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Christ's Entry into Jerusalem
v. 1. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
v. 2. 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.
v. 3. And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
After the miracle at Jericho, Jesus had come directly to Bethany, a small town on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. Here He had been a few weeks before, when He had raised His friend Lazarus from the dead, thereby greatly intensifying the hatred of the Pharisees and high priests, John 11:53. On this occasion the Lord reached Bethany on a Sabbath and spent the day in the house of Simon the Leper. At the supper made for Him there, Mary had anointed Him for His burying, John 12:7. The next morning Jesus continued His journey. But the report of His coming had reached Jerusalem, and many of the festival pilgrims left the city to meet Him, singing the joyful hymn of festive occasions: "Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord!" John 12:12-13. With the vanguard of this multitude Jesus came to Bethphage, the "house of figs," a small village on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives, almost adjoining Bethany, on the main road to Jerusalem. At the entrance to this small town Jesus halted for a time, in order to send two of His disciples as a delegation. He gives them explicit directions: In this very place lying just before them they would at once, without difficulty, find a she-ass tied, having her foal with her; without asking leave, loose and bring, as though they were the owners. And should the owners or any other person remonstrate as to their right in taking the animals away, the mere word: The Lord hath need of them. He has a reason for wanting them, would serve as a password, bringing about immediate obedience and glad yielding on the part of the owner. Three significant points: The Lord knew that the animals were at the designated place, and He again took an opportunity to convince His disciples that nothing was hidden from Him. His word has almighty power and authority. As the minute occurrences of the future are open before Him, so He, Lord to whom all things belong, can influence the heart of the owner even at a distance to yield to His wishes. The two disciples were absolutely in the dark as to the object of their mission, John 12:16, and undoubtedly went with great reluctance to carry out His command, which might have brought them into unpleasant difficulties, but they go at His word, since they knew from experience that He would remove all dangers. Thus the disciples of Christ of all times may trust implicitly in the Word of their omniscient, omnipotent Lord, knowing that even in dark ways His authority will uphold them.
The prophecy fulfilled:
v. 4. All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
v. 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.
This, the entire occurrence, with all its single incidents, was done in just this way in order that the words of the prophet, Zechariah 9:9, might be fulfilled. See Isaiah 62:11. The quotation of the evangelist is a free one, embodying all that the Old Testament says of the meekness and lowliness of this King of kings. Christ here discouraged all carnal, vulgar Messianic ideas and hopes. Not in the manner of a conqueror-hero, as the worldly-minded Jerusalemites expected, but on an ass, and that the foal of an ass. He made His entry into the city which was soon to reject Him altogether. It was a last great day of mercy for the city, that all the inhabitants might know the Redeemer, but they did not consider what pertained to their peace. All the greater should be the impression which the coming of the King of Grace into the hearts of His believers should make upon them. "And this it is that the evangelist admonishes to preach when he says: 'Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek'; as though he would say: He comes for thy benefit, for thy peace, for the salvation and joy of thy heart; and since they did not believe that, he prophesies that it should be spoken and preached. Whosoever but believes that Christ comes in this way has Him thus. O what preaching, singular and at this time almost unknown! Mark well each single word. The word 'Behold' is a word of joy and admonition, and refers to a thing which one has expected long and anxiously. 'Thy King,' who destroys the tyrant of thy conscience, namely, the Law, and rules thee in peace and a pleasant manner, by giving thee forgiveness of sins and the power to perform the Law. 'Thy,' that is, promised to thee, for whom thou hast waited, whom thou, laden with sin as thou wast, hast called, for whom thou hast sighed. 'He comes,' voluntarily, without thy merit, out of great love, for thou hast not led Him hither nor hast thou ascended into heaven, thou hast not earned His advent, but He has left His property and has come to thee, the unworthy one, who under the compulsion and rule of the Law hast earned nothing but punishment with thy many sins. 'To thee' He comes, that is; for thy benefit, in whatever thou hast need of Him. He comes to seek thine own, only to serve thee and to do thee good; He does not come for His own benefit, not to seek His own from thee, as the Law formerly did; since thou hast not what the Law demands, therefore He comes to give thee what is His, and expects nothing from thee, but that thou permit thy sins to be taken from thee and thyself to be saved. The evangelist uses only the word 'meek,' and omits the words 'just and having salvation'; for in the Hebrew language the word 'poor' is very closely related with the word 'meek' or 'gentle,' for the Hebrews call a person poor that is poor, humble, meek, restless, and downcast in spirit; as all Christian believers in general are called that way in Scriptures. For he is truly gentle and meek who does not consider the harm done to his neighbor in any other light but done to himself, takes it to heart accordingly, and has compassion on him. As such a person, that was poor and martyred for our sake, and truly meek, the evangelist describes Christ, who comes tortured with our evil and is ready to help us with the greatest of meekness and love.
The triumphant entry:
v. 6. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
v. 7. and brought the ass and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon.
v. 8. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way.
v. 9. 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!
While Jesus was waiting at the entrance to Bethphage, the disciples carried out His command, receiving, incidentally, further confirmation of their trust in Him. Obedience to His Word will never cause a Christian to be ashamed. The animals, as they were brought to the Lord, were not saddled. But now a peculiar ecstasy took hold of the disciples and of the ever-increasing multitude. Quickly taking off their outer garments, a kind of loose coat, they spread these upon the foal, to make a seat for their Master. The example of the first disciples was infectious. All the rest of them, as well as a large number of the people, took their garments and spread them out on the way, as if to receive an emperor, a mighty king. And still the excitement spread. Since many of the customs of the great festivals were, upon occasion, transferred from one to the other, the people did not hesitate, also in this instance, to borrow the usages of the Feast of Tabernacles. Some of them cut down or tore down branches from the trees along the way, and cast them down to make a leafy carpet before Him. But the climax of the exultation was reached at the summit of the Mount of Olives. Here the ranks of the early singers were swelled by great crowds of newcomers, and while the latter turned and marched ahead, the others followed behind the Lord. And in antiphonal shouting the joyous acclaim of the people rose up to heaven as they chanted sections from the great Hallel, with the doxology used on great festivals, Psalms 118:25-26. They openly proclaim Him as the Son of David, as the true Messiah, they wish Him blessing and salvation from above. Far and wide, the people joined in this demonstration in honor of the lowly Nazarene. They gladly sacrificed their holiday garments, their festival ornaments, they brought the palm branches and waved the green fronds of early spring to give full expression to their joy, to their confession of their Lord, the Messiah. It is most unfortunate that this exultation was only temporary, and quickly forgotten. And yet the Spirit of the Lord had here, for a short while at least, taken hold of the people. God wanted thus to give testimony in behalf of His Son, before the shame and the horror of the cross would be laid upon Him. And it was prophetic of the time when every tongue would confess that Jesus is the Lord.
Reception in Jerusalem:
v. 10. And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
v. 11. And the multitude said, This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
The demonstration before Jesus continued all the way down the western slope of the Mount of Olives, across the Valley of the Kidron, and into the very city of Jerusalem itself. As usual under the circumstances, the excitement spread rapidly and carried many with it that knew nothing of the actual reason. Even the city of Jerusalem, with its multitudes of festival pilgrims, was most violently moved, as by an earthquake. The popular enthusiasm was transmitted to all classes of people. Every one began to question as to the identity of the man who thus came into the city. The inhabitants of Jerusalem had had plenty of opportunity to know Him, but many had forgotten the great miracles done in their midst, others had come from a distance, and had never come into contact with His glorious work and message. Everywhere it was openly heralded before Him that He was Jesus, the Prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Their knowledge was not at all clear, and those that had a clear-cut understanding hesitated about making such a public profession of the same. To proclaim and confess Him as the Messiah was a dangerous undertaking in the chief city of the Jews, since the high priests and members of the council had openly threatened such confessors with excommunication. Thus even today many that are willing enough to proclaim Christ in the midst of a great multitude, are unwilling to stand up for Jesus when the individual confession might cause them unpleasantness and persecution.
Christ Visits the Temple.
v. 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 money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
v. 13. and said unto them, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
During the first days of this, His last week in lowliness on earth, Jesus made Bethany His headquarters, spending the days in the city and returning to His friends overnight. It was on Monday of Holy Week that Jesus was most grievously hurt and offended by the state of affairs in the Temple, as once before, John 2:13-17. Originally, every person that wanted to bring a sacrifice to the Temple took the animal from his own herd or flock. But in the course of time there was a change made, chiefly due to the various restrictions as to the fitness of the various animals. The Jewish officials in Jerusalem took advantage of the situation by starting a market right at the Temple-gates and in the Temple-courts. There were the various sacrificial animals, such as bullocks, sheep, goats, doves, and others, all guaranteed to measure up to the standard of Levitical purity. And since this business involved a good deal of money-changing, a formal bank business had developed within a stone's throw of the holy place. A strange scene: The lowing of the cattle, the bleating of the sheep and lambs, the cooing of the doves, the cry of the venders, the clink of money, all this in the place which was sacred to the name of God. Add to this the fact that the priests were often deriving benefit from this arrangement by drawing down a nice percentage for the concession, as Luther says, and we have a picture of commercialism in the Church such as can hardly be duplicated, although it has more than once been equaled in the Church. "Avarice covered with the veil of religion is one of those things on which Christ looks with the greatest indignation in His Church. Merchandise of holy things, simoniacal presentations, fraudulent exchanges, a mercenary spirit in sacred functions; ecclesiastical employments obtained by flattery, service, or attendance, or by anything which is instead of money; collations, nominations, and elections made through any other motive than the glory of God; these are all fatal and damnable profanations, of which those in the Temple were only a shadow. " A holy indignation took hold upon Jesus at the sight of this blasphemous spirit and its evidence. With the authority and dignity of the outraged Son of God He strode into the court. Roughly He pushed aside and cast out the merchants, impatiently He knocked down the tables of the petty bankers and of the dove-sellers, incidentally reminding the people of the words of the prophets. Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11. As a house of prayer the Temple of Solomon had been built for all nations, 1 Kings 8:1-66, and a house of prayer the present structure was to be as well. But they, by their mercenary spirit and practices, had made it a den of thieves, in which cheating and overreaching was the order of the day.
The confession of the children
v. 14. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple; and He healed them.
v. 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,
v. 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?
Even in these last days the Lord continued the work of His healing ministry, in the very courts of the Temple, the Court of the Gentiles being used for various meetings. And the chief priests and scribes, fearing the multitudes, could at this time do nothing, although they were boiling with murderous indignation. But when the children that had come up with their parents to witness the Temple-service and to stay for the Passover, began to chant the song which had so grated upon the ears of the Pharisees on the day before; when their treble voices were lifted in the Hosanna of adoration and supplication, it was too much for the Jewish officials. Angrily they demanded of Him whether He did not hear. In reality they meant to say: Why do you not resent the blasphemy? For to be silent means to assent, and incidentally to confess that their song was the truth. But Jesus had His answer ready. They accuse Him of deafness, of not hearing; He accuses them of blindness, of not being able to see, or of a poor memory in not being able to remember. It was plainly written, Psalms 8:2, that babes and sucklings would sing the praises of the Messiah, and He accepted their confession with gladness. It confirmed the laudatory statements of the multitude in regard to His Messiahship. It was a tribute to His mission also to little children. "So absolutely is He pleased with their praise. He accepts it, and permits Himself to be proclaimed a king in Israel, and that the kingdom of Israel was His own kingdom and people. That makes them angry and foolish; that the high priests and great lords at Jerusalem could not suffer; that disturbs them most of all that they cry in the Temple, 'Hosanna!' They are not concerned too much about the miracles; they permitted Him to make the blind to see, the lame to be straight, and to do more such miracles; but that He should want to come riding into the city with singing and pomp, and does not concern Himself about them, whom He should have asked for permission, that did not suit them at all. For all schismatics can easily judge the other man; they are waspish people, see the mote in the eyes of others, but are not aware of the beam in their own eyes. They think that the performance of miracles is indeed something, but to sing, for all of that, that He is a king and lord, that does not look well in a prophet. If He had first gone to the high priests and asked for permission, all might have been well; but that He does it without their permission, and that the poor bungler and beggar, who did not even own an ass, comes out so strongly against their will, and does not do so much as to look at them for permission, that is intolerable to them, that vexes them."
The Cursing of the Fig-Tree. Matthew 21:17-22
v. 17. And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there.
v. 18. Now in the morning, as He returned into the city, He hungered.
v. 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 hence forward forever. And presently the fig-tree withered away.
Matthew here combines the story of two morning journeys from Bethany, for the sake of the emphasis upon the whole. So far as the enemies were concerned, they were silenced by the quotation of Jesus, they had nothing more to say openly. And the Lord was permitted to go unhindered back and forth between Jerusalem and Bethany. It was on Monday morning that Jesus was hungry on the trip of about two miles to the capital. A fig-tree, standing by itself, in full foliage, suggested fruit to eat. But when He stepped up to it, He found nothing upon it but leaves only. The incident suggested the possibility of a lesson to Jesus. He might be able to bring to the understanding of His disciples the antitype of this fig-tree, the high priests and the scribes in their unbelieving conduct, yea, the whole Jewish nation. And Jesus had also a second lesson in mind, which He imparted to His disciples directly. At His curse the fig-tree at once withered away from the roots up. Apparently, the disciples did not take special note of the fact at this time. They went on to Jerusalem with the Lord, who in His zeal for His work had not even taken time to eat breakfast at Bethany.
The lesson of the dry tree:
v. 20. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig-tree withered away!
v. 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.
v. 22. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
On Tuesday morning the attention of the disciples was drawn to the single fig-tree, standing there with its leaves all shriveled up, Mark 11:20. They expressed their surprise to Jesus, who then gave them a lesson drawn from this incident, similar to that of Matthew 17:20. Faith in God is essential for the disciple of Christ, absolute trust in the almighty power of God, who has all creation in His hand. It must be a faith without the slightest doubt in the efficacy of prayer, with full reliance upon the omnipotence of God, upon God's command and promise, chapter 17:20. To such a faith the matter of the fig-tree is a small matter, not really worth speaking about. To such a faith the removing of mountains, the rooting up of mountains, such as the Mount of Olives, is a thing of certainty. All difficulties, all perplexities, must yield before the conquering power of faith. And it is the faith in the merciful willingness of God that is the chief essential of the correct, the efficacious prayer. Christ ever and again emphasizes these two points: unwavering faith and importunate persistence.
The Authority of Christ.
The question of the elders:
v. 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?
The members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the Great Council of the Jewish Church, were ever jealous of their rights and suspicious of any one that dared to think and act for himself. The point of their question was: If you claim the authority to purge the Temple, if you openly teach and heal in the Temple, give us an account of your prophetic character, prove that you have a prophet's mission from God. It was a foolish resentment, one which incidentally laid bare the blindness of the rulers. For Jesus had given countless examples of His prophetic power, both by miracles and by such authoritative preaching as no other teacher in Israel possessed. Their demand is twofold: Give us evidence that you actually possess this authority; then satisfy us also as to the source of the authority you are using. They wanted Him to render an account for whatever acts He had done in His official ministry.
v. 24. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell Me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
v. 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?
v. 26. But if we shall say, Of men, we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
v. 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.
Christ's method of answering question with question again proved effective. He wanted information regarding only one thing. If the answer to this question would be forthcoming, He would be pleased to give them the account they desired. But His question placed them in a dilemma, by what authority John the Baptist had performed the work. of his ministry, and especially his baptizing. They considered the matter very carefully among themselves, they carefully weighed a possible answer which would not compromise them. But there was only this alternative: In one case they invited a censure of Christ, in the other, the hatred of the people. If John had divine authority for his baptism, there was no excuse for their opposition to him, for their refusal to believe. If, on the other hand, they should dare to express their belief that John had no divine authority, the hatred of the people could easily have made it more than unpleasant for them. And so they preferred to give no answer, thereby absolving Jesus from the necessity of answering their question. There was a distinct reproof in the answer of Jesus. If they had to admit that John had divine authority, how much more did the teaching and the miracles of Jesus argue for His being sent by God. Unbelief is immoral. The unbelievers cannot deny the evidence of Scripture, but do not want to accept the truth; and therefore lies, evasion, and excuses are their only weapons.
The Parable of the Two Sons.
v. 28. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard.
v. 29. He answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented and went.
v. 30. And he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not.
v. 31 a. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto Him, The first.
The moral distinction made here by Christ was one which the Pharisees admitted themselves, and therefore the truth must have been all the bitterer for them. Both sons were approached in the same manner, with the same words. The one piously says that he will go and work, but, in spite of his apparent eagerness and politeness, sets aside both the fatherly authority and the filial obedience. The other is rude and unmannerly upon being approached, apparently full of sulky disobedience, and yet, upon second thought, he goes and works for the father. The answer of the scribes could, therefore, not have been different.
v. 31. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
v. 32. 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.
By giving the answer to the question of Jesus, the rulers of the Jews had pronounced their own sentence. John, in his message and in his life, was a preacher of righteousness, none greater than he. Yet the outcasts of Jewish society, those that had been expelled from the synagogue and were no longer members of the Jewish Church, they gave heed to his admonition to repent. They were, after all, obedient to the will of the heavenly Father. But the Pharisees and scribes, the chief priests and elders, heeded neither the preaching of John nor that of Christ. They made a practice of having God's Word and Law in their mouths, but their heart was far from real obedience to the will of the Father in heaven. A mere head-and-mouth Christianity is actually nothing but disobedience to God. But a poor sinner that realizes his guilt and repents of his sin, is acknowledged and treated by God as an obedient child, and his former sins are no longer remembered.
The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen.
v. 33. Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
v. 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.
v. 35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
v. 36. Again, he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did unto them likewise.
Without giving the Jews an opportunity to remonstrate, Jesus, with great emotion, and with the deliberate intention of making them see their malice and wickedness, introduces another lesson. The picture He draws was one with which His hearers were very familiar, and He knew that they could also see the meaning at once, since the Old Testament speaks so often of the vineyard of the Church. Christ gives a detailed description of the pains taken by the ruler, the owner of the estate. See Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms 80:9-11. His object was to obtain not merely fruitfulness, but fruit of the very best kind. He planted a hedge round about to keep out the wild beasts that might root up and tear down the vines. He built a wine-press, where the grapes could be trodden out, and a vat, where the juice could be stored. He erected a watch-tower against thieves among man and beast. In short, he did all that could be expected of the careful owner of a vineyard. He now rented out the vineyard on shares, since he was obliged to make a long journey. But the renters were wicked. Instead of paying the share of the fruit which belonged to the lord, they despitefully entreated and even killed the servants that were sent to bring the rent to the lord. Christ purposely pictures the wickedness with dramatic intensity.
v. 37. But last of all he sent unto them. his son, saying, They will relevance my son.
v. 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.
v. 39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
v. 40. When the lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
v. 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.
The patience of the master was still not exhausted. He determined upon one last measure to bring those husbandmen to their senses and, incidentally, to obtain the fruits of his garden. He thought they would surely relevance, show the proper respect to, his son, with deep shame for their former conduct and an earnest desire to regain the trust of the master. But the wickedness of these husbandmen, exceeded the ordinary measure. With truly devilish malice they resolved to kill the heir. By removing the heir, they hoped to take the heritage without opposition, to seize it as their own. Having reached the climax of His story, Jesus paused to ask the opinion of His hearers as to the fate of those husbandmen when the lord would return. Without hesitation came the answer that he would most miserably put to death those miserable and wicked servants, and entrust his vineyard to honest husbandmen that would give the stipulated rental at the proper time. In giving this answer, in which Jesus heartily concurred, the members of the Jewish council either put up a bold front in apparent indignation over such outrageous wickedness, though they felt that the parable was meant for them, or they were really too blind to see the connection of the Lord's words. But in either event their judgment was a sentence of destruction upon themselves and all those of their people that willingly followed them in their wickedness, in their rejection of the Savior.
For the explanation of the parable is evident at a glance. God Himself is the Ruler of the household. The vineyard, as in the Old Testament passages is His. Church, which He had planted in the midst of the people of Israel, His chosen people. He had given to this nation the full measure of His goodness and mercy. He had drawn a hedge about them against the heathen, the ceremonial law, the theocratic form of government. He had given them the strong watch-tower of the kingdom of David and his descendants. He had given them all the external advantages which would enable them to prove themselves a holy nation. But the fruit He expected was not forthcoming. He sent Samuel and other prophets at the time of the judges. He sent more and greater prophets than before with powerful preaching and great signs and wonders. But their abuse of His messengers increased with the passing of time, as in the case of Elijah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, 2 Chronicles 24:20; Matthew 23:37; Jeremiah 3:20; Hebrews 11:36-38; Luke 11:47-51. Last of all He sent His only, His well-beloved Son, hoping that they would recognize Him as His personal representative and give Him the respect and relevance due Him. But they hardened their hearts against His teaching and against His miracles, held councils of hatred against Him, and finally put Him to death, after a formal excommunication. Thus the husbandmen, the prominent members of the Jewish people, and especially their chief priests and elders, the scribes and Pharisees, rejected the counsel of God toward themselves and brought down damnation upon their own heads. And the vineyard with its fruit, the kingdom of God with the riches of His mercy and love, was given to the Gentiles, who accepted it and have since enjoyed its blessings and, in a measure at least, paid the fruits that God demanded, in good works.
v. 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 marvelous in our eyes?
v. 43. Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
v. 44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
Christ does not mince words, but applies the parable with merciless power. He reminds the members of the Jewish council of the words of the prophet, Psalms 118:22. The Jews were the chosen builders of the spiritual temple of God. But one condition of their continuing in the work was the acceptance of the stone which was selected by God to be the headstone of the corner. By the miracle of Christ's resurrection their rejection of Him was judged. Christ has become the corner-stone of the New Testament Church, the foundation of the great spiritual structure which will be completed on the last day, Ephesians 2:20-22. Addressing Himself directly to them, Jesus tells them the doom they may expect: forfeiture of all their privileges in the Kingdom, which will be given to the heathen world. And there is still another word which applies here, that of the stone of stumbling and of the rock of offense, Isaiah 8:14. If any one takes offense at this Corner-stone and falls on Him, he will be shattered; but if the Stone should fall upon someone by the judgment of God, he will be crushed to powder and scattered to the winds, Luke 2:34-35. On the last day all those that refused obedience to the heavenly King and rejected His Son, thus despising the grace gained also for them, will find themselves ground to pieces by the inexorable justice of God. "But to be built on the Stone is to believe on Christ that He is our Savior. If, then, I am called to the Gospel, and accept it and believe it, then I am one of the stones laid upon Him and am considered saved, not for the sake of my merit and works, but that I am built and laid on the Cornerstone, which is done through the true Christian faith, as the children pray: I believe on Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of Mary, the virgin, suffered under Pilate; He is the polished and proved Corner-stone. If I believe in Him, then I am built upon Him and will be saved, as Isaiah says: He that trusts in Him will not be ashamed; there the prophet explains clearly that being built upon Him means to trust in Christ and believe in Him."
v. 45. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them
v. 46. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitude, because they took Him for a prophet.
Their actual or assumed denseness finally had to give way to understanding, with the application made in such a blunt manner. But instead of turning from the wickedness of their ways, the bitterness of their hatred is only intensified. They would have taken Jesus away on the spot, had they not feared the people. An arrest at this time would have caused a riot, since the great multitudes gathered together in the courts of the Temple and throughout the city firmly held that He was a prophet, and would not have permitted harm to come upon Him.
Summary. Jesus makes a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, drives out the merchants and money-changers from the Temple, accepts the praise of the children, curses the fig-tree, upholds His authority, and tells the parables of the two sons and of the wicked husbandmen.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 21". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany