|<< Matthew 21 >>|
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Christ rides into Jerusalem upon an ass, and the multitude receive him joyfully, Matthew 21:1-11. He enters the temple, and expels the money-changers, etc. Matthew 21:12, Matthew 21:13. The blind and the lame come to him and are healed, Matthew 21:14. The chief priests and scribes are offended, Matthew 21:15. Our Lord confounds them, and goes to Bethany, Matthew 21:16, Matthew 21:17. The barren fig-tree blasted, Matthew 21:18-22. While teaching in the temple, the chief priests and elders question his authority; he answers and confutes them, Matthew 21:23-27. The parable of the man and his two sons, Matthew 21:28-32. The parable of a vineyard let out to husbandmen, Matthew 21:33-42; applied to the priests and Pharisees, Matthew 21:43-45; who wish to kill him, but are restrained by the fear of the people, who acknowledge Christ for a prophet, Matthew 21:46.
1And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Bethphage - A place on the west declivity of Mount Olivet, from which it is thought the whole declivity and part of the valley took their name. It is supposed to have derived its name from the fig-trees which grew there; בית beeth, signifying a region as well as a house, and פג phag, a green fig.
2Saying 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.
Ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt - Asses and mules were in common use in Palestine: horses were seldom to be met with. Our blessed Lord takes every opportunity to convince his disciples that nothing was hidden from him: he informs them of the most minute occurrence; and manifested his power over the heart in disposing the owner to permit the ass to be taken away.
3And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
The Lord (the proprietor of all things) hath need of them - Jesus is continually humbling himself, to show us how odious pride is in the sight of God: but in his humility he is ever giving proofs of his almighty power, that the belief of his divinity may be established.
4All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
All this was done - The word all, in this clause, is omitted by some MSS., versions, and fathers.
Which was spoken - The Spirit of God, which predicted those things that concerned the Messiah, took care to have them literally fulfilled:
1. To show the truth of prophecy in general; and,
2. To designate Christ as the person intended by that prophecy.
See the note on Matthew 2:23.
5Tell 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.
Tell ye the daughter of Sion - The quotation is taken from Zechariah 9:9, but not in the precise words of the prophet.
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.
He is coming now meek, full of kindness and compassion to those who were plotting his destruction! He comes to deliver up himself into their hands; their king comes to be murdered by his subjects, and to make his death a ransom price for their souls!
6And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
7And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
And put on them their clothes - Thus acknowledging him to be their king, for this was a custom observed by the people when they found that God had appointed a man to the kingdom. When Jehu sat with the captains of the army, and Elisha the prophet came, by the order of God, to anoint him king over Israel, as soon as he came out of the inner chamber into which the prophet had taken him to anoint him, and they knew what was done, every man took his garment, and spread it under him on the top of the steps, and blew the trumpets, saying, "Jehu is king." 2 Kings 9:13.
And they set him thereon - Και επεκαθισεν επανω αυτων, and he sat upon them; but instead of επανω αυτων, upon Them, the Codex Bezae, seven copies of the Itala, some copies of the Vulgate, and some others, read επ' αυτον, upon him, i.e. the colt. This is most likely to be the true reading; for we can scarcely suppose that he rode upon both by turns, - this would appear childish; or that he rode upon both at once, for this would be absurd. Some say he sat on both; for "the ass that was tied up was an emblem of the Jews bound under the yoke of the law; and the colt that had not been tied represented the Gentiles who were not under the law; and that Jesus Christ's sitting on both represented his subjecting the Jews and the Gentiles to the sway of his evangelical scepter." He who can receive this saying, let him receive it.
8And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
Cut down branches from the trees - Carrying palm and other branches was emblematical of victory and success. See 1 Maccabees 13:51; 2 Maccabees 10:7; and Revelation 7:9.
The rabbins acknowledge that the prophecy in Zechariah refers to the Messiah; so Rab. Tancum, and Yalcut Rubeni has a strange story about the ass. "This ass is the colt of that ass which was created in the twilight of the sixth day. This is the ass which Abraham found when he went to sacrifice his son. This is the ass on which Moses rode when he went to Egypt; and this is the ass on which the Messiah shall ride." Some of the Jews seem to think that the zebra is intended; for according to Bab. Sanhedr. fol. 98, when Shapoor, king of Persia, said to Rabbi Samuel: "You say your Messiah will come upon an ass; I will send him a noble horse." To which the rabbi replied, "You have not a horse with a hundred spots (query, streaks) like his ass." See Lightfoot and Schoettgen.
9And 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.
Hosanna to the son of David - When persons applied to the king for help, or for a redress of grievances, they used the word hosanna, or rather from the Hebrew הושיעה נא Hoshiah Na! Save now! or, Save, we beseech thee! - redress our grievances, and give us help from oppression! Thus both the words and actions of the people prove that they acknowledged Christ as their king, and looked to him for deliverance. How easily might he have assumed the sovereignty at this time, had he been so disposed! For instances of the use of this form of speech, see 2 Samuel 14:4; 2 Kings 6:26; Psalm 118:25.
Son of David - A well-known epithet of the Messiah. He who cometh in the name, etc. He who comes in the name and authority of the Most High.
Hosanna in the highest - Either meaning, Let the heavenly hosts join with us in magnifying this august Being! - or, Let the utmost degrees of hosanna, of salvation, and deliverance, be communicated to thy people! Probably there is an allusion here to the custom of the Jews in the feast of tabernacles. During the first seven days of that feast, they went once round the altar, each day, with palm and other branches in their hands, singing Hosanna: but on the eighth day of that feast they walked seven times round the altar, singing the hosanna; and this was termed the hosanna rabba, the Great hosanna: i.e. Assist with the greatest succor. Probably answering to the τοις υψιστοις of the evangelist, for on this day they beg the most speedy and powerful help against their enemies, and likewise pray for a prosperous and fruitful year. See Stehlin's Jewish Traditions, vol. ii. p. 322.
10And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
All the city was moved - Or, the whole city was in motion. Εσεισθη, was in a tumult - they saw and heard plainly that the multitude had proclaimed Christ king, and Messiah. Who is this? Who is accounted worthy of this honor?
11And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
This is Jesus The Prophet - Ο προφητης That prophet whom Moses spoke of, Deuteronomy 18:18. I will raise them up a prophet - like unto thee, etc. Every expression of the multitude plainly intimated that they fully received our blessed Lord as the promised Messiah. - How strange is it that these same people (if the creatures of the high priest be not only intended) 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.
12And 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,
Jesus went into the temple of God, etc. - "Avarice," says one, "covered with the veil of religion, is one of those things on which Christ looks with the greatest indignation in his Church. Merchandize of holy things, simoniacal presentations, fraudulent exchanges, a mercenary spirit in sacred functions; ecclesiastical employments obtained by flattery, service, or attendance, or by any thing which is instead of money; collations, nominations, and elections made through any other motive than the glory of God; these are all fatal and damnable profanations, of which those in the temple were only a shadow." Quesnel.
Money-changers - Persons who furnished the Jews and proselytes who came from other countries, with the current coin of Judea, in exchange for their own.
13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
My house shall be called the house of prayer - This is taken from Isaiah 56:7.
But ye have made it a den of thieves - This is taken from Jeremiah 7:11.
Our Lord alludes here to those dens and caves in Judea, in which the public robbers either hid or kept themselves fortified.
They who are placed in the Church of Christ to serve souls, and do it not, and they who enjoy the revenues of the Church, and neglect the service of it, are thieves and robbers in more senses than one.
Our Lord is represented here as purifying his temple; and this we may judge he did in reference to his true temple, the Church, to show that nothing that was worldly or unholy should have any place among his followers, or in that heart in which he should condescend to dwell. It is marvellous that these interested, vile men did not raise a mob against him: but it is probable they were overawed by the Divine power, or, seeing the multitudes on the side of Christ, they were afraid to molest him. I knew a case something similar to this, which did not succeed so well. A very pious clergyman of my acquaintance, observing a woman keeping a public standing to sell nuts, gingerbread, etc., at the very porch of his Church, on the Lord's day, "desired her to remove thence, and not defile the house of God, while she profaned the Sabbath of the Lord." She paid no attention to him. He warned her the next Sabbath, but still to no purpose. Going in one Lord's day to preach, and finding her still in the very entrance, with her stall, he overthrew the stall, and scattered the stuff into the street. He was shortly after summoned to appear before the royal court, which, to its eternal reproach, condemned the action, and fined the man of God in a considerable sum of money!
14And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
The blind and the lame came - Having condemned the profane use of the temple, he now shows the proper use of it. It is a house of prayer, where God is to manifest his goodness and power in giving sight to the spiritually blind, and feet to the lame. The Church or chapel in which the blind and the lame are not healed has no Christ in it, and is not worthy of attendance.
15And 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,
The chief priests - were sore displeased - Or, were incensed. Incensed at what! At the purification of the profaned temple! This was a work they should have done themselves, but for which they had neither grace nor influence; and their pride and jealousy will not suffer them to permit others to do it. Strange as it may appear, the priesthood itself, in all corrupt times, has been ever the most forward to prevent a reform in the Church. Was it because they were conscious that a reformer would find them no better than money-changers in, and profaners of, the house of God, and that they and their system must be overturned, if the true worship of God were restored! Let him who is concerned answer this to his conscience.
16And 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?
Out of the mouth of babes - The eighth Psalm, out of which these words are quoted, is applied to Jesus Christ in three other places in the new covenant, 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:6. Which proves it to be merely a prophetic psalm, relating to the Messiah.
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. As to the prophecy that foretold this, they regarded it not. Some imagine that babes and sucklings in the prophecy have a much more extensive meaning, and refer also to the first preachers of the Gospel of Christ.
17And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
And he left them (καταλιπων, finally leaving them) and went - into Bethany; and he lodged there - Bethany was a village about two miles distant from Jerusalem, by Mount Olivet, John 11:18; and it is remarkable that from this day till his death, which happened about six days after, he spent not one night in Jerusalem, but went every evening to Bethany, and returned to the city each morning. See Luke 21:37; Luke 22:39; John 8:1, John 8:2. They were about to murder the Lord of glory; and the true light, which they had rejected, is now departing from them.
Lodged there - Not merely to avoid the snares laid for him by those bad men, but to take away all suspicion of his affecting the regal power. To the end of this verse is added by the Saxon, And taught them of the kingdom of God. This same reading is found in some MSS., Missals, and one copy of the Itala. It appears also in Wickliff, and my old folio English MS. Bible, and taugt hem of the kyngdom of God; and in two MS. copies of the Vulgate, in my possession: one, duodecimo, very fairly written, in 1300; the other a large folio, probably written in the 11th or 12th century, in which the words are, Ibique docebat eos de regno Dei. And There he taught them concerning the kingdom of God.
18Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
Now in the morning, as he returned into the city - Which was his custom from the time he wholly left Jerusalem, spending only the day time teaching in the temple; see Matthew 21:17. This was probably on Thursday, the 12th day of the month Nisan.
He hungered - Probably neither he, nor his disciples, had any thing but what they got from public charity; and the hand of that seems to have been cold at this time.
19And 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.
He saw a fig tree in the way - Επι της οδου, By the road side. As this fig tree was by the way side, it was no private property; and on this account our Lord, or any other traveler, had a right to take of its fruit. For a full explanation of this difficult passage, relative to this emblematic fig tree, see on Mark 11:13 (note), etc.
Let no fruit grow on thee - Can a professor, who affords Christ nothing but barren words and wishes, expect any thing but his malediction? When the soul continues in unfruitfulness, the influences of grace are removed, and then the tree speedily withers from the very root.
20And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
How soon is the fig tree withered away! - We often say to our neighbors, "How suddenly this man died! Who could have expected it so soon?" But who takes warning by these examples? What we say to-day of Others, may be said to-morrow of Ourselves. Be ye also ready! Lord, increase our faith!
21Jesus 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.
If ye have faith, and doubt not - See on Matthew 17:20 (note). Removing mountains, and rooting up of mountains, are phrases very generally used to signify the removing or conquering great difficulties - getting through perplexities. So, many of the rabbins are termed rooters up of mountains, because they were dexterous in removing difficulties, solving cases of conscience, etc. In this sense our Lord's words are to be understood. He that has faith will get through every difficulty and perplexity; mountains shall become molehills or plains before him. The saying is neither to be taken in its literal sense, nor is it hyperbolical: it is a proverbial form of speech, which no Jew could misunderstand, and with which no Christian ought to be puzzled.
22And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
All things - ye shall ask in prayer, believing - In order to get salvation, there must be,
1. a conviction of the want of it: this begets,
2. prayer, or warm desires, in the heart: then
3. the person asks, i.e. makes use of words expressive of his wants and wishes:
4. believes the word of promise, relative to the fulfillment of his wants: and
5. receives, according to the merciful promise of God, the salvation which his soul requires.
23And 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?
By what authority doest thou these things? - The things which the chief priests allude to, were his receiving the acclamations of the people as the promised Messiah, his casting the traders out of the temple, and his teaching the people publicly in it.
Who gave thee this authority? - Not them: for, like many of their successors, they were neither teachers nor cleansers; though they had the name and the profits of the place.
24And 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.
I also will ask you one thing - Our Lord was certainly under no obligation to answer their question: he had already given them such proofs of his Divine mission as could not possibly be exceeded, in the miracles which he wrought before their eyes, and before all Judea; and, as they would not credit him on this evidence, it would have been in vain to have expected their acknowledgment of him on any profession he would make.
25The 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 - Had John a Divine commission or not, for his baptism and preaching? Our Lord here takes the wise in their own cunning. He knew the estimation John was in among the people; and he plainly saw that, if they gave any answer at all, they must convict themselves: and so they saw, when they came to examine the question. See Matthew 21:25, Matthew 21:26.
26But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
27And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.
We cannot tell - Simplicity gives a wonderful confidence and peace of mind; but double dealing causes a thousand inquietudes and troubles. Let a man do his utmost to conceal in his own heart the evidence he has of truth and innocence, to countenance his not yielding to it; God, who sees the heart, will, in the light of the last day, produce it as a witness against him, and make it his judge.
We cannot tell, said they; which, in the words of truth, should have been, We will not tell, for we will not have this man for the Messiah: because, if we acknowledge John as his forerunner, we must, of necessity, receive Jesus as the Christ.
They who are engaged against the truth are abandoned to the spirit of falsity, and scruple not at a lie. Pharisaical pride, according to its different interests, either pretends to know every thing, or affects to know nothing. Among such, we may meet with numerous instances of arrogance and affected humility. God often hides from the wise and prudent what he reveals unto babes; for, when they use their wisdom only to invent the most plausible excuses for rejecting the truth when it comes to them, it is but just that they should be punished with that ignorance to which, in their own defense, they are obliged to have recourse.
28But 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.
A certain man had two sons - Under the emblem of these two sons, one of whom was a libertine, disobedient, and insolent, but who afterwards thought on his ways, and returned to his duty; and the second, a hypocrite, who promised all, and did nothing; our Lord points out, on the one hand, the tax-gatherers and sinners of all descriptions, who, convicted by the preaching of John and that of Christ, turned away from their iniquities and embraced the Gospel; and, on the other hand, the scribes, Pharisees, and self-righteous people, who, pretending a zeal for the law, would not receive the salvation of the Gospel.
29He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
I will not - This is the general reply of every sinner to the invitations of God; and, in it, the Most High is treated without ceremony or respect. They only are safe who persist not in the denial.
30And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
I go, sir - This is all respect, complaisance, and professed, obedience; but he went not: he promised well, but did not perform. What a multitude of such are in the world, professing to know God, but denying him in their works! Alas! what will such professions avail, when God comes to take away the soul?
31Whether 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.
The publicans and the harlots - In all their former conduct they had said No. Now they yield to the voice of truth when they hear it, and enter into the kingdom, embracing the salvation brought to them in the Gospel. The others, who had been always professing the most ready and willing obedience, and who pretended to be waiting for the kingdom of God, did not receive it when it came, but rather chose, while making the best professions, to continue members of the synagogue of Satan.
32For 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.
John came unto you in the way of righteousness - Proclaiming the truth, and living agreeably to it. Or, John came unto you, who are in the way of righteousness. This seems rather to be the true meaning and construction of this passage. The Jews are here distinguished from the Gentiles. The former were in the way of righteousness, had the revelation of God, and the ordinances of justice established among them; the latter were in the way of unrighteousness, without the Divine revelation, and iniquitous in all their conduct: John came to both, preaching the doctrine of repentance, and proclaiming Jesus the Christ. To say that it was John who came in the way of righteousness, and that to him the words refer, is, in my opinion, saying nothing; for this was necessarily implied: as he professed to come from God, he must not only preach righteousness, but walk in it.
It is very difficult to get a worldly minded and self-righteous man brought to Christ. Examples signify little to him. Urge the example of an eminent saint, he is discouraged at it. Show him a profligate sinner converted to God, him he is ashamed to own and follow; and, as to the conduct of the generality of the followers of Christ, it is not striking enough to impress him. John, and Christ, and the apostles preach; but, to multitudes, all is in vain.
33Hear 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:
There was a certain householder - Let us endeavor to find out a general and practical meaning for this parable. A householder - the Supreme Being. The family - the Jewish nation. The vineyard - the city of Jerusalem. The fence - the Divine protection. The wine-press - the law and sacrificial rites. The tower - the temple, in which the Divine presence was manifested. The husbandmen - the priests and doctors of the law. Went from home - entrusted the cultivation of the vineyard to the priests, etc., with the utmost confidence; as a man would do who had the most trusty servants, and was obliged to absent himself from home for a certain time. Our Lord takes this parable from Isaiah 5:1, etc.; but whether our blessed Redeemer quote from the law, the prophets, or the rabbins, he reserves the liberty to himself to beautify the whole, and render it more pertinent.
Some apply this parable also to Christianity, thus: - The master or father - our blessed Lord. The family - professing Christians in general. The vineyard - the true Church, or assembly of the faithful. The hedge - the true faith, which keeps the sacred assembly enclosed and defended from the errors of heathenism and false Christianity. The wine-press - the atonement made by the sacrifice of Christ, typified by the sacrifices under the law. The tower - the promises of the Divine presence and protection. The husbandmen - the apostles and all their successors in the ministry. The going from home - the ascension to heaven. But this parable cannot go on all fours in the Christian cause, as any one may see. In the ease of the husbandmen, especially it is applicable; unless we suppose our Lord intended such as those inquisitorial Bonners, who always persecuted the true ministers of Christ, and consequently Christ himself in his members; and to these may be added the whole train of St. Bartholomew Ejectors, and all the fire and faggot men of a certain Church, who think they do God service by murdering his saints. But let the persecuted take courage: Jesus Christ will come back shortly; and then he will miserably destroy those wicked men: indeed, he has done so already to several, and let out his vineyard to more faithful husbandmen.
Digged a wine-press - Ωρυξε ληνον. St. Mark has υποληνιον, the pit under the press, into which the liquor ran, when squeezed out of the fruit by the press.
34And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
He sent his servants - Prophets, which, from time to time, he sent to the Jewish nation to call both priests and people back to the purity of his holy religion.
Receive the fruits of it - Alluding to the ancient custom of paying the rent of a farm in kind; that is, by a part of the produce of the farm. This custom anciently prevailed in most nations; and still prevails in the highlands of Scotland, and in some other places. The Boldon book, a survey made of the state of the bishopric of Durham in 1183, shows how much of the rents was paid in cows, sheep, pigs, fowls, eggs, etc., the remaining part being made up chiefly by manual labor.
35And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
Beat one - Εδειραν, took his skin off, flayed him: probably alluding to some who had been excessively scourged.
Killed another, etc. - Rid themselves of the true witnesses of God by a variety of persecutions.
36Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
Other servants - There is not a moment in which God does not shower down his gifts upon men, and require the fruit of them. Various instruments are used to bring sinners to God. There are prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers: some with his gift after this manner, and some after that. The true disciples of Christ have been persecuted in all ages, and the greatest share of the persecution has fallen upon the ministers of his religion; for there have always been good and bad husbandmen, and the latter have persecuted the former.
More than the first - Or, more honorable, so I think πλειονας should be translated; for, as the fullness of the time approached, each prophet more clearly and fully pointed out the coming of Christ.
Our translation, which says, more than the first, conveys no meaning at all. Πλειον is the meaning I have given it above, in Matthew 6:25. πλειον της τροφης, of More Value than food; and in Numbers 22:15 πλειους και εντιμοτερους, persons higher in dignity and office.
37But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
Last of all he sent - his son - This requires no comment. Our Lord plainly means himself.
They will reverence - Εντραπησονται, they will reflect upon their conduct and blush for shame because of it, when they see my son. So the Syric and Persic.
38But 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.
Said among themselves - Alluding to the conspiracies which were then forming against the life of our blessed Lord, in the councils of the Jewish elders and chief priests. See Matthew 27:1.
39And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
Cast him out of the vineyard - Utterly rejected the counsel of God against themselves; and would neither acknowledge the authority of Christ, nor submit to his teaching. What a strange and unaccountable case is this! - a sinner, to enjoy a little longer his false peace, and the gratification of his sinful appetites, rejects Jesus, and persecutes that Gospel which troubles his sinful repose.
40When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
41They 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.
He will miserably destroy those wicked men - So, according to this evangelist, our Lord caused them to pass that sentence of destruction upon themselves which was literally executed about forty years after. But Luke relates it differently: according to him, they said μη γενοιτο, God forbid! The Codex Leicestrensis omits οι λεγουσιν, they say; so that the following words appear to be spoken by our Lord. Michaelis supposes that in the Hebrew original the word was ויאמר waiomer, he said; for which the Greek translator might have read ויאמרו waiomeru, they said.
42Jesus 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?
The stone - R. Solom. Jarchi, on Micah 5:1-15, says, this stone means the Messiah, אכן משיח: Abarbanel is of the same opinion. This seems to have been originally spoken of David who was at first rejected by the Jewish rulers, but was afterwards chosen by the Lord to be the great ruler of his people Israel. The quotation is taken from Psalm 118:22.
As the Church is represented in Scripture under the name of the temple and house of God, in allusion to the temple of Jerusalem, which was a type of it, 1 Corinthians 3:16; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5; so Jesus Christ is represented as the foundation on which this edifice is laid, 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20, Ephesians 2:21.
The builders - The chief priests and elders of the people, with the doctors of the law.
Rejected - An expression borrowed from masons, who, finding a stone, which being tried in a particular place, and appearing improper for it, is thrown aside, and another taken; however, at last, it may happen that the very stone which had been before rejected, may be found the most suitable as the head stone of the corner.
This passage, as applied by our Lord to himself, contains an abridgment of the whole doctrine of the Gospel.
1. The Lord's peculiar work is astonishingly manifested in the mission of Jesus Christ.
2. He, being rejected and crucified by the Jews, became an atonement for the sin of the world.
3. He was raised again from the dead, a proof of his conquest over death and sin, and a pledge of immortality to his followers.
4. He was constituted the foundation on which the salvation of mankind rests, and the corner stone which unites Jews and Gentiles, beautifies, strengthens, and completes the whole building, as the head stone, or uppermost stone in the corner does the whole edifice.
5. He is hereby rendered the object of the joy and admiration of all his followers and the glory of man. This was done by the Lord, and is marvellous in our eyes.
43Therefore 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-- Thus showing them, that to them alone the parable belonged. The kingdom of God shall be taken from you - the Gospel shall be taken from you, and given to the Gentiles, who will receive it, and bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
Bringing forth the fruits - As in Matthew 21:34 an allusion is made to paying the landlord in kind, so here the Gentiles are represented as paying God thus. The returns which He expects for his grace are the fruits of grace; nothing can ever be acceptable in the sight of God that does not spring from himself.
44And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The 44th verse should certainly come before Matthew 21:43, otherwise the narration is not consecutive.
Matthew 21:42. The stone which the builders rejected, is become the head of the corner, etc. Matthew 21:44. Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, etc. This is an allusion to the punishment of stoning among the Jews. The place of stoning was twice as high as a man; while standing on this, one of the witnesses struck the culprit on the loins, so that he fell over this scaffold; if he died by the stroke and fall, well; if not, the other witness threw a stone upon his heart, and despatched him. That stone thrown on the culprit was, in some cases, as much as two men could lift up. Tract Sanhed. and Bab. Gemara, and Lightfoot. See also the note on John 8:7 (note).
He, whether Jew or Gentile, who shall not believe in the Son of God, shall suffer grievously in consequence; but on whomsoever the stone (Jesus Christ) falls in the way of judgment, he shall be ground to powder, λικμησει αυτον - it shall make him so small as to render him capable of being dispersed as chaff by the wind. This seems to allude, not only to the dreadful crushing of the Jewish state by the Romans, but also to that general dispersion of the Jews through all the nations of the world, which continues to the present day. This whole verse is wanting in the Codex Bezae, one other, five copies of the Itala, and Origen; but it is found in the parallel place, Luke 20:18, and seems to have been quoted from Isaiah 8:14, Isaiah 8:15. He shall be for a Stone of Stumbling, and for a Rock of Offence to both the houses of Israel - and many among them shall Stumble and Fall, and be Broken.
45And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
The chief priests - perceived that he spoke of them - The most wholesome advice passes for an affront with those who have shut their hearts against the truth. When that which should lead to repentance only kindles the flame of malice and revenge, there is but little hope of the salvation of such persons.
46But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
They sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude - Restraining and preventing grace is an excellent blessing, particularly where it leads to repentance and salvation; but he who abstains from certain evils, only through fear of scandal or punishment, has already committed them in his heart, and is guilty before God. The intrepidity of our Lord is worthy of admiration and imitation; in the very face of his most inveterate enemies, he bears a noble testimony to the truth, reproves their iniquities, denounces the Divine judgments, and, in the very teeth of destruction, braves danger and death! A true minister of Christ fears nothing but God, when his glory is concerned: a hireling fears every thing, except Him whom he ought to fear.
This last journey of our Lord to Jerusalem is a subject of great importance; it is mentioned by all the four evangelists, and has been a subject of criticism and cavil to some unsanctified minds. He has been accused of "attempting, by this method, to feel how far the populace were disposed to favor his pretensions in establishing himself as a king in the land; or, at least, by his conduct in this business, he gave much cause for popular seditions." Every circumstance in the case refutes this calumny.
1. His whole conduct had proved that his kingdom was not of this world, and that he sought not the honor that cometh from man.
2. He had in a very explicit manner foretold his own premature death, and particularly at this time.
3. It is evident, from what he had said to his disciples, that he went up to Jerusalem at this time for the express purpose of being sacrificed, and not of erecting a secular kingdom.
4. What he did at this time was to fulfill a declaration of God delivered by two prophets, upwards of 700 years before, relative to his lowliness, poverty, and total deadness to all secular rule and pomp. See Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9.
5. All the time he spent now in Jerusalem, which was about five days, he spent in teaching, precisely in the same way he had done for three years past; nor do we find that he uttered one maxim dissimilar to what he formerly taught, or said a word calculated to produce any sensation on the hearts of the populace, but that of piety towards God; and in the parable of the man and his two sons, the husbandmen and the vineyard, he spoke in such a way to the rulers of the people as to show that he knew they were plotting his destruction; and that, far from fleeing from the face of danger, or strengthening his party against his enemies, he was come to wait at the foot of the altar till his blood should be poured out for the sin of the world!
6. Had he affected any thing of a secular kind, he had now the fairest opportunity to accomplish his designs. The people had already received him as Jesus the prophet; now they acknowledge him as the Christ or Messiah, and sing the hosannah to him, as immediately appointed by Heaven to be their deliverer.
7. Though, with the character of the Messiah, the Jews had connected that of secular royalty, and they now, by spreading their clothes in the way, strewing branches, etc., treat him as a royal person, and one appointed to govern the kingdom; yet of this he appears to take no notice, farther than to show that an important prophecy was thus fulfilled: he went as usual into the temple, taught the people pure and spiritual truths, withdrew at night from the city, lodged in private at Mount Olivet; and thus most studiously and unequivocally showed that his sole aim was to call the people back to purity and holiness, and prepare them for that kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which he was about, by his passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and the mission of the Holy Spirit, to set up in the earth.
8. Could a person who worked such miracles as he was in the daily habit of working-miracles which proved he possessed unlimited power and unerring wisdom, need subterfuges, or a colouring for any design he wished to accomplish? He had only to put forth that power essentially resident in himself, and all resistance to his will must be annihilated. In short, every circumstance of the case shows at once the calumny and absurdity of the charge. But, instead of lessening, or tendering suspicious this or any other part of our Lord's conduct, it shows the whole in a more luminous and glorious point of view; and thus the wrath of man praises him.
9. That he was a king, that he was born of a woman and came into the world for this very purpose, he took every occasion to declare; but all these declarations showed that his kingdom was spiritual: he would not even interfere with the duty of the civil magistrate to induce an avaricious brother to do justice to the rest of the family, Luke 12:13, when probably a few words from such an authority would have been sufficient to have settled the business; yet to prevent all suspicion, and to remove every cause for offense, he absolutely refused to interfere, and took occasion from the very circumstance to declaim against secular views, covetousness, and worldly ambition! O how groundless does every part of his conduct prove this charge of secular ambition to be! Such was the spirit of the Master: such must be the spirit of the disciple. He that will reign with Christ, must be humbled and suffer with him. This is the royal road. The love of the world, in its power and honors, is as inconsistent with the spirit of the Gospel as the love of the grossest vice. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Reader, take occasion from this refuted calumny, to imitate thy Lord in the spirituality of his life, to pass through things temporal so as not to lose those that are eternal, that thou mayest reign with him in the glory of his kingdom. Amen.