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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Matthew 21

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-11

The Multitudes Honor the King ( Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-38, John 12:12-19) - Matthew 21:1-11 records Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the multitudes honor Him as King. This event is the first time that Jesus Christ publicly claims His Messiahship. The crowds initially received Him as such. However, their expectations of Him were different; for they wanted Him as their King, who would deliver them from the oppression of the Roman government. Soon they would be incited by the religious leaders and cry, "Crucify him."

Accounts of Triumphant Arrivals by Leaders in Other Literature - There are numerous accounts in antiquity of triumphant arrivals of kings and leaders listed by Davies and Allison. Within the Scriptures, Solomon was placed upon a donkey at King David's instructions and led to down the hill to Gihon where he was anointed the new king of Judah as the people followed him and rejoiced ( 1 Kings 1:32-40). Jehu was anointed king over Israel when the laying down of garments and the blowing of trumpets ( 2 Kings 9:11-13). The prophet Zechariah predicts the arrival of the Messiah as He approaches Jerusalem riding on a donkey in the midst of the rejoicing of the people ( Zechariah 9:9), which is fulfilled in this pericope. Ancient Jewish literature reflects such triumphant arrivals as well Judas Maccabee arrives in Jerusalem with a large group of Jews ( 1 Maccabees 5:45-54, Josephus, Antiquities 12:348-349). Simon Maccabee and his army enter the city of Gazara with songs of praise ( 1 Maccabees 13:43-48), and he later enters the city of Jerusalem with songs of praise with musical instruments and palm branches ( 1 Maccabees 13:49-53). Antiochus was received in Jerusalem with torches and shouts from the people ( 2 Maccabees 4:21-22). Josephus and the classical writers record a number of triumphant arrivals of Greek and Roman leaders. 513]

513] W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Commentary on Matthew XIX-XXVIII, vol 3, in The International Critical Commentary (London: T. & T. Clark Ltd, 1988), 112-113.

Matthew 21:1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,

Matthew 21:1Comments - The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem is about fifteen miles, with an ascent of three thousand five hundred feet of rugged, hilly terrain. Pilgrims taking this route to Jerusalem from the east would arrive first at Bethphage, which was across the Kidron Valley, but considered a part of the suburbs of Jerusalem. 514] Jesus and perhaps a large group that had followed Him ( Matthew 20:29) would have ascended the Mout of Olives from the east and received their first view of the city of Jerusalm from this vantage point described in Matthew 21:1. There they must have paused as Jesus gave His disciples instructions concerning the donkey. Perhaps some of His followers went ahead in excitement and anticipation and alerted the city of His arrival, playing the role of royal messengers.

514] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999), 490.

Mark and Luke list the two villages of Bethphage and Bethany together in their parallel passages. Although the locations of these two villages are uncertain today, rabbinic tradition places them about a mile southeast of the Mount of Olives. 515] Leon Morris says the name Bethphage probably means, "house of unripe figs." 516]

515] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew , in Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 753.

516] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew , in The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 519.

During this journey, Jesus must have thought of other biblical characters that had made this same trip up to the Mount of Olives and westward towards Jerusalem or eastward towards the Jordan Valley. For example, King David fled along this same route into exile when his son Absalom fought for the throne ( 2 Samuel 15:13-30).

2 Samuel 15:30, "And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up."

Jesus was probably familiar with Zechariah's prophecy of the Messiah one day standing upon the Mount of Olives and the mountain breaks in half at His arrival ( Zechariah 14:4).

Zechariah 14:4, "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."

Matthew 21:2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.

Matthew 21:2Comments - Jesus tells the disciples that they will find the donkey immediately as they enter the village. Luke makes the same statement, saying they will find the donkey as they enter.

The Gospels record only one occurance of Jesus riding on a donkey, which is the time He entered Jerusalem the week prior to His passion. He must have been fatigued from the journey and benefited from riding on the donkey. However, the importance of this event is its fulfillment of prophecy, as stated in Matthew 21:4-5 and John 12:14-15.

While Matthew's account documents both a donkey and its colt, the other three Evangelists only mention the donkey. Grant Osborne believes Matthew is unique in mentioning the two animials because it clearly serves as a fulfillment of prophecy since Zechariah mentions both the donkey and its colt. 517]

517] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew , in Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Clinton E. Arnold (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 754.

Matthew 21:3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.

Matthew 21:3Comments - How could God, who created all things, come down to earth, and claim to have a need? Perhaps part of the answer lies in the fact that when Jesus became a man through divine conception, He laid aside the privileges of His pre-incarnate divinity, humbling Himself by living within the limitations of a man. Within the limitations of His physical body, He lived His life as an example of God's unlimited ability and desire to work in a man's in order to train His disciples how to live by faith in God. In other words, Jesus now showed His disciples their full privileges as children of God, in whom the Holy Spirit would dwell, and although they would have needs, God was always ready to meet that need; yet He chose to fulfill that need through the means that was available to mankind, that Isaiah , through the law of faith.

In the story of Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem ( Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-38, John 12:12-19), Jesus demonstrated to His disciples how their needs were to be met as they learned to be led by the Spirit of God, operating in the gifts of the Spirit, and trusting in divine providence and divine provision. Jesus' public ministry was coming to a close, and His departure was at hand. His disciples must learn how to walk as Jesus walked. Thus, Jesus acknowledges a need, then demonstrates to His disciples how God the Father could meet that need.

Matthew 21:4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

Matthew 21:4Comments- The phrase ἵνα πληρωθῇ (that it might be fulfilled) is unique to the Gospel of Matthew , being used nine times ( Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; Matthew 2:23; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 21:4), with similar phrases being used loosely three times in other places in Matthew ( Matthew 13:14; Matthew 26:56; Matthew 27:9). 518] The reason this phrase is unique to the Gospel of Matthew is because the primary theme of this Gospel is the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, which states that Jesus Christ is the coming Messiah, who will reign as King of the Jews. Thus, the Gospel of Matthew continually declares that Jesus Christ fulfills Old Testament Messianic passages.

518] A tenth Matthean ἵνα πληρωθῇ formula can be found in Matthew 27:35 in the KJV. However, the rules of modern textual criticism require the omission this phrase from the UBS4 because it is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. Thus, only nine ἵνα πληρωθῇ formulae will be considered in this commentary.

Matthew 21:5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

Matthew 21:5Comments - Matthew 21:5 is a citation from Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."

The humility of Jesus in this scene can be observed from the fact that the true King of Israel arrives in Jerusalem riding unlike a military conquerer, but rather, like a simple servant of God. He speaks only of restoring Israel back unto their Lord God. He is unarmed and managed to avoid physical harm to anyone His entire earthly ministry.

Craig Blomberg notes the omission of parts of this Old Testament citation: "make a loud proclamation, daughter of Jerusalem," and "righteous and Himself having salvation." He suggests the possible reason for this partial omission being the fact that Jesus would not at this time bring salvation to Israel, but rather impeding judgment because of His rejection and crucifixion, which Jesus predicts in His upcoming Eschatological Discourse. 519]

519] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew , in The New American Commentary, vol 22 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 312.

Matthew 21:6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,

Matthew 21:6Comments - The immediate response of the disciples testifies to the fact that they no longer doubt His words. They have seen everything He ever spoke come to pass. He has demonstrated His authority over every aspect of human life. The disciples now went forth convinced that that donkey and her colt would be found where Jesus indicated to them.

Matthew 21:7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.

Matthew 21:7Comments- There are other Old Testament kings and leaders that sat upon a donkey.

1. Jair, a judge in Israel, had thirty sons that rode on donkeys:

Judges 10:4, "And he had thirty sons that rode on thirty ass colts, and they had thirty cities, which are called Havothjair unto this day, which are in the land of Gilead."

2. Adbon, a judge in Israel, had forty sons and thirty nephews that rode on donkeys:

Judges 12:14, "And he had forty sons and thirty nephews, that rode on threescore and ten ass colts: and he judged Israel eight years."

3. King Solomon rode on David"s mule for his inauguration as King. This story is similar to how Jesus rode into Jerusalem:

1 Kings 1:33, "The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon:"

1 Kings 1:38, "So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David"s mule, and brought him to Gihon."

A domesticated donkey will easily follow his master; but he will often refuse to follow a stranger. The fact that this donkey, which had never been ridden ( Mark 11:2), was led away by strangers, and allowed a stranger to ride him, is a miracle.

Mark 10:2, "And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him."

Matthew 21:8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.

Matthew 21:8Comments - The use of palm branches during Jewish festive occasions is documented in 2 Maccabees 10:7, "Therefore they bare branches, and fair boughs, and palms also, and sang psalms unto him that had given them good success in cleansing his place." At this time, Simon Maccabee and the Jews took back the city of Jerusalem with celebrations and prayers unto the Lord.

Matthew 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Matthew 21:9Comments- The words that the children of Israel are singing in Matthew 21:9 come from Psalm 118:25-26. The English words "save now" (KJV) in Psalm 118:25 are translated from two Hebrew words ( יָשַׁע) (H 3467) and ( נָא) (H 4994), which used together are pronounced "Hosanna." Craig Blomberg suggests that during the time of Christ the word "Hosanna" had evolved from its literal meaning into a simply expression of praise unto the Lord. 520]

520] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew , in The New American Commentary, vol 22 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 313.

Psalm 118:25-26, "Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD."

They are rejoicing with this messianic Psalm because the king is about to enter the gates of righteousness in the city of Zion ( Psalm 118:19-20).

Psalm 118:19-20, "Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter."

Scholars believe based upon ancient Jewish traditions reflected in their literature that Jewish pilgrims sang from the fifteen Songs of Ascent ( Psalm 120-134) during their pilgrimage and ascent to Jerusalem during the three major festivals that the Law required all Jews to attend.

Matthew 21:10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

Matthew 21:10Comments - The Greek word σείω is used in its literal sense to describe the shaking of an earthquake. In Matthew 21:10, this word is used figuratively to describe a great frenzy of excitement and emotion among the multitudes. Thus, some modern translations attempt to capture the strength of this word: "was thrown into commotion" (Weymouth), "was in turmoil" (NRSV), "wild with excitement" (NEB), and "was in an uproar" (NLT).

Matthew 21:11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.


Verses 1-17

The Revelation of Jesus as King - Matthew 21:1-17 records the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, being honored by the multitudes, and His subsequent entrance into the Temple, where He was rejected by the Pharisees. In this passage of Scripture, Jesus teaches His disciples the divine provision for those disciples who have offered themselves sacrificially to serve Him, who understand that prayer and faith are the keys to this type of unending and unlimited provision.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Multitudes Honor the King — Matthew 21:1-11

2. The Pharisees Reject their King — Matthew 21:12-17


Verses 12-17

The Pharisees Reject their King ( Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:13-22) - In Matthew 21:12-17 Jesus cleanses the Temple immediately upon entering the city. Jesus did not come to take over the government imposed upon Israel by the Roman Empire. Instead, He came to take over the Temple service so that God the Father could be exalted and Israel would in turn be lifted out of the dust of oppression. The Temple must serve as a house of prayer if Israel is to be exalted by God, as in the days of David and Solomon. Unfortunately, the Jewis leaders were offended at Jesus and demanded to know why He felt He had the authority to change the secular customs of the Temple. Jesus then heals the sick, only to be rejected by the Pharisees. Note that Jesus cleansed the Temple before He began to minister healing to the sick.

The Chronological Placement of Jesus Cleansing the Temple - Scholars have noted for centuries that the four Evangelists did not record all of the events of Jesus' public ministry in the same order. While the Synoptic Gospels place the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus at the end of His ministry, John puts this event at the beginning of his Gospel. Although scholars today debate as to the original order of this event, it is not a new concern. For example, Isho'dad of Merv (c. A.D 850), the Syriac bishop of Hadatha, comments on the efforts of the apostle John to set in order the events of Jesus' public ministry because the Synoptic Gospels had recorded some events out of chronological order.

"On account of this reason therefore, he [John the apostle] took special care also about the orders and sequences of the things that were done. This none of these Evangelists took care to do; but they wrote many things that were done first after those that were done last; and many things last, that were spoken and done before the former things; so therefore John did not [do this], but took care to put first the things that were at the first, and after them those that were afterwards; and yet in the middle he left many things out, those that had been related by those others." 521]

521] Margaret Dunlop Gibson, ed. and trans, The Commentaries of Isho'dad of Merv Bishop of Hadatha (c 850 A.D.) in Syriac and English, vol 1, in Horae Semiticae, no 5 (Cambridge: The University Press, 1911), 211-212.

In support of this testimony, Eusebius cites Papias (A.D 60-130), bishop of Hierapolis, who stated that Mark did not always put the events of his Gospel in chronological order.

"It is in the following words: ‘This also the presbyter said: Mark , having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord's discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.' These things are related by Papias concerning Mark." (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 33915)

The Examples of Josiah and Nehemiah - Josiah cleansed the temple during his reign as king of Judah ( 2 Kings 22:1-20). Nehemiah also cleansed the Temple in his time:

Nehemiah 13:7-9, "And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense."

Matthew 21:12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

Matthew 21:12 — "And Jesus went into the temple of God" - Comments - Craig Blomberg makes the interesting proposition that Matthew 21:12 fulfills Malachi 3:1 b, "…and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in…" 522] The verses that follow Malachi 3:1 describe a purifying of Temple offerings, so it certainly fits within the chronological timeline and theme. However, other verses in this passage of Scripture in Malachi will be fulfilled at the Second Coming.

522] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew , in The New American Commentary, vol 22 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 314.

Matthew 21:12"all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves" - Comments - Many of the Jewish pilgrims needed to change coins because they brought foreign curreny. They also needed to purchase animals for temple worship (see Deuteronomy 14:24-29). While those with adequate funds purchased sheep for ritual sacrifice, the poor would substitute doves in the place of sheep.

Deuteronomy 14:24-29, "And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest."

Matthew 21:13Comments - The restoration of Temple worship was the priority of Jesus' visit to Jerusalem immediately before His passion. Before a nation can be blessed by God and restored, the people's heart must be made right before God. The outward condition of the Temple always represents the inward condition of the heart. Thus, the Temple must be set in order before the people were able to follow God and receive His blessings. In a similar manner, Ezekiel prophecies of the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 40:1 to Ezekiel 46:24) prior to the restoration of the land of Israel ( Ezekiel 47:1 to Ezekiel 48:35).

Matthew 21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Matthew 21:13 — "And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer" - Comments - In Matthew 21:13 Jesus quotes a portion of Isaiah 56:7, "Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."

"but ye have made it a den of thieves" - Comments - Jesus then uses the phrase "den of thieves,' which clearly echos to Jeremiah 7:11, "Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD." The phrase "den of thieves" means that these money changers were overcharging the people, who were required by the Law to purchase their Temple sacrifices. It was very likely that the chief priests received kickbacks for allowing these merchants into the Temple.

Matthew 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Matthew 21:14Comments - The Temple is foremost a house of prayer where people come for redemption and restoration, for praise and worship. Therefore, physical healing is a legitimate part of Temple prayer. In the midst of the praise and worship of the people, Jesus was able to perform healings. Thus, worship positions us to become recipients of God's grace.

Matthew 21:15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

Matthew 21:15Comments - The multitudes began praising the Lord as they followed Jesus along the highway into the city. They followed Him into the Temple and continued worshipping the Lord. However, the Jewish leaders held their own views of what should take place in the Temple of God, and such pure worship by the common people was not on their list. Corruption had blinded them to the original purpose and intent of the Temple.

Just as James and John faced the opposition of the other ten disciples when they petitioned Jesus for exaltation in the Kingdom of Heaven ( Matthew 20:24), and just as the twl blind men faced the opposition of the crowds ( Matthew 20:31), so do the people face the opposition of the Jewish leaders then they truly worship the Lord. The Jewish leaders did not believe the multitudes had the knowledge and understanding to worship the Lord without their role as intercessory priests. How could these multitudes have direct access to God? We must understand that prayers can be hindered by opposition, but we must press in and be determined to receive from God. Such determination is an indication of our faith in Him.

Matthew 21:16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

Matthew 21:16Comments - In Matthew 21:16 Jesus quotes from Psalm 8:2, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger." His quote uses the word "praise" in the place of "strength" because He was quoting from the LXX, which reads:

" ἐκ στόματος νηπίων καὶ θηλαζόντων κατηρτίσω αἶνον ἕνεκα τῶν ἐχθρῶν σου τοῦ καταλῦσαι ἐχθρὸν καὶ ἐκδικητήν." 523]

523] Septuaginta: With morphology, ed. Alfred Rahlfs (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, c 1979, 1996), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), Psalm 8:3.

Brenton reads, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise, because of thine enemies; that thou mightest put down the enemy and avenger."

Matthew 21:17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

Matthew 21:17Comments - The parallel account in the Gospel of Mark differs from Matthew by saying Jesus lodged in Bethany before returning to the Temple and performing the cleanings the day after His triumphant entry.

Scholars popularly assume Jesus lodged with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, according to John 12:1-2, "Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him."


Verses 18-22

The Servant's Work in the Kingdom: Prayer and Faith ( Mark 11:12-14; Mark 11:20-24) - In Matthew 21:18-22 Jesus curses the fig tree so that it withers and dies. From this event Jesus teaches His disciples about the Kingdom principle of prayer mixed with faith in God. This passage of Scripture serves as a summary of the lessons taught in the preceding section ( Matthew 20:17 to Matthew 21:17). The previous day Jesus drove the merchants out of the Temple, which He described as the "House of Prayer" ( Matthew 21:12-17). In the earlier passages, the mother of James and John made a request that Jesus denied ( Matthew 20:20-28), while the two blind men received an answer to their prayer for healing ( Matthew 20:29-34). In the midst of these three references to prayer, Jesus has revealed His Passion ( Matthew 20:17-19) and teaches His disciples to also lay down their lives as servants in the Kingdom ( Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus then demonstrates the authority that a true servant of God has in the Kingdom by cursing the fig tree. While the mother of James and John wanted her sons to walk in the highest authority in the Kingdom by sitting at the right and left hand of the Lord, Jesus demonstrates that true authority comes to those who lay down their lives to serve God. Such servants walk in obedience to God's Word so that their faith in God rises to a level that their words have creative power as well. Elijah serves as an example of a man who prayed at this level of faith ( James 5:17-18).

When we learn to maintain this lifestyle of devotion to our Heavenly Father, we will then be able to walk in all of the divine authority that God intended us to walk.

The Confession of Our Faith- The Lord taught Kenneth Hagin a tremendous lesson from this passage of Scripture in Mark's Gospel. The Lord showed him that Jesus mentioned the words "saying" three times, while mentioning the word "faith" only once. He then told Hagin that God's people were not missing it in having faith, but rather, in their confession. He then asked Kenneth Hagin to teach three times as much on a believer's confession as on them having faith. 524]

524] Kenneth Hagin, Bible Faith Study Course (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1991, 1999), 71.

Andrew Wommack used this story of Jesus teaching His disciples to speak to the mountain in Mark 11:20-26 to teach believers that God has already healed their bodies according to 1 Peter 2:24, "and by his stripes ye were healed." They just needed to speak this divine Word of God over their bodies and command sickness and disease to leave in Jesus' name. He then gave the illustration of a television signal. This broadcast signal was in the room, but it could not be seen. An unbeliever would say that it was not there because they could not see it; but, if a person turns on their television set, the signal is manifested in the natural. In the same way, we turn healing on in our bodies when we confess what God's Word has already been declared about it. We must simply come in agreement with it. 525]

525] Andrew Wommack, "Sermon" (Kampala, Uganda: Glory of Christ Church), 18 February 2007.

Faith and Patience- In his book I Saw Heaven, Roberts Lairdon quotes a statement that Jesus make to him during his heavenly visitation regarding our faith and confession, "Then He (Jesus) cried harder and said, ‘I do not understand why people say they believe I will do something, but when it does not happen in their time, they begin to doubt my Word. If they will just believe and say with confidence that I will do it, I will do it at the correct time.'" 526]

526] Roberts Lairdon, I Saw Heaven (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing, 1991), 38.

Illustration - Perhaps the greatest examples of this type of pray and confession is seen in the lives of Joshua and Jeremiah. During the conquest of Canaan, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and it obeyed him ( Joshua 10:12-13). When the Lord called Jeremiah into the office of a prophet, He told him to speak to the nations, and declare their rise and fall ( Jeremiah 1:9-10).

Joshua 10:12-13, "Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."

Jeremiah 1:9-10, "Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant."

Matthew 21:18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

Matthew 21:18Comments - The Gospels contain many passages that reveal Jesus was fully man as well as fully God. For example, Matthew 21:18 reveals that He experienced hunger as did any human.

Matthew 21:19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

Matthew 21:19Comments- E. W. G. Masterman says, "When the young leaves are newly appearing, in April, every fig-tree which is going to bear fruit at all will have some taksh (‘immature figs') upon it, even though ‘the time of figs' ( Mark 11:13 the KJV), i.e. of ordinary edible figs--either early or late crop - ‘was not yet.'" 527]

527] E. W. G. Masterman, "Fig, Fig-tree," in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, c 1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v 1511 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

Smith says, "The usual summer crop of fruits is not gathered till May or June; but in the sunny ravines of Olivet fig trees could have ripe fruit some weeks earlier (Thomson), and it was not strange so early as Easter Christ might find the young eatable figs, although it was not the usual season for gathering the fruit." (See "Fig, Fig tree")

We know that Jesus died on the day of the Passover, which was April seventh. Therefore, the leaves of the fig tree were green, but the early fruit was not ripe until June. The second harvest of figs ripens in August. Craig Keener notes that such figs trees that do not have the early, immature figs in April were not going to bear the ordinary fruit that later ripens in a few months either. 528] Thus, Jesus and the disciples would have been aware of the unfruitful nature of this particular tree.

528] Craig S. Keener, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Company, 2009), 504.

Matthew 21:20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

Matthew 21:21Comments - Matthew 21:18 and Mark 11:20 confirm that Jesus and the disciples were descending the Mount of Olives from Bethany as they saw the withered fig tree in order to pass across the valley of Kidron, and up Mount Zion to enter Jerusalem. When Jesus tells them that this mountain can be removed by faith, they were standing upon Mount Olivet facing Mount Zion with the Dead Sea within their vision. Jesus was using these geographical features to help the disciples understand the unmeasurable bounds of their faith in God and the power of prayer and confession. Jesus knew Zechariah's prophecy that at His Second Coming He would descend upon the Mount of Olivet and this mountain would split in the midst, with half moving north and the other half moving south towards the Dead Sea ( Zechariah 14:4). God would not have told His children to something that He Himself would not also do. In fact, the prophet Zechariah's prophetic words will in fact cast a mountain into the sea although it will take centuries to come to pass.

Zechariah 14:4, "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."

One obvious example of a man of God speaking in faith was when Joshua spoke to the sun and commanded it to stand still for a day ( Joshua 10:12-14).

Matthew 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Matthew 21:22Comments - Matthew 21:22 serves as a summary statement of the lesson taught in this immediate passage ( Matthew 21:18-22). However, the motif of offering one's petition unto God is woven throughout the section of Matthew 20:20 to Matthew 21:22. For example, the mother of James and John requested Jesus to exalt her sons at His side in the Kingdom. He responded by saying they did not know what they were requesting. In other words, their requests were not faith-based; they were not founded upon God's Word. Therefore, they had no basis upon which to build their faith. Their request was empty and left unanswered without knowing God's will, which is His Word, the Scriptures. In contrast, the two blind men based their request upon God's mercy and the healing that was now available in the atonement of Christ; thus, their prayers were heard and answered. While the Pharisees rejected the authority of Jesus' words in the Temple, the people who were worshiping and crying Hosanna had perfected their prayers in the form of praise unto the Lord; thus, they became beneficiaries of the atonement as Jesus healed them in the Temple because of their prayers.

Matthew 21:22 serves a summary statement of Matthew 20:17 to Matthew 21:22 in the same way Matthew 20:16 summarizes the truth taught in Matthew 19:1 to Matthew 20:16.

Illustration- It was not until I was in Seminary that I learned that we must verbally speak our prayers. It is not enough just to think our prayers. Yes, God knows our thoughts, but thoughts are not prayers until they are spoken.

Illustration - The prayer of faith is not limited by time. For example, I watched my mother pray for twenty-fives years for my brother's salvation, and she prayed for forty years for my uncle's salvation. My grandfather desired to go into the ministry, but was denied this request by a Southern Baptist Church because he was in his second marriage. He then prayed for his son to go into the ministry, which never happened. He died without seeing three of his grandsons being called into the full-time ministry.


Verses 23-27

The Authority of Jesus' Testimony Challenged ( Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8) - In Matthew 21:23 Jesus' authority is questioned and challenged by the Jewish leaders. He has healed a blind man on His way to Jerusalem demonstrating His authority over sickness and sin ( Matthew 20:29-34). He has entered Jerusalem with the authority of a king ( Matthew 21:1-11). He then cleanses the Temple with the authority of a high priest ( Matthew 21:12-17). He curses a fig tree with the authority over creation ( Matthew 20:18-22). When confronted by the Jewish leaders, Jesus refers to the authority of John the Baptist and that of God the Father as the reason He had the right to teach in the Temple.

Jesus' Authority is Questioned by the Jews - When we walk in the fullness of our authority as children of the Kingdom of Heaven, the world will challenge our authority. Thus, Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 23:39 records some of Jesus' most challenging times when the Jews begin to question His authority as the Son of God. The Jews first questioned His authority to cleanse the Temple. Then they attempted to find fault by asking him a number of clever questions.

Matthew 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

Matthew 21:23Comments - In Matthew 21:23 is not confronted by the scribes and Pharisees, but by the leaders of the Temple, those who exercised daily care over the Temple. These were the leaders that held the highest authority among the Jewish population after the Roman governor. Thus, they felt that they had authority to allow or remove over those who taught within the Temple compound.

Matthew 21:24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

Matthew 21:24Comments - Jesus understood the authority these chief priests and elders had over the Temple compound. He did not reply that His authority exceeded their authority; instead, He honored it. However, Jesus brings in the authority of John the Baptist's testimony of Jesus as the Messiah as a way of confounding these leaders.

Matthew 21:27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

Matthew 21:27Comments - Because the Jewish leaders could not challenge Jesus' authority, they had to relinquish His right to teach in the Temple, a compound which they managed and controlled.

Matthew 21:28 to Matthew 22:14 — Three Testimonies on the Authority of John the Baptist - In Matthew 21:28 to Matthew 22:14 Jesus gives the Jewish leaders two testimonies as to how John the Baptist's testimony held divine authority. The first testimony is the evidence of the repentance of sinners ( Matthew 21:31-32), and the second is the testimony of the fulfillment of Scripture ( Matthew 21:42-44). The third parable testifies to the fact that many refuse to heed the message of those whom God has sent ( Matthew 22:1-14). Jesus uses three parables to give clarity and understanding to these testimonies.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Parable of the Two Sons — Matthew 21:28-32

2. The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers — Matthew 21:33-46

3. The Parable of the Wedding Feast — Matthew 22:1-14


Verses 23-40

The Testimony of John the Baptist and God the Father Regarding Man's Inheritance of Eternal Life - Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 22:40 emphasizes the testimonies of John the Baptist ( Matthew 21:28 to Matthew 22:14) and God the Father ( Matthew 22:15-40) regarding man's inheritance of eternal life. Their testimonies call the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus will support the authority of John the Baptist's testimony with three parables, and He will support the authority of God the Father by responding to three questions from the Jews. The intensity of confrontation by Jewish leaders has progressively increased throughout the Gospel of Matthew , reaching its peak in this passage of Scripture prior to Jesus' arrest and passion.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Authority of Jesus' Testimony Challenged — Matthew 21:23-27

2. Three Testimonies on the Authority of John the Baptist — Matthew 21:28 to Matthew 22:14

33Testimonies on the Authority of God the Father — Matthew 22:15-40

4. Jesus Testifies of His Own Deity — Matthew 21:41-46


Verses 28-32

The Parable of the Two Sons - In Matthew 21:28-32 we find the Parable of the Two Sons. The first son who repented is like a sinner who changes and does God's will. The second son is like the Pharisee who talks about God's Word but will not lift a finger to help someone. Jesus applies this parable to the evidence of repentance of sinners during John the Baptist's public ministry ( Matthew 21:31-32).

Illustrations- As a supervisor, it is more difficult to implement new company policies to long-time employees and have them change and begin to do things the new way than to new employees. However, new employees quickly show respect and obedience to your request. They are easier to train and become more productive. They are instantly willing to do things your way.

I have worked with non-Christians who have a technique of getting someone off of their back. When asked to do something, they never say not in order to avoid confrontation. Instead, they say yes, but quietly avoid subject again and hope that this issue is never brought up again. If it is discussed, they make excuses for their behavior. This appears to be the attitude of one son.

Scripture Reference from the Old Testament- Note an Old Testament verse that summarizes the Parable of the Two Sons:

Isaiah 1:19, "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:"

Why is it that new believers seem to be used mightily by God when older Christians are so unresponsive? It is because new believers are so thankful and willing to serve God.

Matthew 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

Matthew 21:31 — "That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you" - Comments- I once knew a man who had been prayed for by his sister for around forty years before rededicating his life back to the Lord. In 1998, this retired, moved back to our hometown and began to serve the Lord. He had been an alcoholic and a womanizer for those years. He had flirted with several of his sister"s daughters and caused much hurt feelings in the family. But now that he was saved and serving the Lord, I was given a dream of the situation from God"s perspective. In this dream, I saw this uncle inviting many people to go to church with him. I saw one of these nieces, whom he has flirted with, out committing fornication with men. Song of Solomon , from God"s perspective, He looks on the heart, but man looks on the outward appearances.

Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

Matthew 21:32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

Matthew 21:32"John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Matthew 11:17-18, "And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil."

Matthew 21:32 — "ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him" - Scripture Reference- Note:

Matthew 11:21, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."


Verses 33-46

The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers ( Mark 12:1-12, Luke 20:9-19) - Matthew 21:33-46 records the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Within the context of this parable, John the Baptist and his predecessors represent the servants whom the vine-dressers slew. The son of the landowner represents Jesus, whom the Jews will also kill. Jesus applies this parable to the fulfillment of Scripture ( Matthew 21:42-44). Despite these testimonies, the Jewish leaders reject message of John the Baptist ( Matthew 21:45-46)

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Matthew 21:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/matthew-21.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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