Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Matthew
Lesson 10: "Jesus in Jerusalem"
Now we join Jesus on His last fateful journey to Jerusalem to be disfellowshipped by the true church of His day (remember, up until the Temple veil is rent, it is still the Temple of God's true people). It's a terrible feeling to be disfellowshipped by the true church. What hurt Jesus the most was not the physical pain of crucifixion but the awful sense of being "forsaken" by His Father and by His people.
When we come to the story of the cross we will see how He worked His way by faith from that "forsakenness" to joyous at-one-ment. If you ever feel "forsaken," you can retrace His steps into the sunlight of the Father's smile where you can see it too, by faith.
Think how on this final journey His heart is heavy with serious thought! Our minds search. We recall that some will live through the great time of trouble "without a mediator"  after the heavenly sanctuary has closed. If so, they are in the world today quietly bearing the cross with Jesus, humble people you and I might easily miss. The Gospel of Matthew is a prelude to living in 2016 A.D. Don't desire the top job; but do be faithful now.
THE MESSIAH'S ROYAL ENTRY (MATT. 21:1-11)
His public relations strategy was professional; He didn't want to die in obscurity. He wanted that cross to be lifted up so high that all would see what was happening. Only then could He "draw all to Himself" (John 12:32). Not self-aggrandizement but soul-saving was His burden.
We talk longingly of the great days of the "loud cry" yet to follow our "latter rain." God's public relations plans will be perfect when Christ's mission meets its final fulfillment before probation closes. But just as the disciples were greatly disappointed in how "Palm Sunday" led to crucifixion, so we may be surprised how the true "loud cry" that "lightens the earth with glory" may be a very self-humbling experience for all of God's true people.
Ellen White pinpoints the initial outpouring of the "latter rain" as the coming of the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness; our dear brethren had expected it to be great emotional upheavals that would be like spiritual thunderstorms. They were taken by surprise—it turned out to be humble, quiet Bible studies on Romans and Galatians by two unworthy young "messengers" with undiscerned "heavenly credentials." But the two let in opened windows of "new light" which to the old men became bitterly unwelcome.
In deep discernment, Ellen White perceived what was happening. Calvary's week was being re-played. Over a hundred times the next few years she likened the reception which that "most precious message" received as being a re-play of how the Jews received their Messiah. The last week of Jesus' life that we are studying this week becomes therefore a vital "present truth."
THE CURSING OF THE FIG TREE (MATT. 21:18-21)
We need to understand the good news encouragements in the account of the fig tree that was "cursed" (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:12-14, 20-26). Christ's greatest disappointment was that the nation did not respond. He upbraided "the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent" (Matt. 11:20). He likened the nation to the unfruitful "fig tree planted in His vineyard. ... For three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none" (Luke 13:6-9).
The barren fig tree which Jesus cursed became a symbol representing not merely the mass of individual unrepentant Jews, but the corporate people which as a nation rejected Christ: "The cursing of the fig tree was an acted parable. That barren tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation. The Saviour desired to make plain to His disciples the cause and the certainty of Israel's doom." 
Only a day after Jesus cursed it, it "withered away." Sad; but grasp the positive thing Jesus said. If He curses a tree and it dies in 24 hours, if you through earnest prayer will bless a problem or frustration in your life for Him, it too will "wither away." In other words, your prayers for blessings will be as dramatically answered as was Jesus' prayer for a curse on that tree. But in your great rejoicing, be humble as you contemplate how little "fruit" your tree has borne, and let's be very careful about flouting "nothing but leaves" which elicit "amens" from the congregation but have no lasting substance.
But a prayer that has apparently been unanswered must not be forgotten. "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward" (Heb. 10:35) if for no other reason than this: the Father remembers that prayer better than you do. It will be answered for good when you may least expect it.
BY WHOSE AUTHORITY? (MATT. 21:23-27)
The Jewish leaders asked Him by whose authority He did these things? They were trying to get Him to say it was by God's authority. But they denied that God had sent Him. Jesus sought to link His authority with that of John the Baptist's credentials. He asked the leaders whether John's baptism of repentance was authorized by Heaven or man.
If they replied, by man's authority, the populace would turn against them because they all believed John was a prophet sent by Heaven. If they replied that John was sent by Heaven's authority, then they would have to concede that Christ's authority was from Heaven, because John was the Lamb's forerunner. So the leaders simply denied knowing John's authority.
We want to be very careful that we know how to recognize "Elijah"/John the Baptist, when the Lord sends him again. Every one of us without exception should walk in fear and trembling lest we make the same mistake the Jews did in the days of John the Baptist. Their "Elijah" came and went and they had no idea what had happened! Consequently, they missed their Messiah and crucified Him.
JESUS CONFRONTING CHURCH LEADERS (MATT. 21:12-14)
See how Jesus "confronted" the leaders of His day. Jesus went to the Temple to teach and heal.
We are led to ask: "Are there ever times when we, too, should challenge the establishment?" This question is not trivial nonsense. Just be sure you're right before you challenge God-ordained leaders, but remember that the time may come when faithfulness to Jesus will require a challenge to leadership. Keep step with Him! You, too, be crucified with Him.
—Paul E. Penno
 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 425.
 White, The Desire of Ages, p. 582.