Matthew Chapter Twenty-one
Afterwards (chap. 21), disposing of all that belonged to His willing people, He makes His entry into Jerusalem as King and Lord, according to the testimony of Zechariah. But although entering as King-the last testimony to the beloved city, which (to their ruin) was going to reject Him-He comes as a meek and lowly King. The power of God influences the heart of the multitudes, and they salute Him as King, as Son of David, making use of the language supplied by Psalm 118,  which celebrates the millennial sabbath brought in by the Messiah, then to be acknowledged by the people. The multitude spread their garments to prepare the way for their meek, though glorious King; they cut down branches from the trees to bear Him testimony; and He is conducted in triumph to Jerusalem, while the people cry, "Hosanna [Save now] to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!" Happy for them if their hearts had been changed to retain this testimony in the Spirit. But God sovereignly disposed their hearts to bear this testimony; He could not allow His Son to be rejected without receiving it.
And now the King is going to review everything, still maintaining His position of humility and of testimony. Apparently the different classes come to judge Him, or to perplex Him; but in fact they all present themselves before Him to receive at His hands, one after another, the judgment of God respecting them. It is a striking scene that opens before us-the true Judge, the everlasting King, presenting Himself for the last time to His rebellious people with the fullest testimony to His rights and to His power; and they, coming to harass and condemn Him, led by their very malice to pass before Him one after another, laying open their real condition, to receive their judgment from His lips, without His forsaking for a moment (unless in cleansing the temple, before this scene commenced) the position of Faithful and True Witness in all meekness on the earth.
The difference between the two parts of this history is distinguishable. The first presents the Lord in His character of Messiah and Jehovah. As Lord, He commands the ass to be brought. He enters the city, according to the prophecy, as King. He cleanses the temple with authority. In answer to the priests' objection He quotes Psalm 8, which speaks of the manner in which Jehovah caused Himself to be glorified, and perfected the praises due to Him out of the mouth of babes. In the temple also He heals Israel. He then leaves them, no longer lodging in the city, which He could no longer own, but with the remnant outside. The next day, in a remarkable figure He exhibits the curse about to fall upon the nation. Israel was the fig-tree of Jehovah; but it cumbered the ground. It was covered with leaves, but there was no fruit. The fig-tree, condemned by the Lord, presently withers away. It is a figure of this unhappy nation, of man in the flesh with every advantage, which bore no fruit for the Husbandman.
Israel in fact possessed all the outward forms of religion, and were zealous for the law and the ordinances, but they bore no fruit unto God. So far as placed under responsibility to bring forth fruit, that is to say, under the old covenant, they will never do so. Their rejection of Jesus put an end to all hope. God will act in grace under the new covenant; but this is not the question here. The fig-tree is Israel as they were, man cultivated by God, but in vain. All was over. That which He said to the disciples of the mountain's removing, while it is a great general principle, refers also, I doubt not, to that which should take place in Israel by means of their ministry. Looked at corporately on the earth as a nation, Israel should disappear, and be lost among the Gentiles. The disciples were those whom God accepted according to their faith.
We see the Lord entering Jerusalem as a king-Jehovah, the King of Israel-and judgment pronounced on the nation. Then follow the details of judgment on the different classes of which it was composed. First come the chief priests and elders, who should have guided the people; they draw near to the Lord and question His authority. Thus addressing Him, they took the place of heads of the nation, and assumed to be judges, capable of pronouncing on the validity of any claims that might be made; if not, why concern themselves with Jesus?
The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, puts a question to them which tests their capability and by their own confession they were incapable. How then judge Him?  To tell them the foundation of His authority, was useless. It was too late now to tell them. They would have stoned Him, if He had alleged its true source. He replies, Decide on John the Baptist's mission. If they could not do this, why inquire respecting His? They cannot do it. If they acknowledged John to have been sent of God it would be acknowledging Christ. To deny it would be to lose their influence with the people. Of conscience there was no question with them. They confess their inability. Jesus then declines their competency as leaders and guardians of the faith of the people. They had judged themselves; and the Lord proceeds to set their conduct, and the Lord's dealings with them, plainly before their eyes, from verse 28 to chapter 22:14.
First, while professing to do the will of God, they did it not; while the openly wicked had repented and done His will. They, seeing this, were still hardened. Again, not only had natural conscience remained untouched, whether by the testimony of John, or by the sight of repentance in others, but, although God had used every means to make them bring forth fruit worthy of His culture, He had found nothing in them but perversity and rebellion. The prophets had been rejected, and His Son would be so likewise. They desired to have His inheritance for themselves. They could not but acknowledge that in such case the consequence must necessarily be the destruction of those wicked men, and the bestowal of the vineyard on others. Jesus applies the parable to themselves, by quoting Psalm 118, which announces that the stone rejected by the builders should become the head-stone of the corner; moreover, that whosoever should fall on this stone-as the nation was at that moment doing-should be broken; but that on whomsoever it should fall-and this would be the lot of the rebellious nation in the last days-it should grind them to powder. The chief priests and the Pharisees understood that He spoke of them, but they dared not lay hands on Him, because the multitude took Him for a prophet. This is the history of Israel, as under responsibility, even till the last days. Jehovah was seeking fruit in His vineyard.
 This Psalm is peculiarly prophetic of the time of His future reception, and is often cited in connection with it.
 This throwing back on conscience is often the wisest answer, when the will is perverse.
── John Darby《Synopsis of Matthew》
Christ enters Jerusalem. (1-11) He drives out those who profaned the temple. (12-17) The barren fig-tree cursed. (18-22) Jesus' discourse in the temple. (23-27) The parable of the two sons. (28-32) The parable of the wicked husbandmen. (33-46)
Commentary on Matthew 21:1-11
(Read Matthew 21:1-11)
This coming of Christ was described by the prophet Zechariah, Zechariah 9:9. When Christ would appear in his glory, it is in his meekness, not in his majesty, in mercy to work salvation. As meekness and outward poverty were fully seen in Zion's King, and marked his triumphal entrance to Jerusalem, how wrong covetousness, ambition, and the pride of life must be in Zion's citizens! They brought the ass, but Jesus did not use it without the owner's consent. The trappings were such as came to hand. We must not think the clothes on our backs too dear to part with for the service of Christ. The chief priests and the elders afterwards joined with the multitude that abused him upon the cross; but none of them joined the multitude that did him honour. Those that take Christ for their King, must lay their all under his feet. Hosanna signifies, Save now, we beseech thee! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! But of how little value is the applause of the people! The changing multitude join the cry of the day, whether it be Hosanna, or Crucify him. Multitudes often seem to approve the gospel, but few become consistent disciples. When Jesus was come into Jerusalem all the city was moved; some perhaps were moved with joy, who waited for the Consolation of Israel; others, of the Pharisees, were moved with envy. So various are the motions in the minds of men upon the approach of Christ's kingdom.
Commentary on Matthew 21:12-17
(Read Matthew 21:12-17)
Christ found some of the courts of the temple turned into a market for cattle and things used in the sacrifices, and partly occupied by the money-changers. Our Lord drove them from the place, as he had done at his entering upon his ministry, John 2:13-17. His works testified of him more than the hosannas; and his healing in the temple was the fulfilling the promise, that the glory of the latter house should be greater than the glory of the former. If Christ came now into many parts of his visible church, how many secret evils he would discover and cleanse! And how many things daily practised under the cloak of religion, would he show to be more suitable to a den of thieves than to a house of prayer!
Commentary on Matthew 21:18-22
(Read Matthew 21:18-22)
This cursing of the barren fig-tree represents the state of hypocrites in general, and so teaches us that Christ looks for the power of religion in those who profess it, and the savour of it from those that have the show of it. His just expectations from flourishing professors are often disappointed; he comes to many, seeking fruit, and finds leaves only. A false profession commonly withers in this world, and it is the effect of Christ's curse. The fig-tree that had no fruit, soon lost its leaves. This represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews in particular. Our Lord Jesus found among them nothing but leaves. And after they rejected Christ, blindness and hardness grew upon them, till they were undone, and their place and nation rooted up. The Lord was righteous in it. Let us greatly fear the doom denounced on the barren fig-tree.
Commentary on Matthew 21:23-27
(Read Matthew 21:23-27)
As our Lord now openly appeared as the Messiah, the chief priests and scribes were much offended, especially because he exposed and removed the abuses they encouraged. Our Lord asked what they thought of John's ministry and baptism. Many are more afraid of the shame of lying than of the sin, and therefore scruple not to speak what they know to be false, as to their own thoughts, affections, and intentions, or their remembering and forgetting. Our Lord refused to answer their inquiry. It is best to shun needless disputes with wicked opposers.
Commentary on Matthew 21:28-32
(Read Matthew 21:28-32)
Parables which give reproof, speak plainly to the offenders, and judge them out of their own mouths. The parable of the two sons sent to work in the vineyard, is to show that those who knew not John's baptism to be of God, were shamed by those who knew it, and owned it. The whole human race are like children whom the Lord has brought up, but they have rebelled against him, only some are more plausible in their disobedience than others. And it often happens, that the daring rebel is brought to repentance and becomes the Lord's servant, while the formalist grows hardened in pride and enmity.
Commentary on Matthew 21:33-46
(Read Matthew 21:33-46)
This parable plainly sets forth the sin and ruin of the Jewish nation; and what is spoken to convict them, is spoken to caution all that enjoy the privileges of the outward church. As men treat God's people, they would treat Christ himself, if he were with them. How can we, if faithful to his cause, expect a favourable reception from a wicked world, or from ungodly professors of Christianity! And let us ask ourselves, whether we who have the vineyard and all its advantages, render fruits in due season, as a people, as a family, or as separate persons. Our Saviour, in his question, declares that the Lord of the vineyard will come, and when he comes he will surely destroy the wicked. The chief priests and the elders were the builders, and they would not admit his doctrine or laws; they threw him aside as a despised stone. But he who was rejected by the Jews, was embraced by the Gentiles. Christ knows who will bring forth gospel fruits in the use of gospel means. The unbelief of sinners will be their ruin. But God has many ways of restraining the remainders of wrath, as he has of making that which breaks out redound to his praise. May Christ become more and more precious to our souls, as the firm Foundation and Cornerstone of his church. May we be willing to follow him, though despised and hated for his sake.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Matthew》
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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?
 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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!
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Matthew》
Chapter 21. Ride into Jerusalem on a Colt
A House of Prayer
A Den of Thieves
I. A Colt Ridden by the Lord
II. Curse the Fig Tree
III. Parable of the Tenants
── Chih-Hsin Chang《An Outline of The New Testament》
Cleaning? (21:12-14) Temple Need
1. Shortly after entering
at the beginning of His final week, Jerusalem
Jesus entered the temple - Mt 21:12-14
a. Angered by the presence of the moneychangers and merchants, He
drove them out
b. He decried their turning the house of God into a den of thieves
c. With the temple cleansed, He then healed blind and lame
2. Jesus had cleansed the temple before - Jn 2:13-17
a. It was during the Passover, three years before
b. Then He rebuked them for making the house of God a house of
3. In both cases, we see Jesus' anger for their misuse of the temple...
a. Not that there was anything inherently wrong with buying and
b. But it was not the proper place, or use of the temple
4. How about your temple?
a. Is it being properly used?
b. Does it need cleaning?
c. Are you aware that you even have a temple?
[Yes, you do have a temple. As with the temple in
, it is to Jerusalem
be used in the service and praise of God. If it is not, then it too
needs a cleaning! What am I talking about...?]
I. YOUR BODY IS A
FOR GOD TO INDWELL... TEMPLE
1. Your physical body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who in you
- 1 Co 6:19
a. This "indwelling" refers to a special relationship between
you and the Spirit
1) By which God strengthens you - cf. Ep 3:16
2) By whom we can deal with the power of sin - cf. Ro 8:
b. As Solomon recognized with the temple in
, no Jerusalem
physical dwelling can contain the omnipresent God - cf.
2 Chr 6:18
c. Such is true of the Spirit of God - cf. Psa 139:7-12
d. Yet the uniqueness of the Spirit's presence in the life of
a Christian is such that it is proper to speak of Him
"indwelling" the Christian - cf. Ga 4:6
2. What is said of the physical body, is also said of the church
as a whole - 1 Co 3:16
3. What is said of the church as a temple, is also true of the
body - 1 Co 3:17
a. Defile the
, and you incur the wrath of God! templeof God
b. For the temple is to be holy!
FOR DEVOTED SERVICE TO GOD... TEMPLE
was to be a place of prayer - cf. Mt templeof Jerusalem
21:13; 2 Chr 6:19-21
2. So your temple, including both body and mind, is to be devoted
in service to God
a. Your body is to be a living sacrifice - Ro 12:1; cf. Co 3:
b. Your mind is to be renewed, focused on things above - Ro
12:2; cf. Co 3:1-2
THAT CAN BE ABUSED... TEMPLE
1. We have seen how the temple in
was abused Jerusalem
a. A place designed for prayer, turned into a marketplace
b. A place that need to be cleansed, once and again
2. The same can be true of our temples...
a. We can become guilty of setting our minds on earthly things
1) We begin serving our bellies (fleshly appetites), rather
than Jesus - Ph 3:18-19
2) We find ourselves unable to abide by will of God - Ro 8:
b. We can begin offering our bodies to that which it does not
1) Some which is inherently sinful - cf. 1 Co 6:13-18
2) Other things (cares, riches, pleasures of life) which
detract us from our true service and hinder our ability
to serve God with our bodies - cf. Lk 8:14
[What is the condition of your temple? Perhaps you are in need of a
"major overhaul" (salvation). Perhaps you need some "spring cleaning"
(restoration and rededication). In either case, the principles for
cleaning are similar...]
II. WHAT YOU NEED TO BE CLEANSED
A. THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST...
1. Jesus is an expert at "temple-cleansing"!
2. Even more so, when it comes to cleansing the temples of our
bodies and spirits
a. He knows that it must occur from the inside out - cf. Mt
b. He died, that He might purify us - Ti 2:11-14
c. His blood is the cleansing power to purify us from all sin
- 1 Jn 1:7
3. How do we ensure the presence of Christ in our "temples"?
a. Through faith - Ep 3:17
b. Through obedience - Jn 14:21,23; 1 Pe 1:22
4. For the non-Christian, such faith and obedience includes
a. For baptism unites us with Christ, that the body of sin
might be destroyed - Ro 6:3-4
b. For in baptism we put on Christ - Ga 3:27
5. For the Christian in need of cleansing, faithful obedience
includes repentance and prayer - cf. Ac 8:22
a. Repentance, as Christ counseled the Laodiceans - Rev 3:
b. Prayer, through which the Lord is allowed back into our
hearts - Rev 3:20
B. THE POWER OF CHRIST...
1. Jesus exercised strength to overturn the tables and drive out
2. Even more so, does He offer strength for the Christian
a. Without Him, we can do nothing - Jn 15:4-5
b. With Him, we can do everything - Ph 4:13
3. Thus we need to stand strong "in the power of His might" - Ep
6:10; Co 1:11; cf. Isa 40:29-31; 41:10
C. OUR PARTICIPATION WITH CHRIST...
1. While we are dependent upon Christ for our cleansing, we
cannot sit by idly
a. We must "cleanse ourselves" - 2 Co 7:1
b. We must "pursue holiness" - He 12:14
2. This involves both "putting off" and "putting on" things in
a. As counseled by James - Ja 1:21
b. As instructed by Peter - 1 Pe 2:1-2
c. As commanded by Paul - Ep 4:22-32; Co 3:8-14
3. Our cleansing will be greatly facilitated by what we allow in
a. For things that are worthy of praise and virtue will ensure
God's presence in our lives - Ph 4:8-9
b. Our transformation will take place as our minds are renewed
- Ro 12:1-2
1. In what condition is your "temple"?
a. Is it a place where God, Jesus, and the Spirit can reside?
b. Is your body and mind "a place of prayer", one that brings glory
-- Or have you allowed the mundane things of life to so preoccupy
your "temple" that it is not what God intended, a place that is
common and profane?
2. If your temple needs cleaning, then look to Jesus...
a. Only He can provide the cleansing you need
b. But He also provides power for godly living
3. But be careful that you do not just let Jesus clean your temple
and nothing else...
a. For cleansing without replacement can make thing worse - cf. Mt
b. Therefore we must fill our "temples" with prayer, praise, virtue,
c. Otherwise our "temples" will soon be filled with idols
Do not forget the words of the apostle Paul:
"And what agreement has the
with idols? For you are templeof God
the temple of the living God."
"As God has said: `I will dwell in them And walk among them. I
will be their God, And they shall be My people.' Therefore `Come
out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch
what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to
you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD
"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse
ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting
holiness in the fear of God."
(2 Co 6:16-7:1)
Are you participating with Christ in your cleansing, and perfecting
holiness in the fear of God?
Is It From Heaven Or From Men? (21:23-27)
1. While teaching in the temple, Jesus was confronted by the chief
priests and elders...
a. They questioned His authority to teach - Mt 21:23
b. Jesus saw through their hypocrisy, and challenged them regarding
the authority behind the baptism of John - Mt 21:24
c. Since they would not be honest in their answer, Jesus refused to
answer their question - Mt 21:25b-27
2. In the process of exposing their hypocrisy, Jesus revealed an
important principle regarding authority in matters of religion...
a. All religious practices must come from one of two sources
b. They come either from heaven, or from men - Mt 23:25
3. What Jesus asked regarding John's baptism, could be asked of many
a. Infant baptism
b. Sprinkling or pouring instead of immersion
c. Denominationalism, a clergy-laity distinction
d. The impossibility of apostasy, observing the Sabbath
e. Instrumental music, burning of incense, etc., in our worship
-- Are such practices from heaven, or from men?
[In this study, we shall consider how one can know whether a particular
religious practice is from heaven, or from man...]
I. TO BE FROM HEAVEN
A. IT MUST COME FROM JESUS...
1. For He has been given all authority - Mt 28:18
2. Both in heaven and on earth
-- Certainly if Jesus commanded it, it is from heaven!
B. IT MUST COME THROUGH HIS APOSTLES...
1. For Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles - Jn 13:20
2. They serve as His official ambassadors - 2 Co 5:20
3. To ensure their reliability, Jesus promised the Spirit to
remind them of what He taught, and to guide them into all the
truth - Jn 14:26; 16:12-13
4. This is why the church continued steadfastly in the apostles'
doctrine - Ac 2:42; 1 Co 14:37; 1 Th 2:13
-- If the apostles of Christ taught it, it is from heaven!
C. IT MUST COME ONLY FROM THE APOSTLES...
1. The apostles were given, and proclaimed, the whole counsel of
God - Ac 20:27
2. They were given all things that pertain to life and godliness
- 2 Pe 1:3
3. The faith revealed through them was delivered once for all
(lit., one time for all times) - Ju 3
-- There is no need for modern day revelations, for in the
Scriptures we have all that is needed to be "complete,
thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Ti 3:16-17)
[If a religious practice can be found to be taught by Jesus or His
apostles, then it is truly from heaven! Religious practices that are
from men, however, might come from a variety of sources...]
II. IT IS FROM MAN
A. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT THE MAJORITY THINKS...
1. Many people will accept whatever most people think about
2. Yet Jesus warned against following the majority - Mt 7:13-14
3. If you had followed the majority...
a. In Noah's day, you would have perished in the flood
b. In Joshua's day, you would have perished in the wilderness
-- What the majority believes or does is not likely to be from
heaven, but from men!
B. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT PARENTS TAUGHT US...
1. Some believe "If it was good enough for Mom and Dad, it is
good enough for me."
2. As much as we may love and respect our parents, Christ must
come first - Mt 10:37
3. If every generation had simply followed their parents, then we
who are Gentiles would likely still be idol-worshippers and
-- Let us honor our parents, not by following them blindly, but
by applying principles they themselves likely taught us, such
as seek to do the right thing, obey God, etc.
C. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT PREACHERS TELL US...
1. It is common for people to place their trust in their
"preacher," "priest," or "pastor"
2. They reason that surely these "men of God" could not be wrong
or lead them astray
a. Yet Paul warned of how we can easily be misled - cf. 2 Co
b. And Jesus warned about the "blind leading the blind" - Mt
3. Our attitude needs to be like that of the Bereans, who
carefully examined Paul's teachings in light of the Scriptures
- Ac 17:11
-- What a preacher teaches is only as good as the authority
behind it; unless we wish to be led astray, we have the
responsibility to ask "Is it from God, or men?"
D. IF BASED SOLELY UPON CREEDS AND TRADITIONS OF MEN...
1. This is where the denominations really get most of their
a. E.g., for such things as infant baptism, pouring or
sprinkling instead of immersion
b. E.g, for such things as denominationalism, once saved
2. Indeed, adherence to the creeds of men is what produces
a. Accept the Bible only, and you become a Christian only
b. Accept some man-made creed or tradition, and you become
1) Accept the Book of Mormon, and you become a Mormon
2) Accept papal authority, and you become a Roman Catholic
3) Accept the Lutheran Catechism, and you become a Lutheran
3. Creeds are really not even necessary...
a. If they say more than what the Bible says, they say too
b. If they say less than what the Bible says, they say too
c. If they say exactly what the Bible says, then why not let
the Bible be our creed book?
-- The fact is creeds are filled with the traditions and commands
of men, many of which conflict with and displace the commands
of God! - cf. Mk 7:6-9
E. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT YOUR CONSCIENCE TELLS YOU...
1. "Let your conscience be your guide" is the motto of many
2. But our conscience cannot always be reliable
a. Paul had served God with a good conscience throughout his
life - Ac 23:1
b. Even at a time when he was persecuting Christians! - cf. Ac
3. Our conscience is like a clock, which works properly if set
4. Once our conscience has been "set" by the "apostles' doctrine"
then it can be a good guide
-- Unless what your conscience is telling you can be confirmed by
the Word of God, then what you believe is from man, not God!
F. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT IS HUMAN WISDOM...
1. Many believe that through their own wisdom they can determine
right and wrong
a. If it makes sense to them, they reason it must be true
b. If it doesn't make sense, they won't accept it
2. But God's thoughts and ways are not always our own - cf. Isa
3. In fact, God has chosen to save man in a manner specifically
designed to confound those who depend solely upon human wisdom
- cf. 1 Co 1:18-29
4. For us to know God's will, it was necessary for Him to reveal
it to us - 1 Co 2:9-12
a. This He has done through His Spirit-inspired apostles
b. Who in turn shared it with us through their writings - Ep
-- Appeal to human reason to justify a certain practice, and it
will likely be from man, not God!
G. IF BASED SOLELY UPON FEELINGS...
1. This is often the "standard of authority" for many people
a. Who go by whatever "feels right"
b. Who place stock in a religion "better felt than told"
2. Yet the Bible declares the danger of trusting in "feelings"
a. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is
the way of death." - Pr 14:12
b. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool..." - Pr 28:26
c. "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not
in man who walks to direct his own steps." - Jer 10:23
-- It should be evident that any religious practice or doctrine
based upon "feelings" alone is from man, not God!
H. IF BASED SOLELY UPON THE OLD TESTAMENT...
1. People will sometimes resort to the O. T. to provide authority
for some practice
a. When they can't find authority for it in the teachings of
Christ and/or His apostles
b. For example, a clergy-laity system, burning of incense and
use of instrumental music in worship, keeping the Sabbath,
2. But the O.T. was designed to be temporary, to fulfill a
specific purpose and as a covenant has been replaced by the
New Covenant (i.e., the New Testament)
a. It was given because of transgressions, till Christ should
come - Ga 3:19
b. For those under the Law (Israel), it was a tutor
1) A tutor designed to lead them to Christ - Ga 3:24
2) A tutor that has been taken away - Ga 3:25
c. When those who were under the Law came to Christ...
1) They became dead to the Law - Ro 7:4
2) They were delivered from the Law - Ro 7:6
d. As prophesied by Jeremiah, God has made a "new covenant" to
replace the "first covenant" which is now obsolete - He 8:
3. In handling the issue of circumcision, the apostles
demonstrated that one cannot use the O.T. to teach something
which they did not command
a. Some sought to enforce circumcision and the Law upon
Gentile believers - Ac 15:1,6
b. But the apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
were able to defuse the problem by simply stating they
themselves "gave no such commandment" - Ac 15:22-29
4. This is not to say the O.T. is not of value to Christians...
a. It was written for our learning, to provide patience,
comfort, and hope - Ro 15:4
b. It was written for our admonition, that we not make similar
mistakes - 1 Co 10:6,11
c. We just can't use it to enjoin religious practices upon
others which the apostles' themselves did not teach!
1. Do we want to avoid being led astray?
a. By "blind leaders of the blind"? - cf. Mt 15:14
b. By "false teachers...who will secretly bring in destructive
heresies"? - cf. 2 Pe 2:1
2. Then we need to know how to ascertain whether a religious doctrine
a. Is from God or from men
b. Is based upon what the apostles of Christ taught, or some other
3. The solution is simple, but requires effort on our part...
a. We must "continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" - Ac
b. We must "search the scriptures daily" - Ac 17:11
Only then can we be sure that what we believe or someone teaches is
truly from God, and not from man!
The Two Sons (Mt 21:28-32)
1. As seen in the last two parables, Jesus often responded to questions
from His disciples with a parable
a. Cf. "The Unmerciful Servant" (Mt 18:21-35), in reply to a
question about forgiveness
b. Cf. "The Laborers In The Vineyard" (Mt 20:1-16), in reply to a
question about what disciples would receive who have given up all
to follow Jesus
2. He also used parables in replying to some of the challenges by those
who opposed Him
a. During His final week in Jerusalem, He was challenged by
religious leaders - Mt 21:23-27
b. In response, He told three parables...
1) "The Two Sons" - Mt 21:28-32
2) "The Wicked Vinedressers" - Mt 21:33-46
3) "The Wedding Feast" - Mt 22:1-14
[In this lesson, we shall focus our attention on the parable of "The
Two Sons" (Mt 21:28-32), looking first at...]
I. THE PARABLE AND ITS EXPLANATION
A. THE PARABLE ITSELF IS QUITE SIMPLE...
1. It is an account of a man with two sons and a vineyard
2. The father tells his two sons to work in the vineyard
a. The first son says he won't go, but later regretted it and
b. The second son said he would, but did not actually go
B. JESUS EXPLAINS THE PARABLE...
1. He begins with a question: "Who of the two did the will of
2. The answer is obvious, and the religious leaders reply "The
3. Jesus' reply to the religious leaders is then very direct
a. "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots
enter the kingdom of God before you."
b. "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."
4. Jesus was applying this parable to the religious leaders of
a. They were like the second son, who said he would go, but
b. Whereas those tax collectors and harlots who repented at
the preaching of John were like the first son, who first
said no, but then went
5. It must have been a shock to hear Jesus tell them that those
despised by the Jews would enter the kingdom of God before
their religious leaders!
6. But as Luke records in his gospel...
a. The tax collectors (and others) who accepted John's baptism
b. Whereas those religious leaders who were not baptized
"rejected the counsel of God for themselves" - Lk 7:29-30
[Jesus will have more to say concerning these religious leaders in His
next two parables, but what important lesson can we draw from this
parable for us today?}
II. APPLYING THE PARABLE TODAY
A. THE MAIN POINT OF THE PARABLE...
1. Is it not that we must be "doers" and not "sayers"?
2. As Hendriksen says in his commentary: "That lesson is, of
course, this: the doing of the will of God is the one thing
3. Jesus emphasized this truth on other occasions as well:
a. In His Sermon on the Mount - Mt 7:21-27
b. In giving The Great Commission before His ascension to
heaven - Mt 28:20
4. As John Stott wrote: "Greatness in the kingdom of God is
measured in terms of obedience." (Authentic Christianity)
B. THIS LESSON IS ONE SORELY NEEDED TODAY...
1. The doctrines of "cheap grace" and "easy believism" have
created a generation of "sayers" and not "doers"
a. Many profess Jesus as Lord, but then don't do what He says
- cf. Lk 6:46
b. They are like the second son, who says he will do the
father's will, but doesn't
2. Misunderstanding the doctrine of "salvation by grace through
faith", many people have concluded that requiring obedience to
God's command is "legalism" or "salvation by works of merit"
a. Yet nothing could be further from the truth!
b. Keeping the commandments of God is essential to salvation
- Mt 7:21-23; 28:20; Jn 14:15,21,23; 15:10,14; 1 Co 7:19;
1 Jn 2:3-4
3. What we must remember is this...
a. When we keep God's commandments, we in no way earn or merit
b. We simply do that which is our duty to do, and always
remain "unprofitable servants" saved by grace - cf. Lk 17:
10; Ti 3:4-7
c. Yet, we still "should be careful to maintain good works"!
- Ti 3:1,8,14
1. Remember that it was the "religious leaders" in Jesus' day...
a. Who "rejected the counsel of God for themselves" in not accepting
John's teaching for the need for repentance and baptism
b. Who likely believed that they had good "theological grounds" for
not heeding the simple commands of God given through His
2. In similar fashion, many "religious leaders" of our day...
a. Reject the clear teaching of Christ and His apostles concerning
the commands to repent and be baptized - cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38
b. They reject the "counsel of God for themselves" based upon
-- When the common man who reads without preconceived notions has no
problem understanding what the Scriptures teach on the subject
3. Could it be that today there are many people (even "tax collectors"
and "harlots") who will enter the kingdom of God before many
religious people do?
What kind of "son" are you? One who does the will of his Father? Or
one who says he will, but in the end does not? How you respond to the
commands of our Lord determines the difference...
The Wicked Vinedressers (Mt 21:33-46)
1. As we saw in our last study, Jesus often used parables to reply to
those who opposed Him
2. In the parable of "The Two Sons" (Mt 21:28-32), Jesus responded to
those who had rejected John the Baptist
3. But in the parable of "The Wicked Vinedressers" (Mt 21:33-46), Jesus
vividly describes the sinfulness of those religious leaders who were
rejecting the very Son of God!
[Let's begin with a reading of the parable and Jesus' follow-up
comments (READ). This is one parable in which Jesus' meaning and
purpose is very evident...]
I. THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE
A. THE VARIOUS ITEMS OF THE PARABLE ARE EVIDENT...
1. The vineyard immediately brings to mind Israel
a. The figure of a vineyard referring to Israel was well-known
- cf. Isa 5:1-7
b. But here it is not Israel as a nation per se...
1) Rather, "the special advantages and opportunities which
were given to the people as the chosen seed" (W.M.
Taylor, The Parables of Our Saviour)
2) For later Jesus explains the vineyard (or kingdom of
God) "will be given to a nation producing its fruit" -
cf. Mt 21:43
2. The landowner who planted the vineyard is God
3. The wicked vinedressers represents Israel's leaders - cf. Mt
a. Their chief priests, scribes, elders, and all their
b. Therefore, the physical nation of Israel as a whole
4. The servants who were sent in behalf of the landowner
represents the prophets
a. As a nation, Israel rejected many of her prophets - cf.
2 Chr 36:15-16
b. Note the plaintive cry of Jesus over Jerusalem later on
- Mt 23:37
5. The landowner's son is Jesus Christ Himself
B. THE SUCCEEDING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS REVEAL JESUS' INTENT...
1. Which was to help them see why God would be just
a. In bringing condemnation upon Israel
b. In giving the blessings of Israel to those more deserving
- cf. Mt 21:43
2. Indeed, their rejection of Jesus had been foretold in the
Scriptures - Mt 21:42; cf. Ps 118:22,23
a. The "builders" were the religious leaders of the nation
b. The "stone" which they rejected was Christ
c. Yet, this stone would be made a "chief cornerstone" by God
1) In which God would build a something "new "
2) I.e., the church in which both Jew and Gentile were
fellow citizens of the household of God- cf. Ep 2:19-20
3. In elaborating on "the stone which the builders rejected",
Jesus reveals the terrible consequence for those who reject it
- Mt 21:44
a. Another way of saying it is anyone who opposes Christ is
destined to fall, even be "pulverized"
b. The same was said of those who would not trust in the Lord
in Isaiah's day - cf. Isa 8:13-15
[The main lesson of this parable can be summarized in the words of Ps
"Kiss (i.e., pay homage to) the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
"Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him."
So obvious was Jesus' meaning and intent in telling this parable, that
the religious leaders' would have arrested Him at that moment had it
not been for the people (Mt 21:45-46).
What application can we make for ourselves from this parable? Is there
a lesson for us today that can be drawn...?]
II. AN APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE
A. FIRST, NOTE THAT GOD OFTEN BESTOWS WONDERFUL PRIVILEGES...
1. This He had done with the nation of Israel
a. Like a precious vineyard, God planted Israel in Canaan
b. He blessed the nation with laws, priests, prophets, and
other special privileges
c. He eventually sent His only begotten Son as their Messiah
2. How about us today?
a. Have we not received wonderful privileges from God?
b. We enjoy free access to the Word of God, and the freedom to
worship without fear of persecution; many in the world do
c. We are blessed to hear things that prophets, kings, and
saints of old desired to hear and were not able - cf. Mt
B. SECOND, NOTE HOW PEOPLE OFTEN MAKE BAD USE OF THEIR PRIVILEGES...
1. The history of Israel as a nation established by God
a. They consistently murmured against God in the wilderness
b. They turned away from God time and again during the period
of the Judges
c. They persecuted His prophets, and eventually rejected His
2. What about us today?
a. We have blessings given to us through Christ
1) The forgiveness of sins through His blood
2) The aid of the Holy Spirit in putting to death the deeds
of the body
3) The joy of fellowship in the family of God
4) The privilege of sharing the gospel with a dying world
b. And yet Christians often turn their back on such blessings
1) They sin, and do not seek forgiveness
2) They do not seek the help God gives to deal with the
problem of sin
3) They neglect their brethren by forsaking the assembling,
and by not developing close relationships with them
4) They make little or no effort to spread the precious
gospel of Christ
C. THIRD, NOTE THE AWFUL JUDGMENT THAT COMES UPON THOSE WHO MAKE BAD
USE OF THEIR PRIVILEGES...
1. Again, the nation of Israel is an example
a. They suffered forty years of wandering in the wilderness
b. God allowed neighboring nations to be a thorn in their side
c. They endured Assyrian and Babylonian captivity
d. God destroyed their temple and their religion by the
Babylonians (586 B.C.) and the Romans (
e. He has indeed taken away the kingdom of God from them, and
given it to a nation bearing the fruits of it - Mt 21:43
2. Would God bring such judgments against His church or people
today if they abuse their privileges?
a. Consider the words of Jesus - Jn 15:1-2,6; Re 2:4-5, 16;
b. Consider what was written to the Hebrew Christians - He 10:
3. Clearly, if we do not utilize our special privileges...
a. God will take away the blessings we have (i.e., the kingdom
b. And give it to someone who appreciates it (i.e. bears the
fruit of it)
1. Truly God has given us wonderful blessings...
a. He made us worthy to be "partakers of the inheritance of the
saints" - Co 1:12
b. He "has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us
into the kingdom of the Son of His love" - Co 1:13
c. In Christ we have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness
of sins" - Co 1:14
d. He sent us apostles and prophets of His Son, whose words are in
the New Testament
2. Let us be careful how we receive them (cf. Jn 13:20), for the next
time the Beloved Son is sent, He is coming in terrifying judgment!
- 2 Th 1:7-10
Indeed, as Jesus said, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him
much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him
they will ask the more." (Lk 12:48)