Bible Commentary

Matthew 21

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Matthew 21)

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.

The daughter of Sion — That is, the inhabitants of Jerusalem: the first words of the passage are cited from Isaiah 62:11; the rest from Zechariah 9:9. The ancient Jewish doctors were wont to apply these prophecies to the Messiah.

On an ass — The Prince of Peace did not take a horse, a warlike animal. But he will ride on that by and by, Revelation 19:11. In the patriarchal ages, illustrious persons thought it no disgrace to make use of this animal: but it by no means appears, that this opinion prevailed, or this custom continued, till the reign of Tiberias. Was it a mean attitude wherein our Lord then appeared? Mean even to contempt! I grant it: I glory in it: it is for the comfort of my soul for the honour of his humility, and for the utter confusion of all worldly pomp and grandeur.

Verse 7

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

They set him thereon — That is, on the clothes.

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.

A great multitude spread their garments in the way — A custom which was usual at the creation of a king, 2 Kings 9:13.

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.

The multitudes cried, saying — Probably from a Divine impulse; for certainly most of them understood not the words they uttered.

Hosanna — (Lord save us) was a solemn word in frequent use among the Jews. The meaning is, "We sing hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he, the Messiah, of the Lord. Save. Thou that art in the highest heavens." Our Lord restrained all public tokens of honour from the people till now, lest the envy of his enemies should interrupt his preaching before the time . But this reason now ceasing, he suffered their acclamations, that they might be a public testimony against their wickedness, who in four or five days after cried out, Crucify him, crucify him. The expressions recorded by the other evangelists are somewhat different from these: but all of them were undoubtedly used by some or others of the multitude.

Verse 11

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

This is Jesus from Nazareth — What a stumbling block was this! if he was of Nazareth, he could not be the Messiah. But they who earnestly desired to know the truth would not stumble thereat: for upon inquiry (which such would not fail to make) they would find, he was not of Nazareth, but Bethlehem.

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,

He cast out all that sold and bought — Doves and oxen for sacrifice. He had cast them out three years before, John 2:14; bidding them not make that house a house of merchandise. Upon the repetition of the offence, he used sharper words.

In the temple — That is, in the outer court of it, where the Gentiles used to worship.

The money changers — The exchangers of foreign money into current coin, which those who came from distant parts might want to offer for the service of the temple. Mark 11:11,15; Luke 19:45.

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.

A den of thieves — A proverbial expression, for a harbour of wicked men. Isaiah 56:7; Jeremiah 7:11.

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?

Psalms 8:2.

Verse 17

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

Mark 11:11,12.

Verse 20

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

The disciples seeing it — As they went by, the next day.

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.

Jesus answering, said, If ye have faith — Whence we may learn, that one great end of our Lord in this miracle was to confirm and increase their faith: another was, to warn them against unfruitfulness. Matthew 17:20.

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?

When he was come into the temple, the chief priests came — Who thought he violated their right: and the elders of the people - Probably, members of the sanhedrim, to whom that title most properly belonged: which is the more probable, as they were the persons under whose cognizance the late action of Christ, in purging the temple, would naturally fall. These, with the chief priests, seem purposely to have appeared in a considerable company, to give the more weight to what they said, and if need were, to bear a united testimony against him.

As he was teaching — Which also they supposed he had no authority to do, being neither priest, nor Levite, nor scribe. Some of the priests (though not as priests) and all the scribes were authorized teachers.

By what authority dost thou these things — Publicly teach the people! And drive out those who had our commission to traffic in the outer court? Luke 20:1; Mark 11:27.

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.

I will ask you one thing — Who have asked me many: The baptism, that is, the whole ministry of John, was it from heaven or from men? - By what authority did he act and teach? Did man or God give him that authority? Was it not God? But if so, the consequence was clear. For John testified that Jesus was the Christ.

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?

Why did ye not believe him — Testifying this.

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.

Neither tell I you — Not again, in express terms: he had often told them before, and they would not believe him.

Verse 30

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

He answered, I go, sir: but went not — Just so did the scribes and Pharisees: they professed the greatest readiness and zeal in the service of God: but it was bare profession, contradicted by all their actions.

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.

John came in a way of righteousness — Walking in it, as well as teaching it.

The publicans and harlots — The most notorious sinners were reformed, though at first they said, I will not. And ye seeing the amazing change which was wrought in them, though at first ye said, I go, sir, repented not afterward - Were no more convinced than before. O how is this scripture fulfilled at this day!

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:

A certain householder planted a vineyard — God planted the Church in Canaan; and hedged it round about - First with the law, then with his peculiar providence: and digged a wine press - Perhaps it may mean Jerusalem: and built a tower - The temple: and went into a far country - That is, left the keepers of his vineyard, in some measure, to behave as they should see good. Mark 12:1; Luke 20:9.

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.

He sent his servants — His extraordinary messengers, the prophets: to the husbandmen - The ordinary preachers or ministers of the Jews.

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.

They say — Perhaps some of the by-standers, not the chief priests or Pharisees; who, as St. Luke relates, said, God forbid, Luke 20:16.

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?

The builders — The scribes and priests, whose office it was to build up the Church.

Is become the head of the corner — Or the chief corner stone: he is become the foundation of the Church, on which the whole building rests, and is the principal corner stone, for uniting the Gentiles to it, as the chief corner stone of a house supports and links its two sides together. Psalms 118:22.

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.

Therefore — Because ye reject this corner stone.

The kingdom of God — That is, the Gospel.

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.

Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken — Stumblers at Christ shall even then receive much hurt. He is said to fall on this stone, who hears the Gospel and does not believe.

But on whomsoever it shall fall — In vengeance, it will utterly destroy him. It will fall on every unbeliever, when Christ cometh in the clouds of heaven. Luke 20:18.

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