The Gospel of Matthew
"E. Schuyler English: The Gospel According to Matthew"
The Book of MATTHEW
The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of the history of the ages. From eternity, from the creation, the Cross was God's plan for the redemption of the race; so in the fulness of time God sent His own Son to be born of a virgin that He might die for your sins and mine. The Lord Jesus came to earth in humiliation, He lived His life in perfect obedience to the Father's will, steadfastly setting His face toward Jerusalem that His death might be accomplished. The chapter before us records important events which led up to the fulfilment of the Father's decree and the Son's purpose; for here our Lord publicly offered Himself as King to His people, and within one week He was publicly rejected in the most positive way He could be rejected, by being put to death. The Lord Jesus' entrance to Jerusalem has been called His Triumphal Entry. From the world's view-point, it could hardly be termed triumphal, for it led to His arrest and death. But in God's wisdom, it was a triumph; the very fact that it led to the Lord's death accomplished our salvation, God's triumph over Satan and sin, and over the power of death, by which our sinless Lord could not be bound.
We have seen the King born, we have heard the Kingdom of the heavens proclaimed, we have read the constitution of the Kingdom, we have been warned that the King would be rejected, and have seen the growing hatred of the religious leaders toward that end, we have observed the manifestation of the King's power that He is God; we shall see in the portion before us that though He was acclaimed as the King should have been: "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord," the multitudes neither knew Him nor understood what they said. For when, Jerusalem having been stirred, they asked, "Who is this?" the multitude answered, "This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee."
"And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethpage, unto the Mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: Loose them, and bring them unto Me. And if any say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them" (Matt. 21:1-3).
Heretofore the Lord Jesus had never sought prominence. He had entered Jerusalem before, quietly and unheralded; He had ministered to the multitudes in the villages and on the hillsides; He had told many whom He healed: "Go, and tell no man." This "Triumphal Entry" was not by chance, but by deliberate design. "Go ... find the ass ... the Lord hath need." This was to be the occasion for the public offer of Himself as King, and consequently He in His foreknowledge arranged the acclamation to suit His time. Surely He is God; all that we have seen in the Gospel proves that. And here again He demonstrated His power. Was it not by His Holy Spirit that the prophet Zechariah had written more than five hundred years before: "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass"? Surely, then, Messiah God knew where the ass would be found, and what question His disciples would be asked (See Mark 11:3-6) when they went to loose the beast. Again He demonstrated His identity before His disciples and the multitude. In passing, it should be noted that Matthew 21:5, in quoting Zechariah 9:9, leaves out a clause: "He is just, and having salvation." This is just another proof of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures. Had man written Matthew's Gospel he would have quoted the full verse, but under the Holy Spirit's guidance a clause is left out which should be left out in this Jewish Gospel, for "He is just, and having salvation," because Israel rejected her King, will not apply to the Jewish nation until the Lord's second coming, in power and glory, when the remnant of Israel shall receive Him as their Messiah and King.
"And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set Him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way: others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" (Matt. 21:6-9). Here described is the greatest moment in the history of the nation Israel. Their King, promised through the centuries, was here before them, presenting Himself as He entered the Holy City of His father David. That event of which the prophets spoke, which father had handed down to son in great and desired hope, was at hand. We shall see what Israel did with it.
The greatness of our Lord's humility is portrayed here. He Who was rich for our sakes became poor. The King of kings and Lord of lords was making His "triumphal entry" to the seat of His Kingdom! With the blare of trumpets, on a white charger, with the clash of arms, in regal attire? No -- but with the cry of the common people, on a beast of burden, with the swish of branches, in His peasant's garments. There was a great stir so that all the city was moved, but Rome was not worried. Rome was used to military display when the emperor entered its cities: Rome saw no arms, no cause for dismay; in fact, Rome paid little attention to the event, for later Pilate said: "What evil hath He done? I find no fault in Him." There was no accusation of sedition. Yes, it was a lowly and meek King Who entered Jerusalem on that day, but it was none the less God the Son fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah. The stately procession of the victorious Caesars and the rulers of other nations have been forgotten long since, but the "triumphal entry" of our Lord Jesus Christ is recorded in God's Word and will never pass away. For a brief moment the Lord Jesus was acclaimed, "The multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord." Five days later the multitudes again cried, this time shouting: "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" "He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him: He was despised, and we esteemed Him not" (Isa. 53:3).
"And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee" (Matt. 21:10, 11). Rejected! "Who is this? This is Jesus the prophet." Here was the first step in the rejection after the Lord's public presentation of Himself. Their cries were for the Son of David, but even as they shouted in their enthusiasm, they did not believe their own words. They were carried away for a season by His power, but at the moment when He would have come as Messiah to His own people, a Deliverer, they despised Him and turned Him away. Not Messiah, not the King, but "This is Jesus the Prophet." With these words the Son of God was rejected and Israel cast aside her blessing, and the dispensation of the Law approached its end. But the Lord Jesus will come again to Jerusalem. Then He shall come from the heavens, sitting upon a white horse, His eyes shall be as a flame of fire, on His head will be many crowns, He will be clothed in a vesture dipped in blood, and His Name shall be called the Word of God, King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:11-16). Then Israel shall see Him Whom they have pierced, and they shall bow down and worship Him, the Son of David: "Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord."
"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Matt. 21:12, 13).
The first official act of the King was the cleansing of the Temple, His Father's House and His. This is but a shadow of what shall occur when He comes in glory. Upon this occasion He found His House a den of thieves, housing the moneychangers, who at gain to themselves exchanged the official coinage of Rome for Jewish money for temple gifts; He found those who sold and bought doves, for offerings. Here, coming as the King to be rejected, He cast out the thieves, saying, "My House shall be called a house of prayer," quoting from Isaiah 56:7, "but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Jer. 7:11).
Yes, our Lord Jesus will come again, in power and in glory, and then He shall find the re-established temple much more besieged by the children of Satan. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). Then He will fulfil the prophecy of Malachi 3:1-3, only foreshadowed upon the present occasion: "the Lord Whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, Whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
"And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, they were sore displeased. And said unto Him, Hearest Thou what these say?" (Matt. 21:14-16). From a scene of judgment we are taken to a picture of the blessing that followed our Lord's first coming as King, and that will follow His second entry, as King in power, when all diseases shall be healed.
"And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did" -- the chief priests and scribes! Now we know that there was trouble. How blind! Those who should have fallen down in worship, who should have been happiest in shouts of joy: "Hosanna to the Son of David," were sore displeased. "Hearest Thou what these say? Why, these children are crying for joy: 'Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord.' Stop them! It's blasphemy!" "And Jesus said unto them, Yea; have ye never read, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise." "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy Name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength" (Psa. 8:1, 2). Our Lord signified that the Psalms of David speak of Him, and truly it was fulfilled: out of the mouths of children was His praise perfected. Thus was the enemy stilled.
"And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there" (Matt. 21:17). He, the true Son of David, had come as King, and had been rejected. In the morning there were shouts of praise; in the evening they were sore displeased. Night has come upon Israel; the King has left them because of their unbelief. But He will return, and a remnant of Israel, in her darkest hour shall see Him and believe.
Matt. 21:18, 19
"Now in the morning as He returned into the city, He hungered" (Matt. 21:18). "He hungered" -- not only is the Lord Jesus perfect God, but He was perfect Man subject to human feelings with us. But we believe that here there was more than physical hunger; there was also a spiritual hunger. The fig tree which He saw in the way (v. 19) is a type of Israel. There was nothing on it but leaves; no fruit. In Mark eleven we are told that it was not yet time for figs. Thus Israel was barren; there was religious formality, the leaves, and one might expect to see early fruitfulness. But God in His knowledge knew that it was not yet the time when Israel should be fruitful, to believe. So finding no fruit, He said, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." In the same way He spoke to unbelieving Israel. "And presently the fig tree withered away."
"And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!" (Matt. 21:20). Israel, who should have been ready to establish the Lord Jesus as Messiah and King, was only a hindrance to Him, an obstacle in His path. The Lord Jesus then told the disciples: "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain (a mountain typifies any obstacle), Be thou removed, and be 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). Now we well realize that some say that this promise was in relation to unbelieving Israel, the mountain, and that the promise applies only to the disciples. We do not believe that it is so limited. Our Lord was speaking to His disciples, believers, children of the Kingdom. We who are born again are His disciples, and the promise says: "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask." There is a like promise for the Church: "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" (1 John 5:14, 15). The only limitation is our faith; "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
"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?" (Matt. 21:23). The narrative is found in the Word, and little exposition is needed. The Lord, on the preceding day, had cleansed the Temple; on this day He began teaching, no doubt to multitudes of Jews who had come into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. Then the scribes and elders of the people, an official body representing the priesthood and the laity, asked Him by what authority He did these things, that is, the cleansing and the teaching in the temple. One of our Lord's names is Wisdom. He knew that their questioning was insincere, that they who would not receive the testimony of the forerunner, John the Baptist, could not receive His testimony either. And so the Lord met them with another question: "The baptism of John, whence was it? from Heaven, or of men?" That was a tester! They knew that they should say: "From Heaven." But if they said that, the Lord would ask why they had not received John and his testimony as to Who the Lord is, who said: "He must increase, but I must decrease." They wanted to say: "Of men," but they were afraid of the multitudes who believed in John as a prophet. So they answered: "We cannot tell." Our Lord replied, "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things." It is folly to argue heavenly things with one who is insincere and will not tell the truth. The Lord knows men's hearts, and He knew that these who would not receive John's witness to Him, that He is God, would not receive His own testimony concerning Himself.
"But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father?" (Matt. 21:28-31).
The teaching is very clear. The Lord had just said He would not tell them on what authority He did these things. Then -- "What think ye? A certain man had two sons. ..." Now John had come with the following message: "Repent ye; for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand." The first son typifies the publicans and harlots, who pretended no interest at first, but afterwards repented. The second son speaks of the religious leaders who should have been interested, who said, "I, sir" (The word go is italicized and does not appear in the Greek). "I, sir" -- they pointed to themselves in contrast to the others, they called attention to their own righteousness, but they repented not. The Lord Jesus forced them to bring their own verdict upon themselves. "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 harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him."
"The Son of Man came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matt. 9:13).
"Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country" (Matt. 21:33). In Isaiah 5:7 we read: "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel." The husbandmen are the religious leaders who should have kept the vineyard for Jehovah God so that it might be fruitful to His glory. But when the time of the fruit drew near, one by one the servants whom God sent, that is, the prophets, were not respected but were rejected and maltreated. Finally God sent His own Son! "But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance" (Matt. 21:38). Here before the elders and scribes, the husbandmen, stood the Son Himself. What did they do? Did they receive Him; did they believe on Him? No -- "And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him" (vs. 39). Blind Israel; "blind leaders of the blind"! In the previous parable the Lord had forced them to return the verdict against themselves; in this one He forced them to pronounce judgment upon themselves. "When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will He do unto those husbandmen? They say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out His vineyard to other husbandmen, who shall render Him the fruits in their season" (Matt. 21:40, 41).
Our Lord predicted in this parable what should befall Him. He knew the awful death that should be His, but for you and me, for the joy that was set before Him, "He endured the cross, despising the shame," that we might share His inheritance. The scribes and elders also predicted what should befall them, for the Lord Jesus made them say that they were miserable sinners who deserved punishment at the hands of a righteous God, but they did not yet know or realize the meaning of their own words. Then the Lord said to them: "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" (Matt. 21:42, quoting from Psalm 118:22, 23, proving again the Messianic portent of the Psalms of David). He is the Stone Whom they (the builders) rejected. Hear Paul: "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23, 24). Listen to Peter: "Unto you therefore who believe He is precious: but unto them who are disobedient, the Stone which the builders disallowed, the Same is made the Head of the corner, and a Stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offence, even to them who stumble at the Word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed" (1 Peter 2:7, 8). On this Rock, Christ crucified and raised again, is the Church built. Can you sing with other believers: "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand"? Believe on Him, and you shall be saved. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Matt. 21:43, 44
Then the Lord pronounced judgment: "Therefore say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whosoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matt. 21:43, 44). The Kingdom of God is taken from unbelieving Israel. They had been rejecting the King; He in turn rejected them.
Part of the prophetic teaching (of verse forty-four) has been and is being fulfilled: Christ a stumbling block to disbelieving Jew and Gentile. The other portion is yet future when the Lord Jesus Christ, "the Stone cut without hands," shall fall and grind to powder the Gentile world-powers (See Dan. 2; Rev. 16). That will be when He comes in glory. Praise the Lord, we His Bride, before that time will have been caught up "to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Matt. 21:45, 46
"And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables (plural), they perceived that He spake of them" (v. 45). At last light appeared to the blind; yet they did not repent. "But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitude, because they took Him for a prophet." We pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to any unsaved one who reads these words, to convict of sin, and to bring that one to the Solid Rock, the Lord Jesus, Who will save to the uttermost them that believe. As for believers, may we look to the Lord for His teaching, and may we look for His soon coming for His own. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."