In Matthew 21 Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 while the crowds wave palm branches to signify victory as they laid their cloaks on the road to indicate their submission to the approaching man whom they called “the Son of David.” The palm branches
of victory, the cloaks laid out in submission and shouting of the title “Son of David” were clear allusions to people’s willingness to recognize Jesus as their deliverer.
Matthew quotes the crowd chanting a verse from Psalm 118, which was the one of the six Psalms (113-118) used at Israel’s great feasts such as Passover, Tabernacles and Dedication (also called, Hanukkah).
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” – Matthew 21:9
Or, as recorded in Psalm 118:25-26:
“Save us (Hosanna), we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.”
These six Psalms were called the Hallel or the “praise” Psalms. Psalm 118 was originally written
for a joyous procession into the Temple courts, possibly in Ezra’s day when the Temple was
rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity. Psalm 118 was Israel celebrating God’s “steadfast love”
and their deliverance from the nations. In this Psalm Israel thanks God for their restoration and compare themselves to a building stone that was once rejected, but had ultimately become the decorative capstone of the building. They saw themselves as the rejected nation that had been chosen and restored by God.
In Matthew 21 Jesus enters the Jerusalem and continues onto the Temple Mount among shouts
of praise and submission. Upon arrival Jesus clears the temple of the money-changers and
overturned their tables.
The next day when Jesus arrived on the Temple Mount the leaders of the nation where alarmed concerning the people’s overwhelming support of Jesus the day before. They came to challenge
the authority Jesus displayed while receiving the praise of the crowds and with his physical
attack on the money-changers the day before.
Jesus responded with two parables: One, about two sons who acted in disobedience or obedience
to their father’s request; the second, about renters of a vineyard who refused to pay the landlord his share of the crops and ended up killing his son.
Jesus allows his accusers, the leaders of the nation, to explain their interpretation of his parables
and then asks them a question. He asks them, “Have you never read in Psalm 118 where it says
the stone that was rejected by the builders has become the capstone?"
Jesus quotes from the Psalm of Praise (the Hallel, Psalm 118), which was sung so often on the Temple Mount and on Palm Sunday, the very verse that Israel thought referred to themselves when rejected by the world, but accepted by God. Yet, Jesus applies it to himself as being rejected by Israel’s leaders, but chosen by God as the final capstone in God’s plan of salvation!
“Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
The Lord has done this, And it is marvelous in our eyes.’ ”