Matthew 21:23-32

Matthew 21:23-32
Ordinary A44


23 When he entered the temple,A the chief priestsB and the eldersC of the peopleD came to him as he was teaching,E and said, “By what authorityF are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

Notes on verse 23

A “temple” = hieron. From hieros (sacred, something sacred, temple, holy, set apart; something consecrated to a god). This is the word for temple.
B “chief priests” = archiereus. Related to “temple” in v23. From archo (to rule, begin, have first rank or have political power) + hiereus (see note A above). This is high priest or chief priest.
C “elders” = presbuteros. From presbus (old man). This is an elder as one of the Sanhedrin and also in the Christian assembly in the early church.
D “people” = laos. This is the people or crowd – often used for the chosen people. This is where the word “laity” comes from.
E “teaching” = didasko. From dao (learn). This is to teach, direct, instruct, or impart knowledge. In the New Testament, this is almost always used for teaching scripture.
F “authority” = exousia. From exesti (to be permitted or lawful); {from ek (out, out of) + eimi (to be, exist)}. This is power to act or weight. It especially denotes moral authority or influence. It can mean domain, liberty, freedom, capacity, mastery, right, force, or strength.

 24 JesusG said to them, “I will also askH you one question;I if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptismJ of JohnK come from heaven,L or was it of humanM origin?”

Notes on verses 24-25a

G “Jesus” = iesous. From Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua, the Lord is salvation); {from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; the self-existent and eternal one); {from havah (to become) or from hayah (to come to pass, become, be)} + yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue; properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. So, in a causative sense, this is to free someone). This is Jesus or Joshua in Greek – the Lord saves or the Lord is salvation.
H “ask” = erotao. From eromai (to ask) OR from ereo (to say, tell, call, speak of). This is asking a question or making an earnest request. It is used between someone with whom the asker is close in some sense. So, they anticipate special consideration for their request.
I “question” = logos. From lego (to speak, tell, mention). This is word, statement, speech, analogy. It is a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying. It could refer to a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words. By implication, this could be a topic, line of reasoning, or a motive. It can be used for a divine utterance or as Word – Christ.
J “baptism” = baptisma. From baptizo (to submerge, wash, or immerse; used specially for baptism); from bapto (to dip or dye; to entirely cover with liquid, to stain). This is dipping or sinking. Also, the rite of baptism.
K “John” = ioannes. From Hebrew yochanan (Johanan); from Yehochanan (“the Lord has been gracious”); {from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel); {from havah (to become); from hayah (to be, exist, happen)} + chanan (beseech, show favor, be gracious; properly, to bend in kindness to someone with less status). This is John.
L “heaven” = ouranos. May be related to oros (mountain, hill) with the notion of height. This is the air, the sky, the atmosphere, and heaven. It is the sky that is visible and the spiritual heaven where God dwells. Heaven implies happiness, power, and eternity.
M “human” = anthropos. Probably from aner (man, male, husband) + ops (eye, face). This is human, humankind. Used for all genders.

And they arguedN with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believeO him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraidP of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.”Q 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”R

And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

Notes on verses 25b-27

N “argued” = dialogizomai. Related to “question” in v24. 16x in NT. From dia (through, across to the other side, thoroughly) + logizomai (to compute or reckon up, to count; figuratively, it is coming to a conclusion or decision using logic; taking an inventory in a literal or figurative sense); {from logos (see note I above)}. This is to consider, have a back and forth debate with an uncertain conclusion. It can also refer to  multiple confused minds reinforcing a faulty conclusion.
O “believe” = pisteuo. From pistis (faith, faithfulness, belief, trust, confidence; to be persuaded or come to trust); from peitho (to have confidence, urge, be persuaded, agree, assure, believe, have confidence, trust). This is to believe, entrust, have faith it, affirm, have confidence in. This is less to do with a series of beliefs or doctrines that one believes and more to do with faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity. It is trusting and then acting based on that trust.
P “afraid” = phobeo. From phobos (panic flight, fear, fear being caused, terror, alarm, that which causes fear, reverence, respect); from phebomai (to flee, withdraw, be put to flight). This is also to put to flight, terrify, frighten, dread, reverence, to withdraw or avoid. It is sometimes used in a positive sense to mean the fear of the Lord, echoing Old Testament language. More commonly, it is fear of following God’s path. This is where the word phobia comes from.
Q “prophet” = prophetes. From pro (before, in front of, earlier than) + phemi (to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view); {from phao (to shine) or phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear)}. This is a prophet or poet – one who speaks with inspiration from God.
R “know” = eido. This is to know, consider perceive, appreciate, behold, or remember. It means seeing with one’s eyes, but also figuratively, it means perceiving – seeing that becomes understanding. So, by implication, this means knowing or being aware.

28 “What do you think?S A man had two sons;T he went to the first and said, ‘Son, goU and work in the vineyardV today.’ 

Notes on verse 28

S “think” = dokeo. From dokos (opinion). This is to have an opinion, seem, appear, think, suppose. It deals with a personal judgment. This is the root of the word “doxology.”
T “sons” = teknon. From tikto (to beget, bring forth, produce). This is a child, descendant, or inhabitant.
U “go” = hupago. From hupo (by, under, under the authority of) + ago (lead, bring, guide, spend, drive, carry). This is to lead under so to depart, go away, or die. It is to lead away under the command of someone else, being given a mission or objective to carry out.
V “vineyard” = ampelon. From ampelos (vine or grapevine as that which coils around); perhaps from the base of amphoteros (both, all); {from amphi (around) + halon (the threshing floor where grain is rolled to separate from the chaff); {from halos (threshing floor); probably from helisso (to roll up, coil, wrap)}}. This is vineyard. Figuratively, it can be the religious life of the people of Israel or the body of Christ.

29 He answered,W ‘I willX not’; but later he changed his mindY and went. 

Notes on verse 29

W {untranslated} = kurios. From kuros (authority, supremacy). This is a respectful address meaning master or sir. It refers to one who has control or power greater than one’s own. So, it was also applied to God and Jesus as Master or Lord.
X “will” = thelo. This is to wish, desire, will, or intend. It is to choose or prefer in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean inclined toward or take delight in. It can have a sense of being ready to act on the impulse in question.
Y “changed his mind” = metamelomai. 6x in NT. From meta (with, among, behind, beyond) + melo (to think about something, take an interest; to care or worry about something). This is to regret por repent. It is changing your mind – generally used in a positive sense. Often, it means experiencing an emotion that causes you to change your mind such that you care afterwards.

30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go,Z sir’;AA but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the willBB of his father?”

They said, “The first.”

Notes on verses 30-31a

Z “go” = aperchomai. From apo (from, away from) + erchomai (to come, go). This is to go away, off, or aside in a literal or figurative sense. It can be depart, return, or follow.
AA “sir” = kurios. Same as {untranslated} in v29. See note W above.
BB “will” = thelema. Related to “will” in v29. From thelo (see note X above). This is the act of will, choice, purpose, or decree.

Jesus said to them, “TrulyCC I tell you, the tax collectorsDD and the prostitutesEE are going into the kingdomFF of GodGG aheadHH of you. 

Notes on verse 31b

CC “truly” = amen. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This word is literally firmness, but figuratively fidelity, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, trust, truth, steadfastness. Properly, it is to be sure, certain, or firm. This is a word of emphasis indicating that something crucial follows.
DD “tax collectors” = telones. From telos (an end, aim, purpose, completion, end goal, consummation, tax; going through the steps to complete a stage or phase and then moving on to the next one). This is tax collector, one who worked for the Romans taking taxes from Jews. It also meant the toll house. Literally, this is “paying at the end.”
EE “prostitutes” = porne. 12x in NT. From pornos (fornicator or immoral person); perhaps from pernemi (to sell off or export); related to piprasko (to sell with travel involved; to sell into slavery; to be devoted to); from perao (to travel); from peran (over, beyond). This is prostitute. Can be used figuratively to refer to a community that is taken with idolatry.
FF “kingdom” = basileia. From basileus (king, emperor, sovereign); probably from basis (step, hence foot; a pace); from baino (to walk, to go). This is kingdom, rule, authority, sovereignty, royalty, a realm.
GG “God” = theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.
HH “going…ahead” = proago. Related to “go” in v28. From pro (before, first, in front of, earlier) + ago (see note U above). This is to lead, go before, bring forward, walk ahead. It can be before in location or in time.

32 For John came to you in the wayII of righteousnessJJ and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you sawKK it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Notes on verse 32

II “way” = hodos. This is way, road, path, or journey. It can imply progress along a route.
JJ “righteousness” = dikaiosune. From dikaios (correct, righteous – implies innocent; this is that which conforms to God’s notion of justice, uprightness); from dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is judicial or divine approval of character or action. This is righteousness, justice, justness, divine righteousness.
KK “saw” = horao. To see, perceive, attend to, look upon, experience. Properly, to stare at and so implying clear discernment. This, by extension, would indicate attending to what was seen and learned. This is to see, often with a metaphorical sense. Can include inward spiritual seeing.

Image credit: “St. John the Baptist” at the church of St. John the Baptist in Wolfsberg, Germany.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply