Matthew 21

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Matt 21:1-11 The beginning of Passion Week: Christ's triumphal entry

Hugh B. Brown

"While descending from the Mount of Olives Jesus had a magnificent view of the city. He was stirred, no doubt, by nostalgic boyhood memories of this city and of the temple in which he as a youth had astonished the doctors with his understanding answers. But a vision of the future dispelled the vivid and joyous memory of the past, for he beheld the dark and melancholy fate of his beloved Jerusalem and of his Father's house. 'For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side.

"'And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.' (Luke 19:43-44.) Forty years later the armies of Titus unwittingly made sure that every word of his prophecy was fulfilled as they, in search for treasure, leveled the temple stone by stone.

"As they descended toward the city, the crowd which accompanied him was swept by the rapture of what seemed to be his hour of triumph. Bursting with hope and adoration they shouted hosannas to the Son of David. His disciples, who had been warned that this was to be the beginning of the end, were, for the moment, carried by the tide of enthusiasm.

"Jesus did not join in this jubilation, for he knew the week would end in the tragedy of crucifixion; but he kept these thoughts of death in his own heart." (The Eternal Quest, 391.)

Matt 21:5 thy King cometh unto thee...sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass

"Like much that was to take place in that last week, this procession was richly symbolic and deeply rooted in scriptural tradition. One writer has said: 'To ride upon white asses or ass-colts was the privilege of persons of high rank, princes, judges, and prophets.' Christ's doing so attested that he entered the Holy City as its rightful king, as did the shouts of Hosanna-meaning 'save now,' 'save we pray,' or 'save we beseech thee.' The matter could not be stated more plainly; the people were announcing Jesus of Nazareth as their king and deliverer. The declarations that he was David's son-the promise of kingship having been given David's heirs (2 Sam. 7:12-16)-announced him as their king, as did the palm leaves and garments that were strewn before him. Nor was this all, for this very event had been detailed by the prophet Zechariah. 'Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion,' he had written. 'Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.' (Zech. 9:9)

"The implication of this ritual entrance into Jerusalem was not lost on those who witnessed it, for some of the Pharisees among the multitude demanded that he rebuke his disciples and constrain their expressions. To this he responded, 'I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.' (Luke 19:40.)

"We must not suppose that the honor thus paid to Jesus in this moment of triumph was born of ignorance. The testimony of this multitude of believers would stand as a witness against the city of Jerusalem over which Christ now wept. Luke alone records the event: 'When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.' (Luke 19:41-44.)" (Joseph F. McConkie, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 372-373.)

Matt 21:5 thy King cometh unto thee, meek

Neal A. Maxwell

"'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.' (Matthew 21:5.) Being meek and lowly stresses the humility of the Sovereign. Our King is unconcerned with either the trappings of power or the assertion of His immense and incomparable prestige, for He 'made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.' (Philippians 2:7.)

"Jesus' willingness to become a person of 'no reputation,' though He was actually the Creator of this world-with the earth being His footstool-provides one of the great ironies in human history. This individual of 'no reputation' mortally will one day be He before whom every knee will bow and whose name every tongue will confess. (Philippians 2:10-11.) He stayed the course!" (Meek and Lowly, 14.)

Matt 21:7 brought the ass, and the colt

"Mark, Luke, and John mention a colt only, whereas the text of Matthew clearly indicates that the disciples brought an ass and a colt (the colt being the male foal, or offspring, of an ass). Matthew, or a later editor, seems to have sought meticulous fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah by specifying two animals, although Zechariah's prophetic preview of the Messiah is couched in the poetic structure called parallelism, which presents an image or subject in two parallel phrases. There was actually only one animal intended-Jesus, of course, could ride only one animal. The discrepancy in the number of animals is resolved by a simple correction that the Prophet Joseph Smith made: Matthew 21:2 and 5 in the Joseph Smith Translation indicate that only one animal was involved." (D. Kelly Ogden, Where Jesus Walked: The Land and Culture of New Testament Times, 115.)

Matt 21:8-9 a very great multitude spread their garments in the way...and...cried saying, Hosanna to the Son of David

The triumphal entry marks the most glorious moment in Christ's ministry. But with due respect to the adoring crowd, this was a pathetic little parade compared to what the Master deserved. The King enters the city not in a chariot of fire but on the colt of an ass. The King enters the city not with a powerful army but with a few disciple-soldiers.  The King enters the city not with a crown or a throne, although a thorned crown and mocking robe await him. There are no statesmen, no ambassadors, no welcoming committees. There is no fanfare, no trumpets, no decorations. He who deserved a red carpet on a street of gold received a carpet of clothes on a dirt path. He who deserved shouts of adoration from the whole world received praise from only one multitude-a multitude only large enough to silence the stones (Lu 19:40).

From the lowly stable to the gates of the holy city, Christ's entire life was an example of incredible meekness. His Father had planned it that way. There was to be no pomp and circumstance. The Author of the winding up scene intended to contrast this humble start with a dramatic finish. When Christ's truly triumphal entry takes place, the grandeur and awe of the scene will surpass all human understanding. The power of men to praise and glorify will be dwarfed by the heavenly celebration. There will be great signs in heaven including angelic trumpet blasts, adoring resurrected saints, and angelic announcements.

John the Revelator gives us part of the script for the dramatic climax of human history. This time, the "Hosannas" come from heaven, the king wears 'many crowns,' and the colt of an ass is exchanged for a white horse and a celestial cavalry:

   'And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God...
  And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth...
   And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
   His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
   And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
   And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
   And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

   And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.' (Rev 19:1, 5, 11-16)

Matt 21:12 Jesus and the Temple

"But what of the Temple itself during Jesus' day? How did Jesus-the very Jehovah in whose name it had been built and to whom its sacrifices had been offered-regard the Temple built by Herod?

"Although the architectural beauty of Herod's Temple made it one of the wonders of the ancient world, it had less of the hallowed and spiritual atmosphere that had infused the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple. The ark of the covenant, Mercy Seat, Cherubim, and other holy objects were not there; the Urim and Thummim, which provided revelatory contact with God, was not there; and the Shechinah-the divine presence-was absent.

"Yet Herod's Temple was a place of revelation, as seen in the experience of Zacharias. (See Luke 1.) And there is evidence in word and deed that Jesus considered the Temple to be the legitimate sanctuary of the true God. Indeed, Jesus called it 'my Father's house' (John 2:16) and 'my house' (Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).

"The Savior's life from beginning to end was bound to the Temple. When Mary had fulfilled the forty-day ritual of purification after giving birth, she and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the ceremonial redemption of the firstborn. (See Luke 2:22-24.) Twelve years later, Mary and Joseph 'found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, and they were hearing him, and asking him questions.' (JST, Luke 2:46.)

"Near the commencement of the Savior's ministry, 'Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple.' (JST, Matt. 4:5.) There Satan made a vain effort to tempt him. During the three years that followed, Jesus was frequently in the Temple." (D. Kelly Ogden, "Jesus and the Temple," Ensign, Apr. 1991, 13)

Joseph Smith

"It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered. . . .

"The main object [of gathering] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose." (Truman G. Madsen, ed., The Temple in Antiquity: Ancient Records and Modern Perspectives, 16.)

Matt 21:12 Jesus...cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple

Jesus' bold and almost violent actions at the temple are surprising to us. His manner has been so mild and gentle throughout his whole ministry. His actions on this day seem harsh and unrelenting. But while some may not see meekness in the temple cleansing, Joseph Smith helps us to understand the meaning of meekness. He helps us to understand that bold actions and meekness are not mutually exclusive:

"Some of the company thought I was not a very meek Prophet; so I told them: 'I am meek and lowly in heart,' and will personify Jesus for a moment, to illustrate the principle, and cried out with a loud voice, 'Woe unto you, ye doctors; woe unto you, ye lawyers; woe unto you, ye scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites!' But you cannot find the place where I ever went that I found fault with their food, their drink, their house, their lodgings; no, never; and this is what is meant by the meekness and lowliness of Jesus." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 270)

Bruce R. McConkie

"As Jesus entered the outer courts of the temple, during the first Passover of his ministry, he beheld what he was to call three years later on a similar occasion, 'a den of thieves.' (Matt. 21:13.) Before him were stalls of oxen, pens of sheep, cages of doves and pigeons, with greedy hucksters offering them at exorbitant prices for sacrificial purposes. Crowded on every hand were the tables of the money-changers who, for a profit, changed the Roman and other coins into temple coins so that sacrificial animals could be purchased and the half shekel poll tax required at this season of the year might be paid. In righteous anger and with physical force he drove the apostate priesthood from their unhallowed merchandising enterprises.

"This dramatic episode in the life of our Lord has been preserved to bear record:

(1) That the meek and lowly Nazarene was a man of action; a dynamic forceful character; a man of courage and physical strength; one whose soul filled with righteous indignation upon seeing the desecration of sacred things; one who responded zealously and vigorously in the cause of righteousness, though all men opposed him;
(2) That God was his Father; and
(3) That the temple was still his Father's house, though virtually all who worshiped there were walking in dark and direful apostasy." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1: 138.)


Matt 21:13 My house

Russell M. Nelson

"...on Mount Moriah...Jesus attended the remodeled second temple. Initially He called it 'my Father's house.' (Jn 2:16) There He accomplished the first cleansing of the temple by driving out the money-changers.

"At the time of the second cleansing, He called it 'my house'. And He said unto them, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.' (Matt 21:13)

"Finally and sadly, He called it 'your house' when He said in desperation, 'Behold, your house is left unto you desolate,' (Lu 13:35) and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, of which one stone would not be left upon the other." (Perfection Pending, and Other Favorite Discourses, 179.)

Matt 21:13 My house shall be called a house of prayer

The privilege to pray in the house of the Lord often goes unappreciated. Where is the veil thinner? What better place can we go to get away from the distractions of the world? The setting, the spirit, and even the clothing are perfect for communion with God. In the temple we learn about the power of praying in unity and in the true order.

"President Wood (Alberta Canada Temple Pres.) [said], 'The Lord has reiterated the promise made to Solomon in the temple of old, when he said, 'I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication that thou hast made before me; I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.' (1 Kgs. 9:3) He promised those assembled that if they would pray in the temple that night for their heart's righteous desires, either for self or loved ones, in faith, believing, God would hear them, that holy messengers would bear the petitions to him and he would grant the fulfillment of their prayers." ("Messages from the Missions", Improvement Era, 1929, Vol. xxxii. April, 1929 No. 6

"What is more beautiful than to see a party of Saints from a ward or stake, as a united band of brethren and sisters, pouring out their devotion to the Father of all in the true order of prayer! It is an experience the very thought of which makes the heart swell with reverential devotion to a God who, in His infinite mercy will provide such rich environment for the blessing and enjoyment of His children while He strengthens them in a knowledge of the truth." (How Temple Work Helps the Living by Richard B. Summerhays, Improvement Era, 1936, Vol. Xxxix. April, 1936. No. 4)

Matt 21:15 the chief priests and scribes...were sore displeased

"The following commentary has been prepared as to why the 'chief priests and scribes' were 'sore displeased':

"The chief priests were the guardians of the temple and, in fact, guardians (as they supposed) of the whole structure of Jewish religion. They glutted themselves on the profits from temple business, and so the temple was not just the source of their favored social position (which they coveted so jealously) but also the source of their incomes-more, their fortunes. . . . The anger of the chief priests and scribes was raging against Him; but it was impotent. They had decreed His death, and had made repeated efforts to take him, and there he sat within the very area over which they claimed supreme jurisdiction, and they were afraid to touch Him because of the common people, whom they professed to despise yet heartily feared-'for all the people were very attentive to hear him.' (JTC, pp. 528-29.)" (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2: 147 - 148.)

Matt 21:19 he saw a fig tree...and found nothing thereon, but leaves only

"All present knew that fig trees bring forth their fruit before their leaves. All were equally aware that it would be some weeks before fig trees normally gave fruit. Yet the profusion of leaves on this tree constituted an announcement that it was laden with fruit. Christ was thus attracted to it. The symbol was perfect-a tree professing fruits and having none standing in the very shadows of the temple where a corrupt priesthood professed righteousness and devotion to Israel's God as they plotted the death of his Son. How better could Christ have typified the rustling leaves of religious pretense that took refuge within the temple walls? And does not such hypocrisy, be it individual or national, merit the disdain and curse of that very authority it mocks?

"The stage was set, the lesson was most timely, and in the false pretense of the fig tree was to be found perfect typecasting. The moment now belonged to the Master Teacher, who used it to dramatize his power over nature and evidence once again his claim to Messiahship, while making the fig tree a prophetic type of what befalls those who profess his authority and fail to bring forth good fruits. Of such he has said that he will curse them 'with the heaviest of all cursings.' (D&C 41:1.)" (Joseph F. McConkie, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet, 376.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"Why did Jesus curse the fruitless fig tree? Unique among our Lord's miracles, this manifestation of divine power teaches a number of great truths:

"(1) By exercising his power over nature, Jesus was testifying in language written in the earth itself that he was Lord of all. As the Lord Jehovah he had in times past created all things in heaven and on earth; now, though tabernacled in mortal clay, he possessed the same eternal powers over life, death, and the forces of nature. By using these powers-as he had before done in calming the tempest, multiplying loaves and fishes, walking on the water, healing multitudes, and raising the dead-he was leaving a visible and tangible witness of his own divine Sonship.

"(2) Though Jesus had come to bless and save, yet he had the power to smite, destroy, and curse. 'It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things' ("#2 ne. 2:112 Ne. 2:11); if blessings are born of righteousness, their opposite, curses, must come from wickedness. True gospel ministers seek always to bless, yet curses attend rejection of their message. 'Whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord.' ("#D&C 132:47D. & C. 132:47.) It is fitting that Jesus should leave a manifestation of his power to curse, and the fact that he chose, not a person, but a tree, is an evident act of mercy.

"(3) Withering and dying at Jesus' command, the fruitless fig tree stands as a type and a shadow of what shall befall hypocrites..." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1: 582.)

Spencer W. Kimball

"In the account of the barren fig tree (see Matthew 21:19) the unproductive tree was cursed for its barrenness. What a loss to the individual and to humanity if the vine does not grow, the tree does not bear fruit, the soul does not expand through service! One must live, not merely exist; he must do, not merely be; he must grow, not just stagnate. We must use our talents in behalf of our fellowmen, rather than burying them in the tomb of a self-centered life. Personal purity and veracity and stability in leadership are essential if we are to give sanctified service to others. We must expend our energies and use our skills for purposes larger than our own self-interest if we desire true happiness.

"May we ponder carefully, deeply, and prayerfully our roles in life, where we can give the greatest service, to whom we can make the greatest contribution, what we should do with our lives and with our special skills and training. Our success will be measured by what we can give of our lives and our contribution to others rather than what we can get and receive from others." (President Kimball Speaks Out, 44.)

Matt 21:21 If ye have faith, and doubt not...if ye shall say unto this mountain, be thou shall be done

"Lecture one [of the Lectures on Faith] is a discussion of the nature of faith. The Prophet describes faith as 'the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness' (1:1)...The Prophet went on to show from scripture that faith is not only the underlying principle behind all action but also 'a principle of power.' He observed that, as taught in Heb. 11:3, 'the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and . . . it is by reason of this principle of power existing in the Deity, that all created things exist; so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, exist by reason of faith as it existed in Him. . . . It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things.' (1:15-16.) This equation that describes faith as a principle of power is an important one. Faith thereby becomes more than an inert wish or even a strong longing or yearning for some eventuality to occur. It helps us to understand the Savior's statement that 'If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree [that is, wither it], but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.' (Matt. 21:21-22.)" (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer, Chap. 34.)

Matt 21:22 all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive

Neal A. Maxwell

"'I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. ' (2 Nephi 29:8.)...Notwithstanding modern printing and binding formats of our standard works, then, the growing together has reference not to paper and pages but to the key doctrines in all the books of scripture. For example, the following scriptures concerning the nature of petitionary prayer, when clustered together, provide so much more critically needed candlepower than when considered apart:

   'And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive' (Matthew 21:22).

   'Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts' (James 4:3).

   'Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss.' (2 Nephi 4:35.)

   'And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you' (3 Nephi 18:20).

   'And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another' (Mosiah 4:21).

   'Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered' (Romans 8:26).

   'He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh' (D&C 46:30).

"Prayer is petitioning, but it also involves tutoring." (But for a Small Moment, 43.)

Marion G. Romney

"This principle we learned in our home through a rather impressive experience. During the early years of our married life, my wife and I intensely desired what we considered to be a particular blessing. We set about through fasting and prayer to obtain it. We considered many of the scriptures which seemed to make a blanket promise that 'whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive' (Matt. 21:22). We asked, we believed, we thought we had faith, but though we fasted often and prayed fervently, the years rolled by without bringing us the desired answer to our prayers. Finally we concluded that we had not fully understood; that we were not giving proper consideration to the will of the Lord. Rather, we were concentrating our faith and prayers upon receiving the particular thing which by predetermination we had set our hearts upon. We had to reconsider the conditions of the promise. We found that Jesus had stated them in full to the Nephites as follows: 'whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you' (3 Ne. 18:20), and to this generation thus, 'Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given to you, that is expedient for you' (D&C 88:64). We had to learn to be as earnest in praying 'if it be thy will' as we were when presenting our personal appeals.

"...The time will come when we shall know the will of God before we ask. Then everything for which we pray will be 'expedient.' Everything for which we ask will be 'right.' That will be when, as a result of righteous living, we shall so enjoy the companionship of the Spirit that he will dictate what we ask. On this point the Lord has said, 'He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh' (D&C 46:30), and again, 'And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done. But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask' (D&C 50:29, 30)." (Look to God and Live, 202-4.)

Matt 21:23 By what authority doest thou these things?

The question of authority was a particularly important part of the rabbinical tradition:

"There was no principle more firmly established by universal consent than that authoritative teaching required previous authorization. Indeed, this logically followed from the principle of Rabbinism. All teaching must be authoritative, since it was traditional-approved by authority, and handed down from teacher to the time of our Lord, no one would have ventured authoritatively to teach without proper Rabbinic authorization. The question, therefore, with which the Jewish authorities met Christ, while teaching, was one which had a very real meaning, and appealed to the habits and feelings of the people who listened to Jesus. Otherwise, also, it was cunningly framed. For, it did not merely challenge Him for teaching, but also asked for His authority in what He did; referring not only to His work generally, but, perhaps especially to what had happened on the previous day. They were not there to oppose Him; but, when a man did as He had done in the Temple, it was their duty to verify his credentials." (Alfred Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, [Hendrickson Publishers: 1999], 373-38)

Imagine what answer the scribes and Pharisees might have received had they been worthy to receive it. The Lord could have told them, "I am the Only-Begotten of the Father who has given me authority to put all enemies under my feet. He has anointed me with the Holy Ghost and with power (see Acts 10:38).  By this power, I created the heavens and the earth. By this power, I created the sun, the moon, and the stars. By this power, the sun gives its light, for I am the light and life of the world. I am the Great Jehovah, who communed with Abraham and gave the law to Moses. The power of the priesthood is vested in me and I need no authority from men."

Had these words been uttered, the scribes and Pharisees would have incited the people to stone Christ for blasphemy. The Master would have been carried away by the Spirit and the teachings of that day would have ceased. But Christ was not done teaching the people, nor would he cast his pearls before the hypocritical swine.

James E. Talmage

"Jesus did not condescend to voice an answer in which they could possibly find further excuse for antagonizing Him; but He availed Himself of a method very common among themselves-that of countering one question with another." (Jesus the Christ, 493)

Matt 21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men?

James E. Talmage

"They consulted among themselves as to what answer would best serve to extricate them from an embarrassing position; no mention is made of any attempt to ascertain the truth and reply accordingly...In spite of their boasted learning, they answered as puzzled school-boys might do when they perceive hidden difficulties in what at first seemed but a simple problem. 'We cannot tell' said they. Then Jesus replied, 'Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.'

"Chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people were outwitted and humiliated. The tables were completely turned upon them; Jesus, whom they had come to question, became the examiner." (Jesus the Christ, 493-394)

Matt 21:27 Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things

The Lord refused to fall into their pharisaical trap, but he did give a parable that explained his source of the authority. In this way, those humble, righteous seekers of truth would know by what authority Christ cleansed the temple, performed miracles, and taught the people. The parable of the wicked husbandmen (v. 33-41), properly understood, explained that he was greater than all the prophets and that, as the Son of God, he was heir to the kingdom (v. 35-38).

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

"One Friday evening I got a call asking if I could help clean the meetinghouse on Saturday morning. I had helped just a few weeks earlier, so I felt I should not have to volunteer again. I turned down the opportunity, but as I hung up the phone I felt a twinge of guilt. As the evening wore on, I reflected on the parable of the father who asked one of his sons to work in his vineyard. The son replied, 'I will not: but afterward he repented, and went' (Matt. 21:29).

"My heart changed, and the next morning I showed up at the meetinghouse. There I was greeted by friends. Feeling cheerful, I got out the vacuum and began to push it through the halls. I reflected on the difference between this day and my experience a few weeks earlier when I had had the same assignment. Then I had felt some resentment when a brother left early and I had to finish his assigned rooms along with my own jobs. My hand had hurt from vacuuming so much, and my main feeling at the end of the morning was relief that a blister had not formed.

"This day seemed different. The vacuum didn't seem so heavy, and I concentrated more on doing a thorough job. When I finished I looked around, surprised to find the others had gone. Then, quietly, a warm, peaceful feeling entered my heart and I felt goodness surround me. I was touched at this silent approbation of my efforts. As I headed home, I was filled with a sweet sense of having done the right thing.-Timothy R. Weller, North Branch Ward, Morristown New Jersey Stake" ("Sweeping, Shining, and Serving," Ensign, Oct. 2000, 44)

Matt 21:30 the second...answered and said, I go, sir: and went not

Hugh B. Brown

"President John Taylor said on one occasion, speaking to the brethren of the Priesthood: 'If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those you might have saved, had you done your duty.'

"This is a challenging statement. If I by reason of sins of commission or omission lose what I might have had in the hereafter, I myself must suffer and, doubtless, my loved ones with me. But if I fail in my assignment as a bishop, a stake president, a mission president, or one of the General Authorities of the Church-if any of us fail to teach, lead, direct, and help to save those under our direction and within our jurisdiction, then the Lord will hold us responsible if they are lost as a result of our failure.

"I read again the other day from Matthew what Jesus said about the two sons and their father: (quotes Matt 21:28-31)

"This is, I think, one of the greatest challenges to the men holding the Priesthood. The Lord has said to all of us, 'Go and serve in my vineyard,' and every one who has been ordained to the Priesthood and set apart for his calling has said, 'I go,' but some go not, and others weary when the day is yet young.

"Our challenge tonight then, in support of what has already been said, is that in every ward and stake, mission and branch, in every part of the Church, in all the auxiliaries, we join unitedly and enthusiastically to make the labors of these brethren and those associated with them successful in this great continuing movement for instructing and saving the members of the Church. We are doing a lot in the mission fields, but there is a lot to be done here at home." (The Abundant Life, 37-38.)

Matt 21:33-41 The parable of the wicked husbandmen

The interpretation of the parable is as follows:

  • The householder is God the Father
  • The vineyard is the kingdom of God on the earth or the earth and its inhabitants
  • The husbandmen are the scribes and Pharisees-those who are responsible for tending and pruning the vineyard
  • The Son is Jesus.

This parable is brilliant in the way it demonstrates to the scribes and Pharisees the level and depth of their own wickedness. Remarkably they pass judgment on themselves, declaring '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' (v. 41).  Interesting isn't it, how clearly they could discern appropriate punishment while blind to their central role in the story. Richard Anderson comments on this parable as a teaching technique:

"The parable is a teaching method recognizing the fact that one sees his own weaknesses better by viewing others who display the same weaknesses. Could this be applied in the home, where family members might participate in evaluating 'outside' situations rather than being discouraged by withering personal criticism? Even the Lord was sparing in confrontation, generally reserving it until he had offered many other opportunities to understand. Even then his final warnings to his enemies used the 'case system' to force them to think about his message.

"This technique should be remembered: an effective method is to use third-person examples that hit close to home. The technique works on the premise that stimulating thought is the most effective teaching tool. It avoids one-sided scorn that too often triggers the self-defense reflexes and helps induce desired self-analysis instead." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, "How to Read a Parable," Ensign, Sept. 1974, 58)

Ominously, this parable reminds us that we will judge ourselves-sometimes even picking our own punishments-for at the judgment day, we will have that painfully 'bright recollection of all our guilt' (Alma 11:43).

Neal A. Maxwell

"On Judgment Day, not only will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ but also, as elaborating Book of Mormon prophets tell us, everyone, including those who have lived without God in the world, will also openly acknowledge that God is God and will confess before God that His judgments are just and merciful (see Mosiah 16:1; 27:31; Alma 12:15). Part of the basis for demonstrating the perfection of God's justice and mercy will thus be the cumulative record which we ourselves will have made (see Alma 41:7). Out of this we can be justly judged." (Lord, Increase Our Faith, 76.)

Neal A. Maxwell

"In that context, at the judgment bar of God we will 'praise and adore at the mercy seat.' We will not 'stand all amazed'-instead we will kneel all amazed! ...Among all the knees bending and the tongues confessing will be those of the leaders of all earthly religious movements, however diverse, good, or commendable those movements have been.

"What we will feel on that occasion will be God's and Jesus' perfect love for us-not a scolding sternness but a profound kindness and immense tenderness. As these virtues flow from them toward us, many will feel the scalding shame of not having returned that love. As we feel their perfect love, we will confess that the justice and mercy of God are likewise perfect." (Not My Will, But Thine Be Done, p. 141)

Matt 21:39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him

Jeffrey R. Holland

"That is the moment at which we find ourselves on the summit of Golgotha. It is not a pleasant story. Through patience that seems inordinately generous, the Father and the Son have waited and watched and worked in this vineyard for mercy to run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. But mercy and righteousness have not run. Not only have the prophets and faithful few been killed, but now so is to be the son of the Lord of the vineyard. A terrible, incalculable price is to be paid, and it wounds the human heart to tell it.

"In the midst of the swearing and the spit, the thorns and the threats, the ridicule and the rending of his garments; added to the crushing weight of his own body straining for support on the very nails that have been driven into his hands and into his feet; and with friends in retreat and foes as far as the eye could see-the unexpected happens, the worst possible scene in this divine drama unfolds.

"Perhaps the briefest glimpse is given of the terrible emotions and forces at work here when we read lines intentionally preserved for us in the original Aramaic: 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' (Matthew 27:46.)" (On Earth As It Is in Heaven, 206.)

Matt 21:42 The stone which the builders rejected

The Joseph Smith translation gives the interpretation of this saying:

   'And now his disciples came to him, and Jesus said unto them, Marvel ye at the words of the parable which I spake unto them?  
Verily, I say unto you, I am the stone, and those wicked ones reject me. 
I am the head of the corner.
These Jews shall fall upon me, and shall be broken. And the kingdom of God shall be taken from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; (meaning the Gentiles.)' (JST Matt 21:50-53)

"The cornerstone is a long, well-squared stone resting upon the foundation of a building at the terminus of two walls. Its purpose requires that it be carefully chosen. It must be sound-in the case of sandstone, free from weakening cavities; and in the case of limestone, without any white streaks of spar that might lead to cleavage under pressure. As such, the chief cornerstone is a natural type. The Psalmist spoke of Christ as 'the stone which the builders refused,' which would ultimately become 'the head stone of the corner' (Ps. 118:22). The analogy is descriptive of the Jewish rejection of Christ in the name of loyalty to the law of Moses and might also be applied to those today whose loyalty to the Bible blinds them to the greater light of Restoration scriptures about the Savior. Christ applied the prophecy to himself in his mortal ministry (see Matt. 21:42; Luke 20:17).

"The book of Isaiah contains this same imagery: 'Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste' (Isa. 28:16). Christ is our 'tried' and 'sure foundation.' Hence Paul's imagery of the Church being built 'upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone' (Eph. 2:20)." (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Donald W. Parry, A Guide to Scriptural Symbols, 120)

"A very old tradition among the Jews holds that during the early stages of construction of the second temple, the builders, by mistake, discarded the cornerstone. Centuries later, in the midst of a long day of debate, Jesus, seemingly drawing upon this tradition, spoke of the irony associated with ignoring or dismissing him and his message. '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?' (Matthew 21:42; compare Psalm 118:22-23; Acts 4:11.) Among the Nephites, Jacob prophesied: 'I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.' (Jacob 4:15.)" (Robert L. Millet, Steadfast and Immovable: Striving for Spiritual Maturity, 141.)

Matt 21:43 The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof

Ezra Taft Benson

"By the second and third centuries, widespread changes had been made in the pure doctrines and ordinances given by the Savior. The church that Jesus had established and sanctioned was no longer on this earth.

"But had this general apostasy not been foreseen? Speaking of His kingdom, Jesus said on two occasions, '. . . the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force' (Matthew 11:12), and 'The kingdom of God shall be taken from you [the Jews], and given to a nation [the Gentiles] bringing forth the fruits thereof' (Matthew 21:43).

"This was not the same kingdom about which Daniel prophesied, for he said that the kingdom of the last days would never be destroyed or 'be left to other people.' (Daniel 2:44.) Jesus said that the kingdom established in His time would be 'given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.' In other words, Jesus knew, as did the apostles, that an apostasy would take place before His kingdom would be finally established as a prelude to and preparation for His second coming.

"The apostle Paul wrote to members of the church at Thessalonica that the second coming of Jesus Christ 'shall not come, except there come a falling away first.' (2 Thessalonians 2:3.)" (This Nation Shall Endure, 142.)

JST Matt 21:56 then understood they...that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard

Just as the gospel was taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles, so in the last days, when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, the gospel will be taken from among the Gentiles. This will coincide with a great destruction on the Gentile nations, 'And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn...until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations' (DC 87:6). 'And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land. But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.' (DC 45:30-32)

This gentile destruction is one of the main themes of Christ's teachings in the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 16, 20, 21). Heber C. Kimball prophesied that the missionaries would be withdrawn from these Gentile nations, "The judgments of God will be poured out upon the wicked to the extent that our elders from far and near will be called home. Or, in other words, the gospel will be taken from the Gentiles and later on will be carried to the Jews." (Claude Richards, J. Golden Kimball: The Story of a Unique Personality [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1934], 364.)

   'And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles.

   And it shall come to pass that I will establish my people, O house of Israel.'
   '...Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
   And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
   And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
   Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
   And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
   And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.
   For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;
   And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.' (3 Ne 20:20-21; 21:14-21)

Wilford Woodruff

"I thank God that the day is at hand when the Jews will be restored. I have felt to pray for them; I feel interested in their behalf, for they are of the seed of Abraham and a branch of the house of Israel, and the promises of God still remain with them. It is true they fell through unbelief, and the kingdom was taken from them and given to the Gentiles, and when it came from them, it came clothed with all its gifts, powers, and glory, priesthood and ordinances which were necessary for the salvation of men, and to prepare them to dwell in the presence of the Gods; and when the kingdom was given to the Gentiles, they for a while brought forth the natural fruits of the kingdom. But they, like the Jews, have fallen through the same example of unbelief, and now, in the last days, the kingdom of God has to be taken from the Gentiles, and restored back to every branch and tribe of the house of Israel; and when it is restored to them, it must go back with all its gifts, and blessings, and priesthood which it possessed when it was taken from them. But the Lord has said that in restoring these blessings to the children of Abraham, that he would be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them. But from what branch or part of the house of Israel will the Lord look for this petition or request to issue, if not from the Latter-day Saints? For we are out of the tribe of Joseph through the loins of Ephraim, who has been as a mixed cake among the Gentiles, and are the first fruits of the kingdom, and the Lord has given unto us the kingdom and priesthood and keys thereof. Hence the Lord will require us to ask for those blessings which are promised unto Israel, and to labor for their salvation.-JD 4:232-233, February 22, 1857." (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham, 121.)