Matthew 21 – The Beginning of Jesus’ Last Week
A. The triumphal entry.
1. (1-6) Jesus instructs His disciples regarding preparation for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.
a. When they drew near Jerusalem: Jesus knew that the religious leaders were going to arrest Him and condemn Him and mock Him and scourge Him and deliver Him to the Romans for crucifixion (Matthew 20:19). Yet He had the courage to not only enter Jerusalem, but to enter in as public a way as possible. This contrasts to His previous pattern of suppressing publicity.
i. If Jesus had not deliberately suppressed the popular enthusiasm over Him and His credentials as Messiah – if Jesus had wanted it, this would have happened long ago and many times.
ii. “Jesus could not have chosen a more dramatic moment; it was into a city surging with people keyed up with religious expectations that he came.” (Barclay)
iii. “The applause and the crowds were not manipulated; they would have occurred in any case. But the ride on a colt, because it was planned, could only be an acted parable, a deliberate act of self-disclosure…Secrecy was being lifted.” (Carson)
b. You will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her: Jesus would ride upon the younger of these animals, the colt. He told the disciples how they would find these animals, and instructed them to bring both animals.
i. The Hebrew text of Zechariah 9 mentions one animal, not two. “If we assume that Matthew understood Hebrew, the full quotation affirms that Jesus rode on the ‘colt,’ not its mother. Mark and Luke say the animal was so young that it had never been ridden. In the midst, then, of this excited crowd, an unbroken animal remains calm under the hands of the Messiah who controls nature.” (Carson)
ii. “Mark tells us that the colt had never before been ridden (Mark 11:2), so that it would be only prudent to bring its mother as well to reassure it among the noisy crowd.” (France)
iii. “Hath need of them: not for any weariness: he who had travelled on foot from Galilee to Bethany, could have gone the other two miles; but that he might enter into Jerusalem as was prophesied of him, Zechariah 9:9.” (Poole)
iv. “What a singular conjunction of words is here, ‘the Lord’ and ‘hath need!’ Jesus, without laying aside his sovereignty, had taken a nature full of needs; yet, being in need, he was still the Lord and could command his subjects and requisition their property.” (Spurgeon)
c. All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: Here, Jesus deliberately worked to fulfill prophecy, especially the prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, which many feel Jesus fulfilled to the exact day on His triumphal entry (Daniel 9:24-27).
i. “It is possible that Matthew presents these verses as having been spoken by Jesus.” (Carson)
d. Your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey: Jesus came to Jerusalem in humility, yet with appropriate dignity. Instead of coming on a horse as a conquering general, He came on a colt, as was customary for royalty. He came to Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace.
i. “Asses were of old beasts that great persons used to ride on, Judges 10:4; 12:14. But after Solomon’s time the Jews got a breed of horses; so as only poor people rode upon asses, mostly reserved for burdens.” (Poole)
ii. “Therefore for those with eyes to see, Jesus was not only proclaiming his messiahship and his fulfillment of Scripture but showing the kind of peace-loving approach he was now making to the city.” (Carson)
iii. “This entry into Jerusalem has been termed the triumph of Christ. It was indeed the triumph of humility over pride and worldly grandeur; of poverty over affluence; and of meekness and gentleness over rage and malice.” (Clarke)
2. (7-11) Jesus receives and encourages adoration as the Messiah.
They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
a. Laid their clothes on them…spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road: All this was done to honor Jesus as a great, triumphant person coming into Jerusalem in the season of Passover.
i. Wiseman says of the spreading out of garments for Jehu in 2 Kings 9:13: “The act of spreading out the garment was one of recognition, loyalty and promise of support.” (Wiseman)
ii. “Carrying palm and other branches was emblematical of victory and success. See 1 Maccabees 13:51; 2 Maccabees 10:7; and Revelation 7:9.” (Clarke) On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the year one hundred and seventy-one, the Jews entered the citadel with shouts of jubilation, waving of palm branches, the music of harps and cymbals and lyres, and the singing of hymns and canticles, because a great enemy of Israel had been destroyed. (1 Maccabees 13:51)
iii. In one way, this crowd was glorious. “It is a mark of Christ’s presence when the church becomes enthusiastic. We sometimes hear complaints about revivals being too exciting. Perhaps the censure is deserved, but I would like to see a little of the fault. This age does not generally sin in the direction of being too excited concerning divine things. We have erred so long on the other side that, perhaps, a little excess in the direction of fervor might not be the worst of all calamities; at any rate, I would not fear to try it.” (Spurgeon)
iv. In another way, this crowd was ridiculous – in worldly eyes. “Why, if Pilate himself had heard about it he would have said — ‘Ah! There is nothing much to fear from that. There is no fear that that man will ever upset Caesar; there is no fear that he will ever overturn an army. Where are their swords? There is not a sword among them! They have no cries that sound like rebellion; their songs are only some religious verses taken out of the Psalms.’ ‘Oh!’ says he, ‘the whole thing is contemptible and ridiculous.’” (Spurgeon)
b. Hosanna to the Son of David! This was open Messianic adoration of Jesus. They look to Jesus for salvation (Hosanna means “save now!” and was addressed to kings, as in 2 Samuel 14:4 and 2 Kings 6:26). They openly give Jesus the titles appropriate for the Messiah (Son of David… He who comes in the name of the LORD).
i. Jesus received and indeed encouraged this worship. Again, this was because this is the day that the LORD has made (Psalm 118:24), the day when the Messiah came as Savior to Jerusalem in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.
ii. “‘Hosanna’ transliterates the Hebrew expression that originally was a cry for help: ‘Save!’… In time it became an invocation of blessing and even an acclamation… The people praise God in the highest heavens for sending the Messiah and, if ‘Hosanna’ retains some of its original force, also cry to him for deliverance.” (Carson)
iii. “Essentially it is a people’s cry for deliverance and for help in the day of their trouble; it is an oppressed people’s cry to their saviour and their king.” (Barclay)
iv. “‘Vox populi, vox Dei’ they used to say; but the saying is false: the voice of the people may seem to be the voice of God when they shout ‘Hosanna in the highest’; but whose voice is it when they yell out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him’?” (Spurgeon)
c. When He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved: Jesus also showed that He wasn’t afraid of chief priests and Pharisees. He knew they were plotting to kill Him, yet He came openly to the city as Messiah.
i. “When the Magi came looking for the King of Jews, ‘all Jerusalem’ was troubled (Matthew 2:3). Now when the king arrives all the city is stirred.” (France)
ii. “How strange is it that these same people…should, about five days after, change their hosannas for, Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him! How fickle is the multitude! Even when they get right, there is but little hope that they will continue so long.” (Clarke)
iii. It was here, before He entered the city, that He looked over the city and wept, knowing the judgment that would come upon Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).
iv. “Our Lord loves his people to be glad. His tears he kept to himself, as he wept over Jerusalem; but the gladness he scattered all around, so that even the boys and girls in the streets of Jerusalem made the temple courts to ring with their merry feet and gladsome songs.” (Spurgeon)
d. This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee: This continues the earlier identification of Jesus with Nazareth (Matthew 2:23). It would sound strange to many – especially to the religious establishment – that a prophet would come from the obscure and unnoted city of Nazareth.
i. “When our Lord grants revivals to his church, the congregations and the multitude outside begin to ask, ‘Wherefore this stir? What meaneth all this? Who is this Christ, and what is his salvation?’ This spirit of inquiry is eminently desirable. It is just now a matter to be sought for by importunate prayer.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “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.” (Trapp)
B. Jesus cleanses the temple.
1. (12-13) Jesus forcibly stops the commercial desecration of the temple.
Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”
a. Drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple: This seems distinct from the cleansing of the temple courts mentioned in John 2:13-22, which happened towards the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Yet the purpose was the same; to drive out the merchants, who in cooperation with the priests cheated visitors to Jerusalem by forcing them to purchase approved sacrificial animals and currencies at high prices.
i. Barclay notes, “A pair of doves could cost as little as 4p outside the Temple and as much as 75p inside the Temple.” This is almost 20 times more expensive.
ii. Yet Jesus’ anger was against all those who bought as well as those who sold. “Sellers and buyers viewed as one company – kindred in spirit, to be cleared out wholesale…The traffic was necessary, and might have been innocent; but the trading spirit soon develops abuses which were doubtless rampant at that period.” (Bruce)
iii. What Jesus did was important more as an acted-out parable than for what it accomplished in itself. “There is no indication, nor is it likely, that any lasting reform was achieved; no doubt the tables were back for the rest of the week, and Jesus took no further action.” (France)
iv. France says that there was a contemporary expectation that the Messiah would cleanse the temple, both approving it after the pagan conquerors (such as Antiochus Epiphanes and Pompey), but also from the false worship from God’s own people.
v. “I do not believe we shall thoroughly purify any church by Acts of Parliament, nor by reformation associations, nor by agitation, nor by any merely human agency. No hand can grasp the scourge that can drive out the buyers and sellers, but that hand which once was fastened to the cross. Let the Lord do it and the work will be done, for it is not of man, nor shall man accomplish it.” (Spurgeon)
b. My house shall be called a house of prayer: The merchants operated in the outer courts of the temple, the only area where Gentiles could come and pray. Therefore, this place of prayer was made into a marketplace, and a dishonest one (a ‘den of thieves’).
i. Mark’s record contains the more complete quotation of Jesus’ reference to Isaiah 56:7: Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?” (Mark 11:17). The point was that Isaiah prophesied, and Jesus demanded that the temple be a place for all nations to pray. The activity of all those who bought and sold in the outer courts made it impossible for any seeking Gentile to come and pray.
ii. “In that uproar of buying and selling and bargaining and auctioneering prayer was impossible. Those who sought God’s presence were being debarred from it from the very people of God’s House.” (Barclay)
2. (14) Jesus carries on God’s compassionate work in the temple courts.
Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.
a. The blind and the lame came to Him: The bold action of Jesus when He drove out the merchants and money changers from the temple courts did not discourage the needy from coming to Him.
i. The blind and the lame were restricted to the court of the Gentiles; they could not go closer to the temple and could not go to the altar to sacrifice. After purging the court of the Gentiles of merchants and robbers, Jesus then ministered to the outcasts who congregated there.
b. And He healed them: After driving out the moneychangers and the merchants from the temple courts, Jesus didn’t establish “The Society for the Cleansing of the Temple.” He got back to doing the business of the Messiah, a significant part of which was showing the power of God in the context of compassion and mercy.
3. (15-17) The indignation of the Jewish leaders.
But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.
a. They were indignant: This was their response to the wonderful things that He did, and to the praise of children for Jesus in the temple courts. The hypocrisy of the religious leaders is evident. Greed and theft in the temple didn’t bother them, but praise to Jesus did.
i. “It was a common thing among the Jews for the children to be employed in public acclamations; and thus they were accustomed to hail their celebrated rabbins. This shouting of the children was therefore no strange thing in the land: only they were exasperated, because a person was celebrated against whom they had a rooted hatred.” (Clarke)
ii. This reminds us that children can have a real relationship with God and spiritual life, yet they will still be children. “For a boy to put on the air and manners of a man is not sanctification; that is to spoil him, not to sanctify him. And for a girl to be other than a girl, and to assume the air and tone of her careful mother, should be very mischievous. God does not sanctify children into men, but he sanctifies children in their own childlike way.” (Spurgeon)
b. Do You hear what these are saying? Jesus answered this question from the chief priests and scribes. The answer was clear: Yes, He had heard what these are saying – and it was perfected praise in the ears of God.
i. “Luther was greatly encouraged when he found that the children met together for prayer. He said, ‘God will hear them. The devil himself cannot defeat us now the children begin to pray.’” (Spurgeon)
c. He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there: At the time of Passover, thousands and thousands of pilgrims crowded into Jerusalem. It was common for some to stay in the surrounding villages, and Bethany was close by.
i. “At Passover time quarters could not easily be got in the city, but the house of Martha and Mary would be open to Jesus (cf. Luke 21:37).” (Bruce)
C. The lesson of the fig tree.
1. (18-19) Jesus rebukes a fig tree.
Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
a. He was hungry: Some wonder why Jesus would be hungry in the morning leaving the home of Martha and Mary. Spurgeon speculated it was because He woke early to have time with His heavenly Father, and took no time to eat.
i. “He was perfectly human and therefore physically hungry, for hunger is a sign of health.” (Morgan)
b. Let no fruit grow on you ever again: In a dramatic way, Jesus performed one of His few destructive miracles. His curse made the fig tree to wither away.
i. It is worth noting that the two destructive miracles of Jesus (this and the events that ended in the destruction of the herd of pigs, Matthew 8:30-32) were not directed towards people.
c. Found nothing on it but leaves: This explains why Jesus did this destructive miracle. Essentially, the tree was a picture of false advertising, having leaves, but no figs. This should not be the case with these particular fig trees, which customarily did not bear leaves apart from figs.
i. “The first Adam came to the fig tree for leaves, but the Second Adam looks for figs.” (Spurgeon)
ii. In this acted-out-parable, Jesus warned of coming judgment upon an unfruitful Israel. It showed God’s disapproval of people who are all leaves and no fruit. “The story is clear and simple, and its point obvious, that what counts is not promise but performance.” (France)
2. (20-22) How did Jesus do this?
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
a. How did the fig tree wither away so soon? Jesus explained that this miracle was really the result of a prayer made in faith (if you have faith and do not doubt). He then encouraged His marveling disciples to also have this kind of faith, trusting that God would hear them also.
b. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive: This promise of God’s answer to the prayer of faith was made to disciples, not to the multitude. This is a promise to those who are following Jesus.
i. “Nothing is too big for true faith to obtain, but that faith must have a promise to lean upon.” (Poole)
ii. “We can only believe for a thing when we are in such union with God that his thought and purpose can freely flow into us, suggesting what we should pray for, and leading us to that point in which there is a perfect sympathy and understanding between us and the divine mind. Faith is always the product of such a frame as this.” (Meyer)
D. Jesus answers the Jewish leaders.
1. (23-27) Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders as He comes back into the temple.
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John; where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
a. The chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching: In His previous visit on the day before, Jesus drove out the moneychangers and merchants from the temple courts. Now He returned there to teach, unafraid of the religious leaders.
i. “When we think of the extraordinary things Jesus had been doing we cannot be surprised that the Jewish authorities asked him what right he had to do them.” (Barclay)
b. By what authority are You doing these things? The religious leaders raised the question of Jesus’ authority, and He answered by raising the question of their competence to judge such an issue. Their ability to judge John the Baptist and his ministry was a measure of their ability to judge Jesus as well (The baptism of John: where was it from?).
i. “His question is far more profound. If the religious authorities rightly answer it, they will already have the correct answer to their own question.” (Carson)
ii. “Hence now-a-days those Popish questions to the professors of the truth: By what authority do you do 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.’” (Trapp)
c. We do not know: They answered only after carefully calculating the political consequences of either answer. They didn’t seem interested in answering the question honestly, only cleverly. This showed they were more interested in the opinions of the multitude rather than the will of God, so Jesus didn’t answer their question to Him.
i. “They could not say, ‘Of men,’ for they were cowards. They would not say, ‘Of heaven,’ for they were hypocrites.” (Morgan)
ii. Jesus kindly and compassionately met the needs of the hurting multitude, as demonstrated in Matthew 21:14. But Jesus didn’t show much patience with those who arrogantly questioned Him and hoped to trap Him in His own words. Jesus never fell into their trap.
2. (28-32) The parable of the two sons.
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”
a. A man had two sons: This parable shows us two different kinds of sons. They were in the same house, and we could say that the father had a right to the services of both his sons. Perhaps they wished that the father would just leave them alone, but he did not. It was good and right for the father to expect that the sons would work for him.
i. By general Biblical principle, we can say that it is not our duty to separate them except through exhortation and appeal to conscience. Their sure separation must await the end of the age; until then, the tares and the wheat grow together.
b. Son, go work today in my vineyard: There is much to see in these simple words of the father to the son.
· The father spoke to this son individually; he did not speak to the sons together. Though the same invitation was given to both sons (he came to the second and said likewise), it was an individual call to work.
· The father appealed to him first as a son. Knowing he was the son of his father should have made him willing to do his will.
· The father asked the son to work; to participate together in the family business. Yet it was work and not play.
· The father asked the son to work today, not in some distant time.
· The father asked the son to work in “my vineyard.” It belonged to the father, so it should have mattered to the son.
c. He answered and said, “I will not,” but afterward he regretted it and went: The first son refused to work for his father. He didn’t want to bend to the father’s will. Yet later he regretted it and went. He spoke wrong, but did right.
d. He answered and said, “I go, sir,” but he did not go: The second son said the right thing and he said it with respect (sir), but he did not do what he said he would.
i. There are many churchgoers that imitate the second son.
· They admit that the Word of God is true.
· They intend to get serious about it someday.
· They talk about doing the Father’s work.
· They keep up the external appearance of religion, but their heart is not right with God.
· They think that words and promises are enough.
ii. “The second son said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he went not; and these people do not go. They talk of repenting, but they do not repent. They speak of believing, but they never believe. They think of submitting to God, but they have not submitted themselves to him yet. They say it is time they broke up the fallow ground, and sought the Lord, but they do not seek him. It all ends in a mere promise.” (Spurgeon)
iii. They are sinning against the light, because they know better. This is dangerous, because it is lying to the Holy Spirit; it is dangerous, because it hardens the conscience.
e. Which of the two did the will of his father? The point of this parable is clear. What matters is living for God, not saying the right words. The religious leaders were good at talking righteous talk, but their stubbornly unrepentant hearts showed that repentant sinners would enter the kingdom before them.
i. “The shock value of Jesus’ statement can only be appreciated when the low esteem in which tax collectors were held, not to mention prostitutes, is taken into account.” (Carson)
f. When you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him: These proud religionists should have repented all the more when they saw the notorious sinners repenting, but they did not.
3. (33-41) The parable of the wicked servants.
“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
a. There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it: Jesus told of a landowner who prepared his vineyard carefully and hired men to manage it (the vinedressers). The men who were supposed to manage his vineyard mistreated and killed the messengers sent by the landowner. Finally he sent his son, and they killed him also – foolishly believing they would take control of the vineyard. Yet the response of the landowner was not to yield to the vinedressers but to judge and destroy them.
i. The Old Testament often used the picture of a vineyard to speak of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:32, Psalm 80:8, Jeremiah 2:21, and especially Isaiah 5:1-7).
b. They will respect my son…This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance: Jesus portrayed the madness of the chief priests and elders who plotted to kill the Father’s Son sent to the rebellious leaders of Israel.
i. “The husbandmen treat the messengers in the most barbarous and truculent manner: beating, killing, stoning to death; highly improbable in the natural sphere, but another instance in which parables have to violate the natural probability in order to describe truly men’s conduct in the spiritual sphere.” (Bruce)
ii. “By the servants here sent to the husbandmen are doubtless to be understood those extraordinary prophets.” (Poole)
iii. “They caught him in the garden of Gethsemane; they cast him out in their Council in the hall of Caiaphas, and when he was led without the gate of Jerusalem; they slew him at Calvary.” (Spurgeon)
c. He will destroy those wicked men miserably: The message of this parable is clear enough. With this answer, the chief priests and elders understood what the wicked servants deserved. Truly, those who rebel against their master this way deserve judgment.
i. They knew the owner of the vineyard had the right to expect the fruits in their seasons. In the same way, God looked for fruit from Israel’s leadership, but found little (as shown in the fig tree incident).
ii. “Oh, that the Lord may raise up a race of men ‘who shall render him the fruits in their seasons!’ The hallmark of a faithful minister is his giving to God all the glory of any work that he is enabled to do. That which does not magnify the Lord will not bless men.” (Spurgeon)
d. And lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons: The leaders of Israel were so corrupt that God was transferring leadership to others – specifically, to the apostles and then to the Jewish/Gentile church they would lead.
4. (42-46) Jesus warns the religious leaders of the result of their rejection.
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.
a. Have you never read the Scriptures: This manner of speaking to the chief priests and elders of Israel must have angered them. Jesus speaks to the leading theologians of Israel and asks them if they have ever read their Scriptures.
b. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone: Jesus quoted this from Psalm 118 to remind them that their rejection of Him said more about their guilt and coming judgment than it said about Jesus Himself. Though they reject Him, He is still the chief cornerstone, fulfilling the great Messianic Psalm 118.
i. Like a painting from a great master, Jesus is not on trial – those who look at Him are. These leaders who rejected Jesus had to hear the eventual consequences of their rejection.
ii. Clearly, Jesus claimed to be the rejected stone of Psalm 118:22-24 that God appointed to become the chief cornerstone. He is also the stone of Isaiah 8:13-15 that people stumble over, the foundation stone and precious cornerstone of Isaiah 28:16, and the stone of Daniel 2:34, 44-45 that destroys the world in rebellion to God.
c. The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it: Jesus warned the religious leaders that if they continued their rejection of God and His Messiah, they could expect that God would pass the leadership of His work on earth to others.
i. “The doom is forfeiture of privilege, the kingdom is taken from them and given to others.” (Bruce)
ii. “The sphere in which we must look for God at work in salvation is no longer the nation of Israel but another nation. This is not the Gentiles as such (that would require the plural ethnesin, not the singular ethnei), but a people of God derived from all nations, Jew and Gentile.” (France)
iii. “What a warning is this to our own country! We, too, are seeing the sacrifice and deity of our Lord questioned, and his Sacred Word assailed by those who should have been its advocates. Unless there is speedy amendment, the Lord may take away the candlestick out of its place and find another race which will prove more faithful to him and his Gospel than our own has been.” (Spurgeon)
d. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder: The choice before the religious leaders is the choice before every person. We can be broken in humble surrender before God or be completely broken in judgment.
e. They sought to lay hands on Him: Instead of repenting, the religious leaders responded with anger, continuing to increase the greatness of their sin of rejecting Jesus.
i. They perceived that He was speaking of them: “Who told them so, but their own guilty consciences?” (Trapp)
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