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Matthew  ◦   Chapter 21

1 When they neared Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, and Jesus sent two disciples ahead,2 telling them, "Go to the village up ahead. You will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me.3 If anyone asks what you are doing, tell them that the Lord needs them, and they will send them immediately."

4 This was in fulfillment of what God's spokesman, Zechariah, had written:5 "Get ready, children of Zion. Look, your king and deliverer is coming, riding gently on a donkey's colt."6 The disciples followed Jesus' instruction and7 brought the donkey and her colt. They placed their coats on them, and Jesus got on.8 A huge crowd had gathered and spread their clothes on the road in front of Jesus, while others cut palm branches and spread them on the road.9 The crowds running ahead and those all around him shouted, "Salvation through David's Son! Blessed is he who comes with the character of God! Salvation to the highest!"

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the entire city was excited, and everyone was asking, "Who is this?"

11 Those with Jesus answered, "This is Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee, the messenger of God."

12 Jesus entered the temple stage and drove out all who were misrepresenting God–those who by buying and selling animals for sacrifice were failing to follow the healing script. He turned over the moneychangers’ tables and the stands of those selling doves.13 He said to them, "It is written: 'My house will be a place of prayer for everyone,' but you corrupt it and make it a house of extortion!" With all this, he was announcing his mission to cleanse the true Temple–the Spirit Temple–from selfishness and greed.

14 The blind, sick, infirmed and crippled were not afraid and came to him at the temple, and he displayed God's plan by healing them all.15 But when the theologians and church leaders saw the wonderful things he did, and heard the children shouting in the temple: "Salvation from David's Son!" they were outraged.

16 They confronted Jesus: "Do you hear what these children are saying? They are saying that you are the source of salvation!"

Jesus smiled and replied, "Have you never read the psalm, 'From the lips of children and babes comes truthful praise'?"

17 And he walked away and went out of Jerusalem to Bethany, where he spent the night.

18 Early the next morning, as Jesus was on his way back to Jerusalem, he was hungry.19 He saw a fig tree along the road, and knowing that the fruit appears before the leaves, he went up to it to get some figs, but found nothing but leaves. Then he said, "This tree will never bear fruit!" and immediately the tree withered.

20 The disciples were stunned when they saw this and asked, "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?"

21 Jesus replied: "I tell you the plain truth: If you have genuine trust in God and don't doubt him or his methods, not only will a pretentious tree that has no fruit wither in your presence, but you won't need the Temple Mount to anchor your faith. You will be able to say to the mount, 'Go, off to the sea,' and it will happen.22 If you ask God for help, and trust him to provide it, you will receive the answer to your prayers."

23 Jesus went up to the temple and was teaching in the court when the church leadership team, lawyers, and ruling council came to him. "Who has authorized you to carry out your ministry? On whose authority do you preach what you do?" they demanded.

24 Jesus calmly replied, "I'll ask you a question, and if you answer me, then I will tell you by what authority I carry out my ministry:25 John's baptism–was it ordained of heaven, or was it merely of human origin?" The leaders huddled quickly to discuss their answer. They said among themselves, "If we admit his baptism is ordained of heaven, then he will ask us: 'Why don't you believe John's testimony of me?'26 But if we say John's baptism is human in origin, the people will turn on us because they believe John was a representative and speaker from God."

27 So they evaded the answer by saying, "We don't know." Then Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I conduct my ministry.

28 "Tell me what you think of this: A man with two sons told his first son, 'Go and work in the vineyard today.'29 The son answered, 'No,' but after dad left, he changed his mind and went and worked in the vineyard.30 Then the father went to his other son and told him to go and work in the vineyard. The second son said, 'Yes sir!' but did not go.31 Which of the two sons actually did what the father wanted?"

"The first," they said.

Jesus looked straight at them and said:
"I tell you the simple truth, it is just like this in God's kingdom: Tax collectors, prostitutes and other sinners–who start their lives by first saying ‘No’ to God, but then change their minds–will go into God’s kingdom ahead of you who proclaim your willingness to do God's will but never actually live in harmony with God's design.32 For John came to show you what 'right' is and what God's kingdom looks like, but you did not believe him, yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after you saw the healing power upon the lives of the tax collectors and prostitutes, you refused to change your ways, humble yourselves, and believe what John taught.

33 "Consider another parable: A developer planted a vineyard on his property. He put a security fence around it, built a watchtower, and constructed a winepress. Then he leased the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a trip.34 When the harvest was due, he sent his servants to collect his portion of the fruit.35 The farmers attacked the servants: they beat one, murdered another, and stoned a third.36 The owner sent more servants, but they were all abused and despised in the same way.37 Finally, he sent his only son, thinking, 'They will honor my son.'38 But when the farmers saw the son, they greedily said to each other, 'This is the heir to this property. Come on, let's kill him and claim the inheritance for ourselves!'39 So they grabbed the son, dragged him out of the vineyard, abused, and then killed him.40 Now, what do you think the owner will do to these farmers when he comes to his vineyard?"

41 They answered, "He'll destroy those scoundrels and lease the vineyard to others, who will give him his portion of the harvest."

42 Jesus looked straight at them and said, "Exactly! But somehow, you fail to understand what you read in the Scriptures where it says, 'The stone rejected by those in charge of building has become the foundation stone; God has made sure it would be this way and it is incredible to us.'

43 "So let me make this plain to you: God's kingdom of love and truth will be taken away from you who cling to lies and selfishness, and given to those who will bring forth fruit of righteousness.44 Whoever falls down on this stone will be broken in pieces of humility, but the weight of truth from this stone will crush whomever it falls upon."

45 When the church leaders, lawyers and theologians heard Jesus' parables, they understood very clearly that he was talking about them.46 They schemed for ways to arrest him, but were afraid to take action because the crowds were huge, and the majority of people thought Jesus was a spokesman of God.