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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 21

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Matthew 21:0


The Triumphal Entry Into JerusalemThe Triumphal EntryPalm SundayThe Triumphant Entry Into JerusalemThe Messiah Enters Jerusalem
Matthew 21:1-11Matthew 21:1-11Matthew 21:1-11Matthew 21:1-3Matthew 21:1-9
(5) Matthew 21:4-5(5)
(9b) Matthew 21:6-9(9b)
Matthew 21:10Matthew 21:10-11
Matthew 21:11
The Cleansing of the TempleJesus Cleanses the TempleCleansing the TempleJesus Goes to the TempleThe Expulsion of the Dealers from the Temple
Matthew 21:12-13Matthew 21:12-17Matthew 21:12-13Matthew 21:12-13Matthew 21:12-17
Matthew 21:14-17 Matthew 21:14-17Matthew 21:14-15
Matthew 21:16a(16b)
Matthew 21:16b
Matthew 21:17
The Cursing of the Fig TreeThe Fig TreeFig Tree CursedJesus Curses the Fig TreeThe Barren Fig Tree Withers, Faith and Prayer
Matthew 21:18-22Matthew 21:18-19Matthew 21:18-22Matthew 21:18-19Matthew 21:18-22
The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree
Matthew 21:20-22 Matthew 21:20
Matthew 21:21-22
The Authority of Jesus QuestionedJesus' Authority QuestionedJesus' AuthorityThe Question about Jesus' AuthorityThe Authority of Jesus is Questioned
Matthew 21:23-27Matthew 21:23-27Matthew 21:23-27Matthew 21:23Matthew 21:23-27
Matthew 21:24-25a
Matthew 21:25-27a
Matthew 21:27b
The Parable of the Two SonsThe Parable of the Two Sons The Parable of the Two SonsParable of the Two Sons
Matthew 21:28-32Matthew 21:28-32Matthew 21:28-32Matthew 21:28-31aMatthew 21:28-32
Matthew 21:31b
Matthew 21:31-32
The Parable of the Vineyard and the TenantsThe Parable of the Wicked VinedressersParable of the VineyardThe Parable of the Tenants in the VineyardParable of the Wicked Husbandmen
Matthew 21:33-44Matthew 21:33-46Matthew 21:33-41Matthew 21:33-39Matthew 21:33-43
Matthew 21:40
Matthew 21:41
(42b) Matthew 21:42-44Matthew 21:42(42)
Matthew 21:43-44
Matthew 21:45-46 Matthew 21:45-46Matthew 21:45-46Matthew 21:45-46

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The Triumphal Entry was a significant prophetic act. It, along with the cleansing of the temple, proclaimed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. These two events are paralleled in

1. Triumphal Entry, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19

2. Cleansing of the temple, Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47

B. There is a paradoxical aspect to the Triumphal Entry. Jesus was obviously fulfilling the prediction of Zechariah 9:9, and the shouts of the crowd were an affirmation of His Messiahship. However, it must be remembered that these Hallel Psalms (i.e., 113-118) were used to welcome the pilgrims every year as they came to Jerusalem for the Passover. The fact that they were applying them to a particular person was the uniqueness of this event. This is clearly seen in the consternation of the religious leaders.

C. The cleansing of the Temple recorded in Matthew 21:12-17 was possibly a second cleansing by Jesus. The first one was recorded in John 2:13-16. I personally do not accept the tenets of literary criticism that telescope these two events into one. Although there is a problem in unifying the chronology of the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, it still seems best to me, because of the differences between the two accounts, to hold to two cleansings, one early in His ministry and one near the end. This (along with Jesus' parables of the leadership's rejection) explains the growing animosity of the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

D. The cleansing of the temple had several theological purposes.

1. to assert Jesus' authority and Kingship

2. as an act of judgment on Israel's leaders (foreshadowing of A.D. 70)

3. as a clarification of the purpose of the temple to be a house of prayer for all people (cf. Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8)

4. to bring the confrontation between Himself land the Jewish leaders to a climax which would result in His arrest and death (cf. Mark 10:45)

5. to show that the Jews gloried and trusted in the temple (cf. Jeremiah 7:0), but needed to glory in God and trust in His Messiah/King (Jesus).

6. to set the stage for the parables of the rejection of

a. Israel

b. Israel's leadership


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the relationship between the cleansing of the Temple, the cursing of the fig tree, and the three parables?

2. Was Jesus rejecting rabbinical Judaism, the religious leaders, or national Israel? Why?

3. How is it possible that non-religious, socially ostracized sinners, such as tax-collectors and prostitutes, can possibly be saved while such pious, conservative, biblical-oriented religious leaders are spiritually lost? (cf Matthew 5:20, Matthew 5:48)

4. Explain how Psalms 118:22-23 is related to Jesus' statements about His rejection.

5. How are Matthew 21:43-46 related to Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 19:30, and Matthew 20:16?

Verses 1-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:1-11 1When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2instructing them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,'and immediately he will send them." 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'" 6The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" 10When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?" 11And the crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee."

Matthew 21:1 "Bethphage" This name meant "house of figs." This village was located somewhere between Bethany and Jerusalem on the long ridge known as the Mount of Olives.

"Mount of Olives" It is uncertain where Jesus spent the nights the last week of His life. Some assert that He went back to Bethany and stayed with Lazarus; others say that He bivouacked on the Mount of Olives, possibly in the specific location of the Garden of Gethsemane. Reality is probably the combination of both (cf. John 12:1-10).

Matthew 21:2-3 This is one of those accounts that is either a miracle of Jesus' supernatural knowledge or a pre-arrangement. There are accounts of both in the New Testament. In context it seems to be a pre-arranged meeting.

Matthew 21:2 "a donkey tied there and a colt with her" In John 12:14 a donkey is mentioned but not a colt. The reason that the colt is significant is because of the symbolism of the donkey to Israel. The donkey was the mount of the king (i.e., 2 Samuel 18:9). The king had a royal donkey on which no one but he ever rode. The fact that Jesus came riding on a donkey, particularly on one that had never been ridden, is a fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in Matthew 21:5, from Zechariah 9:9, with a possible allusion to Isaiah 62:11. Some late Greek manuscripts add "Zachariah" before "prophet," while some of the editions of the Vulgate and the Coptic translations add "Isaiah." The donkey was not only a symbol of royalty, but the colt a symbol of humility and peace.

Matthew 21:3 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action.

Matthew 21:5 This is a quote from Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9.

Matthew 21:7 "and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats" This act of placing their coats on the two animals is much like our festival saddles used during a parade. It is obvious that Jesus rode on the colt although the Greek text is somewhat ambiguous. "Them" in the Greek texts referred to the coats on both animals, not the animals.

Matthew 21:8 "spread their coats in the road" This was another aspect of a royal parade which is similar to our modern expression of " rolling out the red carpet" for a distinguished visitor. There is even a historical allusion to this same act being done to (1) Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13, and (2) Simon Maccabeus in I Mac. 13:51 and II Mac. 10:7.

"and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road" Although this symbolic act was regularly done during the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Leviticus 23:13-20), those branches were much larger than these. The branches used here were smaller and are comparable to the modern custom of spreading rose petals before a bride as she walks down the aisle. These three acts: (1) the coats on the animals, (2) the coats spread in the road, and (3) the branches spread in the road show that they were honoring Jesus as the coming royal, Davidic King (Messiah).

Matthew 21:9 "The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting" The term "shouting" is an imperfect tense which implied that they shouted repeatedly. The quote comes from Psalms 118:26-27. It was part of the Passover liturgy known as the Hallel Psalms (cf. Ps. 113-118). These were used every year at the place where the road rose to Jerusalem to welcome the pilgrims to the Feast of Passover, but this year there was unique expectation in the person of Jesus. These verses applied uniquely to Him! He was their fulfillment!

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB"Hosanna" TEV"Praise to"

The term may have been an Aramaic idiom meaning "royal power to." Literally, this term in Hebrew was "Hosanna" (BDB 446, cf. Psalms 118:25), which came to be used as a regular greeting. Originally it meant "save us now." The first usage referred to Jesus and the second (Psalms 118:26; Matthew 21:10) to God the Father, praising Him for sending the Messiah.

"in the highest" This was a circumlocution for heaven or the presence of God.

"Son of David" This was a Messianic title (cf. Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:23; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30, Matthew 20:31; Matthew 22:42). This was an allusion to 2 Samuel 7:0, which predicted that there would always be a descendant of the Davidic line on the throne. This was the necessary fulfillment of the Messiah being from the tribe of Judah (cf. Genesis 49:10; Psalms 60:7; Psalms 108:8).

"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" The parallel in Luke adds "He that is king" and this was the explicit implication.

Matthew 21:10 "and when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, 'Who is this'" It is true that many people had heard about the mighty works of Jesus and attributed to Him the title of prophet (cf. Matthew 21:11). But it needed to be clearly revealed that He was not only a prophet, but the predicted Messiah. The events that follow will clearly reveal this to anyone who had spiritual eyes to see.

At this point Luke 19:41-44 inserts Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem; however, Matthew does not record this until Matthew 23:37-39. The Gospel writers had the ability under inspiration to select, adapt, arrange and summarize Jesus' words and teachings. The Gospels are not a western chronological history but a theological tract to win the lost and teach the saved.

Matthew 21:11 "the crowds were saying, 'This is the prophet Jesus' " The recognition of Jesus' divine inspiration and power relates to the Messianic prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15-19. The people freely admitted that Jesus was a prophet of God (cf. Luke 7:16; Luke 24:19; John 4:19; John 6:14; John 7:40; John 9:17). This context also asserted His Messiahship. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matthew 11:9.

Verses 12-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:12-13 12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you are making it a robbers'den."

Matthew 21:12 "and Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves" This was the second cleansing of the Temple (cf. John 2:15). The High Priest and his family were the owners of these particular booths. They purchased the right from the Roman authorities. They originally had been set up to aid those pilgrims from foreign lands who were unable to bring sacrificial animals and the right type of money (shekel) that the temple required. These booths charged outrageous prices. If a man did bring his own animal, the priestly inspectors would find some defect in it so that they had to purchase an animal from the booth operator for a highly inflated price.

The Temple only accepted shekels (cf. Exodus 30:13). There were no longer any Jewish shekels available, but there were Tyrian ones. Pilgrims were charged exorbitant prices for exchanging into this coinage. The doves were available for the poorest people so that they could make a sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:14; Leviticus 5:7, Leviticus 5:11; Leviticus 12:8; Leviticus 14:22; Luke 2:24), but the High Priests were charging exorbitant prices even for them.

This is an example of Jesus' anger at the religious exploitation by the Jewish leaders of His day. If anger is a sin, Jesus would have sinned (cf. Ephesians 4:26).

Matthew 21:13 "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'" All of this buying and selling was taking place in the Court of the Gentiles, which was meant to be a place to attract the nations to the worship of YHWH. Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 and made an allusion to Jeremiah 7:11. In Mark's parallel (cf. Matthew 11:17), he adds the phrase, 'shall be a house of prayer for all nations.'Matthew, writing to Jews, left out this universal emphasis while Mark, writing to Romans, included it.

Verses 14-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:14-17 14And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant 16and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself'?" 17And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Matthew 21:14 "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them" Verses Matthew 21:14 and 15 are unique to Matthew, but they do show that, even at this late date, Jesus was still trying to confirm His message to the religious leaders by performing miraculous acts of love and compassion right in the Temple area. These were OT signs of the Messiah.

1. sight to the blind (cf. Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 42:16)

2. help to the lame (cf. Isaiah 40:11; Micah 4:6; Zephaniah 3:19)

3. both signs together in Jeremiah 31:8 and Isaiah 35:5-6

If they simply had spiritual eyes to see, they would have seen His authority, compassion, and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but they did not.

Matthew 21:15 "but when the chief priests and scribes" The usual designation of the Sanhedrin (see Special Topic at Matthew 20:18) included the High Priest, scribes, and elders (cf. Matthew 21:23; Matthew 16:21). This was a way of referring to those in places of leadership in Jerusalem of Jesus' day.

"the children who were shouting in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,'they became indignant" Apparently the children (used of Jesus at twelve, cf. Luke 2:43) had heard the Hallel Psalms applied to Jesus the day before and they were repeating the refrain which had upset the Pharisees earlier.

Matthew 21:16 "and said to Him, 'Do You hear what these children are saying'" In Luke 19:39 other Pharisees complained about this same thing. Jesus accepted these titles as another way of affirming His Messianic claims.

"Jesus said to them, 'Yes; have you never read'" This was a strong statement which implied that they were not familiar with their own Scriptures. Jesus used irony and sarcasm several times in relation to the religious leaders (cf. Matthew 12:3; Matthew 19:4; Matthew 21:42; Matthew 22:31). Jesus, at this point, quoted Psalms 8:2. This was not necessarily a Messianic Psalm, but it is a Psalm which asserted that children (nursing ones, possibly up to three years of age or older) will speak the truth before adults even understand it.

Matthew 21:17 "He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there" In John 12:1-10, Jesus stayed with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha several nights during this last week of His life.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive

1. Why is the Triumphal Entry so significant?

2. Why is it important that Jesus rode on the colt of a donkey?

3. Explain the significance of Psalms 118:26-27. What was unique about this year's welcoming parade?

4. Why was Jesus so upset with the buyers and sellers in the Temple?

5. Why did the religious leaders not rejoice in Jesus' miracles?


A. Matthew 21:0 begins with the Triumphal Entry and closes with the second of three parables. It was an attempt to discuss Jesus' Messiahship with the Jewish leaders.

B. It is extremely difficult to be certain whether Jesus is rejecting (1) the Jewish nation, (2) her leaders, or (3) both.

C. The cleansing of the Temple in Matthew 21:12-17 was an act of rejection. The cursing of the fig tree in verses Matthew 21:18-22 was an act of rejection. The parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32 was a parable of rejection. The parable of the wicked tenants, Matthew 21:33-46, was a parable of rejection. The parable of the King's wedding feasts, Matthew 22:1-14, was a parable of rejection. The question remains, were the leaders symbolic of all the nation or was it rabbinical Judaism in particular that Jesus was rejecting?

Verses 18-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:18-19 18Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.

Matthew 21:18 "Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city" The time sequence in Mark is slightly different (cf. Mark 11:12-14, Mark 11:20-21). Apparently Jesus was returning from Bethany, which was two miles from Jerusalem (cf. Mark 11:12).

Matthew 21:19 "Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it" It was legal for a traveler to stop and take food from a fruit tree or a field (cf. Deuteronomy 23:24-25).

"and found nothing on it except leaves only" Mark 11:13 adds "it was not the time for figs." This makes this a prophetic act of rejection of the Jewish leaders or of the nation. Outwardly they looked prosperous, spiritual, and religious but there was no supernatural fruit (cf. Colossians 2:21-23; 2 Timothy 3:5; Isaiah 29:13).

"No longer shall there ever" Jesus spoke Aramaic but thought in Hebrew terms. See Special Topic following for the words "ever" or " forever" taken from my OT commentaries.


"and at once the fig tree withered" Mark 11:20 records that the withering happened the next morning. There is a related parable found in Luke 13:6-9. This was an object lesson against the ostentatious religious exhibitionism of the Jewish leaders and the abominable absence of love and commitment to God.

Verses 20-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:20-22 20Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, "How did the fig tree wither all at once?" 21And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,'it will happen. 22And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

Matthew 21:21 "Truly" See note and Special Topic at Matthew 5:18.

"if" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential future action.

"have faith and do not doubt" This theme is crucial (cf. Matthew 17:20; James 1:6-8) because the new age of the Spirit is different from the current evil age. It is an age of faith/trust in God, His word, and His Son! This verse does not relate to the will of individual believers, but to the revealed will of God acted out in life. Israel failed the faith test! There were consequences to this failure! This event is theologically parallel to the cleansing of the temple earlier in the chapter.

"this mountain" This referred to the Mt. of Olives, which would have been in clear view.

"the sea" This referred to the Dead Sea, also visible from the Mt. of Olives. In the OT this action of lowering the mountains and raising the valleys was usually associated with the Gentiles having physical access to YHWH in Jerusalem. The context then should not be interpreted as advocating power miracles through faith but is idiomatic of spiritual access to God for the Gentiles which the Jewish leaders actions had stifled (i.e., court of Gentiles used primarily for merchant booths). This context must be seen as one of a series of rejection passages (Matthew 21:12-17, Matthew 21:28-32, Matthew 21:33-46; Matthew 22:1-14).

Matthew 21:22 "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" Notice the unconditional promise linked to mankind's conditional response. This was a quite common way to express biblical truth but it is difficult for western-oriented people, who like clear cut black and white statements, to deal with biblical, dialectical paradoxes. Answered prayer must be linked to God's will and mankind's faith (compare Matthew 18:19; John 14:13-14; John 15:7, John 15:16; John 16:23; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 5:14-15 with Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:5-13; Luke 18:1-8; Luke 18:9-14; Mark 11:23-24; and James 1:6-7; James 4:3).

The worst thing that God could do for faithless children is answer their selfish, materialistic requests. Those believers who seek the mind of Christ ask for things that please God and extend His kingdom. See Special Topic on Prayer at Matthew 18:19.

Verses 23-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:23-27 23When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" 24Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,'He will say to us, "Then why did you not believe him?" 26But if we say, 'From men,'we fear the people; for they all consider John to be a prophet." 27And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

Matthew 21:23 "the chief priests and elders of the people" Notice in verse Matthew 21:15 they are called "chief priests" and "scribes." These three groups made up the Sanhedrin. Whether they were an official or unofficial delegation is uncertain, but they represented the Jewish leadership. The phrase " elders of the people" is unique to Matthew (cf. Matthew 21:23; Matthew 26:3, Matthew 26:47; Matthew 27:1).

"while He was teaching" Jesus taught under Solomon's portico (cf. Acts 3:11; Acts 5:12) in the Court of the Gentiles within the Temple area. He was still trying to reach the Jewish leadership.

"'By what authority are You doing these things'" This was the central question! "These things" could refer to the cleansing of the Temple (cf. Matthew 21:12-16), Jesus' rejection of oral tradition, or His public miracles. They could not deny the miraculous acts, so they attacked the source of His authority. Apparently the religious leaders of Jesus' day thought Jesus was an extremely powerful demon possessed person (cf. Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; John 7:20; John 8:48, John 8:52; John 10:20-21).

Matthew 21:24-27 This discussion sets the stage for the three parables that follow. It shows the compromising position of the religious leaders. These men had been trying to catch Jesus on the "horns of a dilemma" for several months. Now He reversed their strategy.

Matthew 21:24, Matthew 21:25, Matthew 21:26 There are three third class conditional sentences, which meant potential future action.

Matthew 21:26 "'a prophet'" See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matthew 11:9.

Verses 28-32

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:28-32 28"But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.'29And he answered, 'I will not.'; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him."

Matthew 21:28 "a man had two sons" This parable is unique to Matthew. The ancient Greek manuscripts vary on the order of the two son's response. The order is really not significant in seeing the relationship of this parable to Matthew 21:23-27. The comparison is made between the religious leaders and the common people of the land.

Matthew 21:31 "the tax-collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you" This was such a startling statement to the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day. It must have truly shocked them as Matthew 5:20; Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 19:24-25, Matthew 19:30 and Matthew 20:16 did. The leaders recognized that Jesus was unambiguously asserting their rejection and the welcoming of sinners and the common person (and by implication the Gentiles).

Matthew predominately used the term "the Kingdom of Heaven," because he was writing to Jewish hearers who were fearful of using God's name; however, in Matthew 6:33, Matthew 12:28, and Matthew 21:31, the phrase most common in Mark and Luke was used by Matthew. Possibly it was used to shock the Jews into listening.

Matthew 21:32 "for John came to you in the way of righteousness" Jesus and John represented two approaches. John came in the tradition of the elders and was rejected (Matthew 21:24-26). Jesus came as a friend of sinners and was accused of being a wine-bibber (cf. Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Both of them were rejected!

The term "way" was an OT idiom of a lifestyle of faith (i.e., Exodus 32:8; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:22, Deuteronomy 11:28). It was the first title of the church, "The Way" (cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:22).

"you did not believe him. . .did believe him" Behind this imagery is the need to believe Jesus and it is open to any and all humans made in God's image!

Verses 33-41

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:33-41 33"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'38But when the vine-growers saw the son. they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'39They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?" 41They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons."

Matthew 21:33 "listen to another parable" The parable is paralleled in Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19. This is the strongest parable on God's rejection of Israel and her leaders!

"who planted a vineyard" This has an obvious connection to Isaiah 5:0. The vineyard has always been a symbol for the nation of Israel. This parable is the most allegorical of the three. The slaves represent the prophets. The son represents the Messiah (notice there is a son in each of the parables in this chapter, but used in different senses). The tenants represent the nation of Israel or at least her leaders.

In the immediate context the new tenants refer to the common people of the land, but in the larger context it referred to the Gentiles (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46; Acts 1:8).

Matthew 21:41 The crowd answers the question and seals their own doom. There is a word play which is translated "those wretches (kakous) to a wretched (kakôs) end."

Verses 42-44

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:42-44 42Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone; This came about from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruit of it. 44And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."

Matthew 21:42 "Did you never read in the Scriptures" This was a quote from Psalms 118:22-23. Originally this referred to the nation of Israel rejected by the Gentiles. How ironical that it now refers to the nation of Israel rejected by God and His acceptance of the common person and by implication the Gentiles.

"stone" The "stone" was a title of God in the OT (cf. Psalms 18:0). It was used of the Messiah as the only sure foundation in Isaiah 28:16. It was used as a metaphor of the coming Messianic kingdom in Daniel 2:34, Daniel 2:44-45. The Messiah can be both a sure and sturdy foundation sent by God or a destructive judgment sent by God! Resurrection Day will also be Judgment Day! See Special Topic below.


Matthew 21:43 "and given to a nation" This passage and the parable found in Matthew 22:1-14 lead one to believe that these three connected parables deal with the rejection of the nation of Israel, not only its leaders. At the least it was a rejection of rabbinical Judaism. The word for Gentiles was literally "the nations."

Matthew 21:44 The NASB and NRSV include verse Matthew 21:44 while the RSV, TEV and JB only put it in a footnote. This verse is similar to Luke 20:18 and the RSV, JB and TEV translation committees assumed it was transferred to Matthew by a copyist. UBS4 gives it a "C" rating. However, the Greek text in Luke and Matthew are not exact. This verse was also included in many ancient Greek uncial manuscripts: א , B, C, K , L, W & Z and also in the Latin, Syriac, Coptic and Armenian translations, as well as the Greek texts used by Chrysostom, Cyril, Jerome and Augustine. As a matter of fact, the earliest Greek manuscript that omits it is the sixth century manuscript, D (Bezae). It should be included.

Verses 45-46

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Matthew 21:45-46 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

Matthew 21:45 "when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them" The religious leaders of Jesus' day recognized completely what Jesus was saying. What terrible irony! The disciples did not understand, but the Sadducees and Pharisees did!

Matthew 21:46 "prophet" See Special Topic at Matthew 11:9.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Matthew 21". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/matthew-21.html. 2021.
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