Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992.
“Matthew 21” pp. 517-545.
At the start of Matthew 21, Jesus has arrived at Jerusalem. Morris observes the sharp contrast between the journey to Jerusalem with opposition and private teaching of disciples and the very public and popular entry into Jerusalem of Matthew 21:1-11 (Morris 1992, 518). The donkey obtained for Jesus to ride into the city seems to be present by some prior arrangement (Morris 1992, 520). The prophecy from Zechariah 9:10 of the king coming in meekness on a donkey serves as a sign of Jesus as a peaceful messiah (Morris 1992, 521). The crowd proves to be enthusiastic and welcoming, greeting Jesus as the coming Messiah (Morris 1992, 522ff).
Upon arrival in Jerusalem Jesus removes some merchants from the temple. Morris considers John’s account at the beginning of his Gospel to refer to a different occasion, citing many different details (Morris 1992, 525). Jesus’ objection is not to the necessary service of providing sacrificial animals or acceptable currency, but to the activity taking place in the temple (Morris 1992, 526). Matthew records healings in the temple, along with the presence of and discussion with witnesses, some favoring Jesus and some opposing him (Morris 1992, 528).
Verses 18-22 detail the cursing of a fig tree, apparently a parabolic act (Morris 1992, 530). The tree had the typical signs of bearing fruit but there was none (Morris 1992, 531). The emphasis given in the passage is not the destruction of the unfruitful tree but rather the ability to accomplish what seems impossible through faith in God (Morris 1992, 532).
Jesus is challenged by the temple leaders about his authority in Matthew 21:23-37. Jesus’ credentials were not readily known to them (Morris 1992, 533). Morris notes the expectation that authority to teach, enter as a king, cleanse the temple, and heal people would be given by some authority (Morris 1992, 534). Jesus’ question in response asks of the authority of John’s baptism. Morris notes the discussion was not actually about baptism but about the possible responses to any answer the leaders could give (Morris 1992, 535).
Matthew moves next to three parables of Jesus, two of which bring us to the end of chapter 21. The first parable depicts two sons, one who promises to work but does not (Morris 1992,536). Jesus has his audience react to the parable, then suggests that those universally known as sinners may repent and enter the kingdom before the religious leaders (Morris 1992, 537). The second parable depicts tenant who reject their landlord and his servants, finally resulting in their own death. Morris notes strong allegorical impact, pointing directly to those who would oppose and kill Jesus (Morris 1992, 539). Morris does note that if the tenants could document abandonment of the property for three years they would gain title to the land (Morris 1992, 540). In sending the son to collect rent, an unusual move, Jesus shows the gentle care of God (Morris 1992, 541). The landowner does not endure the rejection of his son, a feature which makes clear reference to God’s judgment upon those who reject Jesus (Morris 1992, 543). The picture of destructive results is quite forceful, resulting in a desire to arrest Jesus (Morris 1992, 544).