Matthew 21:1-46 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
Jesus has been preparing His disciples for His death (eg.; Mat 20:17-19,28).
He is coming now to Jerusalem and to the cross.
But first, He publicly offers Himself to the nation of Israel as their King.
cp. Mark 11:1-10; Luk 19:29-38; Joh 12:12-19
21:1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem,
and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives,
then sent Jesus two disciples,
21:2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you,
and straightway ye shall find an ass
{ie., donkey} tied, and a colt with her:
loose [them], and bring [them] unto me.
21:3 And if any [man] say ought
{ie., anything} unto you,
ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them;
{cp. Psa 50:10,11}
and straightway he will send them.
21:4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled
which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion,
Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek,
and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
{cp. Zech 9:9}
In v.5, the writer selectively quoted portions of Zech 9:9 which applied to that historic occasion.
It is readily observed that prophetic scripture frequently contains both a near and a far view.
  1. The far view - The portions which Matthew omitted describe the King at His second coming, and await future fulfillment.
    1. ''He is... just''- HB=tsaddiyq, righteous (in His conduct, character and cause); vindicated by God.
      At His first coming, the King was rejected by His people. But at that future time, they will recognize Him as ''the Lord our Righteousness'' (Jer 23:5,6).
    2. ''He is... having salvation''- HB=yasha, to save, to deliver.
      In that future day, the Messiah will come in power and righteous judgment to save Israel from their enemies. His deliverance of Israel will be based on ''the blood of thy covenant'' (Zech 9:11).
      These and many other OT passages, which foretell Israel's restoration in the future Kingdom, declare the Messiah's righteousness and power to save (eg., Isa 63:1).
  2. The near view - The quoted portions describe the King at His first coming.
    1. ''He is... riding upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass.''-
      This was a sign to Israel, by which they were to recognize their King (cp. Gen 49:8-12).
      Riding upon a donkey, the King came in peace, to make peace (Col 1:20-22).
      He will come again, riding on a horse, to judge and depose His enemies (Rev 19:11).
    2. ''He is... meek.'' (v.5)- GK=praus, humble (cp. the Notes at Mat 11:28-30);
      In Zech 9:9, 'lowly' is HB= 'aniy, poor, afflicted, wretched.
      His ride on a donkey, did not make Him meek, although it was symbolic of His meekness. He is meek in that He came to do the Father's will, and He would be ''obedient unto death.'' Php 2:8
21:6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
21:7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes,
and they set [him] thereon.
21:8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way;
others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed [them] in the way.
21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying,
{ie., 'Save now'} to the Son of David:
Blessed [is] he that cometh in the name of the Lord;
Hosanna in the highest.
21:10 And when he was come into Jerusalem,
all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
21:11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
This event is often referred to as the 'Triumphal Entry' of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The multitudes acclaimed Him (quoting from Psa 118:25,26),
at His official presentation to the nation as the King. But the nation would reject Him.
In a few days, many of these voices would be shouting ''Crucify him...'' Mat 27:22,23
Then, they would go on to fulfill the rest of the Psalm, unknowingly slaying the willing sacrifice, through whom God extends mercy to believing sinners (118:27-29).
Who is this?-
They voice the words, but they do not recognize their King (v.5), the Son of David (v.9).
To them He is just a ''prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.'' v.11; cp. Mat 16:14; Joh 1:46; 7:41
Even the disciples did not yet understand. cp. Joh 12:15,16
21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God,
and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple,
and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers,
and the seats of them that sold doves,
21:13 And said unto them,
It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer;
{Isa 56:7}
but ye have made it a den of thieves.
{Jer 7:11}
21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
21:15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did,
and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David;
they were sore displeased,
21:16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say?
And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read,
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
{Psa 8:2}
21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
Jesus made three distinct entrances into the Temple following His 'Triumphal Entry' into Jerusalem:
  1. on the same day (Mark 11:11) - He entered, as King, to inspect.
  2. on the next day (v.12-17; Mark 11:15-18; Luk 19:45,46) - He entered, as Priest, to cleanse.
  3. on the day(s) following (v.23; Mark 11:27; Luk 19:47) - He entered, as Prophet, to heal and to teach.
Hearest thou what these say?- The chief priests thought Jesus was the cause of blasphemy,
as the people acclaimed Him in terms reserved for the Messiah.
Yea, have ye never read...- He quoted Psa 8:2 to them, and left them to ponder its meaning.
Who is the recipient of praise in this Psalm (Psa 8:1,2)?
Whose house (temple) was it that He inspected and cleansed? (Mat 21:13)
Who then is He? (cp. Mal 3:1,2)
21:18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
21:19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way,
he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only,
and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.
And presently the fig tree withered away.
21:20 And when the disciples saw [it], they marvelled, saying,
How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you,
If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this [which is done] to the fig tree,
but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea;
it shall be done.
21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
when He saw a {lit., a certain} fig tree... he came... and found nothing on it...- cp. Mark 11:12-14,20-26
This fig tree is a picture of Israel. When their King came, they were not ready for Him.
Though He labored among them for three years, still they bore no fruit. cp. Luk 13:6-9
Rather, they had only the appearance of fruitfulness (leaves) in their outward religious ritual. cp. Isa 1:11-17
      The withering of the fig tree was prophetic of judgment which would come upon Jerusalem, in 70 AD (cp. Mat 3:1,2,7-10). As Jesus cleansed the Temple (v.13), He quoted a line from Jer 7:11-15, which Jeremiah had spoken shortly before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, in 586 BC.
if ye have faith and doubt not...(v.21)- Jesus used this event as a lesson in faith and prayer.
Whatever ye shall ask... believing...- ie., with confidence that it is God's will. cp. 1Joh 5:14,15
ye shall say to this mountain...- The mountain, in view at the time, was the Mt. of Olives (v.1).
  • There is, here, a subtle prophetic promise of salvation for Israel, in that future day when they will finally recognize their King, and put their trust in Him. cp. Zech 12:10; 13:1; 14:4,8
  • Jesus made a similar statement, when He was near the mount of Transfiguration (probably Mt. Herman; Mat 17:20). The center of idolatry, at the base of Mt. Hermon, foreshadows the satanic government and false religion of the Tribulation period. This also will be displaced by the Lord at His coming (Rev 14:8; 11:15).
21:23 And when he was come into the temple,
the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching,
and said, By what authority doest thou these things?
and who gave thee this authority?
21:24 And Jesus answered and said unto them,
I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me,
I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?
And they reasoned with themselves, saying,
If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
21:26 But if we shall say, Of men;
we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
{cp. Mat 14:5}
21:27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell.
And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
by what authority doest thou these things?...- v.23; cp. Mark 11:27-33; Luk 20:1-8
Jesus had entered the Temple, over which they considered themselves to have authority.
He had disrupted their corrupt and profitable business of religion. (v.12,13)
They intended to bring charges against Him for His actions.
But He is in control. He will bring charges against them.
I also will ask you one thing... (v.24)-
He places them on the horns of a dilemna. v.25,26
They had rejected John and his message, but they could not admit it because of popular opinion.
neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.-
If they would not acknowledge John the Baptist as a prophet of God,
they would not accept Jesus' authority, either. cp. Mat 3:3
He confronts them with three parables concerning their rejection of Him.-
  • The Parable of the two sons - v.28-32
  • The Parable of the Householder and the wicked husbandmen - v.33-46
  • The Parable of the marriage feast - 22:1-14
21:28 But what think ye?
A [certain] man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said,
Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
21:29 He answered and said, I will not:
but afterward he repented, and went.
21:30 And he came to the second, and said likewise.
And he answered and said, I [go], sir: and went not.
21:31 Whether of them twain
{ie., which of the two} did the will of [his] father?
They say unto him, The first.
Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you,
That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
21:32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not:
but the publicans and the harlots believed him:
{Mat 3:2,4-8}
and ye, when ye had seen [it], repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
This parable confronts the rulers with their rejection of John's authority. v.25-27
  • a certain man - corresponds to God, who had spoken to that generation through John.
  • the vineyard (v.28) - represents Israel. Isa 5:1-7
  • the first son, who refused to obey, but afterward repented - represents sinners
    who responded to John's message of repentance from sin. v.32; cp. Isa 1:16-19; 1Cor 6:11
  • the second son, who professed obedience, but did not obey -
    represents the religious leaders who gave lip service to the Lord.
    Their unrepentant disobedience was cloaked in religion. cp. Eze 33:31; Rom 2:17-24; Titus 1:16
    But the reality was that they had excluded themselves from God's Kingdom by refusing His Word to them.
  • the Kingdom of God (v.31) - In Matthew's gospel, "the Kingdom of God" refers to the realm of God's presence, where saved men will dwell eternally. This realm is entered only through genuine faith in His provision of salvation (cp. Joh 3:3,5-7,16).
         In contrast, "the Kingdom of Heaven" refers to God's dominion over all mankind on earth, which, during the present 'mystery' period, includes unbelievers, false believers (professing Christians), and true believers. (see the Notes at Mat 3:2 and Notes at Mat 13:11).
21:33 Hear another parable:
There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard,
and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower,
and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
21:34 And when the time of the fruit drew near,
he sent his servants to the husbandmen,
that they might receive the fruits of it.
21:35 And the husbandmen took his servants,
and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
21:36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first:
and they did unto them likewise.
21:37 But last of all he sent unto them his son,
saying, They will reverence my son.
21:38 But when the husbandmen saw the son,
they said among themselves, This is the heir;
come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
21:39 And they caught him, and cast [him] out of the vineyard, and slew [him].
21:40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh,
what will he do unto those husbandmen?
21:41 They say unto him,
He will miserably destroy those wicked men,
and will let out [his] vineyard unto other husbandmen,
which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures,
The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner:
this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
{Psa 118:22,23}
21:43 Therefore say I unto you,
The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,
and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken:
but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
This parable confronts the rulers with their historic rejection of God's prophets,
and with their specific rejection of God's Son. Here, Jesus answers their question of v.23.
  • the householder - represents God.
  • the vineyard - represents Israel. Isa 5:1-7
  • the husbandmen {ie., tenant farmers} - represent the religious leaders,
    to whom God had entrusted the care of His people.
    But they served themselves rather than serving Him. cp. Mal 2:4-9
  • the servants (v.34-36) - represent the prophets,
    which God had sent to Israel from time to time. 2Chr 36:15,16; Jer 25:4-7
  • the son (v.37-39) - represents the Lord Jesus.
    In this parable, Jesus prophesied His death at the hands of those who questioned His authority (v.23).
The religious leaders were condemned...-
  1. by their own words (v.40,41).
  2. by the words of scripture (v.42) from Psa 118:22,23.
    (For further study, see the Book Notes on The Psalms of Messiah for Psalm 118.)
the Kingdom of God (ie., the sphere of salvation and true faith) shall be...
...taken away from you... - ie., from Israel as a nation.
...given to another nation - ie., to the true Church of Christ. 1Pet 2:7-10; (but also see Rom 11:25-29)
the stone which the builders rejected - ie., Christ. v.42; cp. Acts 4:10,11; Isa 28:16
''When you come as a sinner and fall on that stone, you are broken.
However, if in your brokenness that Stone becomes your foundation, that is your salvation.
But if you reject Him, He will fall upon you in judgment.'' [JVMcGee]
''Israel stumbled over Christ; the Church is built upon Christ;
Gentile world-dominion will be broken by Christ.'' [ScofRB]
21:45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables,
they perceived that he spake of them.
21:46 But when they sought to lay hands on him,
they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
{cp. v.26; Mark 11:18}

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