of commitment that requires faith. These disciples didn’t question Jesus. They had spent enough time with Him to know that if He said something, they should do it because He would provide.
A disciple trusts Jesus by faith. A Christian grows in their commitment as long as s/he is connected to Christ. A Christian decreases their commitment the further away one gets from Christ.
There are three CORE outcomes to being a disciple of Jesus.
1. I trust Jesus (Matthew 21:1-3)
2. I believe God’s Word about Jesus (Matthew 21:4-5)
As a follower of Jesus, I trust Jesus because of my experience with Him. However, I also follow Him because of what God’s Word says about Him. The Old Testament has many prophecies that speak about one Person. In this case, Matthew refers to Zechariah 9:9. That passage speaks about Jesus coming as a King on a donkey. The disciples had spent time in the past struggling with how Jesus is to be presented. The people wanted a conquering king. Yet, Jesus knew that He came to be a Savior. The fact that He is King is not in dispute. He still rules and reigns, as the prophecy shows. Jesus never stopped being King. Instead, He personally humbled Himself to be obedient to what God wanted Him to do. God’s purpose for Jesus’ first coming was to pay the sin debt for everyone. Yet He comes to Jerusalem on a donkey even though He is King. The Old Testament presents Jesus as being totally obedient to God. Jesus never wavered. He was the committed to God’s purposes. Even though He was God’s Son, Jesus voluntarily submitted to God. If Jesus, being the most committed Person to God submits to God, then Jesus gives us an example to follow.
3. I obey Jesus (Matthew 21:6-7)
The disciples obeyed Jesus. They did what He said. The core not only believes in Jesus, not only trusts Jesus, but they obey Him. This is the distinction between the core, crowd, and the community. However, a Christian must also be connected to a group of disciples – which Christ called the church. As He declared:
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18, HCSB)
This brings us to the core group of disciples, which we know as the church.
3. Church (Core group of disciples)
“The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them.” (Matthew 21:6, HCSB)
The purpose of the church is directed by Jesus. He built the church. He defined its mission. Jesus called us as a group of disciples to make more disciples.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, HCSB)
Being committed to Christ requires that I am committed to His form of community – the church. Just as there were two disciples who did the work, I am never alone. I should not distance myself from the local church. A Christian can not be committed to Christ in isolation. I need the church to help me get closer to Jesus.The commitment of the church is the sum of the commitments of each individual Christian and how they work together to fulfill His mission. This brings us to the crowd.
“A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:8–9, HCSB)
“And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!”” (Matthew 21:11, HCSB)
The crowd is curious about Jesus. This crowd was interested in Jesus because of His miracles. They believed that He could restore the kingdom of Israel. The crowd is not as committed as the church, the individual Christian or even Christ. They are interested in Him. They easily enter into a time of praise for Jesus. But following Jesus takes more than occasional praise and worship.
Yet, the Christian’s commitment requires that I pursue teaching and mentoring individuals from the crowd. The church reaches out to the crowd and builds goodwill with the crowd to draw individuals closer to the church. The reason is because the crowd contains many lost individuals who have overcome their individual fear of Christ. These lost individuals come together and collectively take an interest in Him.
The crowd is extremely fickle. The praise Jesus on Sunday, but they curse and condemn Him the next day. The crowd waffles in their commitment to Him. What does that say about the crowd? That says that they are exposed to Him. They came when He fed the five thousand. The crowd came when He healed others. They came for the show. As they came, they listened. But they are a highly influenced group of people. They are easily swayed by one teacher or another. The Pharisees influenced the crowd to demand that Jesus be crucified. The commitment level of the crowd is much less than the core. The least committed group is the community. The reason is because they are the most ignorant of Him. Their experience and knowledge of Jesus is the most shallow.
As this text shows, there is a vastly differently attitude between the crowd and the community. The crowd shows interest. The community shows anxiety.
“When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”” (Matthew 21:10, HCSB)
Jesus left Bethphage to go to the city. He goes from the neighborhood to the local community. Jesus’ presence makes the community anxious. The community as a whole, and the world, in general, don’t know what to think about Jesus. They fear Him because they don’t understand Him. As a result, they won’t understand the Christian as well. This is why sometimes people are hostile and upset at Christians and the church.
Christ leads the Christian closer to the community. He moves to the community. Christ doesn’t resist the community. He embraces them. Because Christ is the center of relationships, everyone orbits around Him. Therefore, He expects the Christian to build more relationships that reveal Christ to them. Christ uses the church and the crowd to help the Christian reach the lost in the community.
This passage identifies three groups of people with three very different attitudes about Jesus. The core trusted Jesus. The crowd praised Jesus. The community is fearful. As the core – the church, we need to be reminded that must balance between two different extremes. The crowd praised Jesus, but quickly turned on His later. The community was fearful of Him and eventually were influenced by the Jewish leaders to call for Jesus’ death. Between the fickleness of the crowd and the hostility and ignorance of the community, stands the Christian. Our commitment is tested.
Will we continue to follow Jesus in the midst of these two extremes?
CROWD <– CHURCH –> COMMUNITY
My goal as a Christian is to go out from the core to the community. Jesus went out from the core to the crowd, and then the community. Christ wants me to journey with Him in increasing my commitment with Him to reach others who need Him.
I need to ask myself: How am I increasing my level of commitment to God?
In which circles of commitment do I need to increase my level of commitment? Christ, the church, reaching the crowd, sharing one on one with my community? How am I increasing my level of commitment to God?
MCDONALD’S offers “combo meals.” The company has made it easy for anyone to drive up and get a full meal by just saying a number. They have also trained their employees to take orders and always follow up with the question, “Do you want to supersize it?” The question basically implies that the customer is going to choose between taking a regular order or an oversized one.
In the same way, God continually offers His children the opportunity to “supersize” what He is offering to them. With just a little bit more of an investment of obedience and commitment on the part of the Christian, God will make so much more available.3
1 W. Oscar Thompson Jr., Concentric Circles of Concern, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1981), 22.
2 Jim Erwin, “5 Circles of Commitment to God,” Matthew 21:1-11, Lectionary Reflections Year A (2016-2017), Logos Bible Software, 7 April 2017, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2017/04/07/5-circles-commitment-god/, accessed on 7 April 2017.
3 Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 41.