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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Matthew 21

 

 

Verses 1-9

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

For the exposition of this majestic scene-recorded, as will be seen, by all the Evangelists-see the notes at Luke 19:29-40.


Verses 10-22

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

For the exposition, see Luke 19:1-48 after 5:44; and the notes at Mark 11:12-26.

Now commences, as Alford remarks, that series of parables and discourses of our Lord with His enemies, in which He develops, more completely than ever before, His hostility to their hypocrisy end iniquity: and so they are stirred up to compass His death.


Verse 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?

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? - referring particularly to the expulsion of the buyers and sellers from the temple.

And who gave thee this authority?


Verse 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. 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.


Verse 25

The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

The baptism of John (meaning, his whole mission and ministry, of which baptism was the proper character), whence was it? from heaven, or of men? What wisdom there was in this way of meeting their question, will best appear by their reply.

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? - `Why did ye not believe the testimony which he bore to Me, as the promised and expected Messiah?' for that was the burden of his whole testimony.


Verse 26

But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people , [ ton (Greek #3588) ochlon (Greek #3793)] - rather the multitude. In Luke (Luke 20:6) it is, "all the people will stone us" [ katalithasei (Greek #2642)] - 'stone us to death.'

For all hold John as a prophet. Crooked, cringing hypocroties! No wonder Jesus gave you no answer.


Verse 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.

And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. Evidently their difficulty was, how to answer, so as neither to shake their determination to reject the claims of Christ nor damage their reputation with the people. For the truth itself they cared nothing whatever.

And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. What composure and And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. What composure and dignity of wisdom does our Lord here display, as He turns their question upon themselves, and, while revealing His knowledge of their hypocrisy, closes their mouths! Taking advantage of the surprise, silence, and awe, produced by this reply, our Lord followed it immediately up by the two following payables.


Verse 28

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard}-for true religion is a practical thing, a "bringing forth fruit unto God."


Verse 29

He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

He answered and said, I will not. Trench notices the rudeness of this answer, and the total absence of any attempt to excuse such disobedience, both characteristic; representing careless, reckless sinners, resisting God to His face.

But afterward he repented, and went.


Verse 30

And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I [go] sir , [ Egoo (Greek #1473) kurie (Greek #2962)] - 'I, sir.' The emphatic "I," here, denotes the self-righteous complacency which says, "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men" (Luke 18:11).

And went not. He did not "afterward repent" and refuse to go; because there was here no intention to go. It is the class that "say and do not" (Matthew 23:3) - a falseness more abominable to God, says Stier, than any "I will not."


Verse 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.

Whether of them twain did the will of his Father? They say unto him, The first. [Instead of ho (Greek #3588) prootos (Greek #4413), "the first," Tregelles reads ho (Greek #3588) husteros (Greek #5306), 'the latter,' contrary not only to the manifest sense of the parable, but to the decided preponderance, as we think, of manuscript authority. Tischendorf adheres to the Received Text.] Now comes the application.

Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go - or 'are going;' even now entering, while ye hold back.

Into the kingdom of God before you. The publicans and the harlots were the first son, who, when told to work in the Lord's vineyard, said, I will not; but afterward repented and went. Their early life was a flat and flagrant refusal to do what they were commanded; it was one continued rebellion against the authority of God. "The chief priests and the elders of the people," with whom our Lord was now speaking, were the second son, who said, I go, Sir, but went not. They were early called, and all their life long professed obedience to God, but never rendered it; their life was one of continued disobedience.


Verse 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.

For John came unto you in the way of righteousness - that is, 'calling you to repentance;' as Noah is called "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5), when like the Baptist he warned the old world to "flee from the wrath to come."

And ye believed him not. "They did not reject him;" nay, they "were willing for a season to rejoice in his light" (John 5:35): but they would not receive his testimony to Jesus.

But the publicans and the harlots believed him. Of the publicans this is twice expressly recorded, Luke 3:12; Luke 7:29. Of the harlots, then, the same may be taken for granted, though the fact is not expressly recorded. These outcasts gladly believed the testimony of John to the coming Saviour, and so hastened to Jesus when He came. See Luke 7:37; Luke 15:1, etc.

And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. Instead of being "provoked to jealousy" by their example, ye have seen them flocking to the Saviour and getting to heaven, unmoved.


Verse 33

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard. See the note at Luke 13:6.

And hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower. These details are taken, as is the basis of the parable itself, from that beautiful parable of Isaiah 5:1-7, in order to fix down the application and sustain it by Old Testament authority.

And let it out to farmers. These are just the ordinary spiritual guides of the people, under whose care and culture the fruits of righteousness are expected to spring up.

And went into a far country - "for a long time" (Luke 20:9), leaving the vineyard to the laws of the spiritual husbandry during the whole time of the Jewish economy. On this phraseology, see the note at Mark 4:26.


Verse 34

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers, By these "servants" are meant the prophets and other extraordinary messengers, raised up from time to time. See the note at Matthew 23:37,

That they might receive the fruits of it. See again the note at Luke 13:6.


Verse 35

And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

And the farmers took his servants, and beat one - see Jeremiah 37:15; Jeremiah 38:6. And killed another - see Jeremiah 26:20-23.

And stoned another - see 2 Chronicles 24:21. Compare with this whole verse Matthew 23:37, where our Lord reiterates these charges in the most melting strain.


Verse 36

Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

Again, he sent other servants more than the first; and they did unto them likewise - see 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Nehemiah 9:26.


Verse 37

But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. In Mark (Mark 12:6) this is most touchingly expressed: "Having yet therefore one son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son." Luke's version of it too (Luke 20:13) is striking: "Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence Him when they see Him." Who does not see that our Lord here severs Himself, by the sharpest line of demarcation, from all merely human messengers, and claims for Himself Sonship in its loftiest sense? (Compare Hebrews 3:3-6.) The expression, "It may be they will reverence my son," is designed to teach the almost unimaginable guilt of not reverentially welcoming God's Son.


Verse 38

But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

But when the farmers saw the son, they said among themselves - compare Genesis 37:18-20; John 11:47-53,

This is the heir. Sublime expression this of the great truth, that God's inheritance was destined for, and in due time is to come into the possession of, His own Son in our nature (Hebrews 1:2). Come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance - that so, from mere servants, we may become lords. This is the deep aim of the depraved heart; this is emphatically "the root of all evil."


Verse 39

And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard - compare Hebrews 13:11-13 ("without the gate-without the camp"); 1 Kings 21:13; John 19:17, "and slew him."


Verse 40

When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh. This represents 'the settling time,' which, in the case of the Jewish ecclesiastics, was that judicial trial of the nation and its leaders which issued in the destruction of their whole state.

What will he do unto those farmers?


Verse 41

They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men , [ kakous (Greek #2556) kakoos (Greek #2560)] - an emphatic alliteration not easily conveyed in English: 'He will badly destroy those bad men.' or 'miserably destroy those miserable men,' is something like it.

And will let out his vineyard unto other farmers, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. If this answer was given by the Pharisees, to whom our Lord addressed the parable, they thus unwittingly pronounced their own condemnation; as did David to Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12:5-7), and Simon the Pharisee to our Lord, (Luke 7:43, etc.) But if it was given, as the two other Evangelists agree in representing it, by our Lord Himself, and the explicitness of the answer would seem to favour that supposition, then we can better explain the exclamation of the Pharisees which followed it, in Luke's report - "And when they heard it, they said, God forbid" - His whole meaning now bursting upon them.


Verse 42

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures (Psalms 118:22-23), The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? A bright Messianic prophecy, which reappears in various forms (Isaiah 28:16, etc.), and was made glorious use of by Peter before the Sanhedrim (Acts 4:11). He recurs to it in his first Epistle (1 Peter 2:4-6).


Verse 43

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God - God's visible Kingdom, or Church, upon earth, which up to this time stood in the seed of Abraham,

Shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof - that is, the great Evangelical community of the faithful, which, after the extrusion of the Jewish nation, would consist chiefly of Gentiles, until "all Israel should be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). This vastly important statement is given by Matthew only.


Verse 44

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. The Kingdom of God is here a Temple, in the erection of which a certain stone, rejected as unsuitable by the spiritual builders, is, by the great Lord of the House, made the key-stone of the whole. On that Stone the builders were now "falling" and being "broken" (Isaiah 8:15). They were sustaining great spiritual hurt; but soon that Stone should "fall upon them" and "grind them to powder" (Daniel 2:34-35; Zechariah 12:3) - in their corporate capacity, in the tremendous destruction of Jerusalem, but personally, as unbelievers, in a more their corporate capacity, in the tremendous destruction of Jerusalem, but personally, as unbelievers, in a more awful sense still.


Verse 45

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables - referring to that of the Two Sons and this one of the Wicked Husbandmen, they perceived that he spake of them.


Verse 46

But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

But when they sought to lay hands on him - which Luke (Luke 20:19) says they did "the same hour," hardly able to restrain their rage.

They feared the multitude (rather 'the multitudes' [ tous (G3588) ochlous (G3793)]), because they took him for a prophet - just as they feared to say John's baptism was of men, because the masses took him for a prophet (Matthew 21:26.) Miserable creatures! So, for this time, "they left Him and went their way" (Mark 12:12).

Remarks:

(1) Though argument be thrown away upon those who are resolved not to believe, the wisdom that can silence them and thus obtain a hearing for weighty truths and solemn warnings, is truly enviable. In this our Lord was incomparable, and He hath herein, as in all else, left us an example that we should follow His steps.

(2) The self-righteousness of the Pharisees, which scornfully rejected the salvation of the Gospel, and the conscious unworthiness of the publicans and sinners, which thankfully embraced it, reappear from age to age as types of character. Wherever the Gospel is faithfully preached and earnestly pressed, the self-satisfied religious professors show the old reluctance to receive it on the same footing with the profligate; while there great sinners, conscious that they deeply need it, and cannot dare to hope for it on the footing of merit, gladly hail it as a message of free grace.

(3) A purely democratic form of the Church seems inconsistent with the representations of our Lord in this section-in which official men are supposed, to whom the Great Proprietor of the vineyard "lets it out," and to whom He will naturally look that they should render Him of its fruits. And though the language of parables is not to be stretched beyond the lessons which they may naturally be supposed intended to teach, it is difficult to make anything out of the parable of the wicked husbandmen-at least as regards the Christian Church-on to make anything out of the parable of the wicked husbandmen-at least as regards the Christian Church-on anything short of the above view.

(4) Though our Lord-to meet the charge of setting Himself up against God, by the loftiness of His claims-represents Himself invariably as the Father's commissioned Servant in every step of His work; yet, in relation to other servants and messengers of God, He is careful so to sever Himself from them all, that there may be no danger of His being confounded with them-holding Himself forth as the Son, Only and Well-beloved (Mark 12:6), in the sense of a relationship of nature not to be mistaken, a relationship manifestly implying proper Personal Divinity.

(5) The inheriting of Israel after the flesh, and the substitution or surrogation of the Gentiles in their place, must not be misunderstood. As Gentiles were not absolutely excluded from the Church of God under the Jewish economy, so neither are Jews now shut out from the Church of Christ. All that we are taught is, that as it was the purpose of God to constitute the seed of Abraham of old to be His visible people, so now, for their unfaithfulness to the great trust committed to them, it has been transferred to the Gentiles, from among whom, accordingly, God is now taking out a people for His name. When, therefore, we are assured that the time is coming when "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26), that cannot mean merely that they will drop into the Christian Church individually from time to time-for that they have been doing all along, and have never ceased to do-but that they shall be nationally re-engrafted into their own olive tree, not now to the exclusion of the Gentiles, but to constitute along with them one universal Church of God upon earth. (See the notes at Romans 11:22-24; Romans 11:26; Romans 11:28.)

(6) "If some of the branches be broken off, and thou," O Gentile, "being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. Thou wilt say, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off" (Romans 11:17; Romans 11:19-22). Nor is this a mere threatening in case of Gentile unbelief; because Scripture prophecy too clearly intimates, that at that great crisis in the history of Christendom when "all Israel shall be saved," a vast portion of the Gentile Church shall be found equally unfaithful to the trust committed to them with Israel of old, and will be judged accordingly. "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 21:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-21.html. 1871-8.

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