Matthew 21:14 The priests and the Temple guards were both afraid and unable to touch Yeshua in this open display of hostility and dishonor before them. They feared the multitudes who believed He was a prophet of God and a miracle worker. While in the Temple the blind and the lame came to Him and He healed them. This further strengthened His authority over the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Matthew 21:15-17 – The chief priests and the Pharisees were witnesses of what Yeshua was doing in regard to his healing the blind and the lame. When the children cried out to Yeshua, the same words that their parents had cried out “Hosannah to the Son of David”, which was a reference to His being the promised Messiah, they became indignant. They felt that He was now leading children astray allowing them to believe He was the Messiah.
He told them that He was fully aware of what they were doing and then he cited Old Testament prophecy as being fulfilled by this. He quoted Psalm 8:2 citing that thought they did not recognize who He was God would see to it that babes would recognize Him. A few days earlier he told the Pharisees (Luke 19:40). At that point He turned on them and left to go to Bethany to spend the night.
Matthew 21:18-19 In the morning he returned to the city. Demonstrating that He was fully man, we see that He became hungry. Looking at a fig tee for some fruit, which was a symbol of God’s blessing, he found none. (Zechariah 3:9-10).
The fact that there was no figs was an indication of God’s judgment on the city, the nation and its people. Fig trees produce fruit twice yearly. The first ripening occurred before the leaves had come. This tree had leaves on it and it was still either March or April, and so it should have had some fruit remaining. Because of its failure to produce in due season Yeshua cursed the tree, with immediate results.
The fig tree was a picture of Israel, (Hosea 9:10), (Matthew 24:32), (Luke 13:6-7) . The fig tree is understood as a symbol of Israel, revealing Israel’s failure to bear fruit for God. At last the tree is to be cut down and replaced by others who would bear fruit (Matthew 21:18-20). Four other parables of Yeshua (Matthew 20:1-15; 21:28-32, 33-46; John 15:1-11) emphasize the same truth.
Matthew 21:20-22 – When the disciples saw how quickly the tree withered, Jesus used this incident to teach about faith. For a mountain to be taken up and cast into the sea was an allusion to a Talmudic expression of the day. A great Rabbi was known as a “rooter up of mountains”, because of his ability to solve great problems or do that which was seemingly impossible. Jesus was saying to His disciples that they would be granted similar abilities if they will place their faith in God (John 14:13-14) this is not just faith for selfish reasons, but seeking to be obedient to His will for us (James 4:3;1 John 5:14).
Matthew 21:23 – This was Wed. morning of the week of Passover and once again He is in the Temple. Some of the leading priests and elders, probably members of the Sanhedrin, come to Jesus to question His authority. The day before He had cleansed the Temple, and there was great fear and concern that His actions would could precipitate a riot by the multitude of people present for Passover, with the result that Rome would respond with bloodshed or worse.
When they approach Him, He is teaching in the Temple. The challenge came because He taught without any of the recognized Rabbinical schools or leaders endorsing or ordaining His ministry. It was obvious to the multitude that this was indeed the power of God that enabled Him to do such things, but the Pharisees were unconvinced. They had already accused Him of working these miracles through the power of Satan.
Jesus never cited the Rabbinical or Talmudic method of citing authority for His teachings or His actions, this continued to frustrate them and was now bringing matters to a confrontation that would end in a conspiracy to put Jesus to death in order to preserve their “arrangement” with Rome. The resurrection of Lazarus probably set in motion the chain of events that would lead to His crucifixion. These leaders were seeking Him to say in the Temple that what He did was under the direct power and authority of God, thus giving them an opportunity to publicly accuse Him before the multitudes of blasphemy.
Matthew 21:24-27 – Jesus answered with a question of His own. He asked them about the source of John’s baptism, whether it was from God or man. John was respected by the multitudes as being a prophet of God. This question caused them to go into conference to come up with the correct answer. To accept John would mean that they would have to accept John’s testimony concerning Jesus, that He was indeed sent of the Father. To say otherwise would be to lose the favor of the multitudes who believed He was of God.
Probably now that John was dead they began to confess that John was a prophet sent of God. Their only recourse was to say that they didn’t know. This gave Jesus the perfect excuse to avoid their question.
Matthew 21:28-32 -This is a parable that describes the state of Israel and her leaders. The point is that it is better to do the work of God than to say you will do His work and not do it. Pointing to the tax collectors and other law breakers he said that they were closer to obeying God than they were.
They were willing to repent while the chief priests and pharisees were unwilling. This was the greatest blow to their system of righteousness. He answers His question declaring that John came to show the way of righteousness, but you refused to believe him, but tax collectors and harlots did and came to him confessing their sins. The Messiah came to save the lost not the “righteous”.
Matthew 21:33-39 – The parable of the landowner and the vineyard. A vineyard was built and fortified to protect it from animals and thieves. It included a wine press to get the juice from the grapes, as well as a tower for a watchman to further guard against attack. When everything was set, he then rented the property out to wine growers and went on a journey.
Several months later when it was time for the harvest he sent some of his servants to receive his agreed upon proceeds. They beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. The tenants had a wonderful opportunity but because of their greed they challenged the owner of the vineyard. The Vineyard thought that they would respect his son, but quite the contrary they saw him as one who would claim his inheritance, so they murdered him. This was premeditated knowing full well who he was.
Matthew 21:40-42 – At the close of the parable he asks what should be done to vine growers. The chief priest and elders response is that they should be brought to an appropriate end and the vineyard be rented to faithful growers. It seems that they were completely unaware that this parable applied to them. He then asks them if they are familiar with a passage from Psalm 118:22.
This was the Psalm quoted as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and for which He was rebuked in (Luke 19:39). This was a section that was quoted regularly at two particular times, one was at Passover at the close of the Seder, and the second was at the pouring of the water ceremony which occurred everyday during the feast of Tabernacles. In both situations the call is for God to send deliverance to His people “Hoshannah” Save us.
Matthew 21:43-44 – It is here that God further rebukes the Pharisees telling them that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a nation that would produce fruit. This was the fruit that John the Baptist called for of Israel (Matthew 3:8). The fruit that God looked for was the fruit of the Spirit and what the prophets called Israel to do. (Micah 6:8)
Those who believe themselves to be God’s people and who rely on the sacrifice for sin which God has provided (Hebrews 10:12) have sometimes assumed that because their sins are dealt with, it does not matter how they live. The Bible emphasizes that those who would live in fellowship with a holy God as His people must live in a way which reflects the holiness of God (Leviticus 20:7;1 Peter 1:16;1 John 1:5).
“Mercy” (hesed, Hebrew) is a rich word which includes the idea of faithful love in action. Walking with God implies a manner of life characterized by gratefulness and obedience to God (Isaiah 38:15). “Humbly” stresses that man must remember that he is man, and God is God. The proud man will find that God resists him (1 Peter 5:5;Proverbs 11:2;Matthew 23:23;James 4:6-10).
Because Israel failed God has extended His call to others (Romans 9:25-26). He who does not believe will be shattered by this stone that the builders rejected. It brings to mind the picture Daniel saw concerning Babylon (Dan 2:32‑35).
Matthew 21:45-46 The reaction demonstrated that they understood that Jesus was referring to them. They wanted to take and kill Him right then, but because they knew that the majority of the people believed that He was sent from God they dared not lest they cause a riot themselves earning the reaction by Rome. This is why they determined that they had to arrest Jesus at night rather than in the day.