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Matthew 21:12-27

Context
Cleansing the Temple

21:12 Then 1  Jesus entered the temple area 2  and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple courts, 3  and turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 21:13 And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, 4  but you are turning it into a den 5  of robbers!” 6 

21:14 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. 21:15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law 7  saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, 8  “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 21:16 and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 9  21:17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

The Withered Fig Tree

21:18 Now early in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry. 21:19 After noticing a fig tree 10  by the road he went to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. He said to it, “Never again will there be fruit from you!” And the fig tree withered at once. 21:20 When the disciples saw it they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21:21 Jesus 11  answered them, “I tell you the truth, 12  if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 21:22 And whatever you ask in prayer, if you believe, 13  you will receive.”

The Authority of Jesus

21:23 Now after Jesus 14  entered the temple courts, 15  the chief priests and elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority 16  are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 21:24 Jesus 17  answered them, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 21:25 Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from people?” 18  They discussed this among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 21:26 But if we say, ‘From people,’ we fear the crowd, for they all consider John to be a prophet.” 21:27 So 19  they answered Jesus, 20  “We don’t know.” 21  Then he said to them, “Neither will I tell you 22  by what authority 23  I am doing these things.

1 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

2 tn Grk “the temple.”

sn The merchants (those who were selling) would have been located in the Court of the Gentiles.

3 tn Grk “the temple.”

sn Matthew (here, 21:12-27), Mark (11:15-19) and Luke (19:45-46) record this incident of the temple cleansing at the end of Jesus’ ministry. John (2:13-16) records a cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. See the note on the word temple courts in John 2:14 for a discussion of the relationship of these accounts to one another.

4 sn A quotation from Isa 56:7.

5 tn Or “a hideout” (see L&N 1.57).

6 sn A quotation from Jer 7:11. The meaning of Jesus’ statement about making the temple courts a den of robbers probably operates here at two levels. Not only were the religious leaders robbing the people financially, but because of this they had also robbed them spiritually by stealing from them the opportunity to come to know God genuinely. It is possible that these merchants had recently been moved to this location for convenience.

7 tn Or “and the scribes.” See the note on the phrase “experts in the law” in 2:4.

8 tn Grk “crying out in the temple [courts] and saying.” The participle λέγοντας (legontas) is somewhat redundant here in contemporary English and has not been translated.

9 sn A quotation from Ps 8:2.

10 tn Grk “one fig tree.”

sn The fig tree is a variation on the picture of a vine as representing the nation; see Isa 5:1-7.

11 tn Grk “And answering, Jesus said.” This is somewhat redundant and has been simplified in the translation.

12 tn Grk “Truly (ἀμήν, amhn), I say to you.”

13 tn Grk “believing”; the participle here is conditional.

14 tn Grk “he.”

15 tn Grk “the temple.”

16 tn On this phrase, see BDAG 844 s.v. ποῖος 2.a.γ.1

17 tn Grk “answering, Jesus said to them.” This is somewhat redundant and has been simplified in the translation. Here δέ (de) has not been translated.

18 tn The plural Greek term ἀνθρώπων (anqrwpwn) is used here (and in v. 26) in a generic sense, referring to both men and women (cf. NAB, NRSV, “of human origin”; TEV, “from human beings”; NLT, “merely human”).

sn The question is whether John’s ministry was of divine or human origin.

19 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “So” to indicate that the clause is a result of the deliberations of the leaders.

20 tn Grk “answering Jesus, they said.” This construction is somewhat awkward in English and has been simplified in the translation.

21 sn Very few questions could have so completely revealed the wicked intentions of the religious leaders. Jesus’ question revealed the motivation of the religious leaders and exposed them for what they really were – hypocrites. They indicted themselves when they cited only two options and chose neither of them (“We do not know”). The point of Matt 21:23-27 is that no matter what Jesus said in response to their question, they were not going to believe it and would in the end use it against him.

22 sn Neither will I tell you. Though Jesus gave no answer, the analogy he used to their own question makes his view clear. His authority came from heaven.

23 tn On this phrase, see BDAG 844 s.v. ποῖος 2.a.γ. This is exactly the same phrase as in v. 23.



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