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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Matthew 21

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

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

Ver. 1. And when they drew nigh to Jerusalem] In this one verse our Evangelist closely compriseth all that St John sets down of our Saviour’s oracles and miracles from his Matthew 7:1-29; Matthew 8:1-34; Matthew 9:1-38; Matthew 10:1-42; Matthew 11:1-30; Matthew 12:1-12, viz. the history of five months and ten days; for Christ rode not into the city till the fifth day before his last passover, John 12:1; John 12:12, having the day before been anointed by Mary at Bethany, John 12:1, called here Bethphage, or the Conduit House ( Bethphage a בת et πηγη).


Verse 2

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.

Ver. 2. An ass tied, and a colt with her] There are those who by the ass understand the Jews laden with the law, {a} and by her foal, the Gentiles that wandered whither they would. That canonist made the most of it, that said that children are therefore to be baptized, because the apostles brought to Christ not only the ass, but the colt too.

{a} Oneramus asinum et non curat quia asinus est. Bern.


Verse 3

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

Ver. 3. The Lord hath need of them] The Lord of all, both beasts and hearts; for else how could he so soon have obtained the ass of her master? Some read the text thus: "The Lord hath need of them, and will presently send them back again;" to teach us to be no further burdensome or beholden to others than needs must.


Verse 4

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

Ver. 4. All this was done that, &c.] Here is the mystery of the history; which would otherwise seem to some ridiculous and to little purpose. He hereby declared himself that King of his Church before promised by the prophets, however poor and despicable, as the world accounts it.


Verse 5

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.

Ver. 5. Tell ye the daughter of Sion] Here was that also of the Psalmist fulfilled, "God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth," Psalms 74:12. For Jerusalem is by the Fathers observed to stand in the very centre and navel of the habitable earth, as if it were fatally founded to be the city of the great King.

Thy King cometh unto thee] All in Christ is for our behoof and benefit, 1 Corinthians 1:30, and Micah 4:8-9 "Unto thee shall it come, O daughter of Zion, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem. Why then dost thou cry out aloud? Is there no King in thee? Is thy counsellor perished?" A mandamus {a} from this King will do it at any time, Psalms 40:4.

Meek, and sitting upon an ass] Not upon a stately saddle horse, as Alexander, Julius Caesar, &c.; no such state here. Christ’s kingdom was of another world; "He came riding meekly;" and his word (the law of his kingdom) is both to be taught and received with meekness, 2 Timothy 2:25; James 1:21. At Genoa in Italy they show the tail of the ass our Saviour rode on for a holy relic; and bow before it with great devotion. On Palm Sunday, their priests bring forth an ass in state, and bow before him and worship him, as if Christ himself were there present; which when the Turkish ambassadors once beheld at Craeonia in Poland, they blessed themselves, and cried out, O terram impietatem! Siccine asinum brutam bestiam adorari? Oh detestable impiety! should an ass be so adored? Neither will these dull dizards be reclaimed from such fond fopperies; being herein like those Italian asses, which feeding upon the weed henbane, {a} are so stupefied, that they lie for dead, neither can they be awakened till half-skinned.

{a} A term ‘originally applied generically to a number of ancient writs, letters missive, or mandates, issued by the sovereign, directing the performance of certain acts’, but afterwards restricted to the judicial writ (called ‘the high prerogative writ of mandamus’) issued in the King’s name from the Court of King’s Bench (now, from the Crown side of the King’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice) and directed to an inferior court, a corporation, an officer, etc., commanding some specified thing to be done. ‘Its general object is to enforce the performance of some public duty in respect of which there is no other specific legal remedy’ (G. H. B. Kenrick in Encycl. Laws Eng. s.v.). ŒD

{b} The common name of the annual plant Hyoscyamus niger, a native of Europe and northern Asia, growing on waste ground, having dull yellow flowers streaked with purple, viscid stem and leaves, unpleasant smell, and narcotic and poisonous properties; also extended to the genus as a whole. ŒD


Verse 6

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

Ver. 6. And the disciples went] With a certain blind obedience they went on Christ’s errand, though not very likely to speed. Their Master’s sole authority carried them on against all difficulties and absurdities. When God commands us anything, we may not dispute, but dispatch; argue, but agree to it, captivate our reason, exalt our faith.


Verse 7

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

Ver. 7. And put on them their clothes] Teaching us to honour God with the best of our substance, and to dedicate ourselves wholly to the Lord our God. Jonathan stripped himself, for his friend David, of the robe that was upon him, and his garments, even to his sword and his belt, 1 Samuel 18:4. Christ suspended his glory for a season, laid aside his rich and royal robes, borrowed humanity of us, that he might clothe us with his righteousness. And shall we think much to clothe him in his naked members, to part with anything for his sake and service?

And they set him thereon] They that make religion dance attendance to policy (saith one) these set the ass upon Christ, not Christ upon the ass. Thus did Jehu, and before him Jeroboam, cui gravior iactura regionis, quam religionis. to whom it was more serious to lose the kingdom than religion. Thus do all our Machiavellians and the world’s wizards, whose rule is, Philosophandum sed paucis; Religiosum oportet esse, sed non religentem, &c. But what saith the father? Deum siquis parum metuit, valde contemnit. And one thing, said Luther, that will be the ruin of religion is worldly policy, that would have all well however, and seeks to procure the public peace, by impious and unlawful counsels and courses, Quae vult omnia redigere in ordinem, et publicae tranquillitati impiis consiliis mederi.


Verse 8

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.

Ver. 8. And a very great multitude] Bondinius saith, he was met at this time by 300,000 Jews, some whereof went before Christ, some followed after, according to the solemn rites and reverence used to be given to earthly kings in their most pompous trimuphs. This was the Lord’s own work.


Verse 9

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.

Ver. 9. Hosanna to the Son of David] So they acknowledge Christ to be the true Messiah, and congratulate him his kingdom over the Church; and yet a few days after, these same, at the instigation of the priests and Pharisees, cry, Crucify: dealing by Christ as Xerxes did by his steersman, whom he crowned in the morning, and then took off his head in the afternoon of the same day: or as the fickle Israelites dealt by David, 2 Samuel 20:1-2, where we shall find the same hands that all the while fought for David to be all theirs, do now fight against him under the son of Bichri, to be none of theirs.


Verse 10

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

Ver. 10. Who is this?] Why? could not they tell after so many miracles done among them? Were they such strangers at Jerusalem? Many live and die very sots, even in those places where they had "line upon line, precept upon precept," &c., and yet they are no wiser than the child newly weaned from the breast, Isaiah 28:9; their wits serve them not in spirituals, though otherwise shrewd enough.


Verse 11

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

Ver. 11. The prophet of Nazareth, &c.] The arch-prophet they acknowledge him; but of Nazareth of Galilee. They had not profited so much, or made so far progress in the mystery of Christ, as to know him to have been born a Bethlehemite. And to nourish this error in the people it was, that the devil, that old impostor, Mark 1:24, though he confessed Christ to be the "holy one of God," yet he calleth him "Jesus of Nazareth." Satan etsi semel videatur verax, millies est mendax et semper fallax, Satan never speaks truth, but with a mind to deceive.


Verse 12

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,

Ver. 12. And cast out all them that sold] The zeal of God’s house did ever eat him up. And (as revenge follows zeal, 2 Corinthians 7:11) he mars their markets, and drives them out of the temple with Procul o procul este profani. {a} And this deed of our Saviour’s was altogether divine; while as another Samson, he lays "heaps upon heaps" (yet without bloodshed) with the jawbone of an ass. St Jerome extolleth this miracle above the raising of Lazarus, restoring the blind to their sight, the lame to their limbs, &c., and adds this mystical sense of the text, Quotidie Iesus ingreditur templum Patris, et eiecit omnes tam episcopos et presbyteros, quam laicos et universam turbam de ecclesia sua, et unius criminis habet, vendentes pariter et ementes. Christ is every day casting out of his Church all these money merchants, these sacrilegious simonists, both ministers and others, that make sale of holy things, which the very heathens abhorred, and others long since complained that benefices were bestowed non ubi optime, sed ubi quaestuosissime, as if a man should bestow so much bread on his ass because he is to ride on him.

The tables of the money changers] This he did also at his first entrance into the ministry, John 2:14-15. See my notes on that text. The reformation of religion was Christ’s chief care, and so it shall be ours. And although little was done by his first attempt, John 2:13-17, yet he tries again: so should we, contributing what we can to the work continually, by our prayers and utmost endeavours; wishing at least, as Ferus did, that we had some Moses to take away the evils in Church and State. Non enim unum tantum vitulum, sed multos habemus, saith he, for we abound with idols and evils, Exodus 32:20.

{a} In Graecorum sacris sacerdos exclamabat τις τηδε, quis hic? Respondebant qui aderant, πολλοι τ αγαθοι τε παρεισι. Eras. praefat, in Adag.


Verse 13

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.

Ver. 13. Shall be called the house of prayer] A principal piece of God’s public worship, and here put for the whole. Christ himself never came into this house but he preached as well as prayed. In the sanctuary was the incense altar in the middle, a type of prayer; the table of shewbread on the one side, betokening the twelve tribes, and the candlestick, a type of the word, on the other: to teach us that there is a necessity of both ordinances to all God’s people.

But ye have made it a den of thieves] So Christ calleth not the money merchants only, but the priests also that set them to work. And whereas they cried, "the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord" (for to those was this speech first addressed, Jeremiah 7:11), as if they could not do amiss because they served in the temple, the prophet tells them there, and our Saviour these here, that it is so much the worse. What should an angel of darkness do in heaven? Who required these things at your hands, to tread the courts of my temple? This is the gate of the Lord, into which the righteous only should enter, Psalms 118:20. The Papists in like sort cry out at this day, Ecclesia, Ecclesia, Nos sumus Ecclesia; and herewith think to shroud their base huckstering of holy things. For omnia Romae venalia, all things are saleable and soluble at Rome. But this covering is too short, and their gross thieveries are now made apparent to all the world, as their cross of grace and the blood of Hales were at Paul’s cross by that noble Cromwell; and as their cheating trade of indulgencies and pope’s pardons was by Luther, who by dint of argument overthrew those Romish money changers, and drove the country of those χριστοκαπηλοι and χριστεμποροι, as Nazianzen fitly calleth them.


Verse 14

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

Ver. 14. Came to him in the temple, and he healed them] So true was that testimony given of our Saviour, Luke 24:19, that he was a prophet mighty in deed, as well as in word, before God and all the people. Nos non eloquimur magna, sed vivimus, We are not eloquent but we survive, said the primitive Christians. Our lives as well as our lips should speak us right and real in religion; as Christ here, by his cures, gave a real answer to that question, Matthew 21:10, Who is this? Let us learn to lead convincing lives; these are the best apologies when all is done.


Verse 15

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,

Ver. 15. And the children crying, &c.] To the great grief and regret of those cankered earls the priests and scribes; but to the singular commendation of their parents who had so well taught and tutored them. So the children of Merindol answered the popish bishop of Cavaillon with such grace and gravity as was admirable. So, when John Lawrence was burnt at Colchester, the young children came about him, and cried in the audience of the persecutors, "Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise."


Verse 16

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?

Ver. 16. Thou hast perfected praise] κατηρτισω, thou hast given it all its parts and proportions, {a} thou hast completed and accomplished it. The Hebrew saith, fundasti, thou hast founded praise, and well bottomed it. Quae enim perfecta, sunt firmissima. For those who are perfected are grounded. Now there is no mouth so weak into which God cannot put words of praise. And how often doth he choose the silly simpletons of the world to confound the wise and learned? {See Trapp on "Psalms 8:2"} And here it is observable that our Saviour answers warily to the captious question; so as he may neither offend Caesar, by taking upon him to be a king, nor stumble the people, who took him for no less, and he was well pleased therewith. Let our dove-like simplicity be mixed with serpentine subtilty, that we run not ourselves heedlessly into unnecessary dangers.

{a} αρτιον est quod constat omnibus membris.


Verse 17

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

Ver. 17. And he left them] As not willing to lose his labour, to cast away his cost upon men so unthankful, untractable.

Ludit, qui sterili semina mandat humo. (Ovid.)

Went out of the city into Bethany] Haply for safety’ sake: undoubtedly for his delight and to refresh himself with his friend Lazarus, after his hard labour and little success.


Verse 18

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

Ver. 18. As he returned into the city] There his work lay chiefly; thither therefore he goes early, and had forgotten, for haste, to take his breakfast, as it may seem, for ere he came to the city he was hungry, though it were but a step thither. A good man’s heart is in the place where his calling is: such a one, when he is visiting friends or so, is like a fish in the air; whereunto if it leap for recreation or necessity, yet it soon returns to its own element.


Verse 19

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.

Ver. 19. He came to it and found nothing] He thought then to have found something; there was some kind of ignorance, we see, in Christ as man (but not that that was sinful). His soul desired the first ripe fruits, Micah 7:1; yea, though they had not been ripe and ready, hard hunger would have made them sweet and savoury, as the shepherd’s bread and onions were to Hunniades, when he was put to flight by the Turks; so well can hunger season homely cares, saith the historian. Of this promising fig tree our Saviour might say, as Alciat of the cypress,

" Pulchra coma est, pulchro digestaeque ordine frondes,

Sed fructus nullos haec coma pulchra gerit."


Verse 20

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

Ver. 20. They marvelled, saying, &c.] And well they might, for no conjurer, with all his skill, could have caused this fig tree so suddenly to wither, with a word speaking. For the fig tree is the most juicy of any tree, and bears the brunt of winter blasts. Yea, Plutarch tells us that there issueth from the fig tree such a strong and most vehement virtue, as that if a bull be tied unto it for some while he becomes tame and tractable, though he were never so fierce and fell before. No wonder therefore though the disciples wondered at so sudden an alteration.


Verse 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.

Ver. 21. If ye have faith and doubt not] Or dispute not the matter as probable only and somewhat uncertain, but not altogether undoubted. {a} He that doubteth debateth it, as it were, with himself, puts the case to and fro, sometimes being of one mind, sometimes of another. Now "let not such a man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord," James 1:7; "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established," Isaiah 7:9.

{a} διακρινεσθαι, est alternantibus sententiis secum disceptare. Budaeus.


Verse 22

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

Ver. 22. Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing] Faith is the foundation of prayer, and prayer is the fervency of faith. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord," or thy request, thy gift upon the Lord, Psalms 55:22, that is, whatsoever thou desirest that God should give thee in prayer, cast it upon him by faith, and it shall be effected. Fidei mendica manus. Faith and prayer are the soul’s two hands, whereby she begs and receives of God all good things both for this and a better life. Hence of old when the saints prayed they spread out the palms of their hands, as to receive a blessing from God, 1 Kings 8:22; Exodus 9:29; Psalms 143:6.


Verse 23

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?

Ver. 23. And when he was come into the temple] Not into the inn or food house, though he had been so hungry by the way. He forgot that; the zeal of God’s house had eaten him up; it was his meat and drink to do the will of his heavenly Father; this he preferred before his necessary food. And truly a man would wonder what a deal of work he did up in these three days’ time, before his apprehension. All those sermons and discourses set down by Matthew from Matthew 21:23-46; Matthew 22:1-46; Matthew 23:1-39; Matthew 24:1-51; Matthew 25:1-46; Matthew 26:1-75; by Mark from Mark 11:1-33; Mark 12:1-44; Mark 13:1-37; Mark 14:1-72, by Luke from Luke 20:1-47; Luke 21:1-38; Luke 22:1-71; and by John from John 12:1-50; John 13:1-38; John 14:1-31; John 15:1-27; John 16:1-33; John 17:1-26; John 18:1-40, were delivered by him in these three last days of his liberty. He dispatched them with speed, as if he had been loath to have been taken with his task undone. To teach us to get up our work, and to work out our salvation; not work at it only. Lazy spirits aspire not to immortality. The twelve tribes served God instantly day and night, and found all they could do little enough, Acts 26:7.

Came unto him as he was teaching] Otiosum vel tacitum facile tulissent, saith an interpreter. If he would have been quiet or silent, they would never have questioned him. A wolf flies not upon a painted sheep; we can look upon a painted toad with delight. It is your active Christian that is most spited and persecuted. Luther was offered to be made a cardinal, if he would be quiet. He answered, No, not if I might be pope; and defends himself thus against those that thought him (haply) a proud fool for his refusal, Inveniar sane superbus, et modo impii silentii non arguar. (Epis. ad Staune.) Let me be counted fool or anything, said he, so I be not found guilty of cowardly silence. The Papists, when they could not rule him, railed at him, and called him an apostate. Confitetur se esse apostatam, sed beatum et sanctum, qui fidem diabolo datam non servavit. (Epis. ad Spalatinum.) He confesseth the action, and saith, I am indeed an apostate, but a blessed and holy apostate, one that had fallen off from the devil. They called him devil, but what said he? Prorsus Satan est Lutherus, sed Christus vivit et regnat. Amen. Luther is a devil; be it so, but Christ liveth and reigneth, that is enough for Luther. So be it.

By what authority doest thou these things?] They saw that their kingdom would down, their trade decay, if Christ should be suffered thus to teach and take upon him in the temple as a reformer. When Erasmus was asked by the elector of Saxony, why the pope and his clergy could so little abide Luther, he answered, for two great offences, viz. Ventres et culinas appeti, arcas exhauriri. Attigisse coronam papae, et monachorum ventres (Scult.), he had meddled with the pope’s triple crown, and with the monk’s fat paunches. Hinc illae lachrimae, hence all that hatred; and hence today those Popish questions to the professors of the truth: By what authority do ye these things? where had you your calling, your ordination? where was your religion before Luther? Whereunto it was well answered by one once, In the Bible, where yours never was.


Verse 24

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.

Ver. 24. I also will ask you one thing] Our Saviour could have answered them roundly, that what he did he did by the will and appointment of his heavenly Father. But because he had avouched that so often, and they believed him not, therefore he took another course. We must be ready to render a reason of our faith; but then it must be the time when we see it will be to some good purpose; as if otherwise, forbear, or untie one knot with another, as Christ here doth, nodum nodo dissipat. (Aret.)


Verse 25

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?

Ver. 25. The baptism of John, whence was it?] That is, the whole ministry of John. As if our Saviour should have said, Know ye not by what authority I do these things? have ye not heard John’s testimony for me? and can ye deny that he had his authority for what he spake from God? How is it, then, that ye ask me any such idle question as this; do ye not go cross to your consciences herein?


Verse 26

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

Ver. 26. We fear the people] Lest they should be stoned; and the people feared them, lest they should be excommunicated. Thus they were mutual executioners one to another; for all fear hath torment, 1 John 4:18.


Verse 27

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.

Ver. 27. We cannot tell] Lie and all: they could tell, and would not. Their reasonings within themselves, Matthew 21:25, testify that they knew the truth, but would not acknowledge it; {a} they profess their ignorance rather: and such dealing we have from many learned Papists. Thus Bellarmine affirmeth that he never read in all the Bible a promise of pardon made to those that confess their sins to Almighty God. (Bell. de Justif., lib. 1, cap. 21.) Baronius cannot see that Peter was in fault at Antioch, but Paul a great deal more, for taking him up for halting, Galatians 2:12-14. The wit of heretics will better serve them to devise a thousand shifts to elude the truth, than their pride will suffer them once to yield and subscribe to it.

{a} Mendacio nodum secant quem solvere sine impietate vel periculo non possunt, Parcus in loc.


Verse 28

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.

Ver. 28. But what think you?] Christ reporteth himself to their own consciences, while he proveth John Baptist’s ministry to be from heaven, by the happy success he had in converting the vilest sinners. See Jeremiah 23:22; 1 Corinthians 9:2. The people’s fruitfulness is the minister’s testimonial, 2 Corinthians 3:2. If but one of a city, or two of a family be gained to God, it is a sign that the pastors are according to God’s own heart, Jeremiah 3:14-15.


Verse 29

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

Ver. 29. I will not] This is the language of most men’s hearts, when pressed to duty: and, as occasion serves, they discover a headstrong wilfulness in wickedness, that is, uncouncilable. As Pharaoh sat not down under the miracle, but sent for magicians; so do these, when the word comes close to their consciences, send for carnal arguments. And though the word doth eat up all they can say, as Moses’s rod did, yet they harden their hearts, with Pharaoh, they brazen their brows, with him in the text, that said, "I will not." "Nay," said the Israelites, "but we will have a king." And as for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, "we will not hearken unto thee," said those, Jeremiah 44:16.

But afterward he repented] So do but few. Men will be as big as their words, though they die for it, lest they should be accounted inconsistant. These are niggardly in their reputation, but prodigal in their souls.


Verse 30

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

Ver. 30. I go, sir] I, but when, sir? Stultus semper incipit vivere. Fools are always starting to live. (Seneca.) Hypocrites purpose often, and promise fair to do better, but drive off and fail in the performance; their morning cloud is soon dispersed, their earthly dew is quickly dried up, Hosea 6:4, their heartless essays come to nothing, Modo et modo non habent modum. The philosopher liked not such as are semper victuri, always about to live better, but never begin. A divine complains that the goodness of many is like the softness of a plumb, soon crushed; but their wickedness is like the stone in the plumb, hard and inflexible.


Verse 31

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.

Ver. 31. Go into the kingdom of heaven before you] And it were an arrant shame to be left behind by such; as that is a very jade, we say, that will not follow, though she will not lead the way. But these proud Pharisees hated to be in the same heaven with penitent publicans. And, as Quintilian said of some in his time, that they might have proven excellent scholars had they not been so persuaded of their own scholarship already. In like sort these conceited ones of themselves might have had place in heaven, had they not taken up their seats in heaven beforehand.


Verse 32

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.

Ver. 32. John came unto you in a way of right] Which he both preached and lived. Nos non eloquimur magna, sed vivimus. We do not preach great matters but we live. John’s practice was a transcript of what he preached; he burned within himself, he shone forth to others, John 5:35.

Ye repented not afterwards] No, not after his death, though ye saw me succenturiated to him, and preaching and pressing the same things upon you that John did. A hypocrite comes more hardly to heaven than a gross sinner, and hath far more obstacles. Since he that must be stripped is not as soon clothed as one that is naked, and since he climbs not a tree as soon that must first come down from the top of another tree where he is perched, so is it here.


Verse 33

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:

Ver. 33. Planted a vineyard, and hedged it] Of all possessions, saith Cato, Nulla maiorem operam requirit, none requires more pains than that of a vineyard. Grain comes up and grows alone, Mark 4:28. Iniussa virescunt gramina, saith the poet; but vines must be dressed, supported, pruned, sheltered every day almost, John 15:2. The Church is God’s continual care, αιρει, καλθαιρει, Amputat, putat, &c., Isaiah 27:3, and he looks for an answerable return of fruits, Acts 12:20. Regnum Anglia, regnum Dei, said Polydore Virgil long since. The kingdom of England is the kingdom of God. It may well be said so, since the Reformation especially; neither is there anything more threateneth us than our hateful unfruitfulness. The cypress tree, the more it is watered, the less fruitful; so many of us, the more taught, the more untoward.

And went into a far country] As the impious husbandmen imagined, who put far away the evil day. But God shall shoot at such "with an arrow, suddenly shall they be wounded," Psalms 64:7; as a bird is stricken with the bolt, while he gazeth at the bow. Morae dispendium faeneris duplo pensatur, God pays men at length for the new and the old. (Jerome.)


Verse 34

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.

Ver. 34. He sent his servants] scil. His prophets and ministers, whom the Lord sendeth to his people continually, not to teach them only, but to take account of their fruitfulness, to urge and exact of them growth in grace according to the means, "that they receive not the grace of God in vain," 2 Corinthians 6:1.


Verse 35

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

Ver. 35. Beat one, and killed another] This is the world’s wages; this is the measure God’s ministers meet with from the sons of men; never have any, out of hell, suffered more than such. Persecution is, Evangelii genius, saith Calvin, the evil angel that dogs the Gospel at the heels. And, Praedicare nihil aliud est, quam devivare in se furorem, &c., saith Luther. To preach faithfully is to get the ill will of all the world, and to subject a man’s self to all kind of deaths and dangers.


Verse 36

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

Ver. 36. Again he sent other servants] Oh the infinite goodness and longsuffering of Almighty God! Jonah upbraided him with it most unworthily, in that brawl of his, Jonah 4:2. Paul admires it, Romans 9:22, teaching us to improve it to the practice of repentance, Romans 2:4. Ezekiel {Ezekiel 4:4-5} describes it by God’s lying on one side for three hundred and ninety years together, which must needs be very troublesome. We cannot lay for a few hours on one side, but we must turn us. David, for the abuse of his ambassadors, fell very foul on the Ammonites. Rehoboam, for one servant of his slain by the ten tribes, raised a mighty army to chastise them. But God bears with men’s evil manners, though he have power enough in his hand to deal with them at his pleasure.


Verse 37

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

Ver. 37. They will reverence my son] They will look another way for shame (so the word εντραπησονται imports): they will never be able to look him in the face, they will be so abashed of their former villanies. But it happened far otherwise, for these frontless fellows, past grace, as we say, had faces hatched all over with impudence, and that could blush no more than a sackbut. Sin had woaded shamelessness in their foreheads, and they were as good at resisting the Holy Ghost as ever their fathers were.


Verse 38

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.

Ver. 38. This is the heir; come, &c.] So that these husbandmen the Pharisees knew, and yet crucified the Lord of glory; and all this out of desperate malice, which had debauched their reason, and even satanized or transformed them into so many breathing devils; they fell into that unpardonable sin, Matthew 12:31.

Let us seize on his inheritance] Covetousness is bloody, Ezekiel 22:13; Proverbs 1:11; Proverbs 1:13, 1 Kings 21:10. Ahab longed for a salad out of Naboth’s vineyard, and must have it, though Naboth die for it, Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, auri sacra fames! Judas selleth his Master for thirty pence.


Verse 39

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

Ver. 39. Cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him] By wicked hands, Acts 2:23, and are therefore abhorred of God and men, and exiled out of the world, as it were, by a common consent of nations for their inexpiable guilt. And in Constantinople and Thessalonica (where are many thousand Jews at this day), if they but stir out of doors at any Easter time between Maundy Thursday at noon and Easter eve at night, the Christians, among whom they dwell, will stone them, because at that time they derided, buffeted, and crucified our blessed Saviour.


Verse 40

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

Ver. 40. What will he do, &c.] Nay, what will he not do? God will run upon them, even on their neck, upon the "thick bosses of their bucklers," Job 15:26. They that would kill their enemy, strike not where he can defend himself. But so doth God, he strikes through all, yea, through the loins, Deuteronomy 33:11, even to the very soul, Jeremiah 4:10. This made Moses cry out, "Who knoweth the power of thine anger?" Psalms 90:11. Surely it is such, as none can either avoid or abide.


Verse 41

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.

Ver. 41. They say unto him, he will miserably, {a} &c.] Here they unwittingly read their own destiny, as David likewise did his, 2 Samuel 12:5-6. The wicked are presently self-condemned, Titus 3:11, and shall at last day stand speechless, Matthew 22:12, out of the conviction of their own consciences.

{a} κακους κακως απολεσει αυτους. Videtur paronomasia haec in proverbium abiisse.


Verse 42

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?

Ver. 42. Did ye never read in the Scriptures] Yes, full often, but never applied such a place as this to themselves. A godly man reads the Scriptures as he doth the statute book: he holds himself concerned in all that he reads; he finds his own name written in every passage, and lays it to heart, as spoken to him. The wicked, on the other side, put off all they like not, and dispose of it to others, as if themselves were none such. God forbid, said these to our Saviour, Luke 20:16. But he convinceth them out of their own reading, to be the men he meant. Men may make some sorry shift, and shuffle for a while from side to side, as Balaam’s ass did, but there is no averting or avoiding the dint of God’s displeasure, otherwise than by falling down, as the ass did, and afterwards her master, being rebuked for his iniquity, "The dumb ass speaking with man’s voice, forbad the madness of the prophet," 2 Peter 2:16.


Verse 43

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.

Ver. 43. The kingdom of God shall be taken from you] A heavy sentence. We had better, saith one, be without meat, drink, light, air, earth, all the elements, yea, life itself, than that one sweet saying of our Saviour, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will refresh you." {a} The gospel is that inheritance we received from our godly forefathers, the martyrs; and it must be our care to transmit the same to our posterity, earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered, 1:3, once for all; for if lost, or any way corrupted, it will hardly be ever given again. Look to it, therefore, unfruitfulness forfeits all, as the merchant’s nonpayment of the custom forfeits all his goods. It is to be feared, saith one, lest Mr Herbert be a true prophet, and the gospel be, in its solar motion, travelling for the West, for the American parts, and quitting its present place of residence, and unworthy professors and possessors; and then farewell England.

{a} Mallemus carere coelo, terra, omnibus elementis, &c. Sel. Paedag. Christ.


Verse 44

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

Ver. 44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone] Christ is a stone of stumbling to his enemies, who stumble at his meanness, and a rock of offence, 1 Peter 2:8; but like that rock, 6:21, out of which fire went and consumed them, Nemo me impune lacessit, No one provokes me with impunity, saith he. The Corinthians abused certain Roman ambassadors, and were therefore burned to the ground by Lucius Mummius. For irasci populo Rom. nemo sapienter possit, saith Livy thereupon. Christ is wise in heart and mighty in strength. "Who ever hardened himself against him and prospered?" Job 9:4. Who ever bragged of the last blow? If his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, woe be to his opposites; but if he fall upon them with his whole weight, he will crush them to pieces, yea, grind them to powder. They can no more stand before him than can a glass bottle before a cannon shot.


Verse 45

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

Ver. 45. They perceived that he spake of them] Who told them so, but their own guilty consciences? Every man hath a domestic chaplain within his own bosom, that preacheth over the sermon to him again, and comes over him with, "Thou art the man." Conscience is said to accuse or excuse in the mean while, μεταξυ αλληλων, Romans 2:15. In the interim between sermon and sermon, conviction and conviction. So that personal and nominal application is therefore needless, because every man hath a discursive faculty within him, applying several truths to every man’s particular uses. And, ubi generalis de vitiis disputatio est, ibi nullius personae est iniuria, saith Jerome: Where the discourse against vice is general, no man can justly complain of a personal injury. By preaching, Christ many times smites the earth, Isaiah 11:4, that is, the consciences of carnal men glued to the earth. God’s words hit them full in the teeth, and make them spit blood. Now if they rage, as tigers, tear themselves at the noise of a drum, if they fly in the faces of their teachers, and seek revenge upon them, they are commonly cast into a reprobate sense, and seldom escape the visible vengeance of God.


Verse 46

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

Ver. 46. But when they sought to lay hands on him] And so showed themselves to be the same our Saviour spake of, Matthew 21:39; Matthew 21:42. As the pope and his emissaries do well approve themselves to be that false prophet, and his locusts, set forth in the Revelation. Their daily practice is a dear commentary upon that obscure prophecy, which the ancient Fathers, that lived not to see it fulfilled, could not tell what to say to. Future things are best understood by their events.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-21.html. 1865-1868.

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