Matthew 21:26
But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
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21:23-27 As our Lord now openly appeared as the Messiah, the chief priests and scribes were much offended, especially because he exposed and removed the abuses they encouraged. Our Lord asked what they thought of John's ministry and baptism. Many are more afraid of the shame of lying than of the sin, and therefore scruple not to speak what they know to be false, as to their own thoughts, affections, and intentions, or their remembering and forgetting. Our Lord refused to answer their inquiry. It is best to shun needless disputes with wicked opposers.We fear the people - They feared that the people would stone them (Luke). Such an unpopular sentiment as to profess that all that "John" did was "imposture," would have probably ended in tumult, perhaps in their death.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.

See Poole on "Matthew 21:27".

But if we shall say of men,.... They reasoned with themselves, that should they give their answer in this form, and say, that the ministry and baptism of John, were merely human, and what he took up of himself, or which he performed by an authority derived from men,

we fear the people; that were then upon the spot, in the temple; who, as many of them were now the followers of Christ, more of them had been the admirers of John, and probably had been baptized by him: wherefore the sanhedrim were afraid of them, lest if they should affirm, that the authority by which John acted was human, they would immediately rise up against them; and, as Luke says, "stone" them: so high a veneration had they for him, and so dear was his memory still unto them,

For all held John as a prophet. These are the words of the high priests and elders, and not of the evangelist, expressing the reason of their fears from the people, who, in general, were thoroughly persuaded, as Luke expresses it, and firmly believed that John was a prophet, that was raised up, and sent immediately by God; and did not derive his authority and commission to preach and baptize from any man, or set of men, whatever.

But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
Matthew 21:26 f. Φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον] Those words are preceded by an aposiopesis, the import of which, however (Luke 20:6), is indicated by the words themselves.

The language of embarrassment: “But suppose we should say: From men; we are afraid of the people” etc. Comp. note on Acts 23:9.

πάντες γὰρ, κ.τ.λ.] See on Matthew 14:5.

καὶ αὐτός] He also on His part; for as they with their wretched οὐκ οἴδαμεν left the question of Jesus unanswered, so now in like manner He with His decided and humbling οὐδὲ ἐγώ (neither do I) refuses to answer theirs.

Matthew 21:26. ἐὰν δὲ, etc.: the mode of expression here is awkward. Meyer finds in the sentence an aposiopesis = “if we say of men—we fear the people”. What they mean is: we must not say of men, because we fear, etc. (cf. Mk.).

Matthew 21:26. Φοβούμεθα, we fear) They were unwilling to confess their fear.—τὸν ὄχλον, the multitude) The multitude was scarcely likely to proceed at once to the extremity which the chief priests dreaded, yet it burned with ardent zeal in favour of John. And the Jewish population was wont, under sudden impulses, to assail, with the utmost violence, those who uttered, or were supposed to utter, impious things.—προφήτην, a prophet) sent from heaven, which had not happened for a long while.

Verse 26. - We fear the people. They dared not, as they would gladly have done, affirm that John was a false prophet and impostor; for then, as according to St. Luke they said, "All the people will stone us." Public opinion was too strong for them. Whatever view they really took of John's position, they were forced, for the sake of retaining popularity, to uphold its Divine character. All hold John as a prophet. Even Herod, for the same reason, long hesitated to put the Baptist to death (Matthew 14:5); and many of the Jews believed that Herod's defeat by Aretas was a judgment upon him for this murder (Josephus,' Ant.,' 18:5. 2); comp. Luke 7:29, which shows how extensive was the influence of this holy teacher, who indeed did no miracle, but persuaded men by pure doctrine, holy life, genuine love of souls, courageous reproof of sin wherever found. Others had drawn the very inference which Christ now demanded (see John 10:41, 42). Matthew 21:26
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