Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Mt 21:1-9. Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the First Day of the Week. ( = Mr 11:1-11; Lu 19:29-40; Joh 12:12-19).
For the exposition of this majestic scene—recorded, as will be seen, by all the Evangelists—see on Lu 19:29-40.
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
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.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
Mt 21:10-22. Stir about Him in the City—Second Cleansing of the Temple, and Miracles There—Glorious Vindication of the Children's Testimony—The Barren Fig Tree Cursed, with Lessons from It. ( = Mr 11:11-26; Lu 19:45-48).
For the exposition, see on Lu 19:45-48; and Mr 11:12-26.
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
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,
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
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,
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?
And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
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.
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
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.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
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?
Mt 21:23-46. The Authority of Jesus Questioned and the Reply—The Parables of the Two Sons, and of the Wicked Husbandman. ( = Mr 11:27-12:12; Lu 20:1-19).
Now commences, as Alford remarks, that series of parables and discourses of our Lord with His enemies, in which He develops, more completely than ever before, His hostility to their hypocrisy and iniquity: and so they are stirred up to compass His death.
The Authority of Jesus Questioned, and the Reply (Mt 21:23-27).
23. By what authority doest thou these things!—referring particularly to the expulsion of the buyers and sellers from the temple,
and who gave thee this authority?
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.
24. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, &c.
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?
25. The baptism of John—meaning his whole mission and ministry, of which baptism was the proper character.
whence was it? from heaven, or of men?—What wisdom there was in this way of meeting their question will best appear by their reply.
If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?—"Why did ye not believe the testimony which he bore to Me, as the promised and expected Messiah?" for that was the burden of John's whole testimony.
But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
26. But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people—rather, "the multitude." In Luke (Lu 20:6) it is, "all the people will stone us"—"stone us to death."
for all hold John as a prophet—Crooked, cringing hypocrites! No wonder Jesus gave you no answer.
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.
27. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell—Evidently their difficulty was, how to answer, so as neither to shake their determination to reject the claims of Christ nor damage their reputation with the people. For the truth itself they cared nothing whatever.
Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things—What composure and dignity of wisdom does our Lord here display, as He turns their question upon themselves, and, while revealing His knowledge of their hypocrisy, closes their mouths! Taking advantage of the surprise, silence, and awe produced by this reply, our Lord followed it up immediately by the two following parables.
Parable of the Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32).
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.
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—for true religion is a practical thing, a "bringing forth fruit unto God."
He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
29. He answered and said, I will not—Trench notices the rudeness of this answer, and the total absence of any attempt to excuse such disobedience, both characteristic; representing careless, reckless sinners resisting God to His face.
And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
30. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir—"I, sir." The emphatic "I," here, denotes the self-righteous complacency which says, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men" (Lu 18:11).
and went not—He did not "afterward repent" and refuse to go; for there was here no intention to go. It is the class that "say and do not" (Mt 23:3)—a falseness more abominable to God, says Stier, than any "I will not."
Whether of them twain 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.
31. Whether of them twain did the will of his Father? They say unto him, The first—Now comes the application.
Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go—or, "are going"; even now entering, while ye hold back.
into the kingdom of God before you—The publicans and the harlots were the first son, who, when told to work in the Lord's vineyard, said, I will not; but afterwards repented and went. Their early life was a flat and flagrant refusal to do what they were commanded; it was one continued rebellion against the authority of God. The chief priests and the elders of the people, with whom our Lord was now speaking, were the second son, who said, I go, sir, but went not. They were early called, and all their life long professed obedience to God, but never rendered it; their life was one of continued disobedience.
For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
32. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness—that is, calling you to repentance; as Noah is styled "a preacher of righteousness" (2Pe 2:5), when like the Baptist he warned the old world to "flee from the wrath to come."
and ye believed him not—They did not reject him; nay, they "were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (Joh 5:35); but they would not receive his testimony to Jesus.
but the publicans and the harlots believed him—Of the publicans this is twice expressly recorded, Lu 3:12; 7:29. Of the harlots, then, the same may be taken for granted, though the fact is not expressly recorded. These outcasts gladly believed the testimony of John to the coming Saviour, and so hastened to Jesus when He came. See Lu 7:37; 15:1, &c.
and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him—Instead of being "provoked to jealousy" by their example, ye have seen them flocking to the Saviour and getting to heaven, unmoved.
Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Mt 21:33-46).
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:
33. Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard—(See on Lu 13:6).
and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower—These details are taken, as is the basis of the parable itself, from that beautiful parable of Isa 5:1-7, in order to fix down the application and sustain it by Old Testament authority.
and let it out to husbandmen—These are just the ordinary spiritual guides of the people, under whose care and culture the fruits of righteousness are expected to spring up.
and went into a far country—"for a long time" (Lu 20:9), leaving the vineyard to the laws of the spiritual husbandry during the whole time of the Jewish economy. On this phraseology, see on Mr 4:26.
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen—By these "servants" are meant the prophets and other extraordinary messengers, raised up from time to time. See on Mt 23:37.
that they might receive the fruits of it—Again see on Lu 13:6.
And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one—see Jer 37:15; 38:6.
and killed another—see Jer 26:20-23.
and stoned another—see 2Ch 24:21. Compare with this whole verse Mt 23:37, where our Lord reiterates these charges in the most melting strain.
Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
36. Again, he sent other servants more than the first; and they did unto them likewise—see 2Ki 17:13; 2Ch 36:16, 18; Ne 9:26.
But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
37. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son—In Mark (Mr 12:6) this is most touchingly expressed: "Having yet therefore one son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence My Son." Luke's version of it too (Lu 20:13) is striking: "Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son: it may be they will reverence Him when they see Him." Who does not see that our Lord here severs Himself, by the sharpest line of demarcation, from all merely human messengers, and claims for Himself Sonship in its loftiest sense? (Compare Heb 3:3-6). The expression, "It may be they will reverence My Son," is designed to teach the almost unimaginable guilt of not reverentially welcoming God's Son.
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.
38. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves—Compare Ge 37:18-20; Joh 11:47-53.
This is the heir—Sublime expression this of the great truth, that God's inheritance was destined for, and in due time is to come into the possession of, His own Son in our nature (Heb 1:2).
come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance—that so, from mere servants, we may become lords. This is the deep aim of the depraved heart; this is emphatically "the root of all evil."
And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard—compare Heb 13:11-13 ("without the gate—without the camp"); 1Ki 21:13; Joh 19:17.
and slew him.
When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
40. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh—This represents "the settling time," which, in the case of the Jewish ecclesiastics, was that judicial trial of the nation and its leaders which issued in the destruction of their whole state.
what will he do unto those husbandmen?
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.
41. They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men—an emphatic alliteration not easily conveyed in English: "He will badly destroy those bad men," or "miserably destroy those miserable men," is something like it.
and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons—If this answer was given by the Pharisees, to whom our Lord addressed the parable, they thus unwittingly pronounced their own condemnation: as did David to Nathan the prophet (2Sa 12:5-7), and Simon the Pharisee to our Lord (Lu 7:43, &c.). But if it was given, as the two other Evangelists agree in representing it, by our Lord Himself, and the explicitness of the answer would seem to favor that supposition, then we can better explain the exclamation of the Pharisees which followed it, in Luke's report (Lu 20:16)—"And when they heard it, they said, God forbid"—His whole meaning now bursting upon them.
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?
42. Jesus saith unto them. Did ye never read in the scriptures—(Ps 118:22, 23).
The stone which the builders rejected, &c.—A bright Messianic prophecy, which reappears in various forms (Isa 28:16, &c.), and was made glorious use of by Peter before the Sanhedrim (Ac 4:11). He recurs to it in his first epistle (1Pe 2:4-6).
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
43. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God—God's visible Kingdom, or Church, upon earth, which up to this time stood in the seed of Abraham.
shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof—that is, the great evangelical community of the faithful, which, after the extrusion of the Jewish nation, would consist chiefly of Gentiles, until "all Israel should be saved" (Ro 11:25, 26). This vastly important statement is given by Matthew only.
And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder—The Kingdom of God is here a Temple, in the erection of which a certain stone, rejected as unsuitable by the spiritual builders, is, by the great Lord of the House, made the keystone of the whole. On that Stone the builders were now "falling" and being "broken" (Isa 8:15). They were sustaining great spiritual hurt; but soon that Stone should "fall upon them" and "grind them to powder" (Da 2:34, 35; Zec 12:2)—in their corporate capacity, in the tremendous destruction of Jerusalem, but personally, as unbelievers, in a more awful sense still.
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
45. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables—referring to that of the Two Sons and this one of the Wicked Husbandmen.
they perceived that he spake of them.
But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
46. But when they sought to lay hands on him—which Luke (Lu 20:19) says they did "the same hour," hardly able to restrain their rage.
they feared the multitude—rather, "the multitudes."
because they took him for a prophet—just as they feared to say John's baptism was of men, because the masses took him for a prophet (Mt 21:26). Miserable creatures! So, for this time, "they left Him and went their way" (Mr 12:12).