Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 21:17-27.
Matthew 21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
Matthew 21:18 begins, “And he left them…” The “them” refers to the chief priests and scribes who had been “sore displeased” at his triumphal entry (v. 15).
Spurgeon noted: “Jesus loved not quibbling priests… He gave them a Scriptural answer to their enquiry, and then, knowing that further argument with them was useless, he left them. A wise example for us to follow” (Commentary on Matthew, 308).
In Bethany our Lord might well have stayed at the household of the three siblings who were his dear friends and followers: Mary of Bethany, and Martha, and Lazarus.
The next morning, he returned to the city (v. 18a). Note especially the last statement in v. 18b: “he hungered.” This provides the context for his examination of the fruitless fig tree (v. 19), but it is no incidental statement.
No part of Scripture is there by happenstance. That little statement conveys a key theological truth. It tells us about the true humanity of our Lord. He is true God and true man. As a man he experienced hunger, just as he also slept (in the storm, Matthew 8:24), and wept at the death of a friend (John 11:35). On the cross he will declare, “I thirst” (John 19:28; fulfilling Psalm 69:21).
This reminds us that Christ was not a ghost or phantom, but a real man. He had to be a true man, so that he might be our perfect substitute on the cross. As Paul declared:
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).
Aside from physical hunger, we know that Christ also had a spiritual hunger. Consider his declaration in the beatitudes: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
The apostle John tells us of a time when the disciples urged our Lord to eat, and he responded, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).
So this simple descriptive statement “he hungered”—just as he entered Jerusalem on his way to the cross—reminds us of his two natures (true God and true man) in one person and of his resolve to satisfy the divine purpose for which he had been sent.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle