Matthew xxi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Bethphage, was a village of the priests, and signifies the house of figs and dates, or the house of the fountain, or of the flatterer, situated on the declivity of Mount Olivet, about a mile to the east of Jerusalem, a sabbath-day’s journey. As Bethphage was probably so called from the fig and date trees growing there, Mount Olivet was from the great number of olive-trees: ton elaion. The triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem from Bethania, was on the first day of the week, answering to our Sunday, the very day on which, by the appointment of the law, (Exodus xii. 3.) the lamb was brought hither, to be sacrificed at the Passover. To shew, moreover, that in himself all the figures of the old law were realized, he chose that very night for the institution of the Passover of the new law, the blessed eucharist, which was appointed for the immolation of the paschal lamb in the old law, and the very day for the redemption of the world, in which the people of God had formerly been redeemed from Egyptian bondage. … When they were arrived to the mid-way between Bethania (which he had just quitted) and Bethphage, he sends two of his disciples. In the Greek it is, Kai elthon eis Bethphage; i.e. eporeuonto, they were travelling to Bethphage, and were near the place, within sight of it, but had not reached it, as we learn from both St. Mark and St. Luke.

Ver. 2. Go ye into the village; in Latin, Castellum, but in Greek, eis ten Komen, which is, before you, contra vos, as Virgil says, Italiam contra. (Æneid i.) Some authors think it was Bethphage. (Haydock) — An ass tied,[1] and a colt with her. This colt, which never yet had been rid upon, represented the people of the Gentiles, to whom God had not given a written law, as he had done to the Jews. Here was manifestly fulfilled the prophecy of Zacharias. (Chap. ix.) It was now the first day of the week, in which Christ suffered; he was pleased to enter into Jerusalem in a kind of triumph, the people making acclamations to him, as to their king and Messias. (Witham) — Both Jews and Gentiles, figured by the ass and the colt, are to be loosed and conducted by the hands of the apostles of Christ to their Redeemer. The Gentiles, represented by the colt, though heretofore unclean, no sooner receive Jesus resting upon them, than they are freed from every stain and rendered perfectly clean. The zeal of the Gentiles stirred up the emulation of the Jews; therefore did the ass follow after its colt. This approach of the Jews to the true faith, after the vocation of the Gentiles, is spoken of by St. Paul, Romans xi. 25. Blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel should be saved. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxvi.) — As it is written, “there shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And this is to them my covenant;” when I shall take away their sins. This prophecy of Isaias (lix. 20.) St. Paul applies to the conversion of the Jews; (ibid. [Romans xi. 25]) and thus both Jew and Gentile are to take up our Saviour’s yoke, which is certainly sweet, and his burden light.

Ver. 3-4. The Lord hath need. Not our Lord, or your Lord, but the Lord, viz. of all, both of the beasts and of their masters, and of every creature. Christ here discovers two of his own attributes, his omniscience and his supreme dominion. Now this was done not by accident, not through novelty or to avoid fatigue, but as the evangelist declares, to accomplish the prophecy of Isaias and of Zarcharias.

Ver. 5. Some manuscripts read Isaias, others Zacharias: the text seems to be extracted from both, but particularly the latter, the sense of which is taken, though not verbatim, from the Septuagint version. See Isaias lxii. 2.[11.?] and Zacharias ix. 9.

Ver. 7. Sit thereon. St. Jerome reprobates the opinion of those who suppose that Christ rode upon both the ass and the colt, though without sufficient reason. The Greek indeed, epano auton, upon them, may be referred either to the beasts or to ta imatia, the garments; but the very general sentiment is, that he first sat upon the ass for a short time, and then mounted the colt. It may be asked why Jesus, who through humility had during his whole life travelled on foot, and in no one previous instance is found to have allowed himself the convenience of riding, should on this occasion enter Jerusalem riding? One reason was, as mentioned in note on ver. 4, supra, to fulfil the prophecy of Zarcharias, who had given this mark of the Messias. Hence St. John (Chrysostom, hom. lxvi.) challenges the Jews to shew him any other king of theirs, who had entered Jerusalem riding on an ass. Other reasons were, to give a faint specimen of his real kingly dignity before he suffered; to be publicly acknowledged for the Messias; to confirm the faith of his disciples; and to leave his enemies no excuse for their incredulity. On this, as on all other occasions, magnificence is admirably blended with humility, in our Saviour’s actions. Even in this his triumph, we cannot help admiring his humility, in riding upon an ass. (Jansenius) — The glorious reception he met with from the people, was perfectly voluntary on their parts, the genuine effusions of their hearts, and as such, infinitely superior to the vain and often forced parade bestowed upon earthly princes; and is commemorated in the blessing and distributing of palms in the Catholic Church, on Palm-Sunday, all over the Christian world.

Ver. 9. Hosanna,[2] or hosiah-na, was an acclamation of the Jews: when applied to God, means save us, I beseech Thee; when applied to a sovereign prince, means vivat, in Latin, or long live the king. (Bible de Vence) — Hosanna, says St. Jerome, is the same as, Save, I beseech thee. (Psalm cxvii.) Some will have the word Hosanna directed to Christ himself, and the sense to be, Save us, O thou Son of David; others understand Hosanna, directed to God, as if the people said, Save, O Lord, this our king; by which the people wished peace, safety, and prosperity to Jesus their Messias. (Witham) —It appears that the Holy Ghost, on this occasion secretly inspired their tongues, and through their means caused loud thanks to be offered to Jesus, for an approaching blessing, of which as yet they had no conception. — These same words of acclamation are daily used in the preface of the mass, and represent the exultations of both priest and people, expecting, as it were, and rejoicing at his coming. (Bristow)

Ver. 10. He entered by the golden gate which looks towards the east, and which was not far distant from the temple, where the procession terminated. There Jesus, as high priest, made his solemn entry into his Father’s house.

Ver. 11. The Prophet, &c. It was amidst these acclamations that Christ wept, and foretold the destruction of the city. (Luke xix. 42.) (Witham) — It was not without great reason, that the whole city was so much disturbed with the triumphal entry of Jesus. Man was extolled as God, and God extolled in man. The elders, admiring his heavenly virtue, exclaimed, who is the king of glory! (Origen) — This is Jesus, the prophet, (outos estin Iesous o prophetes,) the one promised by Moses, (Deuteronomy xviii. 15.) was the answer of the simple and candid people. (Jansenius)

Ver. 12. And cast out all. Since the Jews came to the temple from all parts of Judea, such as came from a distance did not bring with them their sacrifices, but purchased them at Jerusalem. The money-changers were persons who lent out money to the poor, that they might purchase the victims, &c. But as the law forbade usury, they received other fruits, grapes, &c. in return. These persons, beyond a doubt, beheld a more than human brightness darting from his eyes, otherwise they would not have suffered him to act thus. In the same manner, the servants of the high priest fell down when they came to apprehend Jesus, at these words, I am he. (Nicholas of Lyra.) — Into the temple. Into that part of it called the court of the Gentiles, where pigeons were to be sold for sacrifices, where there were tables of money-changers, &c. St. Jerome here admires this as one of the greatest of Christ’s miracles, that a poor man should be permitted to cast the buyers and sellers out of the temple, to overturn their stalls, their money-tables, &c. without any opposition. (Witham)

Ver. 13. My house shall. That man is a thief, and turns the temple of God into a den of thieves, who makes religion a cloak for his avarice. Of all the innumerable miracles which Jesus performed, none appear greater in my eyes than this: that one man, at that time so contemned and despised, who was afterwards nailed to the tree of the cross, should with his single power be able to expel from the temple that multitude of Scribes and Pharisees, who were so maliciously bent upon his destruction, and so greedy of gain. Something more than human appeared in his celestial countenance on this occasion, and the majesty of the divinity shewed itself in his looks and gestures. Igneum quiddam, atque sidereum radiabat ex oculis ejus, et divinitatis majestas lucebat in facie. (St. Jerome) — Hence it is not to be wondered at, if in the utmost fear and consternation they fled away. (Menochius)

Ver. 15. Hosanna. St. Augustine (lib. de doct. christ. chap. xi.) thinks this word is an interjection of joy, without any particular meaning, denoting only affection, as Racha is an expression of indignation. This opinion seems supported by the interpreters not having translated either of these words, but retained them in the Greek and in the Latin versions. It seems more than probable, according to St. Jerome, that the whole sentence is taken from Psalm cxvii. 25 and 26, in which supposition, hosanna will signify God save; the word me, though in the verse of the Psalm just mentioned, is not in the Hebrew. It is a familiar acclamation among the Jews, which they sung every day on the feast of the tabernacles, carrying branches in their hands. (The feast of the tabernacles was figurative of Christ’s divinity, resting under the tabernacle of our humanity.) The manner in which it was chanted, was not unlike our litanies. First some name or attribute of the Deity was sung, as “For thy own sake, O Lord of Lords,” to which the people answered, “hosanna,” or “save us,” “by thy covenant,” “save us,” “thy holy temple,” “Hosanna, save us.” These litanies were very long, and are said at present by the Jews in their synagogues. Many things have undoubtedly been added in process of time, but they most probably were in use from the beginning. (Jansenius)

Ver. 16. Have you never read: Out of the mouth, &c. The words are Psalm viii. 3, which some apply to the praises the people gave to David, when he had conquered Goliath, but Christ applies them to the present circumstances. (Witham) — It is here said, that from the mouth of children the Almighty, had perfected praise, as in Psalm viii. 3. in the Septuagint, to shew that their words did not proceed from their own minds, but that their tender tongues were employed by the power of God to sound forth his praise. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxviii.) — It is evident from this and various other texts, that we ought to read the Old Testament with an eye to Christ, who was the end of the law.

Ver. 17. And having viewed all about; (as we read in St. Mark xi. 11,) when the hour of evening was come, he went out of the city into Bethania, as usual, with the 12 apostles. Hence we may collect in how great poverty our Saviour lived, and how far he was from flattering the great ones of this world, since he could not find a friend to offer him his house for a night’s repose, and to ease his fatigued members, but is obliged to go to Bethania, a small village, to the house of Martha and Mary. (St. Jerome)

Ver. 18. In the morning, returning into the city, he was hungry. This hunger, though real and pressing, was mysterious, and affords an opportunity of giving instruction both to the Jews and to all his disciples. By the fig-tree, was represented the Jewish synagogue; the hunger of Christ was a figure of his extreme desire of finding it productive of good works, (and there is no time nor season when the servants of God can be excused from bringing forth good works) answerable to the pains of cultivation he had taken for more than three years. The leaves were their pompous shew of exterior service, the barren foliage of legal rites, void of the internal spirit and good works, the only valuable produce of the tree. By the withering of the tree subsequent to Christ’s imprecation, the reprobation and utter barrenness of the synagogue are represented. St. Mark observes, (xi. 13,) that it was not the season for figs; nor are we to suppose that our Saviour went up to the tree expecting to find fruit; but if some of the evangelists mention this circumstance, they only relate the surmises of the disciples. Though he had before shewn his power by innumerable miracles, Christ still thought this necessary to excite the hearts of his disciples to greater confidence. He had often exercised his power to do good, but now for the first time shews himself able to punish. Thus he testifies to the apostles and to the Jews themselves, that he could with a word have made his crucifiers wither away, and therefore that he willingly bore the extremity of the sufferings he should in a few days have to undergo. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxviii.)

Ver. 20. The disciples, &c. This surprise of the disciples, at the sudden withering of the fig-tree, happened the following morning. See Mark xi. 20.

Ver. 24-25. The baptism of John, by which is also understood his doctrine and preaching, was it from heaven or not? (Witham)

Ver. 26. He will say to us: Why then did not you believe him? When he divers times bore witness to you that I am your Messias. (Witham)

Ver. 28. A certain man had two sons, &c. The ancient interpreters, by the first son generally understand the Gentiles, as also publicans and scandalous sinners; and by the second, the Jewish people. The Gentiles, &c. who at the first did not, would not worship and serve God; yet afterwards they, as also publicans, and many sinners, received the faith, and being converted, became faithful servants of God, and saints: the Jews, or the greatest part of them, who pretended to be God’s servants, and his people, rejected the gospel and their Messias; therefore this commination follows, the publicans, &c. shall go before you into the kingdom of God. (Witham) — By these two sons are to be understood, says St. Chrysostom, the Gentiles and the Jewish people; the latter our Redeemer wishes to make sensible of their own great ingratitude, and of the ready obedience of the cast-off Gentiles. For they having never heard the law, nor promised obedience have still shewn their submission by their works; whereas the Jews, after promising to obey the voice of God, had neglected the performance. (Hom. lxviii.)

Ver. 33. A certain master of a family, &c. This master is God; the vineyard, the Jews; the husbandmen, the Jewish priests; the servants, God’s prophets, sent from time to time: the son, called (Mark xii. 6,) his only and most dear son, is our Saviour Jesus Christ, whom they persecuted to death. (Witham) — By this parable, our Saviour teaches the Jews that the providence of God had wonderfully watched over them from the beginning, that nothing had been omitted to promote their salvation, and that notwithstanding his prophets had been put to most cruel deaths, still the Almighty was not turned away from them, but had at length sent down his only Son, who should suffer at their hands the inexpressible ignominies and tortures of his cross and passion. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxix.)

Ver. 37. They will reverence, &c. This is not said, as if God were ignorant what the Jews would do to his only begotten Son, since in this very place he declares that they would condemn him to death; but, to shew what they ought to have done, and what he had a right to expect from them. (Nicholas of Lyra.)

Ver. 38. Heir. From this text, it appears that the princes of the Jews knew Jesus to be the Messias, and that it was only through envy and malice they were so blinded as not to acknowledge him for the Son of God. When, therefore, the apostle says, (1 Corinthians ii. 8,) If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; this, it is probable, must be understood of the common people, since we can hardly believe that the princes of the people were ignorant of it, as Christ had so repeatedly inculcated this truth, that he even says himself they had no excuse, and were only actuated by hatred against him and his Father. (St. John xv. 22.) (Tirinus) — Inheritance, &c. It appears from St. John xi. that one of the motives why the Jews killed our Saviour was, lest if they let him live, all men should believe, and the Romans should come and destroy their nation. But the very means they took to secure their kingdom to themselves, hastened their downfall, and eventually caused their ruin; since in punishment of their crucifying Jesus Christ, their city and state were completely ruined under the Roman emperors Titus and Vespasian. (Nicholas of Lyra.)

Ver. 41. He will bring those evil men to an evil end. This answer was made by some of them. Yet St. Luke (xx. 16,) tells us, that others among them, (whom we may take to be the Scribes and Pharisees) cried out, God forbid; seeing well enough that this was a prediction of their future ruin. (Witham) — If we compare this text with St. Luke, it will appear that it was from the midst of the people that this answer was given, which was confirmed by Jesus Christ, and at which the high priests were so indignant, because they saw clearly it must fall upon themselves. (Bible de Vence)

Ver. 42. The head of the corner. By these words, (Psalm cxvii,) which the Jews themselves expounded of their Messias, Christ shewed them, that although they, who should have been the architects, had rejected him, yet he should be the chief corner-stone to unite the Jews and the Gentiles, converted into one Christian Church, militant on earth and triumphant in heaven. See Acts iv. 11. (Witham) — St. Augustine remarks, that this parable was addressed not only to the opponents of Christ’s authority, but likewise to the people.

Ver. 43. The kingdom of God shall be taken from you. By this dreadful conclusion he tells them in plain terms, that they shall be forsaken, and punished for their blindness and obstinacy. (Witham)

Ver. 45. They understood that he spoke of them. This parable, though immediately addressed to the Jews, contains an admirable instruction for Christians. For, what the Jews have suffered for their wickedness and ingratitude, has also been the fate of many Christian kingdoms, and the mournful lot of many once flourishing happy churches, whose candlesticks are removed, and light extinct. The same conduct God observes with regard to particular persons, in punishment of their repeatedly abusing his graces; he at last withdraws them, and leaves the culprit to himself, and to the miserable consequences of this merited privation of grace.


[1] Ver. 2. A prophecy of the coming of the Messias was here so manifestly accomplished in the person of Jesus, that I cannot but set down the words of the prophet Zacharias, chap. ix. Ecce Rex tuus veniet tibi justus & Salvator, ipse pauper, & ascendens super Asinam, & super pullum filium Asinœ. They are no less clear in the Hebrew, and other languages. See the Protestant translation in the prophet Zacharias.

[2] Ver. 9. Hosanna filio David. ta uio Dauid. See Maldonat.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

Christ rides into Jerusalem upon an ass: he casts the buyers and sellers out of the temple: curses the fig-tree: and puts to silence the priests and Scribes.

1 And *when they drew nigh to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto Mount Olivet, then Jesus sent two disciples,

2 Saying to them: Go ye into the village that is over against you, and immediately you shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them and bring them to me.

3 And if any man shall say any thing to you, say ye, that the Lord hath need of them: and forthwith he will let them go.

4 Now all this was done that what was spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled, saying:

5 *Tell ye the daughter of Sion: Behold, thy king cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of her that is used to the yoke.

6 And the disciples going, did as Jesus commanded them.

7 And they brought the ass and the colt: and laid their garments upon them, and made him sit thereon.

8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way: and others cut boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way:

9 And the multitudes that went before and that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna to the son of David: *Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, the whole city was moved, saying: Who is this?

11 And the people said: This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth of Galilee.

12 *And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the chairs of them that sold doves.

13 And he saith to them: It is written, *My house shall be called the house of prayer: but you have made it a den of thieves.

14 And the blind, and the lame came to him in the temple: and he healed them.

15 And the chief priests and Scribes seeing the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying: Hosanna to the son of David; were moved with indignation.

16 And said to him: Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus said to them: Yea, have you never read: *Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise.

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city into Bethania: and remained there.

18 And in the morning, returning into the city, he was hungry.

19 *And seeing a fig-tree by the wayside, he came to it: and found nothing on it but leaves only, and he saith to it: May no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig-tree withered away.

20 *And the disciples seeing it, wondered, saying: How is it presently withered away?

21 And Jesus answering, said to them: Amen, I say to you, if you shall have faith, and stagger not, not only this of the fig-tree shall you do, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Take up and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done.

22 *And all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and ancients of the people came to him as he was teaching, saying: *By what authority dost thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

24 Jesus answering, said to them: I also will ask you one word, which if you shall tell me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.

25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men? But they thought within themselves, saying:

26 If we shall say, From heaven, he will say to us: Why then did you not believe him? But if we shall say, From men, we are afraid of the multitude: *for all held John as a prophet.

27 And answering Jesus, they said: We know not. And he said to them: Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.

28 But what think you: A certain man had two sons, and coming to the first he said: Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.

29 And he answering, said: I will not. But afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went.

30 And coming to the other, he said in like manner. And he answering, said: I go sir. And he went not.

31 Which of the two did the father’s will? They say to him: The first. Jesus saith to them: Amen, I say to you, that the publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you.

32 For John came to you in the way of justice, and you did not believe him. But the publicans and the harlots believed him: but you seeing it, did not even afterwards repent, that you might believe him.

33 Hear ye another parable: *There was a master of a family who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round about it, and dug in it a wine-press, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen: and went into a strange country.

34 And when the time of the fruits drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35 And the husbandmen having laid hold of his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

36 Again he sent other servants more than the former: and they did to them in like manner.

37 And last of all he sent to them his son, saying: They will reverence my son.

38 But the husbandmen seeing the son, said among themselves: *This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance.

39 And taking him, they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him.

40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen?

41 They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end: and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, that shall render him the fruit in due season.

42 Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: *The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes.

43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they understood that he spoke of them.

46 And seeking to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes: because they held him as a prophet.



1: about the year A.D. 33.; Mark xi. 1, 10.; Luke xix. 29.; John xii. 12.

5: Isaias lxii. 11.; Zacharias ix. 9.; John xii. 15.

9: Psalm cxvii. 26.; Mark xi. 10.; Luke xix. 38.

12: Mark xi. 15.; Luke xix. 45.; John ii. 14.

13: Isaias lvi. 7.; Jeremias vii. 11.; Luke xix. 46.

16: Psalm viii. 3.

19: Mark xi. 13.

20: Mark xi. 20.

22: Matthew vii. 7.; Mark xi. 24.; John xiv. 13. and xvi. 23.

23: Mark xi. 28.; Luke xx. 2.

26: Matthew xiv. 5.

33: Isaias v. 1.; Jeremias ii. 21.; Mark xii. 1.; Luke xx. 9.

38: Matthew xxvi. 8. and xxvii. 2.; John xi. 53.

42: Psalm cxvii. 22.; Acts iv. 11.; Romans ix. 33.; 1 Peter ii. 7.