Matthew 21


‘As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.’ Matthew 21:1-7

Jesus sent two disciples into Jerusalem to bring him a colt. Why had He chosen to enter the capital on a donkey, not on some great white steed? Isaiah 62:11 / Zechariah 9:9-10.

His life reflected one of His favourite sermons, greatness in the kingdom comes to the one who humbles himself. The disciples laid their garments over the donkey to make a saddle upon which Jesus could comfortably ride, Luke 19:35 / 2 Kings 9:13.

It is about five days before the Passover feast, Exodus 12:3 / Nehemiah 8:15 / Zechariah 14:4. We know from the Gospels that this was the first day of the week we see the city of Jerusalem was crowded with Passover pilgrims, many of whom would have been disciples of Jesus.

Jesus Comes To Jerusalem As King

‘A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Matthew 21:8-9

As He approached the city, a crowd accompanied Him, and another crowd went out to meet him, ‘the crowds that went before him and followed him’, Matthew 21:9, ‘the whole multitude of the disciples,’ Luke 19:37.

As He rode it into the city thousands of people lined the route, spreading their clothes and leafy branches in His path to honour Him. While the enthusiastic crowd cheered, Jesus remained calm.

The final entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was like that of a king riding triumphantly in his return home after a victorious battle. Those who have known the works and teachings of Jesus accompanied Him on this triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The crowd, already excited at His potential arrival, John 11:56, now hear that Jesus is on His way to the feast. Great excitement overtakes them, they have heard of the raising of Lazarus and all the other miracles He had done before. Many must have believed that He was the Messiah and was about to restore the Kingdom to that which was in David’s time.

A King’s Welcome

A welcome for a king is being written of here, as they, spread their garments on the road, along with some palm branches before Him, Psalm 118:25-26 / Leviticus 23:40 / Matthew 21:8 / Mark 11:8.

Many carried branches of palm which are symbols of victory, Revelation 7:9, and of the righteousness and vigorous spirituality of God’s children, Psalm 92:12. They point to the joy of victory, the feeling that everything will now be better, it’s clear, the people were expecting something to change.

The Saviour

‘Hosanna!’ they cry, this was a joyous call, meaning ‘save’ or ‘save us now’, it hadn’t become a simple exclamation of surprise such as we use ‘hurrah’ today. The call had a great deal of meaning to it, Psalm 118:25-26. ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ is an extract from Psalm 118:25-26.

The context of the Psalm is of a Messianic tone, indicating that they considered Jesus the Messiah, still expecting Him to establish some sort of earthly kingdom. The balance of the call that rang out seems to confirm this idea, ‘Blessed is the King of Israel.’

John tells us that ‘Jesus found a young donkey,’ John 12:14, but Matthew 21:1-2 tells that He sent two disciples to find and bring a donkey and a colt. Luke 19:30 says ‘a colt on which no one has ever yet sat’.

The donkey was traditionally ridden by Kings who came in peace, if He had come on a horse instead, that would have reflected a more aggressive tone. The Gospels tell us that this was a young donkey, not yet ridden by any man. Jesus was the first on the back of this donkey.

The Messiah

Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, His so coming is in fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9 / Matthew 21:4-5. The crowd of disciples wanted Him to assert publicly that He was the Messiah and He did but in such a way as to assert the peaceful nature of his kingdom, Zechariah 9:10.

The horse was the symbol of war and conquest and the donkey was the symbol of peace. The disciples only made this connection between Jesus, the king of peace, the donkey and the Scriptural quotation after Jesus had ascended and they had received the Holy Spirit. Much became obvious to them at that time.

The words in John 12:13 are quotes from Psalm 118:25-26, this psalm was part of the ‘Great Hallel’, Psalms 113-118, recited at the Feast of Tabernacles, Mark 14:26. They now acclaim Jesus as the Messiah, ‘He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel’. Mark 11:9-10 / Luke 19:38

Luke tells that as Jesus drew near to the city and He wept over it, sobbed like a child, Luke 19:41-44, why? Because He foresaw and described the disaster coming to a people who rejected the Messiah. This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, by the Romans, Matthew 24:1-35.

The Reaction

‘When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’ Matthew 21:10-11

Matthew tells us that the whole city was stirred which means ‘agitated’, in other words, they went wild with excitement. Remember that most in the crowd had seen Lazarus raised from the dead, so they would be witnesses to this, John 12:17.

Luke tells us that the Pharisees objected, but Jesus tells them that the very things we would assume could never speak or respond, that is the stones, Habakkuk 2:11 / Luke 19:39-40, would give testimony to the Sonship of Jesus.

If the stones of the city of Jerusalem were in the mind of Jesus when He made this statement, the meaning again would be obvious, Jerusalem would be levelled by the Romans in A.D. 70.

Jesus was basically saying to the Pharisees, ‘you can’t hide from what is happening right now, even if you could silence everyone, these very stones would have shouted glory to God because even they recognise that it’s God’s Son who is entering Jerusalem’. Luke 19:39-40.

The local people informed the visitors to Jerusalem who Jesus was. He was the prophet, Deuteronomy 18:18 / John 1:21 / John 1:25 / John 6:14 / John 7:40 / John 9:17 / Acts 3:22ff / Acts 7:37. But Jesus was more than a prophet, He was the Messiah, He was the Son of God.

We’re living in a society where Christians are being told to ‘shut up’, by the ‘politically correct’ brigade, if we speak out against sin, any sin, we get told we’re judging and need to ‘shut up’. It’s almost like we’re allowed to have our faith, but we’re not allowed to express our faith in any shape or form as some people will find it offensive.

Society is permitted to speak out against Christians, but it seems as time goes on, Christians aren’t being permitted the same freedom of speech to defend their beliefs.

The world can try and silence Christians because they find their faith offensive, but the truth is, God would be even more offended if Christians didn’t share their faith with others.

Let’s continue to praise Him and lift up His Holy Name before the world because the time is coming when every being in heaven, everyone on earth, every demon in hell, are going to bow down and confess what Christians have been confessing for years, Philippians 2:9-11.

Jesus At The Temple

‘Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.’ Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus entered Jerusalem and into the temple and it’s here that He for a second time drove out the money changers.

Jesus entered Jerusalem at the commencement of The final week of His earthly ministry. Mark tells us that every evening of that week, He withdrew from the city when evening would cause the city gates to be closed. Jesus returned the next day and went straight to the temple and cleansed it again, Mark 11:15-17.

What was it that angered Him? The abuse of the temple courts and total lack of reverence and respect for both the temple and the law. Sacrifices were also to be made during the Passover and Pentecost feasts, Leviticus 1:14 / Leviticus 5:7 / Leviticus 12:8 / Leviticus 14:22 / Luke 2:24.

Instead of the foreigners bringing their sacrifices with them, they simply waited until they arrived in Jerusalem to buy an animal for sacrifice. Those who sold the sacrifices were selling them at a great profit, Mark 11:15-16.

The Market Held In The Court Of The Gentiles

This had become a recognised institute and was protected by the temple guard on behalf of their superiors, the priests. The market was known among the Jews as ‘The shops of Annas’ because it was under the patronage of the High Priest and his family.

They took the franchise, so to speak, the monopoly and took their profit from everything that was sold. The market was not supposed to be a place for general merchandise but only for things needed for the temple ceremonies, i.e. sacrifices, wine, oil and salt used in the ceremonies.

Buyers were largely pilgrims who had travelled far but were also used by local Jews who could afford to spare themselves the inconvenience of bringing their own animals for sacrifice. Not only this, but they could avoid the uncertainty of the ‘Official Inspection’ which was compulsory.

Priests examined animals for sacrifice, for flaws or imperfections or disease and I imagine that, in order to boost flagging sales, they would refuse to accept certain animals. Probably many animals failed their spiritual M.O.T.

Changers Of The Money

The money was needed because of the duty of every male Jew who came to the temple to worship, to pay half a shekel for the upkeep of the temple. This was called ‘Temple Tax.’ Exodus 30:13-16. A half-shekel was equal to a third, or a fourth of a Denarius, or a penny and could only be paid in the temple or Jewish money.

But many coinages were in use in the Roman Empire at that time, and pilgrims from abroad usually only had Greek or Roman or Syrian money, which could not be used.

Obviously, Jewish money was not likely to be used in the wider Roman Empire. So, their foreign money had to be exchanged into coins that the temple treasury would accept.

Now, some people thought that what we have here, in the last week of the Lord’s ministry, is the report of the cleansing which John puts at the commencement of His ministry, John 2:13-22.

One of the arguments, probably the strongest argument they are able to advance in favour of this theory, is that John does not mention the second cleansing, nor do Matthew, Mark and Luke mention the first.

I suggest to you, that, far from being an argument against the genuineness of these accounts, this is an argument in favour of their genuineness.

There is obviously no attempt on the part of these writers to make their accounts harmonise and you might have expected such an attempt if they had not been genuine.

On the contrary, if you examine the two records carefully you see that there are several differences, which should make it plain that we are dealing with two separate events. John tells us that Jesus dealt with those who ‘sold’ in the temple, but Mark and Matthew, for instance, tell us that, He turned out those who ‘bought’ and sold. Not just the sellers but also the ‘buyers’ who evidently had taken no notice of the first warning.

Similarly, John says that Jesus told those who sold doves to take their birds and their cages out of the temple court. But the second time, again because his warning had gone unheeded, he condemned the sellers of doves along with the rest and overturned their chairs.

John says that the Jews challenged Jesus as to His authority, his right to do this, but the second time there is no such challenge or question from the Jews.

John does not report that Jesus dealt with those who carried objects through the temple, or the cries of the children and the healing of the blind and the lame and the apparently favourable reaction from the people.

Of course, the first time He cleansed the temple, he was virtually unknown and His action was resented. But after three years and particularly with the presence of the Galileans, He has more popular support.

John does not quote Isaiah 56:7 and the mention of the temple as a ‘House of Prayer for all nations’. Nor that Jesus quoted Jeremiah 7:11, ‘Den of robbers’. Nor the fear of the Jewish authorities for the people.

In fact, to really accept that there was only ‘one’ cleansing of the temple which the writers have put into two different ends of the Lord’s ministry, I think you have to come to the Scriptures with your mind already made up.

If these two accounts were submitted to unbiased critics, with the question, do these records deal with the same event? I am sure they would see many differences that they would say, ‘the situation in the temple had grown worse’, this is suggested by the words, ‘you have made it into a den of robbers.’

Pilgrims in particular, of course, were at the mercy of these temple traders. What went on, was ‘not’ honest trade, which itself would have been wrong in the temple anyway. This was dishonest trade. No! more than that, Jesus said it was a downright robbery.

For instance, one record tells that those who sold doves in the temple court, were at one time demanding a piece of gold for every bird they sold to the poor women who came to the temple for cleansing.

And Rabbi Simeon Ben Gamaliel urged them to be satisfied with a piece of silver. Now if the poor local women were subject to this kind of exhortation, what do you suppose happened to the wealthier Jews, coming in from Rome or other provinces?

And in this way, because they imposed an exchange fee, a great deal of profit was made, a part of which found its way to the priests. The doves are mentioned because they were required by the law for ceremonies concerned with cleansing, women after childbirth, lepers and others. So, they too provided a good profit.

In Mark 11:16, Mark reports that Jesus stopped the people from using the temple as a public thoroughfare. The people often carried things through the temple court, coming in at the East Gate and going out at the West, or vice-versa. The temple was used as a shortcut between the city and the Mount of Olives.

Now, the Jewish authorities had condemned this practice, according to some scholars. They had said that a sign of reverence for the temple was that no one went up into the Mountain of the temple, with his staff, or shoes, or purse, or dust of the road on his feet; and that no one made it a common thoroughfare.

But it seems that they had not enforced this ruling and so the people were defiling the temple and showing disrespect for it. So, Jesus took the unpleasant action that the authorities neglected to take.

Notice the quotation Jesus uses to cover His actions. Isaiah 56:7 ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ This is because the only place that the Gentiles were allowed to enter, the only part of the temple open to them and the only place where they were allowed to pray, was the ‘Court of the Gentiles.’

But how could they pray in a place which had been turned into an open cattle market and money exchange and a public thoroughfare? So, Jesus points out that in allowing these things, the priests were defeating the fulfilment of Scripture.

Notice the strong language He uses, ‘A den of robbers’, Isaiah 56:7 / Jeremiah 7:11. Remember that Jesus had just travelled to Jerusalem from Jericho, coming, along that notorious Jericho road, where the man fell among thieves and was helped by a Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.

Judea in those days was full of thieves and robbers, and they occupied the limestone caves in the hills. But Jesus says that what went on in the temple was every bit as bad as what went on outside. So, He quotes from Jeremiah’s temple sermon, Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.’

Notice first the reaction of the people, they gathered for Jesus to teach them. Mark 11:17. These last words were spoken to the people during that teaching, ‘you have made it a den of robbers’.

Certainly, the priests were to blame for permitting this traffic to go on but the people were also to blame for encouraging it by ‘buying’ and they were to blame for using the temple as a shortcut.

But there was also healing, the blind and lame came to Him. These poor sick people usually remained outside the temple altogether, because many of them would not be permitted to enter. But they were emboldened by the presence of Jesus and they came to Him and He healed them.

And notice the shouts of the children in the temple gates. Hosanna! So, the reaction to Jesus was favourable, at least from the people. But the reactions from the authorities were violent, ‘that they might kill Him’.

However, the priests had to exercise caution, ‘for they feared him because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.’ Mark 11:18. Any of those who had come with Jesus to the city had also come with Him to the temple.

In other words, there were many good Galileans present, not just people from the city, who would be under the thumb of the priests and with such enthusiasm being shown for Jesus, it might be dangerous for the priests themselves if they dared to lay hands on Jesus.

In any case, they would not stone Him in the temple itself, so they had to plan to put Him to death elsewhere, Luke 20:1-6.

When the leaders asked Jesus if He heard what the children were saying, Luke 19:40, Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2. Jesus allowed the people to exalt Him to the status of king. Jesus then goes to Bethany to spend the night, He possibly stayed with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, John 11:1 / John 11:18 / John 12:1.

Jesus Curses A Fig Tree

‘Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.’ Matthew 21:18-19

There were a variety of fig trees in and around Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, but this particular fig tree grew leaves first and then produced fruit, Mark 11:12.

I don’t believe we are to think that this was the only fig tree in the orchard, but it was certainly a tree which stood out and the reason it stood out to Jesus was that this fig tree had leaves on it but no fruit.

Why Did Jesus Curse The Tree?

Out of all the miracles Christ did, this is the only miracle which involved a curse, but why curse the tree? Certainly not for the fun of it! He cursed the fig tree and used it as an object lesson for the disciples.

The lesson was simple enough, Israel as a nation was producing an outward show of righteousness, Matthew 15:1-9 / Mark 7:1-9, it was all pretence and the religious leaders didn’t produce fruit by accepting Jesus as the Messiah.

Jesus is telling us that Israel would no longer produce fruit because they had rejected the Son of God and so God is going to reject them as a nation. Jerusalem and the Jewish nation would come to an end in A.D. 70. Matthew 21:20 / Mark 11:20-21.

The Order Of Events Is As Follows

The tree was cursed on Monday morning as Christ was on the way to the cleansing of the temple. Matthew indicates that it withered immediately, but the following morning Peter noticed that it was withered completely from its roots upward and totally dried up.

They probably didn’t notice this on Monday evening as they returned to Bethany, because it was evening time, it would have been dark.

‘Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’ Matthew 21:21-22

We must remember that faith isn’t the source of power, God is the source of that power and the disciples had to learn to trust their source, who is God, Matthew 17:20 / James 1:6 / James 5:16.

When Christians pray in faith, we need to trust that God will answer our prayers, there may be times our prayers aren’t answered in a way which we would like or as quickly as we would like but we must trust that He will answer them.

We must also remember that there are times our prayers won’t be answered simply because we don’t ask, or we don’t believe God can do what we request of Him and there are times our prayers aren’t in line with God’s will, 1 John 5:14 / James 4:3.

Mountain Moving Faith

If the words of Jesus concerning ‘a faith which can move mountains’, Matthew 17:20, are to be taken literally, then they literally have to apply to His disciples, not Christians today. This kind of faith was of the miraculous kind, this wouldn’t be the faith of Romans 5:1.

This is a miraculous faith that enabled one to ‘remove mountains’, 1 Corinthians 13:2 / Matthew 17:20 / James 5:14-15. This kind of faith, along with all the other miraculous gifts has ceased to exist, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.

Jesus knew that over the next few days the disciples would need to have their faith increased because of the great trials and persecution they were about to go through, they were about to face some huge obstacles of their own and it was going to take great faith to overcome them.

The whole point of a fig tree was to produce fruit and as Christians, we too must produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, Galatians 5:22-23 / John 16:16 / James 3:17-18.

But if we don’t produce the Spirit’s fruit in our lives, we too will end up like the fig tree Jesus used as an object lesson, we become useless, Matthew 7:19 / John 15:1-2.

We may not have the miraculous faith which can move mountains today, but we certainly should have a faith which trusts that God can remove any giant obstacles which come our way.

The Authority Of Jesus Questioned

‘Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’ Matthew 21:23-27

remember that at this time it was the aggression of the religious leaders that developed the confrontation between themselves and Jesus, Mark 11:27-12:12 / Luke 20:1-19.

Jesus had violated their system of religious regulations, He didn’t conform to their system of institutional religiosity. He didn’t fit in with their idea of who the Messiah should be.

Jesus’ bold actions in the temple stirred opposition. The Jewish leaders thought that the temple belonged to them, so they questioned Jesus’ right to come into it and make such drastic revisions, Matthew 7:28-29. Jesus replied to their challenge with a question. He asked whether John’s baptism came from God or men.

John had confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, John 1:34, and by doing so, he confessed that Jesus was greater than he was, Matthew 3:11-15.

They consulted among themselves and decided that it would be politically unwise to answer. Their refusal demonstrated that they were not sincerely seeking truth. Therefore, Jesus refused to answer their question.

Jesus’ Question Is A Model

Anyone can ask questions, but Jesus was the Master at asking THE question. Jesus asked the Jewish leaders an outstanding question, did John’s baptism come from God or man?

This is the question that we should ask about every religious practice. Anything that originates in man should be rejected, all that God commands should be carefully observed.

There is an easy way for us to determine whether a given teaching or activity comes from God or man. Everything that comes from God is in the Bible. If a particular doctrine or practice is not in the Bible, it is not from God. We should verify everything we do by this simple test: Does it come from God or from man?

The Parable Of The Two Sons

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’” Matthew 21:28

I want to break this parable into three points.

1. ‘The call’.

Jesus asks the Jewish leaders a question. One of the first things that strikes you when you read this parable is the direct way the father approaches his sons.

He feels he has the right to ask them both to go and work in his vineyard and He speaks to both sons in the kindest of terms and says, ‘Son go work.’ Jesus says ‘then the father went to the other son and said the same thing,’ Matthew 21:30.

And it’s in this way that God, as the Father gently calls all men and that’s because it’s God who is ever seeking workers. It’s God who takes the initiative to bring the inactive and indifferent into His vineyard.

It’s God who draws people to the Saviour, and how does He do that? John 6:44. Not through a weird dream, not through a fascinating vision, not through an Ouija board, not through a crystal ball. So what is His drawing power?

God draws people to the Saviour through teaching John 6:45 / 2 Thessalonians 2:14. People are brought near to the fountain of grace when they learn and receive and submit to the Gospel of Christ.

The father who had only two sons asked each of them to work, He didn’t say it was easy work, but they were called to work. And listen, God’s call goes out to all His children. It’s as worldwide as human flesh, it’s as all-pervading as human needs.

God’s call to His children and speaks to the cheerless and the downtrodden, Matthew 11:28. He summons each and every one of us to preach the Gospel in all nations.

Not a single soul is to be left out and that’s because the call is universal and individual. He wants all His children to enter His vineyard and when a person refuses to go in, then they are flatly refusing to acknowledge His authority.

Now does God call us to become Christians, and then for us to just sit around and enjoy the blessings of a Christian life?  No! Of course, He doesn’t.

2. The call from God is a call to work.

If you’re for Jesus then you will work for Jesus, Matthew 12:30. When God calls you, it’s not to rest and ease. The father’s desire was for his sons to work, that’s why he called them. Now it’s true that there’s a certain measure of safety and security in the church.

But the church, like a vineyard, is a place of work and all those inside the vineyard should engage in its programme of work. The father’s call had a sense of urgency about it, He says ‘Son, go and work today.’ In other words, there was work, which needed to be done, and it needed to be done that day.

‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.’ Matthew 21:29

So Christ’s call is for men and women to work for Him today. That’s all the time that there is, it’s our one chance, our opportunity to serve, 2 Corinthians 6:2.

If we hold back and put off if we wait until tomorrow to do the work of today. The chances are the work won’t get done and so in effect we’re like the son who bluntly said to his father ‘I will not,’ Matthew 21:29.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.’ Matthew 21:30

3. The workers.

Let’s look at the second son first. Notice how polite and respectful he replies to his father’s request, ‘I will go, sir’. Although his brother might refuse his father, he would go. How courteous he is, how sure of success he is. But why then did he fail his father? ‘He did not go.’

It’s not that he deliberately deceived his father. He’s not worked out some plot of intrigue by which he hoped to bankrupt his father. He may not have even been trying to purposely lie to his father. He failed his father because in his father’s presence he probably intended to go.

But in his father’s absence, he found that the doing of the task was more difficult than the saying of the words, James 1:22-25. This son represents the large host of Christ’s would-be followers who profess much but practice little. Many people pledge their loyalty to the Master and then they fall down on their pledge.

They praise love but don’t practise love. It’s like a profession without practice, a promise without performance. And when people have this type of attitude, they continue to be the greatest enemy of the cause of Christ.

Let’s look at the first son. The first son refused his father and rudely said ‘I will not go’, Matthew 21:29. This son offered no reason or no excuse, he simply wasn’t going.

The first son made a change for the better, he remembered his ugly mood and the blatant discourtesy he had shown his father. The first son began his day badly but that didn’t mean he had to carry on the rest of the day with the same attitude. He saw no reason to continue in the wrong, so what did he do? He repented.

And what did his repentance consist of? Not just a twinge of sorrow, he could have grieved much without repenting. He repented when he changed his mind and when he went to work in the vineyard, ‘The son said, ‘I will not go’ but later he changed his mind and went.’ Matthew 21:29.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.’ Matthew 21:31

Jesus asks the Jews which of the two did the will of the Father?

There’s a lot of emphasis on the word ‘did’ in that verse, it’s the Greek word ‘poyeh’o’ and it means ‘to agree or make a deal’. It’s the idea of doing something without any delay. In other words, Jesus asked the Jews, ‘which of the two without any delay done what the father wanted them to do?’

Out of all the questions, Jesus could have asked them, He asked them the most important question of all, ‘which one did the will of their father?’

They said, ‘the first,’ and answered correctly. All else is of no consequence, no matter how good the intentions, no matter how many the promises, the simple fact is that one son did and one son didn’t.

Fine words can never take the place of fine deeds and it’s now that Jesus tells them they have just condemned themselves.

“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Matthew 21:31-32

What an insult this must have been for them, imagine the anger and rage in their hearts as Jesus tells them that these so-called unclean people.

The people that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law hated so much were now in a better spiritual condition than they have ever been. I would imagine them fuming, no wonder they wanted to kill Him and get Him out of the way.

Now the meaning of this parable is crystal clear. The first son who wouldn’t work but later decided to work represents the tax collectors and prostitutes or sinners as some translations have it.

All their lives by their wicked deeds they had been saying ‘no’ to God. But when Jesus comes along, they could no longer continue in their sin but pressed on to enter the kingdom, Luke 12:35-40.

The second son represents the leaders of the Jews, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And they were always making the pretence of serving God but when Jesus came along they didn’t accept Him as the tax collectors and prostitutes did.

They despised His teachings and they hated Him so much they would eventually crucify Him on a cross. They had rejected John the baptiser and they had rejected Jesus as the Christ and wouldn’t accept His authority.

The tax collectors and sinners had turned from their ways but the Jewish authorities had made no amends and had cast aside the heavenly kingdom.

The Parable Of The Tenants

‘“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place.’ Matthew 21:33

Now some people like to say that this is a parable about ‘The wicked tenants’ but by the time we have finished, you’ll see that it’s more like the parable of ‘The rejected Son’.

We all know what the Pharisees and Sadducees were like, they hated Jesus and they were always plotting for a way to get rid of Him.

And there were many reasons for this but one of the main reasons they wanted Jesus out of the way was because they couldn’t or wouldn’t accept who Jesus was. They were always questioning His authority, Mark 1:21-22 / Mark 11:27-33 / Mark 11:28 / Mark 11:30.

And it’s with this final rejection of the source of the Lord’s authority that Jesus goes on to tell them the parable. This parable tells us a lot about our God, mankind and Jesus Himself. First, let’s look at what it says about our God.

This parable tells us 4 things about our God.

1. Our God is a gracious God, Matthew 20:1.

The Jewish leaders forgot to look back into their history and recognise just exactly who they were and where they came from. In Ezekiel 16 we find a very graphic picture of what the nation of Israel was like when God took them under His care, Ezekiel 16:4-7. And then God goes on to describe how they grew up into something beautiful and how they were like a queen.

But what a pathetic and helpless and hopeless picture this is. These religious leaders had forgotten just who they were and where they came from.

They were God’s people and God owned them. It was God who made them into the nation that they were. It was God who cared for them when they were lying by the side of the road hopeless.

And when Mark tells us in Mark 12:1 that a man planted a vineyard, he’s telling us that, that man was God, it was God who planted the vineyard.

Notice that the vineyard was given everything it needed to do its work. It was given a wall around it to mark out its boundaries, to keep out robbers and to defend it from wild boars.

There was also a winepress in the vineyard where people would trample all over the grapes with their feet. And underneath the winepress, there was a wine vat and that’s where all the juice from the grapes would flow. And they were given a tower, and it’s in this tower that the wine would be stored and the people would also live there too.

And it’s from there, that they could look out for robbers at harvest time, that’s why it’s called a watchtower, Isaiah 5:2. The vineyard owner gave the vineyard everything it needed to make their work easy and profitable.

And notice that God didn’t just give them a task to do, He also gave them the means by which to do those tasks, 1 Peter 4:10. When Jesus is talking about those who were given talents, He said one had 5 talents another had 2 talents and yet another had one talent.

But Jesus clearly tells us in Matthew 25 that all were given a talent. But He says, you have a talent and you need to use and develop that talent the best you can because if you don’t, He will give it to someone else who will use it.

2. God trusts us enough to do the work at hand.

The owner of the vineyard went away on a journey, he went to another place. God trusted the tenants to run the vineyard by themselves while He was away.

3. Our God is patient.

‘When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.’ Matthew 21:34-36

Notice how the master sent servant after servant, Mark 12:2-5. We know that Jeremiah was a prophet of God who was beaten up time and time again by the so-called leaders of God’s people, Jeremiah 37:15.

Uriah is another prophet that was killed by the so-called leaders, Jeremiah 26:23. Zechariah was another prophet who was killed by the so-called leaders, 2 Chronicles 24:21.

Hebrews 11:37 tells us that many of God’s servants ‘were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated.’ These servants of God were God’s holy prophets who were treated like this.

And even after the first one was abused and ill-treated, God still didn’t get angry with them and come after them with vengeance. Oh no! He gave those tenants chance after chance, to respond to His appeals. And He does the same with people today, 2 Peter 3:9.

‘Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.’ Matthew 21:37-39

This was the coming of the Messiah. Notice that Jesus doesn’t call Himself a servant here, Mark 12:6-8. He deliberately removes Himself from the succession of prophets.

He says they were servants, but He is the Son, Matthew 28:18 / John 13:3 / John 17:2 / Hebrews 1:2. And so because Jesus was always being questioned about His authority, He tells them right to their face, that He is the Messiah.

They knew that He was the heir, they knew they were going to kill Him. In Matthew we find Jesus talking about the so-called spiritual leaders of the Jewish nation and he calls them, ‘blind guides! Matthew 23:16. He calls them ‘Blind fools!’ Matthew 23:17. He calls them, ‘Blind men!’ Matthew 23:19, and He calls ‘hypocrites!’ Matthew 23:23.

But the point is that the Jewish leaders were supposed to produce the fruit, and they were supposed to protect the rest of the vineyard. They were supposed to watch out for robbers but they didn’t because they didn’t do their job properly.

They rejected Him, John 1:11 / John 3:16, and they crucified Him outside the city, 1 Corinthians 2:8 / Hebrews 13:12-13.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Matthew 21:40-41

4. God will serve justice.

It’s because of their lack of faithfulness to God, that Jesus asks these leaders the question here, Mark 12:9. These tenants pushed their luck, they pushed God’s patience.

And like this parable tells us, the world can push its luck with its disobedience and rebellion but there’s a time coming when justice will be done, 2 Peter 3:10 / Hebrews 9:27.

Our God is a patient God and He as the owner of our souls have the right to expect us to work in the field with the gifts He has given us. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, 2 Peter 1:3.

This parable also tells us two things about mankind.

1. Mankind thinks it can get away with sin.

Sometimes in the world’s judicial system people fall through the cracks and get away with their crimes, but God’s justice system doesn’t have any cracks.

Remember God’s people hadn’t heard a word from God for 400 years, they hadn’t heard a word from any prophet until John the baptiser came along. Out of sight, out of mind, is the phrase they might have used.

They must have thought that God was too far away to do anything about the situation. Luke tells us in his account in Luke 20:9 that He was away for a ‘long time’.

And so because of that silence, they may have thought that God was dead and out of the picture. Oh, but how wrong they were and how wrong people are today who think that there’s no God or He’s a dead God, Acts 14:15 / Revelation 1:18.

2. You can lose your privileges.

This parable has the story of what was still to come. The Jews had all the privileges of being God’s chosen people. They also had many responsibilities, which went along with those privileges. But these people enjoyed all the blessings from God.

He looked after them, He provided their everyday needs, He provided wisdom and guidance, food and shelter. He took care of all their needs as we looked at earlier.

And as soon as Jesus mentioned a vineyard, the Jews would know exactly what it meant. They would cast their minds back to Isaiah 5 where Isaiah is talking about the vineyard.

The problem is this parable doesn’t mean much to us today but to a Jew Isaiah 5:1-7 was a very important part of Israel’s history, which they couldn’t ignore or forget.

The religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus was going on about. These tenants or Jewish leaders knew Jesus was speaking about them but as usual, they failed to listen and do their job.

‘Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?’ Matthew 21:42

Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23, this stone, which was the keystone for the building, the most important stone of all, was being rejected. The Jewish leaders rejected the Christ, their long-awaited Messiah, Isaiah 8:14-15 / Isaiah 28:16 / Daniel 2:44ff / Zechariah 12:3 / Luke 20:18 / Romans 9:33 / 1 Peter 2:8.

The stone the Jewish leaders rejected has now become the cornerstone of a new building, the church, Acts 4:8-12. In other words, the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the very words and the teachings of Christ are the very foundation that Christianity is built.

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Matthew 21:43-44

All the privileges, all the responsibilities of being a child of God were going to be taken away from the Jews and given to a people who will be grateful for everything He has done and will do for them. Jesus was the stone of Daniel 2 that broke into pieces and consumed all the power that was exerted by world kingdoms, Daniel 2:24-25 / Daniel 2:44-45.

The Jewish nation will be done away with and another nation will be raised. A nation of people who will obey His words and take their responsibilities seriously, a nation of Christians.

And that would have hurt, ‘the Gentiles being a part of the kingdom of God. Never!’ a Jew would say, Ephesians 3:4-6. All the privileges the Jews had with God were now going to be available to all who would be obedient to the Gospel of Christ.

‘When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.’ Matthew 21:45-46

They understood what Jesus was talking about with the parable, the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t want to accept Him. Instead, they looked for a way to arrest Him but because of fear of the people, they couldn’t at this time. They knew even the people believed that was a prophet.

When it comes to dying most of us don’t know how or when that’s going to happen. But Jesus knew when and how He was going to die. The cross of Christ didn’t come as a surprise to Jesus but it was still a brutal and shameful way to die, Hebrews 10:5-10.

Jesus Christ was born to die, that’s why He came to earth in the first place. He knew He was going to have to suffer and be mocked both physically and mentally. But it’s because of His willingness to go to the cross, that we can come together and worship Him every week.

Go To Matthew 22