Matthew 21

Encounters at Jerusalem

Chapter 21

The Entry into Jerusalem.[a] 1 When they drew near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent off two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village directly ahead of you, and as soon as you enter you will find a tethered donkey and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell them, ‘The Lord needs them.’ Then he will let you have them at once.” 4 This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet:

5 “Say to the daughter of Zion:[b]
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”

6 The disciples went off and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their cloaks on their backs, and he sat on them.[c] 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that preceded him and those that followed kept shouting:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord![d]
Hosanna in the highest!”

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was filled with excitement. “Who is this?” the people asked, 11 and the crowds replied, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

12 Jesus Cleanses the Temple.[e] Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those whom he found buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written:

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’
but you are making it a den of thieves.”[f]

14 The blind and the crippled came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes witnessed the wonderful things he was performing and heard the children crying out in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became infuriated 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus replied, “Yes. Have you never read the text:

‘Out of the mouths of infants and babies who are nursing
you have received fitting praise’?”

17 Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

18 The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree.[g] Early the next morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 Noticing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went over to it but found nothing on its branches except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never give forth fruit again!” And instantly the fig tree withered away.

20 When the disciples witnessed this, they were stunned, and they asked, “How could that fig tree wither away in an instant?” 21 Jesus answered them, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to this fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be accomplished. 22 Whatever you ask for in faith-filled prayer, you will receive.”

23 The Authority of Jesus Questioned.[h] When he entered the temple and began to teach, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him and asked, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them in reply, “I will also ask you one question. If you give me an answer, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Where did John’s baptism originate? From heaven or from men?”

They argued among themselves, “If we say: ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the people, for they all regard John as a prophet.”

27 Therefore, they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Then neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.[i]

28 The Parable of the Two Sons.[j]“What is your opinion about this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not,’ but later he had a change of heart and went. 30 The father then gave the same instruction to the second son, who answered, ‘Of course I will,’ but then did not go. 31 Which of the two complied with his father’s instruction?” They responded, “The first.”

Then Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to show you the path of righteousness, but you did not believe him, whereas the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. Yet even after you realized that, you still refused to change your minds and believe in him.

33 The Parable of the Tenants.[k]“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, fenced it in on all sides, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went off on a journey.

34 “When the time for harvest approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the produce. 35 But the tenants seized his servants and beat one of them, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again, he sent more servants, but they treated them in the same manner.

37 “Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39 And so they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

40 “Now what do you think the owner of the vineyard will do to those tenants when he comes?” 41 They said to him, “He will kill those evil men, and then he will lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest.”

42 Jesus then said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes’?

43 Therefore, I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce fruit in abundance. [ 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken into pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.]”[l]

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who regarded him as a prophet.


  1. Matthew 21:1 One of the key events in the life of Jesus. He seemed to be fulfilling what was most attractive in the Old Testament prophecies: here is the Messiah in the midst of his people, God’s messenger in the midst of the human race, and joyous shouts of acclamation arise on every side. Hosanna means “Grant salvation!” but it is above all a shout of applause. Jesus allows himself to be acclaimed as the “Son of David,” the Savior from the royal line, the figure that the believing people had, generation after generation, tried to picture for themselves in light of the promise made to David (2 Sam 7). But the sumptuous display in the courts of princes was of quite a different nature. Once again, Jesus rejects all dreams of prestige; here he is, in the midst of the people, riding the beast of the poor, the donkey, and linking himself in this manner with the Davidic tradition.
  2. Matthew 21:5 Daughter of Zion: i.e., Jerusalem, which rises on Mount Zion; the citation is from Isa 62:11. There follows the prophecy of Zec 9:9, which describes the Messiah, a humble and meek king taking peaceful possession of his kingdom.
  3. Matthew 21:7 He sat on them [the cloaks]: from Mark (11:2) and Luke (19:30), we know that Jesus rode on the colt. It was customary for a mother donkey to follow her offspring closely. Hence Matthew mentions two animals.
  4. Matthew 21:9 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: taken from Ps 118:26f, this phrase does not express the customary greeting directed at the pilgrim who had reached the Holy City. Like the Hosanna mentioned above, it is an acclamation to the Messiah who is taking possession of his kingdom.
  5. Matthew 21:12 As if to stress the authority of the Messiah, the evangelist follows up the entry into Jerusalem with Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. He then adds the acclamation of the children, in whom he sees the fulfillment of another prophecy. John, on the other hand, places the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. While not ruling out two distinct cleansings, scholars usually prefer the chronology of John, since the Synoptics have chosen to assign the whole of Christ’s activity in Judea to the last period of his life.
  6. Matthew 21:13 Jesus combines two Old Testament prophecies: Isa 56:7 (“My house shall be called a house of prayer”) and Jer 7:11 (“Has this house, which bears my name become in your eyes a den of thieves?”).
  7. Matthew 21:18 The cursing of the fig tree is a symbolic act, a kind of parable in action. It signifies the condemnation of Israel, which has now become a sterile plant. The ancient Prophets often had recourse to this type of teaching.
  8. Matthew 21:23 This is the first of five controversies between Jesus and the religious authorities of Judaism in Mt 21:23—22:46. They are in a question-and-answer form and are interrupted after the first by three parables on the judgment of Israel (Mt 21:28-32; 21:33-46; 22:1-14).
  9. Matthew 21:27 The religious authorities claim ignorance of the origin of John’s baptism and thereby demonstrate that they cannot speak with authority. Therefore, Jesus refuses to tell them by what authority he acts.
  10. Matthew 21:28 The parable of the two sons denounces a religion that is content with words and appearances. The facile “Yes” on the lips is a poor disguise for the refusal of the heart. To the hypocrisy of the recognized teachers, Jesus opposes the true faith of the poor. The evangelist utilizes this parable to indicate the end of Israel’s privileges and the entrance of Gentiles into the growing Church.
  11. Matthew 21:33 The parable repeats, almost word for word, passages from the beautiful, sad song of the vineyard in Isa 5; Jesus is speaking of God and his people. How can we forget the tragic history of the Prophets, who were rejected, tormented, and stoned to death (2 Chr 24:21; Heb 11:37; Lk 13:34)? Is not the son here Jesus himself?
    Scholars believe that some allegorical elements have been added herein to a basic parable originally spoken by Christ. One reason for their belief is the newly found apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, which contains (#65) a more primitive form of the parable.
  12. Matthew 21:44 Some manuscripts do not have this verse, which indicates that both hostility and apathy are wrong responses to Christ. It may be an early addition to this Gospel based on Lk 20:18.

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