Matthew 21:23-32

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

JESUS’ AUTHORITY CHALLENGED BY THE

CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS AND

JESUS’ PARABLE OF THE TWO SONS

INTRODUCTION:

 

The Problems of the King includes the narrative about Jesus (19:3 - 23:39), the Olivet Discourse (24:1 - 25:46), and the concluding statement, Matthew 26:1-2(1) And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, (2) Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

 

The narrative about Jesus in chapter 21 includes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (21:1-11), His driving the traders from the temple (21:12-17), His comments regarding the barren fig tree (21:18-22), His authority challenged by the chief priests and elders (21:23-27), His parable of the two sons (21:28-32), and His parable of the householder who planted a vineyard (21:33-46).

We see –

    I.      JESUS’ AUTHORITY CHALLENGED BY THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS – 21:23-27

 

We note that –

            A.  AS JESUS WAS TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE, THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS QUESTIONED HIS AUTHORITY AND ITS SOURCE – 21:23

 

Matthew 21:23 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?

 

And when he was come into the temple is understood in the sense of and when He (i.e. Jesus) came (or had come) into the temple.

 

Jesus would have been in the temple courtyard but not inside the actual temple itself. People who were not priests were not permitted to enter the temple.

 

The chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him is the chief priests and the elders of the people approached Him.

 

As he was teaching suggests while He (i.e. Jesus) was teaching.

 

Saying introduces what the chief priests and elders of the people were saying to Jesus.

 

They asked, By what authority doest thou these things?, i.e. by what authority are You doing these things?

 

What Jesus had done was cleanse the temple of those selling and buying, overturn the moneychangers’ tables, overturn the seats of those selling doves, heal the blind and crippled, and teach in the temple.

 

They were also demanding to know, And who gave thee this authority?

 

Although Jesus was there by God the Father’s authority, He did not answer their questions directly.

 

They were seeking to trap Him into saying something so that they could accuse Him.

 

We also note that –

            B.  JESUS TOLD THEM THAT HE WOULD ANSWER THEIR QUESTION IF THEY WOULD FIRST TELL HIM WHETHER JOHN THE BAPTIST’S BAPTISM WAS FROM HEAVEN OR FROM MEN – 21:24

 

Matthew 21:24 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.

 

And Jesus answered and said unto them means that Jesus answered the chief priests and elders of the people.

 

I also will ask you one thing, where I is Jesus and is emphatic and you is the chief priests and elders of the people, is I also will ask you one question.

 

Which refers to the question Jesus is about to ask.

 

If ye tell me is a condition in a conditional statement whose structure implies that no assumption is being made regarding its truthfulness.

 

It is if you (chief priests and elders of the people) tell Me (i.e. Jesus).

 

The conclusion of the condition is I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.

 

I refers to Jesus and is emphatic, and you refers to the chief priests and elders of the people.

 

Jesus’ statement refers to the first of two questions to which the chief priests sought answers in the previous verse.

 

Next, we note that –

            C.  JESUS’ QUESTION AND THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS REASONING – 21:25

 

Matthew 21:25 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?

 

The baptism of John refers to the baptism performed by John the Baptist.

 

Whence was it? is where was it from?, i.e. where was the baptism of John from?

 

From heaven, or of men? implies, Was the baptism of John from heaven, or was the baptism of John from men?

 

From heaven suggests that God was John’s authority; whereas, of men suggests that John’s authority was some human source.

 

Although they had apparently set out to trap Jesus, He trapped them.

 

They reasoned with themselves is they were reasoning (i.e. considering or pondering) among themselves, and its tense denotes ongoing action in past time.

 

Saying introduces their reasoning.

 

If we shall say, From heaven is the condition in a conditional statement whose structure indicates that no assumption may be made regarding its truthfulness.

 

It implies if we chief priests and elders of the people say that John’s baptism is from heaven, meaning from God.

 

The conclusion of the conditional statement is, He will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

 

He is Jesus.

 

Will say is predictive of what they anticipated Jesus’ response would be to their question.

 

Unto us suggests to us, i.e. to the chief priests and elders of the people.

 

Why? suggests for what reason?

 

Did ye not . . . believe him is did you (chief priests and elders) not believe him (i.e. did you not believe John the Baptist).

 

Then is therefore, consequently, or accordingly.

 

In addition, we note that –

            D.  THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS FURTHER REASONED THAT IF THEY ANSWERED THAT JOHN’S AUTHORITY FOR HIS BAPTISM WAS FROM MEN, THEY FEARED THE PEOPLE’S REACTION BECAUSE THE PEOPLE REGARDED JOHN AS A PROPHET – 21:26

 

Matthew 21:26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

 

But if we shall say, Of men is the condition in a conditional statement whose structure indicates that no assumption may be made regarding its truthfulness.

 

If we shall say suggests if we (chief priests and elders of the people) should say.

 

Of men means that John’s Baptism had a human source rather than a divine source.

 

We fear the people is we fear the crowd or we are afraid of the crowd.

 

For all hold John as a prophet suggests for all (the people in the crowd) are viewing (i.e. are looking upon or are considering) John as a prophet.

 

Finally, we note that –

            E.  WHEN THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS ANSWERED THAT THEY COULD NOT TELL WHAT THE SOURCE OF JOHN’S BAPTISM WAS, JESUS DID NOT TELL THEM WHAT HIS AUTHORITY WAS – 21:27

 

Matthew 21:27 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.

 

And they answered Jesus, and said introduces the final answer the chief priests and elders of the people gave to Jesus regarding His question about the baptism of John.

 

It is, We cannot tell, literally, We do not know.

 

And he said unto them introduces Jesus’ response to the answer of the chief priests and elders of the people.

 

Neither tell I you is, And I (i.e. Jesus) do not tell you (chief priests and elders of the people).

 

What Jesus does not tell them is by what authority I do these things, i.e. by what authority I am doing these things.

 

These things refers to Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, His healing of the lame and blind, and His teaching in the temple.

We also see –

  II.     JESUS’ PARABLE OF THE TWO SONS – 21:28-32

 

We note that –

            A.  A MAN WITH TWO SONS TOLD ONE OF THEM TO GO WORK IN HIS VINEYARD – 21:28

 

Matthew 21:28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.

 

But what think ye? is but (or so) what do you think? or but (or so) what are you thinking?

 

A certain man had two sons is a man had two children, but they seem to be sons.

 

The tense of had implies continuing action in past time.

 

Although man is the generic term for human being, he is clearly a male because he is referred to as the father in verse 31.

 

And he came to, which refers to the man with the two children, is and he approached.

 

The first is the first (child).

 

And he said introduces what the man told his first child.

 

He addresses him as child (or son) and tells him, Go work to day in my vineyard.

 

Both go and work are commands whose tense denotes ongoing action.

 

In my vineyard indicates where the child was to be working that day.

 

We also note that –

            B.  ALTHOUGH THE FIRST SON REFUSED TO GO, HE LATER CHANGED HIS MIND AND WENT – 21:29

 

Matthew 21:29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

 

He answered and said introduces the son’s response to his father.

 

I will not implies I will not go and work in your vineyard today.

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to what he said to his father.

 

Afterward is later or thereafter.

 

He repented means he changed his mind or he had second thoughts. It may instead be understood in the sense of after (or because) he repented (i.e. changed his mind or had second thoughts).

 

And went is and he went.

In addition, we note that –

            C.  WHEN THE MAN TOLD HIS SECOND SON TO GO WORK IN HIS VINEYARD, HIS SON SAID THAT HE WOULD GO BUT DID NOT GO – 21:30

 

Matthew 21:30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.

 

And he came to the second may instead be understood in the sense of after he came to (or approached) the second, i.e. the second child.

 

And said likewise means that he told this child the same thing he told his other child, Go work to day in my vineyard.

 

And he answered may instead be understood in the sense of when he answered.

 

What he said is, I go, sir.

 

I, which refers to the second child, is emphatic.

 

As indicated by the italics, go has been supplied by the translators so that his answer is understood in the sense of I will go, sir.

 

And went not means and (or but) he did not go to work in his father’s vineyard that day.

 

Next, we note that –

            D.  JESUS ASKED WHICH OF THE TWO SONS DID THE WILL OF HIS FATHER AND THEN APPLIED THE ILLUSTRATION TO THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS – 21:31

 

Matthew 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

 

Whether of them twain did the will of his father? is which of the two did the will of the father?

 

They say unto him means that the chief priests and elders of the people say to (or answer) Jesus.

 

Their answer is the first, by which they mean the first child (or son).

 

Jesus saith unto them is Jesus says to them (i.e. to the chief priests and elders of the people).

 

What He said is, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

 

Verily I say unto you is truly (or assuredly) I (Jesus) am saying to you (chief priests and elders of the people).

 

That the publicans and the harlots is that the tax collectors and the prostitutes (or whores, i.e. those who engage in sexual relations for hire), two groups of people who would be the least respected and most despised people in Jewish society.

 

At the other end of the spectrum would be the chief priests and elders of the people who would be the most respected and least despised people in Jewish society.

 

Go . . . before you means (the tax collectors and the prostitutes) are going (or are coming) before you (i.e. ahead of you chief priests and elders of the people).

 

Into the kingdom of God speaks of the realm of possession of salvation.

 

For a while, it seemed like the chief priests and elders accepted the ministry of John the Baptist.

 

John 5:33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

 

John 5:35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

 

However, their rejection of John and his message demonstrated that they were like the second son who said, I go, sir, and went not.

 

Luke 7:27-3027 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

 

Sinners, like the tax collectors and harlots, will recognize their sin and their lost condition and will trust Christ as their Savior before the chief priests and elders of the people who did not regard themselves as sinners in need of God’s salvation.

 

Finally, we note that –

            E.  JESUS INDICATES THAT TAX COLLECTORS AND HARLOTS ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED JOHN THE BAPTIST’S PREACHING; WHEREAS, THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS WILL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD BECAUSE THEY DID NOT BELIEVE JOHN’S PREACHING AND NEVER CHANGED THEIR MINDS – 21:32

 

Matthew 21:32 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.

 

For introduces Jesus’ explanation of why the tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders.

 

John is John the Baptist.

 

Came unto you is came to you (chief priests and elders of the people).

 

In the way of righteousness suggests in the way of life characterized by righteousness (or uprightness).

 

It may refer to John’s righteous life or it may refer to the righteous way of life John the Baptist was promoting. Both seem to be true.

 

And ye believed him not is and (or but) you (chief priests and elders) did not believe him (i.e. John the Baptist).

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to the reaction of the chief priests and elders to John’s preaching and the reaction of the tax collectors and the harlots: the publicans and the harlots believed him (i.e. John).

 

And ye, where ye is emphatic and plural, suggests but you. It refers to the chief priests and elders of the people.

 

When ye had seen it may be understood in the sense of when (or although) you perceived (it).

 

Repented not afterward, except for the word not, uses the same terminology used by the first child in verse 29 who said that he would not go work in the father’s vineyard but afterward repented.

 

Repented not means did not change your minds or did not have second thoughts.

 

Afterward is later or thereafter.

 

That ye might believe him suggests with the result that you (chief priests and elders of the people) believed him (i.e. believed John the Baptist).

CONCLUSION:

 

Have you trusted Christ as your Savior from sin and its consequences?

Scriptures