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Matthew Chapter Twenty-one


I. Content of the Chapter


The King Went into the City of Jerusalem

I. He rode upon the colt into the city of Jerusalem (v.1-11).

II. He cleansed the Holy Temple (v.12-17).

III. He judged the fig tree (v.18-22).

IV. He put the opposed to silence (v.23-27).

V. The parable of two sons (v.28-32).

VI. The parable of the wicked vinedressers (v.33-46).


II. Verse by Verse commentary


Matt. 21:1 “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

   YLT: “And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, unto the mount of the Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,”

   Meaning of Words: “Bethphage”: House of green (immature) figs.

   Literal Meaning: “came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives,” “Bethphage” was on the east of Jerusalem, on the south of the Mount of Olive and was close to Bethany (See v.17).

   Spiritual Meaning: “Bethphage” in original means the House of green figs. Figs symbolize the kingdom and the people of Israel (See Jer. 24:5). God hopes to gain a group of people on earth as figs have satisfied Him.

  Jerusalem was the capital of God’s elect. Normally, when the heavenly king came to Jerusalem, He should be welcomed and respected by all Jerusalem. However, according to the record in this chapter, when the Lord came to Jerusalem, though there were a group of the multitudes welcomed and held high this king, their welcome was very superficial. Moreover, the most serious thing was that He was rejected by the leaders of Judaism. These conditions were just like what the original meaning of “Bethphage” represents. The figs were still green------the Jews had not been prepared to welcome the heavenly king.


Matt. 21:2 “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.

   YLT: “saying to them, `Go on to the village over-against you, and immediately ye shall find an ass bound, and a colt with her having loosed, bring ye to me;”

   The Background: “donkey” is a docile animal. Before the Jews used horses commonly, the donkeys were ridden by kings (See Judg. 10:4, 12:14, 2Sam. 16:2). Because donkeys were not as powerful as steeds, the Bible compared donkeys with steeds to show the lowliness and meekness of the one who rode upon the donkey (See Zech. 9:9-10).

   Literal Meaning: “you will find a donkey tied” The Gospels of Mark and Luke only mentioned the colt and did not mention the donkey (See Mark. 11:2, Luke. 19:30). Usually the mother donkey followed closely to its young colt and the feature of the Gospel of Matthew is to “testify” that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah and therefore the number “two” is mentioned frequently (See the note of Matt. 20:30).

  “And a colt with her” “colt” is the young and immature donkey.

   Spiritual Meaning: meanings of here the donkey and the colt are as follows:

A. “Donkey” represents the Jews and “colt” represents the Gentiles.

B. They were “tied” there, typifying that the world, without freedom, is tied by life, family and work.

C. The place where they were tied is the village opposite, typifying that it is in the world.

D. The Lord asked them to “loosen” them, typifying that the Lord sent His servants (believers) to deliver us from the world and sins. 

E. They were “brought to the Lord”, typifying that our being saved is that we are brought to the Lord.

F. The aim that the Lord saves us is that “the Lord has need of them” (See v.3), typifying that the Lord hopes that after we have been saved, we could dedicate ourselves to Him for His need.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The words of the Lord are with authority and only those who have the words of the Lord will be “loosened” and untied.

2) The one who has been untied has to be brought to the Lord (“bring them to me”) and then the Lord can use him.


Matt. 21:3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them.’”

   YLT: “and if any one may say anything to you, ye shall say, that the lord hath need of them, and immediately he will send them.’”

   Literal Meaning: “the Lord has need of them” “the Lord” is the Lord Jesus Himself.

  “And immediately he will send them.” “He” is the master of the donkey and the colt (See Luke. 19:33). “Immediately he will…” shows that the master was without the least hesitation, manifesting the Lord’s authority.

   Spiritual Meaning: believers were originally under the master of the world and were tied by things of the world and sins. However, one day, the mighty words of the Lord come to us, we are immediately delivered from the power of darkness and dedicate ourselves to the need of the Lord.

   Enlightenment in the Word: once the master of the donkey and the colt hears that the Lord has need of them, he answered it immediately; believers should gladly dedicate our body, intelligence, belongings and so on to the Lord immediately when the Lord has need of them.


Matt. 21:4 “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

   YLT: “And all this came to pass, that it might be fulfilled that was spoken through the prophet, saying,”

   Literal Meaning: “which was spoken by the prophet” is the prophecy said by God through the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 9:9).


Matt. 21:5Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

   YLT: “`Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Lo, thy king doth come to thee, meek, and mounted on an ass, and a colt, a foal of a beast of burden.’”

   Literal Meaning: “the daughter of Zion” The Bible usually uses the daughter of a city to represent the people of the city (See Ps. 45:12, song. 1:5).

  “Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly.” This prophecy said that in the last week for the Lord Jesus as a man and when He went to Jerusalem to receive the cross, He showed Himself as the king to His earthly people who lived in the city of Jerusalem. Even so, He did not descend with majesty and splendor, however, He came lowly. This is the impression that He rode on a colt.

   Spiritual Meaning: the Lord’s riding on a donkey spiritually means that He would reign in the hearts of His people who obey Him and He did not force men to obey Him. If men do not have the intention to magnify the Lord, He will “give them up”.


Matt. 21:6 “So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

   YLT: “And the disciples having gone and having done as Jesus commanded them,”

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Towards the Lord’s words, we should trust and obey His words without any doubt.

2) No matter what the Lord commands, as long as we obey it, it shall be even as it was told.


Matt. 21:7 “They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

   YLT: “brought the ass and the colt, and did put on them their garments, and set [him] upon them;”

   Literal Meaning: “laid their clothes on them” Here they used clothes to replace the saddles.

  “And set Him on them.” According to the literal meaning, it seems that Jesus was riding on two donkeys (them). Actually, one man is unable to sit on two donkeys, He must ride on the colt (See Mark. 11:7) and because that colt had been sat by no men (See Mark. 11:2), its mother had to accompany it, aping it at every step.

   Spiritual Meaning: “clothes” symbolize our external glory and behaviors. The Lord sat on the cloths, showing that: 1) He was highly exalted and glorified; 2) men were able to personally experience His kingship through obedience; 3) we should walk for the manifestation of His glory.

  The disciples brought the donkey and the colt, however, when the Lord went into the city, He sat on the colt (See Mark. 11:7, Luke. 19:30-35). It symbolizes that the Lord is magnified in the Gentiles (the colt). Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:25-26).


Matt. 21:8 “And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

   YLT: “and the very great multitude spread their own garments in the way, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and were strewing in the way,”

   Literal Meaning: “a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road” “a very great multitude” Probably because the Passover was coming, many people from various regions came to Jerusalem for the feast; “spread their clothes on the road” is the behavior to show allegiance and respect to the king (See 2Kings. 9:13).

  “Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.” Spreading clothes on the road is the expression to welcome the king (See 2Kings. 9:13).

   Spiritual Meaning: the Lord sat on the colt and men spread clothes and branches of trees on the road. The meaning of this case is as follows:

  A. Human beings (clothes), animals (donkey) and plants (branches) are the representation of all, showing that the Lord might have the first place in all things (Col. 1:18) and all things are under His feet (Eph. 1:22).

  B. Clothes represent men’s outward behaviors of righteousness (Rev. 19:8) and branches are the branches of palms (See John. 12:13) and they represent men’s inward joy (See Lev. 23:40) and the overcoming life (See Rev. 7:9). “Spreading…on the road” shows to separate Him from the earthly things. The whole sentence shows that believers, in life and behavior, should show the difference between what is of earth and what is of the Lord.

  C. Believers magnify Christ by their beings and deeds, making the world know the being and deeds of Christ.


Matt. 21:9 “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!’”

   YLT: “and the multitudes who were going before, and who were following, were crying, saying, `Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.’”

   Literal Meaning: “Hosanna to the Son of David” “Hosanna” is “beseech for salvation immediately” (See Ps. 118:15). However, it can be used as praise and it means “you are mighty and only you are worthy”. “The Son of David” means that He is the Messiah who was sent by God to save the whole land (See Ps. 132:10-11). The multitudes rejoiced and sang praise because they thought that Jesus was the savior of their race who came there to reign and lead the Jews to resist the domination of Roman Empire and establish the kingdom of the Messiah.

  “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD” This song of praise was originally the blessing to the pilgrims (See Ps. 118:26). Here the multitudes mentioned this and the praise for the Messiah together and therefore “He who comes in the name of the LORD” is the coming Messiah, i.e. Jesus who appeared before them.

  “Hosanna in the highest!” It means that: 1) because of the coming of the Messiah, they glorify God who is in the highest; 2) the angels and the hosts of heaven (See Ps. 148:1-2) sing “Hosanna” loudly in heaven.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) When the Lord sat on the colt (v.7), the multitudes spread clothes on the road (v.8) and then the multitudes praised Him. In like manner, when we fully obey the Lord, the Lord will be highly exalted above all and become the center of praise.

2) When the glorious Lord appears to us, we can’t help rejoicing and singing praise.


Matt. 21:10 “And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?’”

   YLT: “And he having entered into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’”

   Meaning of Words: “was moved”: quake (it is used to describe the earthquake), stir.

   Literal Meaning: “when He had come into Jerusalem” From this verse to chapter 27 in which it recorded that Jesus was crucified, it was His last week as a man and today men call it “the suffering week”.

  “All the city was moved.” Jesus moved all the Jerusalem at the time of His birth and today He moved all the city before His death.


Matt. 21:11 “So the multitudes said, This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.’”

   YLT: “And the multitudes said, `This is Jesus the prophet, who [is] from Nazareth of Galilee.’”

   Literal Meaning: the multitudes here may be Galileans who came to the feast. They knew Him for a long time because the Lord preached and healed the sick in the north.


Matt. 21:12 “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.

   YLT: “And Jesus entered into the temple of God, and did cast forth all those selling and buying in the temple, and the tables of the money-changers he overturned, and the seats of those selling the doves,”

   The Background: at that time the priests of the Holy Temple allowed traders to trade and sell oxen and sheep and doves and other sacrifices for sacrificing in the yard of the Gentiles of the Holy Temple. And because the Raman and Greek coins were not allowed to use in the Holy Temple, the Jews had to use Hebrew coins to pay the tax of the Holy Temple and to offer (See Exod. 30:13-15) and therefore the money exchangers existed for the convenience of pilgrims who came from far away. These commercial behaviors did not seem inappropriate, but actually, there were several serious abuses: 1) because the trader was done in the realm of the Holy Temple, the scared place was profaned by this; 2) it occupied the place of the Gentiles and they had been deprived of the rights of worship; 3) because the priests colluded with the traders. The priests gave the traders various kinds of convenience (e.g. the priests hadn’t examined the sacrifices and bent the rules to accommodate the sacrifice with blemish) and the traders exploited with high prices. Then they both shared the benefits.

   Literal Meaning: “He drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple.” “Temple” is “sacred place” in the original. It indicates the temple itself, its surroundings, and the whole area of the yards; “in the temple” indicates the yard of the Holy Temple which was open to the Gentiles.

  “The seats of those who sold doves” “doves” are used to sacrifice for the poor (See Lev. 12:8, 14:22, 15:14, 29).

   Spiritual Meaning: God’s temple is the place where God inhabits (Eph. 2:21-22), however, there were a group of people who bought and sole in the temple and held gain to be piety (1Tim. 6:5); the behavior that the Lord Jesus cleansed the Holy Temple shows that God cannot have rest in this kind of temple.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) When we are willing to let the Lord reign in our hearts, all the dirtiness, adulteration and sins in our hearts will be cleansed by Him. 

2) The Lord dislikes us to make money (exchange money) through any spiritual thing and quench the spirit (sell the doves) and so on.


Matt. 21:13 “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.’”

   YLT: “and he saith to them, `It hath been written, My house a house of prayer shall be called, but ye did make it a den of robbers.’”

   Meaning of Words: “den of thieves”: the lair of robbers.

   Literal Meaning: this verse puts Is. 56:7 and Jer. 7:11 together.

  This was the second time for the Lord to cleanse the Holy Temple. When the Lord started to work, He once cleansed the temple (See John. 2:13-17). Here when the Lord almost finished His work, he did it again. The first time, He called the temple as “My Father’s house” (John. 2:16) because He cleansed the temple as the Son of God; here He called the temple “My house” because He is the Son of David------He cleansed the temple as the king.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) God saves us to be His “temple” (See Heb. 3:6, “the house of God” is “the temple of God” in the original) and His dwelling place.

2) “A house of prayer” is the place where men have communion and work with God and glorify God; “a den of thieves” is the place where men usurp the benefits of God and it is with a foul atmosphere and God has no peace and quiet there.

3) The church and our hearts should be the house of prayer, if Christ is not allowed to dwell there (See Eph. 3:17), they may become dens of thieves.

4) Personal prayer is very important, however, the prayer of the church is much more powerful than personal prayer. Therefore we should always pray with other believers.


Matt. 21:14 “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

   YLT: “And there came to him blind and lame men in the temple, and he healed them,”

   Literal Meaning: “the blind and the lame in the temple” These blind men and lame men should be at the gate of the temple or in the yard of it because they are not allowed to enter into the temple (See Lev. 21:16-24).

   Spiritual Meaning: “the blind and lame in the temple” It is a freehand brushwork, showing that temple which was impressive only in appearance was filled with those whose thoughts were blinded by the god of this world (2Cor. 4:4) and who were unable to walk. Only when we come to the Lord sincerely will we be healed.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) There are two troubles for believers to keep the will of God: a) “the blind”------they are unable to see the will of God clearly; b) “the lame”------they are unable to keep the will of God by themselves.

2) The moment the Lord came into the temple, these things happened: a) those who bought and sold were driven out; b) the disabled were healed; c) children praised the Lord (v.15). The moment the Lord comes into our hearts, these things will happen all the same: a) our sins are removed; b) our hearts are healed; c) we will praise Him wholeheartedly.


Matt. 21:15 “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

   YLT: “and the chief priests and the scribes having seen the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, `Hosanna to the Son of David, ‘were much displeased;”

   Literal Meaning: “and the children crying out in the temple and saying” In the temple men were not allowed to say loudly; please note that the priests and scribes were not indignant about crying of children but the content of their crying.

   Spiritual Meaning: “the priests and scribes” represent religious leaders. “Children” represent those who are spiritually young and purely seek the Lord. Once the latter ones see the work of the Lord, their hearts are easily welling forth good matters. However, the former ones become indignant and jealousy instead of praising because they are restrained by religious ceremonies and blinded by traditional concepts. 


Matt. 21:16 “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'?’”

   YLT: “and they said to him, ‘Hearest thou what these say?’ And Jesus saith to them, ‘Yes, did ye never read, that, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou didst prepare praise?’”

   Literal Meaning: “out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise.” This verse is quoted from Ps. 18:2, however, the Hebrew word “power” here is translated as “praise”. 

   Spiritual Meaning: the Lord quoted the word in Ps. 8:2, proving that He is the savior in incarnation who was predicted in Ps. 8 (See Heb. 2:6-10).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) They asked the Lord that He did not hear and the Lord asked them that they had never read. Reading the Bible (hearing the voice of God directly) is more important than hearing the word (hearing the voice of God indirectly).

2) Though babes and nursing infants are little and weak in men’s eyes, God values their praise out of their mouth. No matter how spiritual and excellent His words are, God cannot be satisfied without their praise. Therefore, in the church, we should encourage the new believers to open their mouth to pray and praise because these are very sweet upon God’s ears.


Matt. 21:17 “Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

   YLT: “And having left them, he went forth out of the city to Bethany, and did lodge there,”

   Meaning of Words: Bethany”: the house of figs, the house of tribulation.

   Literal Meaning: “He went out of the city of Bethany” “Bethany” is a small village, located at the southeast of the foot of the Olive Mount outside of the city of Jerusalem. There was the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus (See John. 11:1-5, 18) and the family of Simon (See Matt. 26:6) in whose house Mary did a good work (See Matt. 26:10, John. 12:3) there.

   Spiritual Meaning: the city of Jerusalem typifies the Christian organization which has fallen and deteriorated and the so-called church. They have a name that they live, and are dead (Rev. 3:1). The Lord couldn’t have rest there and left them and went out of the city to find another place of rest.

  Bethany” means “the house of figs”. Figs symbolize the fruits of life and life is the spiritual reality. Where there is the spiritual reality there the Lord will have a rest. It is no wonder that the Lord Jesus went out to Bethany and dwelled there every night during His last weak in the world (See Mark. 11:11, 19; Luke. 21:37).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) A normal church should be full of life (Lazarus), love (Mary) and service (Martha) and then it could make the Lord have a rest.

2) Christ only dwells in our hearts by our faith and love (See Eph. 3:17).


Matt. 21:18 “Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.

   YLT: “and in the morning turning back to the city, he hungered,”

   Literal Meaning: “as He returned to the city,” “returned to the city” indicates to return to Jerusalem from Bethany.

   Spiritual Meaning: “He was hungry” symbolizes that the Lord was unsatisfied.


Matt. 21:19 “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.

   YLT: “and having seen a certain fig-tree on the way, he came to it, and found nothing in it except leaves only, and he saith to it, `No more from thee may fruit be to the age;’ and forthwith the fig-tree withered.”

   The Background: under normal circumstances, fig tree begins to bear fruits in February in normal solar calendar and then sprouts and has leaves. In April and May it is full of dense green leaves and under every leave there is a fruit. Most of the fruits grow up until June, however, some of the fruits are precocious. According to the time recorded in this chapter, it was near to the Passover (See Matt. 26:2) and was about between March and April in solar calendar. Therefore, as usual, that fig free should not have nothing but leaves.

   Literal Meaning: “seeing a fig tree by the road” Fig tree is the emblem of the kingdom of Israel (See Jer. 24:5, Hos. 9:10). The Jews were righteous in their own eyes, proud and considered themselves above all nations and despised others. Therefore, Israel was that fig tree by the road.

  “Let no fruit grow on you ever again,” It predicted that Israel would be rejected. Someone says that, the signs that Jesus had done in His life all showed His love. Only this time He showed His anger and this time His anger was done in a tree instead of a man. Therefore, the Lord is merciful in His anger and He warned them with the type.

  The words of the Lord had been really fulfilled in history. In A. D. 70, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and then Israel was carried to different parts of the world captive until the 20 century. In the coming of the end of this world, Israel restored just like that the branch of fig tree is tender and puts forth leaves (See Matt. 24:32) and there is still no fruits (few of the Jews are Christians today).

   Spiritual Meaning: God planted Israel just like a fig tree and He hoped for some fruits to satisfy His needs. When the Lord Jesus came among the Israel (returned to the city), He came with the need of God (hungry) and wanted to find fruits of life in them, unfortunately, they only had some outward appearance and ceremonies of worshiping God (“but leaves”).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Today, among believers, probably there are many, just like Israel, who only have the form of piety and do not have the power of it (2Tim. 3:5) ------have nothing but leaves------this makes the Lord unsatisfied.

2) If believers do not bear fruits, they will be taken away, cast out and dried up (John. 15:2, 6).

3) The value of the existence of all is to satisfy and please the Lord of all, otherwise, there is no need for them to live.


Matt. 21:20 “And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How did the fig tree wither away so soon?’”

   YLT: “And the disciples having seen, did wonder, saying, `How did the fig-tree forthwith wither?’”

Matt. 21:21 “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.

   YLT: “And Jesus answering said to them, `Verily I say to you, If ye may have faith, and may not doubt, not only this of the fig-tree shall ye do, but even if to this mount ye may say, Be lifted up and be cast into the sea, it shall come to pass;”

   Spiritual Meaning: “this mount” indicates the obstacle and difficulties which block the way of believers and seem to be too large to be removed.

  “Be removed and be cast into the sea” Removing the mount and casting it into the sea indicate to overcome large and obstinate difficulties.

  The Lord Jesus said this dialogue of faith closely after He had cursed the fig tree and this includes deep spiritual meaning. It is a sign to remove the mount and cast it into the sea. It must be done by God instead of men. However, if we want to move God’s finger to remove the mount for us, we have to satisfy His needs first. Faith is the only thing by which we could satisfy God. The Jews wanted to satisfy God by the Law (leaves) and consequently they were rejected by God; we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand (Rom. 5:2) and therefore faith is the “fruit” which satisfies God.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Faith is able to move God’s finger. As long as we could move God’s finger, we shall not worry that we could not move the large mountain.

2) No matter how difficult the trouble is, as long as one has faith, he will overcome it.

3) Sometimes we need to speak to the difficulty directly and refuse and rebuke the difficulty by faith.


Matt. 21:22 “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.’”

   YLT: “and all as much as ye may ask in the prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’”

   Spiritual Meaning: this verse shows that the sign of removing the mount and casting it into the sea is done by God; if men pray with faith, he will receive the answer of sign from God. If men satisfy God by “faith”, God will reward men and men will receive.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Prayer is that men ask God. And the prayer with faith is the prerequisite for God’s answer. Men draw God’s promise through faith.

2) God will do great things if men trust Him without doubt. Prayer will not be fulfilled without faith. God does things according to our capacity and how much we have been prepared.


Matt. 21:23 “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?’”

   YLT: “And he having come to the temple, there came to him when teaching the chief priests and the elders of the people, saying, `By what authority dost thou do these things? and who gave thee this authority?’”

   Literal Meaning: “the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him.” “The chief priests”, “the elders” and “the scribes” (See v.15) constitute the three kinds of members of Judaic council.

  “By what authority are You doing these things?” “These things” indicate that Jesus taught men and cleansed the temple in the first day. 

   Spiritual Meaning: the chief priests were leaders in Judaism and they represent characters in religious circles; “the elders of the people” were leader of common people and they represent worldly characters. These two kinds of men confronted the Lord that by what authority He taught men and cleansed the Holy Temple. This shows that they did not know the Lord or respect Him and contrarily withstood Him.


Matt. 21:24 “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:

   YLT: “And Jesus answering said to them, `I will ask you I also one word, which if ye may tell me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things;”

   Literal Meaning: to those who had hardened their hearts and did not know the Lord intentionally, the Lord did not answer their question directly and contrarily asked them a question in reply so as to put them to silence.

   Enlightenment in the Word: when men ask what they should not ask, believers should imitate the Lord and ask in reply so as to help us out of a predicament.


Matt. 21:25 “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?'

   YLT: “the baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or from men?’ And they were reasoning with themselves, saying, `If we should say, From heaven; he will say to us, Wherefore, then, did ye not believe him?”

   Literal Meaning: “the baptism of John—where was it from?” The Lord meant that the place the authority of John the Baptism was from is where His authority is from. If the opposed could answer the question where the authority of John the Baptist was from, they will naturally know where His authority was from. Jesus asked in reply because if they confessed that John the Baptist was sent by God, they should receive his testimony for Jesus (See Matt. 3:11-12). Therefore they would naturally know that His authority is from God.

  “From heaven” indicates from God; the Jews usually replaced God with heaven.

   Spiritual Meaning: “the baptism of John” is to bury those who had repented (See Matt. 3:6-11), i.e. to put the old man into death. The Lord Jesus asked this question with the aim of making them confess that it is of God. He also implied that the true authority of God is from death and resurrection, otherwise, it is only authority of men.


Matt. 21:26 “But if we say, From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.’”

   YLT: “and if we should say, From men, we fear the multitude, for all hold John as a prophet.’”

Matt. 21:27 “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.

   YLT: “And answering Jesus they said, `We have not known. ‘He said to them he also `Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

   Literal Meaning: the Lord did not say that “I do not know” but “neither will I tell you”. The chief priests and the elders of the people were fully aware of the answer and declined that they did not know. It was lying. The Lord knew it and He did not tell them. It was true.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) If our hearts are not upright, the Lord cannot speak to us.

2) Today men may prevaricate the Lord’s questions, however, in future we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and each of us shall give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:10-12).


Matt. 21:28But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’”

   YLT: “`And what think ye? A man had two children, and having come to the first, he said, Child, go, to-day be working in my vineyard.’”

   Spiritual Meaning: here “a man” indicates God the Father. He has two sons and one represents Israel and the other represents the church of the New Testament. Israel was originally the firstborn of God (Exod. 4:22). However, the birthright was transferred to the church because the unbelief of Israel (Heb. 12:23) and therefore here “the first” indicates the church.

  God has a farm of life (vineyard) in this universe. God Himself is the husbandman (John. 15:1) and He also called men to work with Him together (1Cor. 3:9).


Matt. 21:29 “He answered and said, "I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.

   YLT: “And he answering said, `I will not,’ but at last, having repented, he went.”

   Spiritual Meaning: the first contradicted his father first and he was unwilling to go and then he regretted. He symbolizes that: a) all the “sinners”; b) specially the tax collectors and harlots and other sinners who followed the Lord at that time. The tax collectors and harlots and other sinners originally went against the will of God, committed sins and did evil. Then they repented, confessed their sins and obeyed God.


Matt. 21:30 “Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir,' but he did not go.

   YLT: “`And having come to the second, he said in the same manner, and he answering said, I [go], sir, and went not;”

   Spiritual Meaning: here the second indicates the priests, the scribes, the Pharisees and the elders of the people who specially opposed the Lord. They drew nigh unto God with their mouth, and honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God (See Matt. 15:8).

  The religious leasers of the Jews obeyed God apparently, but actually they did not receive the one whom God has sent.


Matt. 21:31 “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.

   YLT: “which of the two did the will of the father?’ They say to him, `The first.` Jesus saith to them, `Verily I say to you, that the tax-gatherers and the harlots do go before you into the reign of God,”

   Literal Meaning: the Pharisees were like the last who pretended to be obedient but actually were disobedient. Tax collectors were like the first who went against the Father first and then regretted.

  “Enter the kingdom of God before you.” From this we could see that the Jews have not been removed from the kingdom of God completely because until the time all Israel shall be saved (See Rom. 11:25-26).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The Lord values the true repentance of men and dislikes those who do not really mean what they have said.

2) The kingdom of God is not the outer words but the inner reality.


Matt. 21:32 “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.

   YLT: “for John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye did not believe him, and the tax-gatherers and the harlots did believe him, and ye, having seen, repented not at last to believe him.”

   Literal Meaning: “John came to you in the way of righteousness,” “The way of righteousness” is the way that accords with the working principle of God.

  “You” in this verse indicate the Pharisees, the scribes and so on. They first heard the righteous preaching of John the Baptist and did not believe him. Then they saw the wonderful changes of sinners who had repented and still remained unmoved. The Lord condemned them because the hardness of their hearts.

  The words of the Lord in this verse actually answered the question asked by Himself in v.25.

   Spiritual Meaning: John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Lord Jesus and his work was to introduce the Lord to men, lead them to repent and prepare the way of the Lord in men’s hearts (See Matt. 3:1-12). Therefore believing him is to receive that the Lord Jesus is the only way of righteousness (John. 14:6, Heb. 10:20). The way of righteousness is that men come to God with faith and are willing to repent, confess their sins and believe in the Lord, then they could live in the kingdom of God.


Matt. 21:33Hear 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.

   YLT: “`Hear ye another simile: There was a certain man, a householder, who planted a vineyard, and did put a hedge round it, and digged in it a wine-press, and built a tower, and gave it out to husbandmen, and went abroad.”

   Literal Meaning: “set a hedge around it” is to protect the vineyard from attack and breaking of wild beasts and robbers as well as the invasion of others (See Job. 1:10).

  “Dug a winepress in it” indicates to saw a place to press and keep wine by firm rock. “A winepress” has two layers, the upper is to step and press grapes and there is a small hole in the upper for the flow of the juice of grapes which has been pressed to the lower. 

  “Built a tower” indicates to set up a watchtower by wood to guard in the time when grapes are mature.

   Spiritual Meaning: “the landowner” indicates God; “vineyard” indicates the kingdom of Israel (Is. 5:7); “hedge” indicates that God protects Israel all the time; “winepress” Wine is to refresh the heart of God (Song. 5:1) and it indicates that God plants Israel to satisfy Himself; “leased” shows that the lordship still belongs to God; “vinedressers” indicate the chief priests and the Pharisees (See v.45); “went into a far country” shows God’s generosity: He gives men certain freedom to operate and manage His treasure.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) The vineyard was “leased” to vinedressers and its lordship still belonged to the landowner. The Lord has put His church to His servants for stewardship and the lordship of the church is still in the Lord’s hands.

2) Service is our duty, however, we should not trespass the Lord’s lordship in service and we should obey the Lord’s guidance in everything.


Matt. 21:34 “Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.

   YLT: “`And when the season of the fruits came nigh, he sent his servants unto the husbandmen, to receive the fruits of it,”

   Spiritual Meaning: “he sent his servants” “His servants” indicate the prophets in the time of the Old Testament.

  “They might receive its fruit” shows that we should give account to God with service. “When vintage-time drew near” shows that we should give account to God on time.

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) God has entrusted (leased) His spiritual inheritance to us and asks us to bring forth fruits in our seasons. And we should dedicate the fruits to God and should not keep them for our own.

2) What God hopes in us to render to Him fruits ------we should live Him out manifest Christ.


Matt. 21:35 “And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.

   YLT: “and the husbandmen having taken his servants, one they scourged, and one they killed, and one they stoned.”

  The Background: “stoned another” The Jews usually stone false prophets (See Deut. 13:5, 18:20, Lev. 20:2).

   Spiritual Meaning: God sent His prophets (servants) from ages and from generations to the people of Israel to speak for God and guide them to glorify God. On the contrary, they had been persecuted and killed.


Matt. 21:36 “Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.

   YLT: “`Again he sent other servants more than the first, and they did to them in the same manner.”

   Spiritual Meaning: these other servants were the Lord’s twelve apostles and the seventy men who were sent by the Lord.


Matt. 21:37 “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, They will respect my son.’”

   YLT: “`And at last he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son;”

   Meaning of Words: “respect”: turn to, hear, honor.

   Spiritual Meaning: it means that God sent His only begotten son Jesus Christ to come to the Jews.


Matt. 21:38 “But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'

   YLT: “and the husbandmen having seen the son, said among themselves, This is the heir, come, we may kill him, and may possess his inheritance;”

   Spiritual Meaning: when these leaders of the Judaism (vinedressers) saw Jesus Christ, they became jealousy and indignant (See v.15) and sought to kill Him (Luke. 19:47).


Matt. 21:39 “So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

   YLT: “and having taken him, they cast [him] out of the vineyard, and killed him;”

   Spiritual Meaning: “cast him out of the vineyard and kill him” “Out of the vineyard” typifies the outside of the city of Jerusalem; Jesus was crucified outside of the city of Jerusalem (See John. 19:17, Heb. 13:12).

   Enlightenment in the Word: The most important thing in the church is our attitude towards Christ: do we respect Him (v.37)? Or do we cast Him out and not seek Him?


Matt. 21:40Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?’”

   YLT: “whenever therefore the lord of the vineyard may come, what will he do to these husbandmen?’”

Matt. 21:41 “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.’”

   YLT: “They say to him, `Evil men he will evilly destroy them, and the vineyard will give out to other husbandmen, who will give back to him the fruits in their seasons.’”

   Spiritual Meaning: “and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” These other vinedressers should not be another race and they should be God’s new people------the Lord’s church.

  God punished the obstinate and disobedient Judaic leaders and people. It was partially fulfilled in A.D. 70, the Raman prince Titus led soldiers to ruin the city of Jerusalem. And it will be fulfilled in the Great Tribulation in future (Rev. 11:2).

   Enlightenment in the Word:

1) Now God has passed on His spiritual inheritance to believers and we should never recommit the same error: a) Seize the fruits of service and usurp God’s lordship; b) Persecute and kill God’s servants; c) Dishonor God’s son.

2) Anyone who usurps God’s lordship, persecutes God’s servants and dishonors the Lord will be laid aside (“destroyed”) from the will of God and lose what God has entrusted (“lease” to other vinedressers).


Matt. 21:42 “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'?

   YLT: “Jesus saith to them, `Did ye never read in the Writings, A stone that the builders disallowed, it became head of a corner; from the Lord hath this come to pass, and it is wonderful in our eyes.”

   Spiritual Meaning: “builders” indicate the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees; “the stone” indicates the Lord Jesus. The Lord was rejected by the leaders of Judaism and was crucified on the cross. But God made Him be raised and become “the head of the corner” (See Ps. 118:22, Acts. 4:11), which, in the building of church (house), is the most fundamental and important cornerstone in whom all the building fitly framed together (Is. 28:16, Eph. 2:20-21, 1Pet. 2:4-7).


Matt. 21:43Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

   YLT: “`Because of this I say to you, that the reign of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth its fruit;”

   Meaning of Words: “nation”: state, country. 

   Spiritual Meaning: “you” indicates Judaism; “a nation bearing the fruits of it” indicates the Gentile church. Because the leaders of Judaism rejected the Lord Jesus, the reality of God’s kingdom has been transferred to the Gentile church and what had been left to Judaism was only the appearance and empty housing of God’s kingdom.


Matt. 21:44 “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.’”

   YLT: “and he who is falling on this stone shall be broken, and on whomsoever it may fall it will crush him to pieces.’”

   Meaning of Words: “grind”: to winnow, to pulverize, to triturate.

   Spiritual Meaning: to the Jews who do not believe in the Lord, the Lord is the stumbling block (See Is. 8:14-15, Rom. 9:32-33, 1Cor. 1:23, 1Pet. 2:8). When the Lord comes back, the Lord is the stone which breaks them to pieces to nations who do not believe in the Lord, (See Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).

  Another meaning of this verse: the first sentence indicates believers. Their old creation is broken on the stone the Lord. They were born from above and become the new creation. The last one indicates unbelievers and they will be ruined by Him the stone in the Day of Judgment finally.


Matt. 21:45 “Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

   YLT: “And the chief priests and the Pharisees having heard his similes, knew that of them he speaketh,”

   Literal Meaning: “heard His parables” “Parables” indicate the above-mentioned two parables.


Matt. 21:46 “But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

   YLT: “and seeking to lay hold on him, they feared the multitudes, seeing they were holding him as a prophet.”

   Enlightenment in the Word: Though religious believers were fully aware that the Lord’s words were specially said to them, they did not want to repent at all and on the contrary they sought to kill Him. It shows that the understanding of mind and knowledge is totally different from the sight of inner hearts. Every time we read the Bible, we should read it with right attitude and then we can profit from the Lord’s words.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Comparison of God’s Two Kinds of People

I. The first comparison------whether they respected the authority of the king:

  A. One group of people magnified the Lord (v.1-11).

  B. However, the other group confronted His authority (v.23-27).

II. The second comparison------whether they afforded the dwelling place for the king:

  A. One group of people had the appearance of temple instead of the reality of it (v.12-16).

  B. However, the other gave the Lord a dwelling place of rest (v.17).

III. The third comparison------whether they made the king have enjoyment:

  A. One group of people only had the appearance of trees instead of fruits (v.18-19).

  B. However, the other group satisfied God by faith (v.20-22).

IV. Seeing the comparison of two groups of people from the Lord’s parables:

  A. The parable of two sons------the problem of the accordance of one’s words and deeds (v.28-32).

  B. The parable of the vinedressers------the problem of rendering fruits in their seasons (v.33-46).

  C. The parable of the wedding feast------the attitude of being called (Matt. 22:1-14).


The Descriptions of the King of the Kingdom of Heaven

I. The glory of the king:

  A. Jesus went into the city of Jerusalem, riding upon the colt (v.1-7).

  B. Some people laid their clothes on the donkey and colt (v.7).

  C. Some people spread their clothes and branches of trees on the road (v.8).

  D. The multitudes cried out, saying “Hosanna!” (v.9).

  E. All the city of Jerusalem was moved (v.10-11).

II. The work of the king:

  A. He cleansed the Holy Temple (v.12-13).

  B. He healed the blind and the lame (v.14).

  C. He made the children in the Holy Temple cry out, saying “Hosanna” (v.15-17).

III. The authority of the king:

  A. He cursed the fig tree which did not bear fruits (v.18-20).

  B. If one prays with faith, he is able to use this authority (v.21-22).

IV. The wisdom of the king: 

  A. Religious believers confronted Jesus that by what authority He did these things (v.23).

  B. Jesus asked in reply and put them to silence (v.24-27).

V. The order of the king:

  A. The first answered that he would not go, however, he regretted it and went (v.28-29).

  B. The last answered that he would go, however, he did not go (v.30-32).

VI. The salvation of the king:

  A. The vinedressers who did not render fruits killed the servants and son of the owner of the vineyard (v.33-39).

  B. The owner of the vineyard destroyed the wicked vinedressers miserably and leased the vineyard to others who will render to him the fruits (v.40-46).


The Lord values Spiritual Reality

I. The temple is the reality of the city:

  A. The city of Jerusalem had warm welcome in appearance towards the Lord (v.7-10).

  B. However, the temple of God became the den of thieves (v.12-13).

II. Fruits are the reality of tree:

  A. There were only leaves on the fig tree (v.19).

  B. However, the fruits cannot be found on it and it cannot satisfy the Lord’s hunger (v.18-20).

III. Action is the reality of promise:

  A. The first did not promise orally but he did it later (v.28-29).

  B. The last did promise orally but he did not do it (v.30).

IV. Rendering fruit is the reality of leasing the vineyard:

  A. The wicked vinedressers did not render fruits and contrarily killed the son of the owner of the vineyard (v.34-39).

  B. The owner of the vineyard leased his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits (v.40-41).


The Lord Is the Stone

I. To the leaders of Judaism------the stone which the builders rejected (v.42a) ------the Lord was rejected by them.

II. To believers------the chief cornerstone (v.42b) ------the Lord is the basis to build the church.

III. To unbelievers------whoever falls on this stone will be broken (v.44a) ------the Lord is the stumbling block (See Is. 8:14-15, Rom. 9:32-33, 1Cor. 1:23, 1Pet. 2:8).

IV. To the reins of government of nations------on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder (v.44b) ------the Lord is the stone who breaks men (See Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Sharon Ren