Matthew 21: 23 — 32
Ordinary 26 Year A
23 18 When he had come into the temple area, the chief priests and
24 Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, 20 and
25 Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human
26 21 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all
27 So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said
28 23 “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first
29 He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind
30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said
31 24 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.”
32 25 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did
18 [23-27] Cf ⇒ Mark 11:27-33. This is the first of five controversies between Jesus and the religious authorities of Judaism in ⇒ Matthew 21:23-⇒ 22:46 Presented in the form of questions and answers.
19  These things: probably his entry into the city, his cleansing of the temple, and his healings there.
20  To reply by counterquestion was common in rabbinical debate.
22  Since through embarrassment on the one hand and fear on the other the religious authorities claim ignorance of the origin of John’s baptism, they show themselves incapable of speaking with authority; hence Jesus refuses to discuss with them the grounds of his authority.
23 [28-32] The series of controversies is interrupted by three parables on the judgment of Israel (⇒ Matthew 21:28-⇒ 22:14) of which this, peculiar to Matthew, is the first. The second (⇒ Matthew 21:33-46) comes from Mark (⇒ 12:1-12), and the third (⇒ Matthew 22:1-14) from Q; see ⇒ Luke 14:15-24. This interruption of the controversies is similar to that in Mark, although Mark has only one parable between the first and second controversy. As regards Mattew’s first parable, ⇒ Matthew 21:28-30 if taken by themselves could point simply to the difference between saying and doing, a theme of much importance in this gospel (cf ⇒ Matthew 7:21; ⇒ 12:50); that may have been the parable’s original reference. However, it is given a more specific application by the addition of ⇒ Matthew 21:31-32. The two sons represent, respectively, the religious leaders and the religious outcasts who followed John’s call to repentance. By the answer they give to Jesus’ question (⇒ Matthew 21:31) the leaders condemn themselves. There is much confusion in the textual tradition of the parable. Of the three different forms of the text given by important textual witnesses, one has the leaders answer that the son who agreed to go but did not was the one who did the father’s will. Although some scholars accept that as the original reading, their arguments in favor of it seem unconvincing. The choice probably lies only between a reading that puts the son who agrees and then disobeys before the son who at first refuses and then obeys, and the reading followed in the present translation. The witnesses to the latter reading are slightly better than those that support the other.
24  Entering . . . before you: this probably means “they enter; you do not.”
25  Cf ⇒ Luke 7:29-30. Although the thought is similar to that of the Lucan text, the formulation is so different that it is improbable that the saying comes from Q. Came to you . . . way of righteousness: several meanings are possible: that John himself was righteous, that he taught righteousness to others, or that he had an important place in God’s plan of salvation. For the last, see the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:14-15.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,