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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 21

Verse 1

21:1 Jesus usually traveled on foot, but he was now to make a change in his mode of going and sent two of his disciples to secure the means of doing so.

Verse 2

21:2. Jesus knew all things that pertained to his activities and hence could tell the disciples what they would find in the nearby village.

Verse 3

21:3 "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (1Co 10:26), therefore it was right for Jesus to "commandeer" these beasts. It was not an act of taking them just because he had the authority to do so, but it was because they were needed. Take note that he needed them and not the mother or colt only. Verse 4. Matthew explains that what is about to take place had been prophesied in the Old Testament and it is recorded in Zec 9:9.

Verse 5

21:5 Any statement of an event may include more than is specifically mentioned but it will never take in less than is named. Verses 3 and 4 clearly stated that the mother and the colt were to be loosed and brought to Jesus. Also in verse 7 both colt and mother were brought and the people put their clothes on them. And now our present verse cites a prophecy which definitely predicts that Jesus was to ride on an ass and its colt. Most commentators believe that Jesus rode the colt only, and that the mother was taken along because of a humane feeling for the mother and her young offspring. It is true that neither of the other three accounts says a thing about the mother, but that could be accounted for by the fact that the use of an unbroken colt was the unusual feature of this event and hence it only is given notice by them. If it should be questioned how one man could ride two beasts, the explanation is that he would sit on the back of the mother and place his feet on the colt in the place of stirrups. This would identify the rider as the one foretold by the prophet, while the fact of riding only one would not be so rare as to attract attention. Even the riding of an unbroken colt would not be so unusual because somebody had to ride it for the first time, and besides this, the public crowd would not know it was an unbroken animal since it would be under control of this supernatural rider.

Verse 6

:6-7 This paragraph merely records the doing of the things commanded.

Verse 8

21:8 It was an ancient custom to honor an approaching dignitary by making a carpet of garments and the foliage of trees on which he might proceed. It says a very great multitude made this display of honor. It was at the season when the Passover was soon to be observed by the Jews, and great numbers were at Jerusalem from all over the world to- attend that feast in obedience to the law of Moses.

Verse 9

21:9 Hosanna is a Greek word and Robinson defines it, "Save now, succor now, be now propitious." He says further that it is from a Hebrew word that means a joyful acclamation." Thayer's definition agrees with this but is more condensed. The passage means an expression of good will to him who is able to save others because he is a descendant of David. Blessed is he, etc., is an acknowledgment that Jesus was coming to their city in the name of the Lord. Verse 10. The foregoing conversation was taking place as Jesus was entering the city. When he reached the inside the people were moved. That word is from SEIO which Thayer defines, "to shake, agitate, cause to tremble; to quake with fear." This means the citizens of the city in general who were not informed upon the state of affairs nor upon the prophecies that were being fulfilled; they were the ones moved. In their agitation and fright they asked who is this?

Verse 11

1:11 The multitude means the group that had been witnessing the entrance of Jesus into the city. They were aware of what was going on and what connection it had with the iden tity of Jesus, and they gave the information to the citizens.

Verse 12

1:12 The reader should see my comments on Deu 14:24-26 in Volume 1 of the Old Testament Commentary. It was right to sell doves and other creatures to be used in the services at the altar, and it was necessary to have an exchange table to trade local money for the foreign, because the money brought in by foreigners was not good in the markets of Judea. But it was wrong to transact that business in the temple because it was intended for the religious services only. They having committed an outrage against the sacred temple, it was proper for Jesus to treat them as outlaws and force them out of the place they were desecrating.

Verse 13

1:13 It is written is cited from Isa 56:7 where the prophet was writing about the restoration of the Jews after the captivity, but where he also included some words that referred to the age of the church. Jesus called the temple as it was used then a den of thieves because they were taking advantage of the situation to charge undue fees for their transactions; they were profiteering.

Verse 14

1:14 This work that Jesus did was far different from that of the "thieves." They were in it for unright-ous gain while Jesus was doing good to the unfortunate people by healing their infirmities.

Verse 15

1:15 The original word for crying is defined in the lexicon, "to speak with a loud voice," and means the children let themselves be heard in shouting their good wishes for Jesus. The chief priests and scribes were sore displeased evidently because they were envious of the attention that he was receiving.

Verse 16

1:16These envious men called the attention of Jesus to the cries of the children as if to suggest that he stop the disturbance, but in reality as an expression of their displeasure caused by their envy. The quotation Jesus made is in Psalms 8:2, and in both places the words babes and suck-lings have about the same meaning. Both mean small children but the first denotes those who are somewhat the older of the two. The simple, childlike trust that a little one shows in the existence and goodness of God is one of the sweetest things that can be seen in this world. Even those still young enough to be feeding at the breast will manifest characteristics that can be explained only by the fact that they are the handiwork of a gracious Creator.

Verse 17

1:17 Bethany was a small village about two miles from Jerusalem. Although it was an unimportant town from the standpoint of size, it was very noted by the things that took place there. It was the home of Lazarus and his two sisters where Jesus was always a welcome guest. On the present occasion we are merely told that Jesus left the presence of this envious crowd and spent a night in the quiet little village.

Verse 18

1:18 The body of Jesus was both human and divine and subject to the needs of bodily maintainance the same as other men. At this time he sought to satisfy his hunger by the use of the fig which is indeed a wholesome food.

Verse 19

1:19 In the account given at Mar 11:13 the statement is added: "For the time of figs was not yet." Our verse says that Jesus found only leaves on the tree when he expected to find fruit also. If it was not the time for figs why would Jesus curse the tree for not having the fruit as well as the leaves? This matter is explained by the editor's note on Jo-sephus, Wars, Book 3, Chapter 10, Section 8, as follows: "It may be worth our while to observe here, that near this lake of Gennesareth grapes and figs hang on the trees ten months of the year. We may observe also, that in Cyril of Jerusalem, Cateches, 18, section 3, which was delivered not long before Easter, there were no fresh leaves of fig trees, nor bunches of fresh grapes in Judea, so that when Mark says (11:13), that our Saviour, soon after the same time of the year, came and 'found leaves' on a fig tree near Jerusalem, but 'no figs,' because the time of 'new figs' ripening 'was not yet,' he says very true; nor were they therefore other than old leaves which our Saviour saw, and old figs which he expected, and which tven with us commonly hang on the trees all winter long." Jesus cursed the fig tree for having leaves but no fruit, since its opportunity for bearing the one was as good as the other, regardless of whether it was the old or new crop that was expected. Many people have moralized on this circumstance and compared the leaves to the empty Profession of righteousness that men make and the absence of fruit to the failure of doing one's duty to the Lord. We may make our own comparison to it for the purpose of an illustration, but nothing in the text indicates that to have been in the mind of Christ. Rather, it was just another opportunity to perform a miracle for the instruction of the disciples, for that was the only subject they discussed about it afterward. Presently is from PARACHREMA which Thayer defines, "Immediately, forthwith, instantly," and Robinson says, "On the spot, forthwith, straightway."

Verse 20

1:20 This verse indicates that the disciples made their remark at the time when Jesus pronounced the curse upon the tree, but according to Mar 11:20-21 it was the next day. However, our verse does not disagree with that for it only says "when the disciples saw it," meaning the complete withering away of the tree, and that could have been the next day. Hence we should understand the word presently in the preceding verse to have been used in a figurative or comparative sense.

Verse 21

1:21 For comments on the extent of faith here see chapter 17:20..

Verse 22

1:22 In prayer, believing corresponds in thought with chapter 17:21. In that passage the faith was to be connected with a season of "prayer and fasting." The part that was performed by the disciples in each instance was an evidence of their faith.

Verse 23

1:23 When he was come into the temple was the day after Jesus had driven the moneychangers out. It was that act the chief priests and elders meant when they called upon him for his authority to perform it.

Verse 24

1:24 Jesus never evaded any proper question that was asked of him. However, rather than directly accuse them of insincerity he chose to expose them by a counter inquiry. He promised to answer their question if they would do likewise to his.

Verse 25

1:25 The fact of John's baptism was not denied by anyone, the only question being his authority for teaching and practicing it. John either was doing so by the authority of the Lord of heaven or merely as a work of man, and they were asked to say which they thought it was. But the question, although a perfectly fair one, put them in an embarrassing position because of the inconsistency of their general conduct. If they were to admit that John's baptism was from heaven they could not explain why they did not endorse it.

Verse 26

1:26 They were afraid to accuse John of acting on man's authority because of the pressure of public opinion that was favorable to his work. These hypocritical leaders of the Jews did not have much love for the common people, yet they wanted to hold on to their esteem for the sake of popularity.

Verse 27

1:27 They refused to answer and falsely stated that they could not tell, for they had an abundance of evidence that John was a man of God. Jesus also refused to answer their question but did not misrepresent his position as did the Pharisees; he simply said neither tell I you.

Verse 28

1:28 This is a parable of two brothers and hence refers to people of the same family group. The contrast, then, is not between Jews and Gentiles as some of the parables apply. The first son was the publicans and harlots of the 31st verse, and the second was the chief priests and elders of verse 23. Both sons were asked to work for their father, likewise all ranks of Jews were invited to accept the work of preparation for the kingdom of heaven soon to be set up.

Verse 29

1:29 The publicans and harlots did not actually refuse the favors offered them, but that action of the son was supposed in order to show the better disposition in that they thought better of the offered favors than did the others.

Verse 30

1:30This verse was virtually carried out as stated, for the chief priests and elders made great pretensions of being interested in the work of John and Jesus, but in the final test they refused to work at it.

Verse 31

1:31. The kingdom of heaven was not set up in fact in the earth lifetime of John, but his work was that kingdom in preparation, and whatever attitude anyone showed to-ward his work was counted for or against the kingdom.

Verse 32

1:32 In the way of righteousness means the way of life that John taught was righteous. But the self-righteous Jews only pretended to accept his teaching and did not actually do so (Mat 3:7-8; Mat 21:25). But the publicans accepted the teaching of John and came to his baptism and so fulfilled the parable.

Verse 33

1:33 Unlike the preceding parable, this one has to do with the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews were God's exclusive people for 15 centuries but did not appreciate their good fortune and even mistreated the righteous prophets and other teachers who were sent among them. Finally the Gentiles were admitted into the family of God on an equal basis with the Jews. The story of the householder was told in detail to bring out these truths, some of which were still future when Jesus spoke. God was the householder and the services and benefits of the Mosaic system were "hedged" about with the Lord's oversight (Isa 5:1-7).

Verse 34

1:34 It takes time to produce fruit, hence the householder did not expect any products until the proper time and then he sent special servants to get them.

Verse 35

5-36 This refers to the mistreatment that the Jews showed to the prophets and other righteous teachers who were sent among them by the Lord.

Verse 37

1:37 Jesus was a Jew and was sent to that nation as the rightful heir of all that his Father possessed, and he should have been reecived with great respect.

Verse 38

1:38 Being the heir, if he could be removed there would seem to be no one to claim the property, hence the workers planned to make away with him.

Verse 39

1:39 The wicked workers carried out their plot and slew the son of the householder. It refers to the treatment that Jesus was soon to receive at the hands of the wicked Jews in thrusting him into the hands of the Gentiles to be killed.

Verse 40

0-41 Jesus asked the hearers for their opinion of the case. Still thinking of some literal case of earthly relationship, they answered correctly as to what would happen to such husband men.

Verse 42

1:42. Jesus began opening their understanding of the parable by referring to a prediction in the Old Testament. They doubtless were aware of this statement and must have begun to see the light that was exposing them.

Verse 43

1:43 The Lord made a literal application of the parable to the Jewish nation of which his hearers were members. The nation that was to be given the kingdom was the Gentiles. This does not mean that the Jews would be barred from the kingdom of heaven, but they no longer would be the sole workers in the Master's vineyard.

Verse 44

1:44 This stone means Christ who is the stone of verse 42 that had been rejected by the builders, meaning the leaders in the Jewish nation. There are two applications of the illustrations about the falling upon the stone and its falling upon the victim. It would be bad enough to fall down on a stone for one would be hurt thereby, but it would be far worse for that stone to be elevated and then fall upon that same one. So the Jewish nation had stumbled over this stone and it was complaining about it. The leaders had even tossed it aside as unfit even to be used at all in the building. But it was to be elevated to be the head stone in the building and from that position was to fall (figuratively speaking) upon the nation and demolish it. That event took place in A. D. 70 when the Romans overthrew Jerusalem and disorganized the Jewish commonwealth. The illustration applies also to individuals in general. Those who "stumble at the word" (1Pe 2:8) will be offended in this world, and at the judgment they will be crushed by the weight of Christ's authority and sent into eternal ruin in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat 25:46).

Verse 45

1:45 The Jewish nation as a whole was to suffer in the fate predicted by the parable, but the chief priests and Pharisees were especially responsible which truth they realized when they heard the parable.

Verse 46

1:46 Sought to lay hands means they tried to think of some way they could use to overpower Jesus. Feared the multitude is to be understood in the same light as was their fear over John the Baptist in the 26th verse.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 21". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-21.html. 1952.