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Christ rideth to Jerusalem, upon an ass; driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple, curseth the fig-tree, putteth to silence the priests and elders, and rebuketh them by the similitude of the two sons, and the husbandmen who slew such as were sent unto them.
Anno Domini 33.
Matthew 21:1. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem— The multitude which attended our Lord in this journey, ch. Mat 20:29 having increased prodigiously as he advanced towards Jerusalem, he did not now shun them, and enter the city privately, as he had always done on former occasions.The people were to honour him with the title of the Messiah, publicly, that he might have an opportunity of accepting that august name in the most avowed manner, before he ascended into heaven. Moreover, the chief priests who had issued out a proclamation against him, Joh 11:57 were to be awed, at least for a while, and restrained from offeringhim violence; for, as he had doctrines to teach, rebukes to give, and other things to do, which could not fail to incense those proud rulers, without doubt they would have put him to death prematurely, had not the people appeared on his side, or he himself interfered with divine and irresistible power. Accordingly, after the parable of the husbandman was spoken, Mat 21:45-46 the priests sought to lay hands on him, but feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. Nay, the whole council was intimidated by them; for in their deliberation about putting Jesus to death, they said one to another, ch. Matthew 26:5. Not on the feast-day, lest there be an uproar among the people. Our Lord's driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple, his parables of the husbandmen and marriage-supper, representing the rejection of the Jewish nation, and the downfal of the state, with the woes denounced against the Pharisees in their own hearing, made part of the work that he had to do before he ascended, which would have brought instant destruction upon him, had not the great men's rage been restrained by the uncommon respect which the people generally shewed him: wherefore, the multitude being now very great, and Jesus having such good reasons not to shun them as formerly, he sent two of his disciples for an ass which never had been rode upon, but which by his simple volition he could tame; proposing according to the prophesy, Zec 9:9 to ride into the city amid the surrounding throng. Probably there were strait passes in the mount of Olives, through which the road lay, Luk 19:37 and, no doubt, narrow streets in the city also, by which he was to go to the temple. In these narrow passes and lanes Jesus might have been incommoded by the press, had he walked on foot; besides, the strangers who were now at Jerusalem would increase the crowd. It seems they knew of his coming, Joh 12:12 and perhaps expected that he was bringing Lazarus along with him, to shew him in public, as a trophy of his power. (Compare Joh 12:12 with Matthew 21:18.) For the sight of Lazarus in Bethany having already induced many to believe, they might naturally suppose that his appearingopenly would produce the same effect in Jerusalem; and as they were in full hopes that the Messiah's kingdom was to be erected at this passover, they could not but think it necessary, that all opposers should instantly be convinced, and obliged to acknowledge the Messiah's title to the throne of his illustrious ancestors.
St. Mark and St. Luke mention Bethphage and Bethany; whence it seems to follow, that travellers, in their way to Jerusalem from Jericho, arrived at Bethphage before they came to Bethany. These two villages were situated at the foot of the mount of Olives, and the road to the city lay between them; only it was nearer to Bethphage than to Bethany; therefore, when Jesus, in travelling from Jericho, came to the foot of the mountain, he was but a little way from Bethphage, nevertheless, intending to lodge at Bethany with Lazarus, he went thither. Next day, returning to the road from Jericho, he sent the two disciples to Bethphage, with orders to bring the ass, Matthew 21:2. If the reader will view the several expressions used by the Evangelists in the light of this description, he will see the exact propriety of each of them. Jesus sent the disciples away, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, as St. Luke tells us; or as St. Mark expresses it, when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany; a phrase, which not only determines the place whence the disciples were sent away, but shews on what quarter Jesus and his train were approaching the town. Both the villages being situated at the foot of the mountain, and Jesus being between them, on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, he might very properly be said to have been nigh to both, and nigh to Jerusalem, which was at the distance of about two miles only. Also he was come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, as St. Matthew expresses it, because, as we before observed, the road was nearer Bethphage than Bethany. And as Jesus was coming from Bethany, when he sent the disciples away, whither he sent them must have been directly opposite to them; hence it is termed the village over-against them;— απεναντι, κατεναντι,— being a little off from the road of the city. See Luke 19:37. Macknight, Lightfoot, and Whitby, on Mark 11:1.
Matthew 21:3. And straightway he will send them— And He (the Lord) will quickly send them back again. See Beza, Schultens, &c.
Matthew 21:4. All this was done, &c.— See the note on Zechariah 9:9.
Matthew 21:7. And brought the ass— The exact knowledge which our Lord shewed of so many minute and most fortuitous particulars, must surely impress the minds of these messengers greatly, and establish the faith of his followers. It is observable,that many such things occurred before his death, which, considered in this view, have a peculiar beauty. Compare Matthew 26:31-35. Mar 14:15-16 and Luke 22:10-13. The and, [και ], like the particle ו vau in the Hebrew, is here used, as it is frequently, to signify even, or that is,—upon an ass, even a colt, &c. They set him thereon, means on their clothes, which they had placed upon the ass. All the Evangelists, except St. Matthew, speak expressly of his riding on the colt.
Matthew 21:8-9. And a very great multitude spread their garments— When the multitude saw Jesus mounted, they immediately bethought themselves of shewing him the honours which kings and conquerors obtained in their triumphal entries; for, as they all firmly believed that he would take the reins of government into his own hands at this passover, they had a mind to make his entry into Jerusalem have the air of a triumph. Accordingly, some spread their garments in the way, (See 2 Kings 9:13.) others cut down branches of the trees, and strewed them in the way, carrying a larger sorton high, in procession before the Messiah, as demonstrations of their joy. See Leviticus 23:40. 2Ma 10:7. This seems to have reference to the feast of tabernacles, which was celebrated in joyful expectation of the Messiah's coming and tabernacling in human flesh; and these Jews testified hereby their belief in Jesus as that Messiah. Their acclamations too testified the same thing. Hosannah signifies, save, we beseech thee! and, applied to Jesus on this occasion, it was of the same import with our acclamation, God save the king! and in our language would have been expressed thus: God save the king Messiah! The next clause, Blessed is he that cometh, &c. contains nearly the words of Psalms 118:26. St. Mark says, they cried likewise, Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, which cometh, or which is to be erected now, in the name of the Lord—the Messiah. Hosannah in, or rather among the highest, means, "Let the highest orders of angels join us in praying for the prosperity of the king Messiah." We need not observe how similar the words in St. Luke, Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest, Luk 19:38 are to those of the angels on the birth of Christ, Luke 2:14. Some would render the clause, Blessed is he that cometh, &c.—Blessed in the name of the Lord is he that cometh. See the "Observations on passages of Scripture," p. 281.
Matthew 21:11. And the multitude said, This is Jesus, &c.— The multitude is the appellation which the sacred historians commonly give to Christ'sfriends; wherefore, as they are here said to have called him the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee, we may suppose that they did it with a view to mortify his enemies; as if they had said, "You have always affirmed that no prophet, no Messiah, can arise out of Galilee: what is your opinion now?"—Jesus rode directly to the temple,but did not drive the buyers and sellers out this first day; for St. Mark expressly tells us, Mar 11:11 that it was evening by the time he got thither, and had looked round on all things: whence we learn, that the market in the temple, which he intended to prohibit, was over. It seems he stayed in Jerusalem but a little while. Having made his public appearance in the metropolis, received the title of Messiah openly from the multitude, and surveyed the temple, he left the city without doing any thing, to the great discouragement of the throng who had come in with him, expecting that he was immediately to have laid hold on the reins of government.
Matthew 21:12. And Jesus went into the temple— See the notes on John 2:14; John 2:25.
Matthew 21:13. But ye have made it a den of thieves— The Jews, reckoning the lower and outer court of the temple as a place of no sanctity, because it was designed for accommodatingthe Gentile proselytes in their worship, not only kept the daily market there, of such things as were necessary in offering sacrifices, but suffered the common porters, in going from one part of the city to another, to pass through it with their burdens, for the sake of shortening their way: but as these abuses occasioned great disturbances to the proselytes, Jesus reformed them a second time, see Joh 2:14 telling the people around him that the Gentiles worshipped there by divine appointment as well as the Jews; the temple being ordained of God to be the house of prayer for all nations, Mar 11:17 and to prove this, he cited Isa 56:7 from which the inference was plain, that they were guilty of a gross profanation of the temple, who carried on any traffick even in the courts of the Gentiles; much more they, who made gain, committed frauds and extortions in the prosecution of their traffick; because thus they turned God's house of prayer into a den of thieves. The expression of a den of thieves may allude to those gangs of robbers which at that time infested Judea, and used to hide themselves in the holes and dens of the mountains, as appears from several passages in Josephus's history; not but that our blessed Saviour here plainly refers to Jeremiah 7:11. St. Jerome, who thinks this one of our Lord's greatest miracles, in his commentary on the place, gives a lively description of several artifices whereby the avaricious priests endeavoured to extort money. "In the temple of Jerusalem, (says he) the finest and most spacious of any in the world, where the Jews from almost all the countries of the earth assembled, sacrifices of different kinds, some for the rich, and others for the poorer sort, were offered according to the law; but, because those who came from distant countries often wanted such sacrifices, the priests took the advantage of buying up allthe beasts appointed for that purpose, sold them to those who wanted them, and received them again at their hands; and because some who came to worship were so very poor that they could not even purchase the lesser sacrifices, namely birds, the priests placed bankers in thecourts of the temple, to lend money upon security; but finding that they could not do this without transgressing the law, they had recourse to another device, namely, to appoint a kind of pawn-brokers, instead of bankers; that is to say, men, who forthe advancing a small sum, took fruits, herbs, and other commodities, instead of interest-money. Our Lord, therefore, having observed this method of traffick carried on by the priests in his Father's house, not only expelled their agents, but arraigned them also as a band of thieves; for he is really a robber who makes lucre of religion, and whose worship is not so much for the veneration he has for God, as the opportunity of making his own interest and advantage." See Jerome on the place, and bishop Smallbrooke's Vindication of our Saviour's Miracles, vol. 1 Chronicles 4:0 p. 130.
Matthew 21:14-16. And the blind and the lame came to him, &c.— The opinion that Jesus was the Messiah now prevailed generally; for, while he was in the temple, the blind and the lame, and other diseased persons, were brought to him from all quarters, to be healed. Many such, no doubt, would be waiting in the several avenues of the temple to ask alms, at a time when there was so vast a concourse of people; and there seems a peculiar propriety in our Lord's multiplying these astonishing miracles, both to vindicate the extraordinary act of authority which he had just been performing, and to make this his last visit to Jerusalem as convincing as possible, that those who would not submit to him, might be left so much the more inexcusable. Upon this occasion the very children, when they saw the cures which he performed, proclaimed him the Son of David; so wonderfully were they struck with his miracles. Indeed the chief priests and doctors, finding him thus universally acknowledged, were highly displeased; yet theydurst not do any thingto put a stop to it, as standing in awe of the multitude. They only asked him if he heard what the children said, Mat 21:16 insinuating, that it was his duty to stop their mouths, by refusing the praises they offered without understanding what they said. Jesus answered them out of the 8th Psalm, where David observes, that though all should be silent, God has no need of other heralds to proclaim his praise, thaninfants who hang at their mothers' breasts; because, though they be dumb, the admirable providence of God, conspicuous in their preservation, is equal to the loudest and sublimest eloquence. To ordain strength, which is the phrase used by the Psalmist in the passage here referred to, was in effect to perfect praise, as the LXX. render it; so that there is no need to be solicitous about that little variance in the quotation. This general observation of David was greatly illustrated by thehosannahs of the children, and yet much more by the triumph of the Apostles,—weak as they were in many respects,—over all the oppositions of Jews and Gentiles. But see the note on Psalms 8:2.
Matthew 21:18-22. Now in the morning, &c.— I shall postpone the remarks on this miracle to Mark 11:0 as it is there related with some circumstances which require particular notice; observing that our Lord cursed the fig-tree in the morning of the day on which he cast the buyers and sellers out of the temple: and though the tree began that instant to wither, the disciples did not take notice of its withering, because they left the spot just as Jesus was pronouncing the curse; neither did they observe it in the evening, as they returned to Bethany, probably because it was dark when they passed by, and the tree was at a little distance from the road. They observed it only as they were going into the town next morning, when it gave occasion to the conversation concerning the efficacy of faith; but thewithering of the fig-tree, and the conversation occasioned thereby, having a connection, might either be related among the transactions of the day wherein the conversation occasioned by its withering happened, or they might be related separately, each in its own day. This suggests an easyreconciliation to the seemingly differenttimes which are assigned to this miracle byMatthew and Mark. Matthew, in the beginning of his account, is still describing the transactions of the day in which Jesus cursed the fig-tree as he went to purge the temple: but in the morning, viz. of the day when the transaction which the Evangelist had been relating happened, not the morning of the day following, as is commonly supposed—in the morning, as he returned into the city, he had hungered (επεινασε, Aorist.) Mat 21:19 and seeing a single fig-tree (συκην μιαν ) 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 εξηρανθη παραχρημα — (Exaruit illico, Beza,) it withered forthwith; that is, began to wither from that time forth, though the disciples did not then observe it, because they passed by while Jesus was pronouncing the curse; neither did they observe it as they came out in the evening, because in all probability it was dark, Matthew 21:20. And when the disciples saw it,—saw the fig-tree withered from the roots, that is to say, next morning, as they were returning to the city from Bethany;—for so we are expressly told in the more particular account which Mark has given of this miracle—They marvelled, saying, how soon is the fig-tree withered away! The solution arising from the translation of the passage here offered seems the most natural which can be given. For, as Matthew chose to relate the cursing of the fig-tree and the effect of the curse together, it was proper to speak of the curse after relating the other transaction of the next day to be mentioned in the history. The sacred volume furnishes several examples of incidental histories introduced in this manner. For instance; the history of John the Baptist's death, John 14:3, &c. See also Mar 16:7 and Luk 9:46 where it is said, Now there had arisen a dispute among them, viz. on the road to Capernaum, for St. Mark says expressly that the dispute happened there.
Matthew 21:23-26. And, when he was come, &c.— The rulers, much alarmed at the proceedings of Jesus, were very desirous of putting him to death; but they wished to do it under the pretext of law. See Mat 21:46 and Mark 11:18. In consequence of their intentions to do so, the chief priests, scribes and elders, that is to say, some of the first men of the nation, came by appointment of the Sanhedrim to Jesus, as he was teaching in the temple, and before all the people put two questions to him. The first was, concerning the nature of the authority by which he acted, whether as a prophet, a priest, or a king. The second question was, that if he claimed the authority of any, or all these characters, they desired to know whence he derived it, Matthew 21:23. Jesus, that he might at once reprove the impropriety of the question in those circumstances, and, in fact, return an unexceptionable, though oblique answer to it, said to them in reply, I also will ask, &c. Matthew 21:24-25. This question reduced the priests to an inextricable dilemma. They considered on the one hand, that if they should acknowledge John's mission to be from God, it would oblige them to acknowledge Christ's authority; John having more than once borne testimony to him as the Messiah. On the other hand, if they denied John's authority, they did not know but the people who stood round them listening to Jesus might stone them, for they generally believed John to have been a prophet: many of them had submitted to his baptism, and his reputation by no means ended with his life; not a few then holding him in high esteem, both on Christ's account and his own. See Luk 20:6 and the note on ch. Matthew 14:10. Wherefore, as matters stood, they judged it safest to answer, that they could not tell whence John's baptism was. By returning this answer, the priests left Jesus at liberty to decline giving the Sanhedrim that satisfaction which they were demanding. That court whose prerogative it was to judge of prophets, required our Lord to make good his pretensions to the character that he assumed: but by the question which he put, he obliged them to confess, that they had not been able to pass any judgment upon John the Baptist, notwithstanding he claimed the character of a messenger from God, and they had sent to examine his pretensions: this, in effect, was to acknowledge themselves incapable of judging of any prophet whatever. "Ye are come," said he, "to inquire into the proofs of my mission. I agree to submit myself to your examination, on condition that you will tell me what your determination was concerning John. Was he a true, or a false prophet? You say, you cannot tell. If then you are not able to form a judgment concerning John, how can you take upon you to judge of me?" In this light our Lord's question, in answer to theirs, appears to have been formed with the greatest wisdom and address; because whether the priests replied in the affirmative or negative, or gave no reply at all, they absolutely condemned themselves. See Macknight, Grotius, Calmet.
Matthew 21:27. Neither tell I you— "I do not think it at all necessary to tell you by what authority I do these things; for the other question concerning John, naturally requires to be determined first; and when you think proper to decide that, you may easily perceive that the same answer will serve both:" which was plainly the case; for, as on the one hand, the express testimony which John bore to Christ must be a sufficient proof of his divine mission, if that of John was allowed, (since according to the Jewish maxim, the testimony of one prophet was sufficient to confirm the authority of another); so Christ had spoken in such an honourable manner of John, that to condemn John as an impostor, would imply a like censure on the character of Jesus.
Matthew 21:28-30. But what think ye? A certain man, &c.— Because the chief priests and elders had said that they did not know whence John's baptism was, Jesus sharply rebuked them for disbelieving him: he conveyed his reproof under the parable of two sons, who were commanded to work in their father's vineyard; and by asking their opinion of the behaviour of these sons, he made them condemn themselves. See on ch. Matthew 13:3. The temper and behaviour of the second son was an exact picture of the temper and behaviour of the Pharisees; for, in their prayers and praises, they gave God the most honourable titles, and professed the utmost zeal to serve him; but at the same time would do no part of the work which he enjoined them, and particularly would not hearken to the Baptist's exhortations. In the character of the other son, the disposition of the tax-gatherers and harlots is well described: they neither professed nor promised to do the will of God; yet, when they came to think seriously, they submitted themselves first to John, then to Christ, and, in consequence of their faith, were admitted to partake of the privileges of the Gospel. See Macknight and Chemnitz.
Matthew 21:31-32. They say unto him, The first— It seems that the Pharisees did not perceive that by this answer they condemned themselves, till Jesus made a direct application of the parable in that sharp, but just reproof, Verily, I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For, Matthew 21:32, though you pretend that you do not know whence the baptism of John was, John came unto you in the way of righteousness; he clearly proved his mission from God, and ye believed him not,—gave no credit to the testimony he bare to me; and consequently would not go into the vineyard; but the publicans and the harlots believed him; they received his testimony, and obeyed the Gospel; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him; when you had persons of the most abandoned characters reformed by his sermons, (which doubtless was a strong proof of his mission from God,) you did not repent of your opposition to that holy man; nor of your disobedience to his instructions; at least, your remorse was not of such a kind as to make you afterwards believe him. Dr. Heylin renders the last clause, And though you saw that, yet you did not repent, so as to believe him.
The moral reflection suggested by this passage of the history is, that the openly profane are more apt to repent than hypocrites; which experience shews also to be true. The reason is, persons openly profane have nothing by which they can defend themselves against the terrors of God, when once they begin to fasten upon their consciences; whereas hypocrites, having a form of godliness, screen themselves therewith from all the attacks which can be made upon them by the strongest arguments, drawn whether from reason or from the word of God.
Matthew 21:33. Hear another parable— Not satisfied with shewing the rulers the heinousness of their sin, in rejecting the Baptist, Jesus judged it proper likewise publicly to represent the crime of the nation, in rejecting all the messengers of God, from first to last; and among the rest his only-begotten Son: at the same time he warned them plainly of their danger, byreason of the punishment which they incurred onaccountofsuch a continued course of rebellion. The outward oeconomy of religion in which they gloried, was to be taken from them; their relation to God, as his people, cancelled; and their national constitution destroyed: but, because these were topics extremelydisagreeable, he couched them under the veil of a parable, which he formed upon one made use of long before by the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 5:1, &c. where see the notes. This vineyard, with its appurtenances, represents the Mosaical dispensation, a dispensation attended with great present advantages, and many promises of future blessings: the other circumstances of the parable are extremely clear. St. Matthew uses the word ληνον for a wine-press, and St. Mark, υποληνον ; the former signifies the wine-press, the other the cavity under it, wherein the vessel was fixed which received the liquor pressed from the grapes. The one of these naturally implies the other; but our Lord chose to mention both.
Matthew 21:37. Last of all, he sent unto them his son— That no means might be left untried, God sent unto them his own Son; whose authority, clearly established by undeniable miracles, ought to have been acknowledged with cheerfulness and joy by those wicked men. The question is not here, how prudent it would have been in a human father to venture his son in such a case as this; for the power which God had of raising Christ from the dead, and making all his sufferingsredound to his glory and happiness, quite alters the case. The design is, to shew the patience of God, and the wickedness of the Jews by this emblem; than which nothing can be more expressive. See the note on Luke 20:13.
Matthew 21:38-39. When the husbandmen saw the son— It would hence seem, that the Jews knew Jesus to be the Son of God. Yet Peter says both of the rulers and the people, that they crucified the Lord ignorantly, Act 3:17 and our Lord himself prays for them as not knowing what they did. It is evident indeed, that the rulers, for verymalice, caused him to be crucified; yet it is not at all improbable, that though they could not but confess him to be some great person or prophet, yet they might be far from being convinced that he was the Messiah. The Apostles themselves, notwithstanding they had been eye-witnesses of all his miracles, and had the advantage of hearing all his discourses, doubted whether he was the Messiah, while he lay in the grave; there can therefore be no impropriety, in supposing that the unbelieving Jews were in the same state of mind. And, if so, where is the inconsistency in saying, that though they put him to death as a prophet, they did not crucify him as the Messiah? That this was really their opinion is evident both from Sacred History, and from the general sentiments of their descendants, even to this day. Our Lord's words may bear another sense, and imply, that though it be granted they acknowledged his being the Messiah, and thought that in putting him to death, they were answerable for the death of a mere mortal only, yet they were ignorant of his essential dignity, and the near relation in which he stood to his heavenly Father. Yet after all, this, like the other circumstance of their seizing upon the inheritance, may be added to heighten and complete the parable, without being intended to convey any particular and independant truth. For it is the nature of a parable, as well as of a fable, or an historical picture, to convey some general truth to the mind, resulting from the whole assemblage of circumstances or figures taken collectively; but not to convey particular truths from any single circumstance or figure considered as separate, detached from, or independant of the rest. St. Matthew and St. Luke say, That the husbandmen cast the son out of the vineyard, and killed him, (Matthew 21:39.) St. Mark says, They first killed him, and then cast him out: but his meaning may have been this; they so beat and bruised him, before they cast him out, that he could not live; and, after having cast him out, they completed the murder, killing him outright. The manner in which St. Mark has expressed it, insinuates, that after they had killed him, they threw out his body, without burial, to the dogs; a circumstance which does not seem to have any particular reference, but is formed to shew in a general point of view, the greatness of the rebellion of these husbandmen. If such a proposal as that before us, come, let us kill him, &c. would have been the height of folly as well as wickedness in these husbandmen, it was so much the more proper to represent the part that the Jewish rulers acted in the murder of Christ, which they were now projecting, andwhich they accomplished within three days. The admonition was most graciouslygiven; but served only, in an astonishing manner, to illustrate that degree of hardness to which a sinful heart is capable of arriving. See Mac-knight, Doddridge, and Chemnitz.
Matthew 21:40-42. When the Lord therefore—cometh— According to St. Mark and St. Luke, Jesus answered this question himself; which, according to St. Matthew, the priests answered: this apparent inconsistency may be reconciled by supposing, that after they had said to him, God forbid! as St. Luke tells us, they repeated his words ironically,—he will miserably destroy those wicked men, &c. speaking with a tone of voice expressive of the disposition of their mind, and then added contemptuously, "which will render him the fruits in their seasons, which will behave better, no doubt, than we have done:" for they understood his parables, and designed to affront him by ridiculing what he said. Besides, unless we suppose that the priests spoke these words ironically, the answer which St. Matthew tells us Jesus returned to them, will lose much of its force, because it implies that the priests had denied that the vine-yard was to be taken from them, and given to others. Jesus saith, Matthew 21:42 did ye never read, &c. "If the vine-yard is not to be taken away from you, and given to others, what is the meaning of Psalms 118:22.? Doth not that passage of Scripture foretel, that the Messiah shall be rejected by the Jewish great men, and that though they crucify him, He shall become the head of the corner, or of the church? Now what else is this, but that he shall bebelieved on by the Gentiles, and unite them to the church of God, as a head cornerstone unites the two sides of a building?" Accordingly St. Luke expresses the connection of our Lord's answer with their denial more clearly, Luke 20:17. See the note on Psalms 118:21-22. Jeffery's Review, p. 119 and Macknight. Dr. Campbell reads, Matthew 21:42. "A stone which the builders rejected, is made the head of the corner. This the Lord hath effected, and we behold it with admiration."
Matthew 21:43-44. Therefore I say unto you, &c.— "For the reason that God has expressly foretold this judgement shall happen to you, and because it is a most righteous and equitable judgement, I assure you it will fall upon you, however you may despise or disbelieve it. The theocracy,—the outward oeconomy of religion, which you have long enjoyed very unprofitably, shall be taken from you, and given to the Gentiles; who, whatever you may think of them, will improve it far better than you have done." These words seem to confirm the first method of solving the difficulties mentioned in the last note: for had the priests spoken seriously, our Lord need not have been at the pains to produce texts of Scripture to prove what they had so fully acknowledged. "Who ever shall fall on this stone, continues our Lord, which the builders have rejected, but which God will make the head of the corner, shall be broken. See Romans 9:33. Whosoever ignorantly opposes the Messiah, shall thereby receive great harm to himself,—in allusion to one's stumbling at a stone thrown aside as useless; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Our Saviour seems to have had in view Dan 2:34 where the destruction of all the opposers of the Messiah's kingdom is described thus: "Thou sawest, till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet, that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces; Matthew 21:35. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." Our Lord's meaning is, that all the opposers of the Messiah's kingdom, called Mat 21:43 the kingdom of God, and by Daniel the kingdom of the God of heaven, Dan 2:44 shall be utterly destroyed, according to Daniel's vision of the image. The first clause whosoever shall fall, &c. seems to describe the sin and punishment ofthe great men, who being chief in the rebellion led the way to the rest, and had an active hand in resisting the authority of the Messiah. See Macknight. Dr. Doddridge explains it, "Whosoever shall stumble at me and my doctrine, while I am here on earth in this humble form, he shall be broken and damaged by it: but whosoever shall oppose me after my exaltation to glory, and the pouring out of my Spirit for the full revelation of my Gospel, and proof of my mission; he will bring upon himself aggravated guilt, and unavoidable destruction." See Wetstein.
Matthew 21:45. They perceived that he spake of them— One would think they could have been at no loss for the interpretation of the parable, considering how nearly it resembles that in Isaiah 5:1. &c. with which they were doubtless well acquainted: only it is to be observed, that there Israel is the vineyard; here the true religion is represented under that figure. Accordingly it is there threatened, that the vineyard should be destroyed; but here, that it should be let out to other husbandmen, each event suiting its connection. See Doddridge and Calmet.
Inferences on Christ's Procession to the Temple.—Never did our Saviour take so much state upon him as now that he was going to his passion. Other journies he measured on foot, without train or tumult; this with a princely equipage, and loud acclamations. O Saviour, whether shall we most admire thy majesty, or thy humility?—that divine Majesty, which lay hid under so lowly an appearance, or that sincere humility, which veiled so great a glory? Thou, O Lord, whose chariots are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels, wouldst choose one of the meanest of animals to carry thee in thy last, thy royal progress. How well is thy birth suited with thy triumphs! Even that very ass whereon thou didst ride, was the subject of prophesy; neither couldst thou have completed those vatical predictions without this conveyance. O glorious and yet homely pomp!
Jesus would not lose aught of his right. He who was a king, would be so proclaimed: but, that it might appear his kingdom was not of this world, he who could have demanded all worldly magnificence, thought fit to relinquish it. Instead of the kings of the earth, who, reigning by thee, thou King of kings, and Lord of lords, might have been employed among thine attendants;—the people are thine heralds, their homely garments thy carpets, their green boughs the strewings of thy way. Those palms, which were wont to be borne in the hands of them who triumph, are strewed under the feet of thy beast; it was thy greatness and honour to contemn the glories which worldly hearts are apt so much to admire.
Justly did thy followers hold the best ornaments of the earth worthy of no better claim than to be trod upon by thee: how happily did they think their backs disrobed for thy honour! How gladly did they employ their breath in hosannahs to thee, the Son of David! Where now are the greatest masters of the synagogue, who had enacted the ejection of whosoever should confess Jesus to be the Christ? Lo here, bold and undaunted clients of the Messiah,who dare proclaim him in the public road, in the open streets! In vain shall the impotent enemies of Christ hope to suppress his glory: as soon may they hide with the palm of their hand the face of the sun, as withhold the beams of his divine truth from the eyes of men by their envious opposition. In spite of all the Jewish malignity, his kingdom is avowed, applauded, blessed.
O thou fairer than the children of men, in thy majesty ride on prosperously, because of truth, of meekness, and righteousness, and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things!
In this princely, yet poor and despicable pomp, does our Saviour enter into the famous city of Jerusalem—Jerusalem noted of old for the seat of kings, priests, and prophets. Thither would Jesus come as a king, as a priest, as a prophet; acclaimed as a king; teaching the people, and foretelling the woeful devastation of the city, as a prophet; and as a priest, taking possession of his temple, and vindicating it from the foul profanations of Jewish sacrilege.
As all the world was bound to the Redeemer for his incarnation and residence on the earth, so especially Judea, to whose limits he confined himself. But those places and persons which have the greatest helps and privileges afforded to them, are not always the most answerable in the return of their thankfulness. Christ's being amongst us does not make us happy, but his welcome: every day we may hear him in our streets, and yet be as much to seek concerning him as those citizens of Jerusalem,—Who is this?
The attending disciples could not be at a loss for an answer; which of the prophets have not put it into their mouths:—Who is this? Ask Moses, and he shall tell you; the seed of the woman, who shall bruise the serpent's head. Ask your father Jacob, and he shall tell you,—the Shiloh of the tribe of Judah. Ask David, and he shall tell you,—the King of glory. Ask Isaiah, and he shall tell you,—Emmanuel, wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace! Ask Jeremiah, and he shall tell you,—the righteous Branch. Ask Daniel, he shall tell you,—the Messiah. Ask John the Baptist, he shall tell you,—the LAMB OF GOD.—If you ask the God of the prophets, he hath told you,—This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Yea, if all these be too good for you to consult with, the very devils themselves have been forced to confess, I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. On no side has Christ left himself without a testimony; and, accordingly the multitude have their answer ready, This is JESUS, the prophet of Nazareth in Galilee.
With this humble pomp and just acclamation, O Saviour, dost thou pass through the streets of Jerusalem to the temple, as a good son, when he comes from far, alights first at his father's house. Neither would he think it otherwise than preposterous to visit strangers before hisfriends, or friends before his father. Besides, the temple had more need of thy presence; there was the most disorder, and thence, as from a corrupt spring, it issued forth into all the channels of Jerusalem. A wise physician inquires into the state of the chief and vital parts; surely all good or evil begins at the temple. If God have his due there; if men find there nothing but wholesome instruction and holy example, the commonwealth cannot want some happy tincture of piety, devotion, sanctimony,—as that fragrant perfume from Aaron's head sweetens the utmost skirts of his garments. On the contrary, the distempers of the temple cannot but affect the whole body of the people. As therefore the good husbandman, when he sees the leaves grow yellow, and thebranches unthriving, looks presently to the roots, so didst thou, O holy Saviour, upon sight of the disorder spread over Jerusalem, address thyself to the rectifying of the temple.
No sooner is Christ alighted at the gate of the outer court of his Father's house, than he sets about the great work of reformation, which was his errand into the world. With what fear and astonishment did the repining offenders look upon to unexpected a character; while their conscience lashed them more than those cords, and the terror of that meek chastiser more affrighted them than his blows? Is this that mild and gentle Saviour, who came to take upon him our stripes, and to undergo the chastisement of our peace? Is this that quiet lamb, which before his shearers openeth not his mouth? See now how his radiant eyes sparkle with holy anger, and dart forth beams of indignation in the faces of these guilty money-changers! Yea thus, thus it became thee, O thou glorious Redeemer of men, to let the world see that thou hast not lost thy justice in thy mercy; that there is not more lenity in thyforbearances, than rigour in thy just severity; that thou canst thunder as well as shine.
But whydid not the priests and Levites, to whom the gain principally belonged, abet the money-changers, and make head against so apparently weak an agent? Why did not those multitudes of men stand upon their defence, and wrest the scourge out of the hand of an almost unarmed prophet,—instead of running away like sheep before him, not daring to abide his presence, though his hand had been still?—Surely had these men been so many armies, so many legions of devils, when God will astonish and chase them, they cannot have the power to stand and resist! How easy is it for him who made the heart, to put either terror or courage into it at pleasure! It was none of thy least miracles, Almighty Saviour, that thou didst thus drive out a multitude of ableoffenders in spite of their gains and resentful resolutions. The profit had no power to stay them against thy frowns.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Being about to offer himself as the true paschal Lamb, our blessed Lord determined to make his triumphant entry first into Jerusalem, as a prelude to those more exalted honours, to which, on his resurrection from the dead, he should be advanced. We are told on his approaching the suburbs, where he halted,
1. The preparations that he ordered to be made. We find no heralds sent to clear the way; no guards surround his glittering car; no music fills the air with harmony; no officers of state with gorgeous robes attend their mighty Sovereign. The lowly Jesus despised this worldly pomp; it fitted not his state of humiliation; and therefore, though he could in an instant have commanded down cherubic legions to attend his steps, and made the clouds his chariots, he chose his poor disciples to be with him; and, seated on an ass's colt, and not even that his own, determines thus to make his public entry. Yet even here he takes occasion to display his divine omniscience, and his influence over the spirits of men; sending his disciples to the village over against them, directing them where to find the ass tied with her foal; and assuring them, that if any man offered to question them for loosing the ass and the colt, it would be sufficient to say their Master wanted them, and he would immediately let them go.
2. The fulfilment of the Scripture herein is particularly remarked. Long before had the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah predicted this event; Tell ye the daughter of Zion glad tidings of great joy: Behold, admire and adore him, thy King, the long-expected Messiah, cometh unto thee, bringing salvation; meek as a lamb, to bear every indignity for Zion's sake, and gentle to rule with a sceptre of love in the hearts of his believing people; sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass; like one of the ancient judges of Israel, and in such humility as was best suited to that character which he bore. Note; Christ is Zion's king: his happy subjects may well rejoice in his power and love; but let his enemies tremble; though he comes now like a lamb, he will shortly roar against them as a lion.
3. The disciples having obeyed their Master's orders, and brought the ass with her colt, they spread their garments on them, and seated him thereon; and, with every expression of exultation and joy, which this poor, and, to human view, despicable multitude could shew, they ushered him into the city, spreading their garments instead of carpets on the ground, or hanging them by the wayside; cutting down boughs of trees, and strewing them by the road; and carrying palm-branches in their hands, (John 12:13.) as in the feast of tabernacles; and uttering with loud hosannahs their triumphant songs of praise; welcoming their adored Messiah, the Son of David, who came with divine authority from on high; wishing him all prosperity, honour, happiness, and glory; praying for the appearing of his kingdom, and that his throne might he exalted over all; and calling on the heavenly hosts to join in their blessings, praise, and adoration. Note; (1,) The coming of Jesus into the sinner's heart is still matter of greater exultation, and deserves louder shouts of praise. (2.) They who have tasted the preciousness of a Redeemer's grace in their own souls, cannot but long to see his kingdom established in the hearts of others; and fervently pray for its more abundant manifestation in the world.
4. Such an uncommon scene excited great emotion in the inhabitants of Jerusalem, according as they were differently affected with wonder, envy, contempt, or exultation; and the general inquiry was, Who is this; that comes with such a train and such exclamations? To which the multitude replied, This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee, whose doctrines and miracles have rendered him so famed, and confirmed his divine mission. Note; (1.) Christ is often little known, where the greatest profession of his religion is made. (2.) The poor despised multitude in general judge more rightly concerning Jesus, his character, and Gospel, than the wise and noble, who often affect to despise them.
2nd, The Son of God, the King in Zion, regards his temple as his palace, and thitherward directs his steps.
1. He purges it of intruders, the buyers and sellers, who in the courts carried on their traffic; exchanging bills to purchase sheep and doves for sacrifice, or money to pay the annual half shekel; and, under pretence that this was in order to assist the temple-service, the priests, through avarice, connived at it, enriching themselves by the extortion practised on these occasions. But the Lord overthrew their stalls, and drove them out before him, confounded and unable to bear his frowns, or resist his arm; vindicating his conduct and condemning their wickedness by a quotation from Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11 saying, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, to which men should resort, and where God had promised to hear their supplications; but ye have made it a den of thieves, perverting it to the vilest purposes, dishonouring God, and plundering the people. Note; (1.) The vilest corruptions have been introduced into the church by those who, making advantage the end of their profession, counterfeit godliness in order to make gain. (2.) The eyes of Christ's peculiar jealousy are upon his church, and nothing can more offend the blessed Head of it, than to behold an avaricious spirit in those, who, by their very calling, profess themselves crucified to the world.
2. When he had ejected the intruders, he sat as a king upon his throne to dispense his royal favours, healing the blind and lame who came to him in the temple: and thither the spiritually blind and lame are invited still to come to him; and by his word and Spirit he continues to manifest there his healing power and grace.
3. He rebukes the envy of the chief priests and scribes. They could not bear to see such incontestable miracles wrought by him; and when the very children, struck with the works of Jesus, joined their feeble voices to the acclamations of the multitude, and cried, Hosannah to the Son of David, they were stung with malignant envy, and intimated to Jesus, that to hear without silencing such silly little creatures, proved him weak, vain, and ostentatious. But Jesus vindicates these infant praises which he heard; he approved their lispings; and, had these cavillers known the Scriptures, they might have herein observed their fulfilment, where it was written, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength. Psalms 8:2. God's strength was now made perfect in their weakness; and the Messiah's praise was advanced by these feeble instruments, to the confusion and condemnation of those who rejected and denied him. Note; (1.) Greatness and goodness are ever the objects of envy; and the proud cannot bear to hear the tribute of commendation paid to superior excellence. (2.) It is happy when children learn betimes to lisp the Redeemer's praises. Though education cannot bestow grace, yet example and instruction in the way of godliness are means that we may humbly hope God will effectually bless. (3.) The prayers and services of little children are pleasing to the adorable Saviour, and he will graciously accept their feeble efforts to express their gratitude.
4. Leaving them to reflect on what had passed, he departed to Bethany, where he lodged, about two miles from Jerusalem; thus for a while withdrawing himself from their malice and fury, and depriving them of the blessing of his presence which they had so justly forfeited.
3rdly, In the morning early Jesus returned to Jerusalem, and, having probably come out fasting, he was hungry; being, as man, subject to all our sinless infirmities. Seeing a fig-tree remarkably flourishing, he came up to it; and, finding no fruit upon it, he denounced a curse upon it for its barrenness; and the tree immediately began to wither. And herein Christ seems to have particularly in his view the Jewish people, of whom this fig-tree was a lively emblem. They were, in their profession of religion, zealous and plausible, but barren of all true fruits of righteousness, and therefore were now given up to the curse, to be destroyed without remedy. See the Critical Notes. Note; (1.) Christ requires of his disciples not merely leaves of profession, but the fruit of grace; though too many deceive his expectations, and rest in the form, while they continue strangers to the power of godliness. (2.) The curse will light upon the barren trees: often in this world the hypocrite's hope perisheth; they discover their insincerity, and wither in the eyes of man; but at farthest, the day of recompense will blast their confidences.
The disciples in the next morning passing with their Master the same way, Mar 11:20 observed with wonder how soon the fig-tree was withered away which Jesus had cursed the preceding day: and so terrible are his comminations, and so sure to light down upon the impenitent sinner's head. In answer to which observation, Jesus replied, that this was little, compared with the power with which they should be endued, if they exercised unshaken and unwavering faith in God; not hesitating or reasoning how the miracle could be performed, but trusting God's power and promises: in which case they would be enabled, not merely to dry up a fig-tree with a word, but to say to this mountain, on which they now stood, be thou removed, and cast into the sea, and it shall be done. Such astonishing miracles should they be enabled to work; and whatever other thing they should find needful in the execution of their ministry, for the honour of God and the furtherance of his Gospel, they need only ask it in prayer, nothing doubting, and it should assuredly be granted them. Note; The prayer of faith is sure to prevail; to this God denies nothing. If ever we be unhappy, to this source it may be traced, to the distrust of his promises, his power, or his love.
4thly, We have,
1. The insolent demand made upon our Lord, and the interruption given him in his blessed work, by the chief priests and elders; who, unable any longer to contain themselves, and, filled with indignation at what they had seen and heard the preceding day, insisted upon his producing authority for what he did, and shewing the commission under which he acted; presuming that his answer would infallibly lay him open to some accusation, which they had so long wished to find against him. Note; When we are faithfully labouring for Christ, we need not wonder, if Satan and his instruments labour to interrupt us.
2. Christ answers their demand by another. He knew how to confound them, while they thought to silence him; and is ready out of their own mouths to condemn them. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? Was he commissioned from heaven, or went he forth at his own will, or under merely human authority? The question was short, but the dilemma to which it reduced them was inextricable. They plainly saw, if they should say, that John acted under a divine commission, then Christ would have an immediate proof of his own, and they would be inexcusable for not receiving him as the Messiah, to whom John bore witness. On the other hand, their own honour, lives, and safety, were at stake, the people being fully persuaded of John's prophetic character; which should they deny, they justly apprehended lest they should be stoned like blasphemers; and therefore, contrary to their own convictions, they chose to confess ignorance, and tell a lie, rather than own the divine mission of the messenger, which would in its consequence involve the divine authority of Jesus. But if they thus wilfully chose to appear ignorant in one case, our Lord was fully vindicated in refusing to give them farther satisfaction about himself, seeing it was in vain to talk with those who had first resolved not to be convinced. Note; (1.) Worldly minds are unspeakably more influenced by the fear of men, than by the fear of God. (2.) Many are more afraid of shame than sin, and therefore hesitate not at a lie concerning their thoughts and apprehensions, their affections and intentions, their remembering or forgetting things, &c. because they flatter themselves that no one can disprove them: but there is a Searcher of hearts, from whom no secrets are hid. (3.) If men wilfully shut their eyes against the truth, it is in vain to reason with them any farther.
5thly, Having silenced their cavils, he makes an attack upon their conscience, in a parable, with an application to them.
1. We have the parable itself. A certain man had two sons, whom he sent into his vineyard to work: the one appeared at first refractory, undutiful, and refused to obey his father's commands; but afterwards, reflecting on his ill conduct, he was sorry, repented, and went to his work: the other no sooner was bid to go, than with profound respect he promised immediate obedience, but never went. The question which did his father's will was too evident to admit of hesitation, and they allow the penitent to be the dutiful son. Note; (1.) God is our Father; he commands his children to serve and glorify him: by our relation to him obedience is our duty, and should be our delight. The day of life is the day of labour, and should therefore be diligently improved by us. But, (2.) Such is our vile nature, that we are rebellious children, refuse to hearken, yea, dare to say, We will not serve him, but our own lusts and pleasures, and insolently turn from him, every one in his own way. (3.) Whenever through divine grace we repent and return, God in Christ is graciously pleased to receive us, and to forgive our wickedness and insolence: again he permits us to be employed in his service, and restores us to his regard. (4.) While some prove better than they promise, others prove the very contrary; make fair professions of love to Christ and his service, but never go farther; Christians in word and in tongue, but not in deed and in truth.
2. Christ applies the parable to those who were before him; the primary scope of which is to shew, that publicans and harlots, repenting, would enter the kingdom sooner than they: and probably he has an eye to the Gentiles, who would repent and be converted by the Gospel, when the Jewish nation, for their impenitence and unbelief, would be rejected. And this had evidently appeared in the effects of John's ministry, who came in the way of righteousness; his life remarkably exemplary, his doctrine directly tending to lead men to repentance, and faith in the Messiah; whereby he proved his mission from God: but notwithstanding ye believed him not: though you pretend such respect for God, as the second son did for his father, you did not receive John's testimony, nor believe the doctrines that he preached; but the publicans and harlots believed him, were convinced of their guilt and danger, received his testimony concerning Jesus, repented and were baptized: and, notwithstanding these remarkable fruits of his ministry, which served to evince the divine power and authority which accompanied his word, Ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him, but continued obstinately hardened against every method of conviction. Note; (1.) The success of our ministry is one of the best testimonials of our mission from God. (2.) Formal professors are wrought upon with much more difficulty, and seldomer converted, than careless sinners. Strictness in the ceremonials of religion, and the pride of duties, when trusted upon for righteousness, are among the strongest holds of Satan in the human heart. (3.) Where-ever the Gospel comes in power, converting publicans and harlots, there will it leave those inexcusable who, beholding its efficacy on others, still contradict, and blaspheme, and reject the counsel of God against their own souls.
6thly, Another parable, nearly of the same import as the former, is delivered. We have,
1. The privileges which the Jewish church had long enjoyed, represented by a vineyard let out to husbandmen. They had been planted in a pleasant land, fenced round by God's peculiar care, blessed with the means of grace; in the midst of them he had set up his altar, manifested his presence, deposited his lively oracles, instituted divine ordinances, and appointed a holy ministry: nothing which could conduce to their fruitfulness or defence was wanting: and therefore, having settled their constitution at Sinai, or at the dedication of the temple, retiring between the cherubim, he committed to the chief priests and elders the care of his church, for the edification of which they were required, as husbandmen in a vineyard, to labour. Note; (1.) Christ's church is his vineyard, and under his especial care. (2.) Ministers in the church must labour in the word and doctrine: a life of ease, indolence, and self-gratification, is inconsistent with his sacred employment.
2. Enjoying such means and mercies, God justly expected that their profiting should appear; and sent accordingly his prophets to remind them of their obligations, and stir them up and direct them to the discharge of them, that they might, in the fruits of grace find righteousness, render that tribute to God which was so much his due.
3. The baseness and cruelty of the husbandmen to these divine messengers was astonishing. They abused, insulted, and persecuted the prophets, and even went so far as to imbrue their hands in their blood, Jeremiah 20:2.Nehemiah 9:26; Nehemiah 9:26. 2Ch 24:21 and when the Lord, in his patience and pity, sent others in succession, to see if at last some change might be wrought, the rising generation repeated all the wickedness of their forefathers. Note; (1.) It has been the lot of all God's faithful ministers from the beginning to suffer persecution; and none have been deeper in this transgression than those, who by office and profession filled the most distinguished places in his church. (2.) God's patience with sinners is astonishing. Though provoked and insulted in the person of his ambassadors, he still sends them with proffers of peace and pardon.
4. When, in infinite condescension and love, God sent to them his Son, to whom they might well be expected to pay reverence and attention; and from whose ministry and miracles at least, if they rejected others, some blessed change might have been hoped for; so far were they from receiving and submitting to him, that, to fill up the measure of their iniquities, they immediately began to plot against him; and what these husbandmen had done, they were now about to repeat, to cast him out and slay him; as if, when they had crucified him without the walls of Jerusalem, they might then lord it without controul in the church, and, by the murder of the heir, seize the inheritance without opposition.
5. Christ appeals to them for what they thought must be the consequence, when the Lord of the vineyard came; for come he surely will, to reckon with the persecutors of his prophets and the murderers of his Son. And they, not yet understanding the meaning couched under these parabolic expressions, readily replied, no doubt the case of these wicked husbandmen will be terrible; they have nothing to expect but condign punishment for their crimes, and that the vineyard should be committed to more trusty servants—thus unknowingly pronouncing their own doom, and justifying God's procedure in rejecting them, and in calling the Gentiles into his church, who would render him more abundant honour, love, and service. Note; (1.) Even those who perish shall be made to confess God's righteousness, and shall out of their own mouths be condemned. (2.) The end of all the ungodly, and of the persecutors of Christ and his people, is, to be miserably destroyed under the consuming wrath of an offended God.
6. When, on our Lord's intimating how much they were concerned in this parable, they had testified their abhorrence of the thought he suggested of murdering God's Son, Luk 20:16-19 he assures them this would be the case, and they had, no doubt, often read the Scripture which foretold it, Psalms 118:22. The stone was himself, the rock on which his church should be built up; the builders were the chief priests and elders, who rejected him, and refused to own him as the Messiah; yet, notwithstanding their malice and infidelity, he must become the head-stone of the corner, exalted to be the head of all principalities and powers, and of his church in particular, both of Jews and Gentiles united in one glorious body. And this is the Lord's doing, who permitted and overruled their wickedness for good, and would, at the resurrection and ascension of Christ, thus advance his only-begotten Son, and give him a name above every name: and it is marvellous in our eyes; the obduracy of the Jews, the calling of the Gentiles, the rejection of the Messiah and his exaltation, are all marvellously ordered to advance the divine glory, to pour confusion on the enemies of the Redeemer, and to secure the salvation of his faithful people.
7. Christ, particularly addressing himself to the chief priests, elders, and people before him, makes a direct application of all that he had spoken to their case. The Gospel which they had rejected should shortly be taken from them, and they should be abandoned of God, because of their infidelity and impenitence; while this word of salvation should be sent to the Gentiles, who would thankfully embrace it, be admitted into the Messiah's kingdom, and approve themselves faithful subjects of it in all holy conversation and godliness. Whosoever therefore among them, offended at the humiliation of Jesus, through wilful ignorance or prejudice rejected him as the Messiah, shall be broken, as a man that stumbles against a stone: but whosoever, in his state of exaltation, obstinately persist in their malice against him, shall be crushed in pieces by him as under the fall of a mighty rock. Note; They who will not bow to the sceptre of the Redeemer's grace, must miserably perish under the iron rod of his judgments.
Lastly, The chief priests and Pharisees could not mistake his meaning: they plainly perceived the design of his parables and discourse, and saw them expressly levelled against themselves, out of their own mouths drawing their condemnation, and confirming the sentence of wrath against them; but so hardened were they, that, instead of instantly humbling their souls that they might avert the threatened vengeance, they were so enraged that they would instantly have laid violent hands upon him, and probably have murdered him on the spot; but the fear of the people restrained them, who, taking Jesus for a prophet, would at present have interposed for his rescue: they were therefore constrained to defer their revenge to a more convenient season. Note; (1.) The word of God is powerful and penetrating, and conscience will make the application, Thou art the man. (2.) They who are not corrected by reproof, must be exasperated thereby. (3.) It is a mercy that God has many ways of restraining men's wickedness, though they have cast off his fear: he can bind them with human fetters; when they refuse to be governed by his divine law.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 21". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17