Matthew 21:12-22 – “Hangry” Jesus


For those unaware of the modern slang term “hangry” it’s a combination of the two words “hungry” and “angry.”  Many people read this section and think that Jesus was really angry and really wanted a fig from that tree.  However, the actions of Jesus in this text are deeply symbolic and rich with prophetic interpretation.  Jesus would have entered the temple and walked into the court of the gentiles.  This space was more than thirty acres large and was designed for non-Jewish converts and God-fearers.  It was the only place in the temple grounds that these people could pray and worship.  This is what God wanted.  He declared in Isaiah 56:7-8, that His temple was a place of prayer for all the nations.  However, the Jewish leaders were using the court of gentiles for their own purposes of selling animals and exchanging dirty Roman coins for more acceptable currency.  These services provided a wonderful profit for the High-Priest Caiaphas and his sons.  They also made the court of gentiles a very unacceptable place to pray.  Jesus fully exposed this hypocrisy by calling the temple a den of thieves.  This language is also prophetic and taken from Jeremiah 7:8-11.  Jesus saw with his own eyes the sin of the people while they claimed safety and deliverance in the house of God.  It was too much for His righteous eyes.  Those who practice this hypocrisy will be “cast out” (Jeremiah 7:15).  Why would Jesus do this?  So that those who were blind and poor in spirit could come and be healed.



The chief priest and scribes see all the wonderful things that Jesus is doing for people.  Yet, they are not thankful, but indignant.  The children are worshiping Jesus as the Messiah.  They see the fact that Jesus is allowing them to worship Him in this way as blasphemous.  Indeed, it would be, except for the fact that Jesus was God who was worthy of their worship.  Jesus chides the religious leaders with again pointing them to the scriptures they claim they are upholding.  Jesus quotes directly from Psalm 8:2.  The psalm is about God who creates all things and has dominion over them.  His response to the religious leaders was more blasphemous than the praise of the children.  Jesus wasn’t claiming to be somewhat like God.  He was claiming that He was the God of all creation.



Jesus now provides an object lesson for the people of Israel.  When putting these verses in context and understanding that the fig tree is figurative of Israel’s status throughout the Old Testament (Jeremiah 8:13, 29:17; Hosea. 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7; Micah 7:1-6), we can rightly conclude that as Jesus brought judgment to the fig tree so now He has brought judgment upon the temple.  Like the tree, the temple had all the outward visibility of health.  The temple had breathtaking aesthetics, sacrifices happening, prayers being offered, money being given, along with the hustle and bustle of worshipers coming in and out.  What more could one want?  Jesus teaches us that busyness is not fruitfulness.  Things can look healthy and be completely fruitless.  Jesus ends the life of the tree.  Jesus also ends the life of the temple.  No longer will people need a temple and sacrifices to commune with and worship God.  From this point on they will need Jesus, and Jesus alone, to worship in Spirit and Truth (John 4:21-26).  As Christians we put all our faith in this truth.  We don’t need a temple or to perform sacrifices for our own righteousness or ability to come before God.  Instead we need faith in Christ Jesus.  In Him, and the forgiveness He freely gives us and commands us to model, we now have efficacy in our prayers, whoever we are and wherever we may be.


Study Questions

  1. Why do you think Jesus uses object lessons from nature to teach spiritual truths so often?
  2. Why does it bother people so much to hear about God bringing judgment upon sin and unrighteousness? How can the judgment of God be used to teach others and bring repentance?
  3. Given the nature of the context of these verses, why do so many hijack verse 22 and use it out of context?  Perhaps Matthew 7:11, James 4:3, and I John 5:13-14 can assist your discussion.