Home / Commentary / Matthew / Matthew Chapter 21
Jesus and the disciples pause as they approach the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. Jesus sends two disciples to go retrieve a donkey and her unridden colt from the village of Bethphage. Once done the disciples lay their coats on the beasts and Jesus begins to ride the colt into Jerusalem. This fulfills a Messianic prophecy from Zechariah.
Jesus simultaneously enters the city of Jerusalem triumphantly as the Messiah and as the Passover Lamb. Crowds of people shout “Hosanna” and Messianic lines from Psalm 118. His entrance causes a stir among those who are in the city and attracts their curiosity about who He is.
Jesus enters the temple and drives out the money changers and merchants. He quotes the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah in His rebuke.
Jesus heals the blind and lame in the temple as the children shout Hosanna to the Son of David. The priests were angered by this, and asked Jesus if He heard and approved of what they were saying. Jesus did approve of their praise and He asked them if they understood what Psalm 8 meant. He then left Jerusalem with His disciples to spend the night in the nearby town of Bethany.
In the morning after Jesus’s triumphal entry, Jesus travels back to Jerusalem from where He spent the night in Bethany. He becomes hungry and sees a fig tree in bloom alongside the road. Hoping to find something to eat, He walks up to it. When He does not find any fruit, Jesus curses the fig tree and it withers, instantly.
The disciples wonder about the fig tree withering at Jesus’s curse. Jesus teaches them about faith. He tells the disciples if they have faith without doubting, that they will be able to move mountains.
The chief priests confront Jesus in the temple and interrogate Him about His authority. They publicly ask Him a framing question hoping to entrap Him. Jesus promises to answer their question if they will answer His alternatively framed question about John the Baptist’s authority. When they decline to answer His question, Jesus declines to answer theirs.
Jesus tells a parable about two disrespectful sons of a vineyard owner. Both are told to go work in the vineyard by their father. The first said he wouldn’t go, but later repented and did. The second said he would go, but never went. Jesus then asked the priests and elders which of the two sons actually obeyed. They gave the correct answer. Jesus then explained its meaning to everyone in the temple.
Jesus tells the parable of a landowner who plants a vineyard on his land. He then hires vine-growers to work His vineyard while He is away. When the harvest comes, the vineyard owner sends some slaves to collect its produce, but instead of paying the landowner what was His, the vine-growers beat and kill them. They do the same to the landowner’s son. Jesus asks the priests and elders what will happen to the evil vine-growers when the landowner returns. They reply that he will bring them to a wretched end. In the subsequent section, Jesus applied the parable to the Jewish leaders as being like those evil slaves.
Jesus follows up the Sadducees’ and Pharisees’ response to how the landowner will bring the wretched vine-growers to an end with a startling question and a condemning passage from the Psalms. He ends His rebuke by telling them that God will take away their place in His kingdom from them and scatter them like dust.
The Sadducees and Pharisees have understood that Jesus was speaking against them. They desire to arrest Him for what He said. But they do not do so at this time, because they are afraid of how the many people who believe Jesus is a prophet will respond if they tried to seize Him.
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the Messiah riding on a colt to shouts of “Hosanna” from the crowds. But despite this promising entrance, the rest of this chapter chronicles how leading Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah. He enters the Temple and drives out the moneychangers and heals the sick. The chief priests are upset and accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Jesus cites Psalm 8 and departs for Bethany for the night. On the walk back into the city the next morning Jesus curses a fig tree and it withers, and talks about faith to His disciples. Jesus reenters the temple area and debates with the Sadducees and city elders who reject Him as the Messiah.