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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, we have an account of our Lord’s triumphal entry, on Palm Sunday, into Jerusalem. The preparation He made for it, by sending two of His disciples to fetch two asses from a neighbouring village, informing them, beforehand, of what the owner of the asses would do (1–3). The fulfilment of the prophecy of Zacharias. The acclamations of the multitude, saluting Him with loud hosannas, as the son of David, the long-expected Messiah (4–9). We have next an account of the ejection of the profane traffickers out of the temple—the indignation of the Chief Priests, on witnessing our Lord’s triumphal entry, and the exercise of His authority—and the rebuke administered to them by our Lord (10–16). He retires to Bethania, and on His return, on one of the following days, to Jerusalem, He curses the barren fig tree, thereby conveying, in act, a prophetic parable, indicating the rejection and reprobation of the Jewish people, who failed to produce the expected fruits of good works (17–20). He takes occasion, from the withering of the barren fig tree, to inculcate the efficacy of prayer, and of confidence in God (21–22). Being interrogated by the Chief Priests, &c., as to His authority for acting as He did, He meets their captious question, by referring them to the testimony of John the Baptist, regarding His Divine authority; and as their prevaricating answers render them unworthy of a direct reply, He declines giving one; and thus avoids the pit dug for Him (23–28). By a twofold parable, one derived from a father, who had two sons, of whom the one, although refusing obedience, first in words, obeyed afterwards, in act—the other, although promising in words, disobeyed in act (28–32); another, from a householder, who let his vineyard to husbandmen, who refused to give any return—nay, in the end, murdered his son (33–40), both which parables were clearly applicable, and applied by our Lord Himself (v. 43) to the Jews, He points out their reprobation, their final and irreparable ruin, long before foretold by the Psalmist, in punishment of their rejecting our Lord (41–42). The Chief Priests, clearly seeing the drift of these parables, and their intended application to themselves, would have laid violent hands on Him on the spot, only they feared the people. They did so, however, a few days afterwards (43–46).

1. “And were come to Bethphage,” that is, were come nigh to Bethphage, as St. Luke expresses it (19:29). This Bethphage was a sacerdotal village, situated, as we are informed by St. Jerome, at the foot of Mount Olivet, to the east, which mount was a mile, or, a Sabbath-day’s journey from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). St. Mark (11:1), says, “they were drawing near to Jerusalem and Bethania.” St. Luke (19:29), “when He was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethania.” We know, however, from St. John (12:1–12), that our Redeemer rested the preceding evening at Bethania, which He left on the day referred to here (Palm Sunday) for Jerusalem. Hence, the words of Mark and Luke may mean: when He was near unto Bethania, which He had just left, after sleeping there the preceding evening, for Bethphage, on His way to Jerusalem. Bethania was two miles distant from Jerusalem. The Greek word, ηγγισε, will bear this interpretation. Or, it may be said, that the Evangelists recorded these circumstances of places without any regular order, as to leaving or approaching them. Thus, when St. Mark says, “they were drawing nigh to Jerusalem and Bethania,” or, as the Greek of St. Mark has it, “to Jerusalem, to Bethphage, and Bethania,” Jerusalem should be placed last, being farthest off. However, the Greek word, ηγγιζουσιν, may mean, when they were nigh unto these places.

Bethphage being a sacerdotal possession, it is supposed, that the Priests brought in from it the Paschal lamb, and the other victims for the altar. Hence, the Lamb of God, of whom these were so many figures, passes through Bethphage on His way, to be immolated for the sins of the world, at Jerusalem. He also passes in triumph amidst Hosannas of joy through the Valley of Josaphat, which lay between Jerusalem and Mount Olivet, to give some idea, beforehand, of the glorious triumph He is one day to consummate, when He shall come in majesty to judge the assembled nations of the earth.

Two disciples.” Who these were cannot be fully ascertained.

Mount Olivet,” or “Mount of Olives” (το ὀρος των ελαιων), because, thick set with olive trees.

2. “The village.” The Greek word (κωμη) shows, it could not denote Jerusalem. Moreover, Mount Olivet intervened between them and Jerusalem. “Which is over against you” (την κατεναντι υμιν), means, opposite, in sight of you. He, probably, pointed it out to them. It may refer to Bethphage, which they were approaching, or some other village in the neighbourhood.

And immediately”—on your entrance—“you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her.” The other Evangelists only mention the “colt, on which no man ever sat” (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30), because it was only on the colt our Redeemer rode. But, St. Matthew mentions all that occurred, and gives a full account of the matter. He speaks of the “ass,” as well as of the “colt,” as reference is made to both in the words of the Prophet (v. 5).

Our Redeemer departs on this occasion from His usual custom of making His journeys on foot. This He does, as son and heir of David, with the view of exhibiting on entering the metropolis of Judea, His royal power and dignity, which, unlike the exhibition of pomp on the part of earthly potentates, was still blended with that great meekness and humility, which so well accorded with His first coming amongst us, and the spiritual kingdom He came to establish. His kingly power and character were manifested in the fact of the owners of the asses giving them up, at the mere expression of His will, to the Apostles, whom He informed beforehand of the several circumstances connected with the entire event; in the applause, with which He was received, notwithstanding the prohibition on the part of the Pharisees, that any one should confess Him to be the Christ; in His curing the lame and the blind on entering the temple; and in His having cast out the profane traffickers, which inspired His enemies with terror. At the same time, He wished this royal pomp to be tempered with humility. This was exhibited in all the circumstances of His triumphal entrance—the animal on which He rode—the description of persons who accompanied Him and paid Him homage—the poor and lowly, not the great or noble—the humble trappings, consisting of the garments of the poor, which covered the animal on which He sat, to show that His kingdom was not earthly, but of another order—spiritual and heavenly. All this was circumstantially described beforehand by the Prophet, so that the Apostles and the Jewish people might acknowledge Him in the midst of all this outward humility, as their promised, long-expected Messiah. It was not without some mystical reason our Redeemer selected the tenth day of the first month for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This was the day on which the Jews were commanded to take, each, home the Paschal lamb, to be immolated on the evening of the 14th day. Hence, the true Paschal Lamb, by whom we were to be liberated from the dominion of the infernal Pharaoh, enters Jerusalem on this day. It was on the octave of this day He was to rise triumphant from the grave, the conqueror of death and hell, and to inaugurate His heavenly reign. Hence, on this day, He gives a faint outline, in His triumphal entry, of what that spiritual and heavenly kingdom was to be. It was also on the 10th day of the first month that Josue, who, both in his name and office, was a type of our Divine Redeemer, introduced the Israelites into the promised land; and, on the 14th, celebrated the solemn feast of the Pasch. (Josue 4)—Jansenius Gandavensis.

Our Redeemer, now that His time was come, entered Jerusalem in this triumphal manner, so as to give the Jews, whom this circumstance would exasperate, an opportunity of executing the Divine decree in regard to putting Him to death. He, moreover, wished by this to show the emptiness of human applause. For, these very men who now greeted Him with loud Hosannas, cried out on the Friday following, “Crucify Him,” thus entailing ruin on themselves, and their doomed city, over which our Redeemer bitterly wept (Luke 19:4).

3. Our Lord here displays His prescience and omnipotence, as well as His supreme dominion. “The Lord” (ὅ κυριος), of the universe, and Sovereign Master of all things, who is shortly to display His royal power in favour of such as expect the salvation of Israel.

And forthwith He will let them go.” The Greek words, αποστελει αυτους, may refer, either to our Lord, who, after using the asses, would send them back to their owners, and may be regarded as a portion of the words which He tells His disciples to address to the owners in question; or, to the owners of the asses, regarding whom our Redeemer predicts, that they would deliver up the asses to the Apostles for His use. This latter is the more probable interpretation; for, in describing the fulfilment of our Lords prediction on the subject, St. Mark says, that when the owners were informed that our Lord wanted the asses, “they let them go with them” (11:6).

They,” refers to the owner of the asses, as also to his family, his wife and children.

4. “All this,” viz., His sending for the asses, for the purpose of mounting them, “was done,” not from curiosity, nor from accident, nor from fatigue; but, “that it might be fulfilled,” &c. “That,” may signify, the event. So that, as a consequence, the prophecy was fulfilled; or, the cause, He did so, for the purpose of fulfilling the prophecy of Zacharias, and thus leaving the Jews no excuse for their incredulity and obstinate rejection of Him, since, in no other king of Judea were these words verified. St. Chrysostom asks the Jews (Hom. 67, in Matth.), What other king ever entered Jerusalem, as our Lord did, on this occasion or who else fulfilled the prediction of the Prophet?

5. “Tell ye the daughter of Sion,” &c. In Zacharias (9:9), whence these words are taken, the reading is different, both in the Hebrew and Septuagint. Instead of “Tell ye,” it is, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem. Hence, some expositors think, that the first words of the quotation, “Tell ye,” is taken from Isaias (62:11), where it is read, “tell the daughter of Sion, behold thy Saviour cometh.” St. John (12:15) follows the quotation from Zacharias, in substance, “Fear not, daughter of Sion,” which, in substance, is equivalent to “rejoice” and “shout for joy,” which are feelings the opposite of fear. By “Sion,” is meant Jerusalem, of which Mount Sion was the citadel and stronghold; and “the daughter of Sion” refers, in the first place, and in the literal signification of the words, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all the Jewish people, who acknowledged the reign of David, whose rule was from Sion. Thus, by “the daughter of Tyre” (Psa. 44), and “daughter of Babylon” (Psa. 136), are meant, the citizens, the people of these cities. But, in the mystical sense, which is the one chiefly intended by the Prophet, “the daughter of Sion” signifies, the Spiritual Jerusalem, the Christian Church, where Christ the true David reigns, rescuing His people from their enemies, and meekly pardoning their sins.

Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek.” “Behold,” arrests attention, and invites them to the consideration of some great event, some joyous news. “Thy King,” whom thou hast been so long expecting, “cometh to thee,” for thy sake, to redeem thee, and make thee sharer in many blessings. The Greek word for “cometh” (ερχεται), may also bear a future signification, “will come.” “Meek.” The Hebrew version followed by St. Jerome, has, “poor.” However, the sense is the same; since the poor are usually meek. Both words are nearly alike in Hebrew, and come from the same root. They differ only in a Hebrew vowel. The word for “meek” is, hani; for, poor, hanau. In Zacharias are found the words, “the just and Saviour;” but, they are omitted by St. Matthew, as not bearing on the subject of the quotation.

And sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of her,” &c. As the other Evangelists all concur in saying, our Redeemer sat upon the colt (Mark 11:7; Luke 19:35; John 12:15), it is disputed by commentators whether He sat on the dam and foal in turn, as is here insinuated by St. Matthew, who more fully quotes the Prophet Zacharias, than the other Evangelists; or on the foal only, as is inferred from the other three Evangelists, who make mention only of the colt. It is a question not easily decided. St. Jerome, and others, in a very decided way, reject the former opinion These say, the ass is mentioned, because she accompanied the wild colt, and both are mentioned, although only one was used, by a figure common to all languages, which employs oftentimes the singular for the plural number, and vice versa. Thus, it is said of the thieves on the cross, “they mocked Him,” &c., although only one did so. These say, the Greek word for ass (ονος), may signify, a colt, and then, the words will mean, sitting upon an ass, “and” (that is), which is, at the same time, “a colt, the foal of her,” &c. However, the Greek, in v. 3 (ὅνον δεδεμενην), is opposed to this. Hence, the former explanation is preferable.

St. Matthew, having quoted the Prophet more largely than the others, refers to the ass and the foal, as the Prophet had done so, although the words of the Prophet, according to the advocates of this latter opinion, are not necessarily to be understood of two animals. For, they say, the Hebrew word, chamor, used by the Prophet, means, a he-ass, the word for a she-ass being, athom. This is denied by others, who say, the word, chamor, applies to the female animal also. This, however, is a question not easily decided. It is not without reason the Evangelists, Mark and Luke, state, that. He rode “upon a colt upon which no man sat,” probably, to symbolize the Gentiles, hitherto unaccustomed to the yoke; while the she-ass represents the Jews. By riding on this wild colt, our Redeemer displayed His power, in taming this animal. As the words of the Prophet may be so rendered as to apply to two different animals, or only to one, so St. Matthew employs a similar form of language.

Of her used to the yoke” (υποζυγιον), means, any beast of burden, such as a horse, an ass; but, in the New Testament, it applies specially to the latter.

6. The contents of this verse are more fully and circumstantially described by St. Mark (11:4–6); Luke (19:32–34). Every thing our Redeemer predicted, regarding the asses and their owners; was fulfilled to the letter.

7. “Garments”—outer garments (ιματια)—“on them,” the ass and the colt. They place their garments on both, in order to honour our Lord the more; and, also, because they did not know on which of them our Lord meant to sit. “And made Him sit thereon.” “Thereon” (επανω αυτων), may refer, either to the ass and the colt, upon which He may have sat in turn; or, to the “garments,” the word immediately preceding. Hence, in this latter interpretation, preferred by Beelen (Grammatica Græcitatis, N.T.), there is no necessity for supposing that our Lord sat on both animals. It would seem more likely, that our Lord sat successively on the ass and the colt, using the ass in ascending and descending the hills, and entering the city mounted on the colt, to typify his rule over the Jews, accustomed to the yoke, and over the Gentiles, who had not yet been subjected hitherto to the sweet yoke of God’s law.

8. A great many among the crowd, vying with the disciples, whom they saw placing their garments on the asses, out of respect for their Divine Lord, took off their outer garments, and “spread them on the way,” as the greatest mark of respect they could show their King. It was an Oriental custom, observed also among the Greeks, to strew the road, on which their kings passed, on public occasions, with emblems of joy. These people, having no other ornaments to cast under our Lord’s feet, as He passed along, “spread their garments on the way.” Others cut down boughs of olives and palms, with which Mount Olivet, as St. Jerome informs us, abounded, and strewed them along the ground, as a symbol of joy and triumph; while others, with the same object, came out to meet Him with branches in their hands (John 12:13). The Jews were wont to carry palm-branches in their hands, at the Feast of Tabernacles (Levit. 23), and on other occasions of rejoicing. (1 Mach. 13:51; 2 Mach. 10)

9. Many came out from Jerusalem, on hearing of our Lord’s approach, to meet Him (John 12:13), carrying palms in their hands; others followed Him, He Himself occupying the centre of the procession. This multitude cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He,” &c. The most probable meaning of Hosanna, or, rather, Hosianna, is that given by St. Jerome (Ep. ad Damasum), “Save, I beseech,” or, “Save, now.” The word in the original Hebrew is, “hosianna,” and St. Jerome attributes it to ignorance, that with both the Greeks and us, it is read, Hosanna, by the elision of the vowel (i), instead of Hosianna, compounded of hoscia (save), and na (now, or, I beseech). But some of the best Hebrew scholars say, it may be written, hosca, as well as hoscia, and is so read (Psa. 85:2).—Jansenius Gandav. This phrase, Hosianna, is found in Psalm 117:25, to which this passage is clearly allusive—“Blessed is He,” &c. It is expressive of joy and gladness, of thanksgiving for past benefits, and of petition for their continuance. Hence, in Psalm 117, are subjoined the words, “hæc dies quam fecit Dominus, exultemus,” &c. St. Luke, looking to the feelings of those who used it, rather than to the strict etymological meaning of the words, says they uttered, “peace in heaven, and glory on high” (19:38). Here, the people, by Divine instinct, young and old (v. 16; Luke 19:40), proclaim that the true David, the true King of Israel, of whom the kingly Prophet referred to in Psalm 117 was but a mere type, was entitled to all these royal acclamations, on His triumphant entry into His royal city.

Hosanna to the son of David.” “Save, I beseech, the son of David.” By a Hebrew idiom, the word, “save,” governs a dative case. It is the same as if he said: Hosanna, the son of David—“salva quæso filio,” that is, filium David. It conveys the joyous acclamations of the people, wishing long life and prosperity to the Royal Heir of the throne of David, as we say, Vivat Rex—“God save the King.” Hence, the Greek has the article, τω υιω, the Son, long expected. They are commonly understood to be addressed to God by the people, praying Him to grant long life and prosperity to the Royal Heir to the throne of David, and also to grant Him the power and the virtue of imparting life and salvation to the people, over whom He is now about to inaugurate His spiritual reign. Hence, as if to convey this, the Vulgate uses the dative case—filio David—grant life and prosperity, together with the power of imparting these blessings to others, to the son of David, whom we have been anxiously expecting for thousands of years, as the rightful Heir of that kingdom, which is to have no end (A. Lapide). Others think, the words are addressed to Christ Himself, directly, by the people, entreating Him to save them: “Save us, we beseech Thee, O son of David.” The former interpretation is considered by far the more probable.

Most likely, as St. Jerome informs us, the Psalm (117), and the verse in question particularly, was read and sung by the Jews, in their synagogues, as having reference to the Messiah; and hence, while the more learned among the people loudly uttered the words, as referring to the Messiah, the rest of the crowd took up the words from them, and this they did from a kind of Divine instinct (Luke 19:40). Hosanna was a form of joyous exclamation in use among the Jews, as alleluia is with us; and hence, the Evangelists retain it in its Hebrew form. The modern Jews, in their solemn prayers on the Feast of Tabernacles, employ Hosanna, after reciting the name, attributes, epithets of God, as we use in our litanies, “Hear us, we beseech Thee,” “Deliver us, O Lord.”

Blessed,” that is, may He be blessed of God, may His reign prosper, and be happy, as we say of a king whose reign is inaugurated, Vivat Rex—“Long live the King.” This is more clearly expressed by St. Mark, who adds, “Blessed be the kingdom of our Father David that cometh.”

That cometh” (ὁ ερχομενος), a title of the Messiah, as was also, “the son of David”—although present, may have a future signification—ille venturus, that is, He, who was long expected to come, to redeem and establish the kingdom of Israel.

In the name of the Lord,” not from Himself, or self-commissioned; but, as the representative of the Lord, with His power and authority, destined and commissioned by Him to exercise authority, and visit His people.

Hosanna in the highest,” is understood by some, as if there was an ellipse of ὁ ων (who art), to mean, “save the son of David,” our new king, “in the highest” (ὁ ων αν ὑψιστοις), Thou who dwellest in the highest heavens, as if the words referred to God dwelling in heaven. The word, “Hosanna,” is repeated, from feelings of intense affection. But, the more common interpretation gives “in,” the meaning of “from,” which is not unusual in SS. Scripture. (Exod. 12:43; Lev. 8:32, &c.) The words, then, mean, from the highest heavens save, protect, and grant a prosperous reign to the son of David. Hence, for these words, St. Luke has (19:38), “peace in heaven, and glory on high” to God, who sent us such a Saviour. Similar are the words recited by the Angels at His birth, “gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax hominibus.” Such were the canticles and cries of joy, which all this multitude, as well those who preceded as those who followed Him, made resound to the praises of Jesus Christ; canticles like to those sung by the Angels at His birth. From them may be clearly perceived, that God, who spoke by the mouth of this multitude, had also inspired them with the belief, that this was the promised son of David, who was destined to rule over Israel. In receiving these honours from the Jewish people, it was not, as St. Chrysostom observes (Hom. 67), by any love of earthly pomp our Lord was actuated—since, from His very birth, He manifested His love for humility and power—but, for the fulfilment of the prophecies which regarded Him, and to show that, in the very humiliations He afterwards underwent, He was still all-powerful; since, He secured these honours in despite of the power of the Pharisees and of all His enemies.

St. Hilary takes occasion here to note the inconstancy and changeableness of all human applause. On this occasion, the multitude exclaimed “Hosanna;” again, “Crucify Him.” Now, “Blessed is He that cometh,” &c.; again, “Away with Him; crucify Him.” Now, He is addressed, as King; again, they have no king but Cæsar. Now, He is presented with green boughs of palms; again, with the hard and knotty wood of the cross, and with a crown of sharp thorns. Now, taking off their own garments, they cast them beneath His feet; again, they ignominiously strip Him of His own garments, and cast lots for them. How opposite their conduct, their treatment of our Blessed Redeemer; how contradictory their language regarding Him, even in the space of one short week. Who, then, should set any value on human applause? We should, therefore, ever seek His favour, who never changes, and is sure to reward us in the end.

10. “The whole city,” &c., most likely, regards those who, either from indifference or jealousy, or fear of His enemies, did not go forth to meet our Redeemer, and refrained from doing Him honour, including the Pharisees, the Priests, the Doctors of the law, and all the others who shared in their views regarding Him; or, it may regard the entire population of the city, whom these new and unexpected acclamations of the multitude agitated with feelings of fear, hope, approval or disapproval, according as each, one was affected. Those who accompanied our Lord, were chiefly strangers from other parts of Judea, who came to the festival (John 12:12), and who did not share in the prejudices of the Priests and Pharisees of Jerusalem. Our Redeemer wept, on the occasion of this triumphant approach, over the unhappy Jerusalem (Luke 19:40). He did not weep when persecuted by the Jews, lest He might seem to be actuated by feelings of resentment; but now He weeps, from feelings of true, heartfelt sorrow.

Who is this?” They knew Him well, as He had been often before amongst them. But this is uttered in a scornful spirit, as if such a man, this “carpenter, and carpenter’s son,” could be entitled to any honour, as if He had any right thus to enter Jerusalem publicly, with royal honours paid Him.

11. “The people said,” i.e., the crowds who accompanied Him, who went before and followed Him. These crowds, by Divine instinct, taught the haughty Priests and Pharisees, and their followers, who were left ignorant of the true meaning of these public acclamations, and of the true sense of the ancient prophecies, that this was no other than the true King of Israel, this son of David, promised and expected for so many ages, whose throne was to last for ever. “This is Jesus,” prefigured by the others who bore His name, and who bestowed only temporal salvation on Israel.

The Prophet,” by excellence, whom, as Moses predicted, the Lord was to raise up amongst them (Deut. 18:15). The words of Deuteronomy are understood of Christ, by St. Peter (Acts 3:22), and by Stephen (Acts 7:37). Him the Jews should obey and acknowledge as the Prophet, even though He came from “Nazareth of Galilee,” out of which, according to what passed as a proverb among the Jews, nothing good was likely to come (John 1:46).

St. Luke (19:39) informs us, that on this triumphal march, some of the Pharisees, who were among the crowd, called upon Him to restrain His disciples by whom they either meant, all His followers in general, or His immediate attendants, who were, most likely, among the foremost in proclaiming His glory; and that our Redeemer replied, that if these were silent, the very “stones would cry out,” thus giving them to understand, that the multitude could not help doing what they did, acting from Divine impulse; and that the Pharisees were harder and more insensible than the very rocks. The stones did, in a certain sense, cry out, when, at His death, the very rocks were rent; and, in a mystical sense, when the Gentile world—these children, whom God raised up to Abraham from the very stones and hardness of unbelief—proclaimed Him to be a Saviour, from the rising to the setting sun.

12. “And Jesus went into the temple of God.” On entering Jerusalem, our Redeemer makes straight for the temple, the house of His Father, the palace of His spiritual kingdom, rather than to Mount Sion, the citadel of the earthly Jerusalem; and He enters at once on the exercise of His spiritual authority, by purging it of the defilements of which it was made the theatre. By “the temple of God,” is meant, the whole edifice, with its several courts. The portion of it in which the events here recorded took place, was the Court of the Gentiles, to which they, as well as the Jews who laboured under legal defilement, had access, for the purpose of prayer. This court was very ample. It by no means refers to the temple, strictly so-called, comprising the Holy and Holy of Holies. Into the Holy, only the Priests, and into the Holy of Holies, only the High Priest could enter. It is a subject of controversy among commentators, whether this happened on the first day of our Redeemer’s entry into Jerusalem, as is here seemingly stated by St. Matthew; for, he relates that it occurred in connexion with the people’s singing their hosannas and songs of joy, which caused the Priests and Scribes to remonstrate with Him (vv. 15, 16). Or, whether it happened on the second day, as is apparently deducible from St. Mark, who distinctly states, that on the first day of our Saviour’s entrance, He merely entered the temple late in the evening, when the money-changers, &c., had ceased from the business of the day, and “having viewed all things round about, went out to Bethania” (11:11).

Some commentators, following St. Augustine, adopt the order of St. Matthew, guided chiefly by the words of verse 17, from which it would appear, that it was after expelling the profaners from the temple, He went out to Bethania. The words of this verse might, however, refer to the same occurrence referred to (11:19) of St. Mark, which took place the day following His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The advocates of this opinion say, that St. Mark, who seems to refer these events to the second day, recapitulates what occurred on the first day.

Others maintain, that the order adopted by St. Mark is the true one; for, St. Matthew confounds with the events of the second day of our Saviour’s arrival at Jerusalem, what St. Mark distinctly states to have occurred on the third day after He arrived, viz., the wonder expressed by the disciples regarding the withering of the fig tree (11:20). Hence, it is probable that, in narrating the events of the first day of our Saviour’s arrival, St. Matthew also mentioned some of the things which happened only on the second day. St. Matthew’s narrative is such, that one would suppose our Redeemer came from Bethania to Jerusalem only two successive days, and that the events which took place only happened on two successive days; whereas, St. Mark distinctly states, that the events, in connexion with the ejection of the buyers and sellers from the temple, occurred on three successive days. Cajetan is of opinion, that our Lord cast out the profane traffickers on both days, Sunday and Monday.

And cast out all who were buying and selling in the temple,” &c. As the Jews had but one place of sacrifice, viz., the Temple of Jerusalem, such as came from afar to the temple on the occasion of the great Paschal solemnity, in order to avoid the great inconvenience of carrying with them the required victims, bought for the price of the same victims which they sold at home, according to the provisions of the law (Deut. 14:24, &c.), the victims which each one was expected, according to his circumstances in life, to present in the temple. The proper place for such purchases was the public market-place. Either the Priests themselves and their servants carried on a traffic in the outer court of the temple, ostensibly for the accommodation of strangers, in the several kinds of victims destined for sacrifice; or, they rented the place to merchants for the purpose. “Overthrew the tables of the money changers.” These were a kind of money brokers, who exchanged foreign for Jewish coin, or larger for smaller coin, and this, probably, at a rate of usury, that could not be approved of. They were called κολλυβιστοὶ from κολλυβος, a small coin. There were also chairs placed there, on which these sat who sold doves; these were generally women, who could not remain very long in a standing position. They sold “doves,” the offerings exacted from the poor. All this traffic, owing to the avarice which dictated it on the part of the Priests, the lying frauds committed in it, and the tumult it gave rise to at the very entrance of the house of prayer, was unworthy of the sanctity of the temple; and hence, our Redeemer, animated with a zeal for the glory of His Father’s house, on this second occasion, as He had done before, at the very commencement of His mission (John 2:14), drives them out ignominiously, and justifies His conduct from Sacred Scripture (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11). Most likely, He used a scourge of cords to drive out the cattle, as He did on a former occasion (John 2:15). It is not likely, however, that He scourged the people, since, after driving out the cattle, He says, “auferte ista,” &c., which supposes the people to remain.

13. “My house.” My temple, specially dedicated to the Divine Service, where God Himself specially resides, and is specially accessible. (2 Par. 7:12, &c.)

The house of prayer,” exclusively devoted to all the things appertaining to God’s service. This quotation from Isaias (56:7) which directly applies, and is intended immediately to refer, to the spiritual temple, or Church of God, is accommodated by our Lord to the material Temple of Jerusalem, a type of the Church, into which all the Gentiles were admitted, “cunctis populis”—for all nations. And even into the material Temple of Jerusalem the Gentiles at this time had access. By “prayer,” are understood sacrifices, &c.

But you have made it a den of thieves,” is taken from Jeremias (7:11). In the passage referred to, the Almighty calls His house “a den of robbers,” because it was the place of resort for those who were guilty of robbery, idolatry, adultery, &c. Here, it is called, “a den of robbers,” because, in it, men had carried on a traffic, intent solely on temporal spoil and gain—like robbers, who plunder from this motive. Again, because the Priests and Pharisees made the plea of religion a lurking pretext for avarice; like robbers, hiding in a cave, they had solely in view to plunder and rob the poor. The avaricious and robbers are both alike in this, that both carry on their iniquitous projects for temporal gain and plunder. Hence, our Redeemer indignantly chastises the conduct of those who, like robbers, make His temple the lurking place of men, and lie in wait, for the purposes of plunder and temporal emolument. The quotation from Jeremias was also calculated to suggest to the Jews, that as the first temple to which the Prophet refers in that chapter (7), as about to be destroyed, owing to the crimes of the people, was razed to the ground by the Babylonians; so also, the temple in which they carried on their nefarious traffic, might also be one day destroyed, as we know it afterwards was, by the Romans under Titus. St. Jerome regards this chasing from the temple as one of the greatest miracles recorded of our Redeemer—greater than the raising of Lazarus, or the cure of the man who was born blind; and so it seems to be, considering all the circumstances of our Redeemer’s person, and the power of His enemies; and St. Jerome accounts for His enemies permitting it and the traffickers obeying Him, on the ground, that from our Redeemer’s eyes there darted forth beams of bright rays of heavenly majesty, which lit up His features with an irresistible splendour, that overawed the beholders, “igneum enim quiddam atque sidereum radiabat ex oculis ejus, et divinitatis majestas lucebat in facie.”

If God was thus jealous for the sanctity of the typical Temple of Jerusalem, how much more in regard to our Christian temples, where He personally resides, in the adorable Sacrament. If He thus severely, taxed the avarice of the Jewish Priests, and cast them out of the temple, how much more rigorously shall He punish those who make spiritual ministrations subservient to the purposes of avarice, and cast them out from the society of the Saints; and it is to be borne in mind, that their participation in holy things, far from rendering them more holy, only causes them to be regarded as robbers before God, whose temple they make “a den of thieves,” a mart of sacrilegious traffic.

And, as our souls are the temples of God (1 Cor. 3:16, &c.; 6:15, &c.), we can estimate, from this passage, how much more jealous God is regarding the sanctity of our souls, His interior temples, than regarding that of the material temple, and with how much greater rigour they shall be punished who violate the temple of their own souls (1 Cor. 3:16). From this, we see the necessity of having our souls continually devoted to God’s service, “domus mea domus orationis est.” We render our souls abodes of prayer, according to St. Augustine, by continual longing after God; by perpetual sighs, caused by the knowledge of our miseries, the view of the manifold perils our salvation is exposed to, and our exile from Him, who is alone capable of satiating all the desires of our hearts. St. Hilary remarks on the passage (in Matth. 21), that, as the Holy Ghost is represented chiefly under the figure of a dove in SS. Scriptures, and the chairs denote power, so our Redeemer, in overturning the tables of those who sold doves, points out the rigour of the chastisements He will inflict on those who, raised to the dignity of the Priesthood, make a traffic of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Ghost. St. Jerome makes a similar remark on this passage.

Origen says, by the three classes of men cast out of the temple, are signified, three classes of avaricious men, unworthy of the society of the Saints. The buyers and sellers, those who, among the Christian people, are intent solely on amassing gain. The money changers, those who abuse the ecclesiastical wealth destined for the poor, and from them heap up treasures for themselves; and the sellers of doves, those who make sale of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

14. After having displayed the rigours of His justice against the profaners of His temple, our Redeemer now displays His mercy and benevolence. He cures the lame and the blind, in the temple. He thus exhibits His Divine power, and gives a further proof, that He was the long-expected Messiah, whose coming, as was long before foretold, was to be characterized by the miracles which our Redeemer now performs. “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart,” &c. (Isa. 35:5, 6)

15. “The wonderful things He had done,” viz., the miracle of driving the profane traffickers out of the temple, curing the lame and the blind, His royal entry into Jerusalem, “and the children crying out in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David, were moved with indignation,” when they should rather be moved, by the miracles and the undoubted signs of Divine power He exhibited, to acknowledge Him as their long-expected Messiah. Their hearts were, inconsequence, as a punishment of resistance to grace, hardened. The mysteries of grace revealed to the little ones, the humble and the docile, were concealed from them; and hence, they were filled with wrath and indignation.

16. “Hearest Thou not what these say?” The Pharisees suppress their feelings as long as these loud acclamations were uttered by the crowd. But, now, when the enthusiasm had died away, and these acclamations were uttered only by the children, they endeavour to tax Him with aspiring to Divine honours, that thus they might have matter for accusing Him. “Hearest Thou not?” &c., as if to say, canst Thou allow these to render Thee the honour due to God alone? to attribute to Thee what belongs only to the King of Israel, the long expected Messiah? Our Redeemer, as St. Chrysostom remarks, could have retorted, and asked them, “Do you hear these things?” Do you not see that the Holy Spirit Himself speaks through these, and unchains their tongues to give utterance to what they understand not? But He only evades giving a direct answer. If He admitted that He was entitled to these honours, they would charge Him with disloyalty; if He denied it, they would charge the multitude with falsely attributing to Him what He was not entitled to. Our Redeemer, employing the same heavenly prudence which He had resorted to on another and similar occasion (22:17), without replying to their captious question, says, “yes.” I do hear the children; but, without giving any direct answer as to whether they were right or wrong, He replies to them in the language of the SS. Scriptures, “have you never read”—you, who glory in your knowledge of the Divine Scriptures—“out of the mouth of infants and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?” These words are quoted from Psa. 8:3. According to the Septuagint version, the Hebrew for “perfected praise” is, üssadta oz—“Thou hast founded strength,” but there is no difference in meaning. By speaking through the mouth of infants, and unchaining the tongues of suckling babes, He has displayed His power, and rendered it most deserving of all praise and glory, by having, through such weak and inadequate means, accomplished great ends. The words of the Psalm, in their literal sense, refer to the glory and magnificence of God, as displayed in the works of creation, “quoniam videbo cœlos tuos,” &c., or, rather, to the power of God displayed in these works. But in this passage, they are, by accommodation, referred to the power of God displayed in the work of Redemption, the second creation, whereby He renewed the face of the earth. Hence, in a more prominent sense, they apply to Christ, the first amongst the sons of men, and to Him, in a special manner, do the characters and qualities mentioned in this Psalm refer. But, what was said of man in general, or of our Divine Redeemer, and the redemption accomplished by Him, and the instruments employed by Him, in particular, is here accommodated by our Redeemer to His present case; and He thus confutes His adversaries, by showing—1st. That these children spoke from the inspiration of God; that it was He impelled them to give utterance, by their lips, to what they had hardly comprehended in their minds, “ex ore infantium,” &c.; and hence, He would not resist the inspiration, or voice of God, by silencing those children. 2ndly. He insinuates, that this was done to confute them, and show forth their folly; for, immediately after the words here quoted, the Psalmist subjoins, “ut destruas inimicum et ultorem,” that is, catch them in their craftiness, and destroy their wisdom. But, for fear of exasperating His enemies too much, our Redeemer omits quoting these latter words. His answer almost amounts to this: I do hear what they say; but, do you wish Me to order those be silent whose mouths God Himself has opened to perfect His praise, to give due glory to His power, and to confute the enemies of His name, among whom you are to be reckoned? He thus refutes them without giving a direct reply to their captious question. It is disputed whether there is question here of babes and sucklings, for whom it would amount to a miracle, to utter these words, and fill the temple with their acclamations, or, of young boys, who imitated what they heard from the crowd; and now, under Divine impulse, gave fresh utterance to it, on beholding the miraculous cures of the lame and the blind.

Some are of the former opinion, as the words literally mean this: and it would redound more to the glory of Christ, if the very babes and sucklings spoke. (St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.) The words of St. Luke (19:40), are corroborative of this, “if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.” Others adopt the latter opinion. The children are termed, παιδας, boys. The Pharisees, who see and hear the children, do not regard their shouts as miraculous. “Hearest Thou what these (boys) say?” If they regarded it as miraculous, their first attempt would be to throw discredit on the miracle, as they often did before. Moreover, the Psalm, from which the words are quoted, may be understood of children older than mere babes or sucklings.

17. “Leaving them,” confounded, rather than convinced, owing to their envy and rage on account of the honours which the people paid Him, as also on account of the manner in which He summarily ejected the traffickers from the temple, the cures He performed, and the praises and acclamations of the children.

He went out of the city into Bethania,” where He remained with Martha and Mary. This, as St. Jerome observes, was an expressive type of the rejection and reprobation of the Jews, and of the calling of the Gentiles. Some, also, with St. Jerome, comment unfavourably on the ingratitude and fickleness of the crowd, none of whom offered Him the shelter of hospitality for the night. This latter observation is not, however, much attended to by others, who attribute His leaving the city to other causes; among the rest, lest He might be suspected of plotting during the night with His followers, as to the mode of securing royal power, &c.

18. “In the morning … He was hungry.” Some say, this was natural hunger, consequent on His having spent the night in watching and prayer, which He usually did, and is to be presumed to have done on this occasion (Luke 21:37, 38). Others say, the hunger, though real, was voluntarily assumed by our Redeemer, in order to give occasion to the following miracle, which He wrought, for the instruction of His disciples.

19. “Seeing a certain fig-tree by the way side.” St. Mark (11:13) says, “He had seen it afar off.” Both accounts are perfectly reconcilable. “He came to it.” St. Mark says (11:13), “if perhaps He might find anything on it.” This he adds, because men are wont to act so; or, possibly, St. Mark only expresses what the disciples supposed His object to be, as is observed by St. Chrysostom. “And found nothing on it but leaves only.” St. Mark adds (11:14), “that the time for figs had not yet arrived.” He then cursed it. “May no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig-tree withered away.” It would be the sheerest folly to suppose, that our Redeemer cursed the fig-tree out of mere passion or impulse for not finding fruit on it when no fruit could be expected. But, as He prophesied by words, so did He also by action—a thing quite usual with the ancient Prophets, who, conforming to the Oriental usages, often expressed things by symbolical actions. The whole occurrence here may be regarded as a prophetic parable. Our Redeemer, who had hitherto performed all His miracles as so many proofs of His merciful benevolence, now, in order to confirm the faith of His disciples, displays the rigours of His justice, in the malediction of the barren fig-tree, which clearly typified His justice on the sinners who bring forth not the expected fruits of grace. For, although man could not expect fruit from a tree except in due season; still, God has a right to expect from us, at all times, the fruits of justice and solid piety, of which those that might be expected from the fig-tree were but a type and lively image; and, in punishment of our sterility, God will strike us with still greater spiritual barrenness and decay. This transaction was a prophetic menace, intended to instruct the Jews and His disciples. The fig-tree did not merit the curse pronounced upon it; it did so, however, relatively, in regard to the people, of whom it was a type or symbol. The fig-tree represented the Jewish synagogue, and the malediction pronounced on it by our Lord, represented the malediction pronounced against the synagogue for its sterility. The hunger of our Lord, represented the ardent desire to find the synagogue bring forth fruit corresponding with the many miracles and instructions and other graces by which He wished to attract it to Himself. The leaves of the fig-tree represented the ceremonies, sacrifices, external worship of the ancient law, in which the Jews so much gloried over so many nations, without producing the internal works of justice. The withering of the tree, represents the reprobation of the synagogue. And, although the Jewish people will be saved in the end of the world, “when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:25), still, this does not militate against the malediction of our Lord; for the words, εις τον αιωνα, as St. Jerome remarks, does not necessarily imply, it should be for ever cursed; or, we may say, that if Israel is saved, it is not from the helps furnished by the synagogue, but, by the grace of the Church of the New Law. Moreover, everything in the type does not necessarily correspond with the thing typified. Commentators here admire the goodness of our Redeemer, who, whenever He wishes to manifest His saving power, and give an example of spiritual salvation, wrought by Himself, selects men for the objects of His benevolence, proposing to them the hope of future blessings, and indicating the cure of their souls by the present cure of their bodies; but, when He wishes to display His vindictive power, and admonish the reprobate Jews, who yield no fruit, of the punishments in store for them, He selects, as a type, an inanimate object, whereon to display His just vengeance.

20. “And the disciples seeing it,” &c. This happened the following Tuesday morning, as appears from St. Mark (11:20). The curse pronounced by our Redeemer on the preceding day, had imperceptibly produced its effect, so that the following morning the tree was withered up. Hence, the wonder on the part of the Apostles.

21. Our Redeemer takes occasion, from the circumstance of the withering of the barren fig-tree, to inculcate on His disciples the powerful efficacy of prayer and confidence in God.

Amen, I say to you.” St. Mark (11:22) says, our Redeemer told them, “Have the faith of God.” “If you shall have faith, and stagger not.” The Greek for “stagger” (διακριθητε), means, to judge, discern, as to the power of God and the facility or difficulty of accomplishing the work. “Faith,” that extraordinary degree of intense faith, accompanied with confidence in God, and the gift of miracles, fides miraculorum. “as a grain of mustard seed” (17:19). It is to this kind of faith He refers here. For, as to “staggering,” or doubting, every degree of true faith excludes all doubt; but here the word means, extraordinary confidence.

But also if you shall say to this mountain,” &c. This is a proverbial form of expression, and means, that, on occasions when the glory of God would require it, such an event would be accomplished. It by no means implies, that this would take place on ordinary occasions, or without utility, or from an ostentatious display of power. Our Redeemer Himself never exercised His miraculous powers for display or ostentation.

22. These words are, of course, to be received with the proper limitations and restrictions. As regards things appertaining to salvation, they are to be asked for absolutely. As regards other things, they are to be sought for conformably to God’s holy will. Besides faith, St. Mark lays down another condition necessary for securing the efficacy of our prayers, viz., forgiveness of injuries (11:25). For the conditions of prayers (see Commentary on St. John, 1 Ep. 5:14).

23. Our Redeemer employed the day-time in instructing the people, and at night He retired to Mount Olivet; “and all the people came early in the morning … to hear Him” (Luke 21:37, 38). “It came to pass on one of these days.” On the third day after His triumphal entry, viz., Tuesday, after Palm Sunday, “as He was teaching the people in the temple, and preaching the Gospel (Luke 20:1), the Chief Priests (St. Luke adds, ‘and Scribes’) and ancients of the people came to Him,” &c. “By what authority” (εξουσια), whether of yourself, or derived from others, “dost Thou these things?” viz., preaching to the people; receiving the honour due to the Messiah alone; making a triumphal entry into the temple; casting out the victims destined for the altar, &c. SS. Mark and Luke repeat the question, “Who hath given Thee this authority to do these things?” The question was grounded on the justly-received principle, that no one can assume to himself the ministry of religious teaching, unless he received authority to do so from God directly, or, through the hands of those commissioned by Him, “nec quisquam sibi assumat honorem sed qui vocatur a Deo tanquam Aaron” (Heb. 5:4). The question was meant captiously, in the present instance. For, although the Priests, &c., had a right to ask the question, because the ordinary permission to teach in the temple was derived from them, and they had the power of inquiring into the pretensions of a Prophet; still, in this instance, our Redeemer had already proved His mission by the incontestable miracles He wrought, and from the prophecies of SS. Scripture, verified in His regard. His enemies hoped to involve Him in a difficulty, by the answer they expected. They wished to involve Him in the guilt of schism and sedition, by intruding Himself, unsent, into a ministry, to which the Messiah alone could have pretensions; and, if He said He was the Messiah, they would have, probably, charged Him with blasphemy. Our Redeemer had already sufficiently replied to this question, by acts. The miracles He alone performed, left them no excuse, and had already proved Him to be the Messiah, and showed the authority, in virtue of which He acted. He declines answering them directly, on this occasion, not from fear (as the parables He subjoins clearly demonstrate), but from the deliberate design of confounding them, by proposing a question calculated to baffle them. With consummate wisdom, He destroys their cunning, by having recourse to a method familiar to both Jews and Greeks, of answering by interrogation, and solving one question by proposing another, which, if candidly answered, would solve the former one, and serve to condemn themselves; if the question were evasively answered, it would prove them to be unworthy of receiving a reply from Him. It was a perfectly fair course to ask a question, the answer to which would solve the question proposed by them.

25. “The baptism of John,” including his doctrine and preaching; was it “from Heaven or from men?” Did John act in virtue of a Divine commission, or only from human authority?

They thought within themselves, saying.” They discussed the question apart among themselves, probably out of the hearing of our Redeemer. The Greek word, διαλογιζοντο, means, they reasoned, among themselves.

26. “Why, then, did you not believe him?” by receiving the baptism of penance, at his preaching, or, rather, by believing his testimony, in regard to Me, whom he proclaims to be the promised Messiah, “the Lamb of God,” &c. “We are afraid of the multitude (lest they stone us,’ Luke 20:6), for all held John as a prophet,” or one Divinely commissioned to preach and baptize.

27. To avoid the consequences of a direct answer, they have recourse to a lie, by which they condemned themselves; for, they, the teachers of others, should not be ignorant of what the whole people were convinced of, and which they should know, in virtue of their office, which warranted them in thus questioning our Redeemer’s authority.

We know not.” Our Redeemer does not imitate their example, by uttering a falsehood, and saying, I know not by what authority I do these things; but, as they were unworthy of an answer, He tells them He will not declare by what authority He acted. He will not answer their question, as they were unwilling to answer His, which, if answered by them, would convey a reply to their own. For, if they acknowledged John’s preaching to be from God, then they could not doubt that our Redeemer was the Messiah, and thus, His Divine authority was at once declared.

28. Affecting ignorance of what they knew well, as to whether John’s baptism was from Heaven or not, the Pharisees would not answer our Redeemer’s question. He, then, before dismissing the allusion to John the Baptist, takes occasion, from their evasive answer, to propose a parable, the application of which was quite evident, and while He supposed the Divine mission of John, clearly proved them guilty of incredulity, the imputation of which they were anxious to avoid. He wishes to humble their pride, who were inflated with a sense of their own dignity, and the affectation of superior knowledge, and false science. This He does in a most telling way, by proposing a case, or a question, in the form of a parable, the answer to which, as well as its application to themselves, was quite clear. Out of their own mouth, He condemns them, and shows that “the publicans and harlots shall precede them in the kingdom of God.” The parable, in its literal meaning, is quite clear. Its application is equally so. The man in question refers to Almighty God, the common Father of all. The two sons refer to the Pharisees, on the one hand, and the public sinners among the Jews, as is clear from verse 31, “the publicans and harlots,” &c. The son who refused to obey his father’s injunctions, in the first instance, but afterwards obeyed in act, refers to the “publicans and harlots,” the public sinners of either sex among the Jews, who, by their sins, disobeyed God, refused to observe His law, rejected His call to cultivate, by penance, the spiritual vineyard of their souls, but afterwards were converted to penance, and embraced God’s holy law. The son who promised obedience, in the first instance, but afterwards disobeyed, in act, represented the Pharisees, who had always on their lips the law of God, made an external profession of piety, but were destitute of its spirit, failed in its practices, disobeyed God’s law preached to them by John the Baptist, despised his baptism, and refused to believe in Christ, to whom he bore testimony.

31. “Jesus said to them, Amen I say to you,” &c. Without dwelling on the meaning of the parable, which clearly applied to the Pharisees, our Redeemer at once announced the conclusion to be derived from their own admission. The man who did, in act, what His Father commanded, obeyed; while the other, who promised obedience in word, but did not carry it out in act, disobeyed. Hence, “the publicans and harlots”—the public sinners of either sex among the Jews—“shall go into the kingdom of God before you,” that is, shall be admitted into the enjoyment of God’s bliss, before you, who, having refused the way of penance, preached by John the Baptist, shall be altogether excluded from that kingdom of bliss, to which penance conducts. The same is conveyed in the parable of the two sons, in the Gospel of St. Luke (15:11), where the younger son represented the public sinners. The same are represented here by the first-born, because such sinners, on doing penance, are first before God, and precede those who seem to themselves just. Thus, “the last shall be first,” &c. The Greek for, “Go before you,” is, “shall precede you,” as if conveying, that they go before them in the road to heaven, by penance and faith, and shall be admitted there before them. For, they shall be utterly excluded.

The parable may also, in a secondary sense, regard the Gentile and Jewish peoples; the former, represented by those among the Jews, who were converted from their sins, and did not promise to obey God’s word, but did so, in act; the latter, by those who remained obstinate, after having promised to Moses (Exod. 19:8), “all whatsoever, the Lord shall speak to us, we shall do,” still continued obstinate in their incredulity, and resistance to God’s law. Theirs was only lip service, without obedience in act, depending solely on the justice of the law, and not on faith. Hence, they arrived not at the law of justice, but stumbled against the rock of offence (Rom. 9:30), &c.

32. “John came to you,” in preference to all other peoples, “in the way of justice,” exhibiting true justice, by a holy, irreproachable life, exemplifying in his conduct, the lessons of penance and humility which he taught, thus showing himself what all, except the haughty Pharisees, believed him to be, viz., a Prophet, truly sent from God.

You did not believe him,” either by obeying the precepts of penance, which he announced, or by receiving the Messiah, to whom he bore testimony.

But the publicans and harlots believed him,” which adds to the condemnation of the Pharisees, who, not only were unmoved by the holy life and teaching of John, but still remained obstinate, and refused to enter on a life of penance, even after the example of these sinful men and women was placed before them, to stimulate them.

You … did not even afterwards repent,” that is, you did not follow their example, whom you should precede, in doing penance, “that”—under the influence of holy penance—“you might believe him,” and thus follow his precepts, and admit his testimony regarding the Son of God.

Our Redeemer censures two things in the Pharisees—their incredulity in regard to the testimony of John, and their contumacious obstinacy in that incredulity, even after the example of the greatest sinners, who became converted, had been placed before them.

33. Our Redeemer, having censured the obstinate incredulity of the Scribes and Pharisees, in the application of the preceding parable, now employs another parable, in which He notes some of their most grievous crimes, and the ruin which such crimes was to entail on them. St. Jerome remarks (in hunc locum), that the Chief Priests and princes of the people, who sought to surprise in His words, Him who is Eternal Wisdom itself, and had arrogantly demanded of Him to show His authority for the things He did (v. 23), are now vanquished by their own arms; since, He proposes to them, under the veil of parables, what they did not deserve to have explained to them openly. They are caught in their own snares, whereby they wished to surprise Him; and, without perceiving at first to what the several comparisons tended, they are forced to pronounce their own condemnation.

The scope of the parable, of which the literal sense needs no explanation, is clearly expressed by our Redeemer Himself (v. 43).

The householder,” who is the same as “the man who had two sons” (v. 28), denotes God the Father, the Father of the entire human family, who governs and upholds all living creatures.

Who planted a vineyard,” that is, His people Israel, in the land of Chanaan, after having transferred them from Egypt, and chased the Gentiles, “vineam de Egypto transtulisti,” &c. (Psa. 79:9.) From the Prophet Isaias, our Redeemer borrows this similitude (Isa. 5:1), in order to bring greater conviction to their minds, and to impress them the more. For, Isaias not only employs the parable; but, he also predicts that our Redeemer would employ it (c. 5:1), and in the same passage the Holy Ghost explains what “the vineyard” meant. “For, the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel” (c. 5:7). And what the expected fruits meant, is clearly explained: “I looked that He should do judgment, and behold iniquity; and to do justice and behold a cry” (c. 5:7).

Made a hedge … winepress … tower.” It is observed by some of the most distinguished interpreters of SS. Scripture, among the rest, by Grotius, that it is not necessary to explain in detail what these words signify; since, our Redeemer, as well as the Prophet, from whom He borrows the idea, only mean to denote by them, in a general way, all the things which served to ornament and protect the vineyard, or to help in gathering in the expected fruit. However, we may explain this “hedge and tower,” of the all powerful protection of the Lord; since the Royal Prophet declares to God, in the midst of the persecutions he suffered, at the hands of Saul, that he was a “tower of strength against the face of the enemy;” and his son, Solomon, expresses the same, “The name of the Lord is as an impregnable tower” &c. (Prov. 18:10); and when the Lord menaces His people with the withdrawal of His protection, He employs the same figurative and expressive language (Isa. 5:5), “I will take away the hedge thereof and it shall be wasted,” that is, He shall take away His powerful protection, which is the greatest misfortune that can befall, either an entire people, or a particular soul. The same idea is conveyed by the demon when, addressing God in the case of Job he says, “nonne tu vallasti eum?” &c. St. Jerome, however, understands by the “tower,” in a more special way, the Temple of Jerusalem, the strength of the Jewish people, in which they reposed their chiefest confidence. In it, they dwelt who were to watch over the interests of the vineyard. By the “hedge,” some understand the Mosaic Law, which separated them from the other nations, and prescribed the limits beyond which they should not pass; others, the protection of God, through His Angels, and the rulers of the people. By the “winepress,” is signified the altar of holocausts, from which the blood of the victim flowed on all sides, as the wine flows under the pressure of the winepress. However, if the principal scope of the parable be attended to, there is no necessity for explaining its several parts in detail.

And let it out to husbandmen,” that is, He charged the princes, priests and magistrates to cultivate it with care, and to guard it according to the rank which each one held, and the functions each one exercised. The word, “let,” implies, that He kept to Himself the right and dominion over it.

Went into a strange country.” Not by change of place, as St. Jerome observes, (in hunc locum), since He fills all space by His glorious immensity; but, in order to leave to the husbandmen free will to labour or not, He withdrew, in appearance, by withholding the visible and remarkable signs of His presence, such as He exhibited in the time of Moses and Josue, and the first rulers of the Jewish people; as a man in a distant country, cannot oversee the husbandmen, but, leaves them to themselves.

34. “The time of the fruit,” means, according to some, the time of David, Solomon, Ezechiel, &c., when the Jews had rested in the land of promise, and were expected to exhibit the fruits of virtue and legal observances; others hold, that as God had always expected from His people the fruits of justice, consisting in the love of God and their neighbour, and the fulfilment of all His ordinances, that this is introduced merely as an ornamental part of the parable, and our Redeemer employs this form of speech to conform to the figurative language of the parable of the vineyard, according to which there is a special time for collecting the fruit thereof. “The time of the fruits,” which He sent His servants to collect, shows the great patience of God in waiting for His people; and the duty of those in charge of them, to exhibit the fruit of good works, fidelity in observing His ordinances.

By “the servants,” are meant the Prophets sent at different times to remind the people and their rulers, by salutary admonitions, of their duty and their obligation, to cultivate the vineyard, by performing works worthy of penance, and not seek their own exclusive profit, but the profit, that is to say, the glory of its Master. We read of these Prophets being occasionally sent to rouse the faith and piety of the Jewish people—Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, Zacharias, &c. These illustrious heroes of faith, in discharging their ministry, were more jealous of the interests of their Heavenly Master than of their own; nay, even His interests were more precious to them than their own lives.

35. But, far from rendering the expected fruit, “the husbandmen,” that is, the princes, priests, doctors, &c., to whom the Lord confided the culture of the vineyard, laid violent hands on the “servants.” “One they beat,” Jeremias; “another they killed,” Isaias; “another stored,” Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom they killed between the temple and the altar. From St. Matthew, it would appear, that these three servants here referred to, were sent simultaneously; while Luke and Mark say, they were sent successively.

36. His sending His servants in greater numbers, after the treatment inflicted on the others, would seem to be with a view of offering a holy violence to the husbandmen, to induce them to render the expected fruits. This exhibits, in the clearest manner, the patience and long-suffering of God, which human malice could not overcome.

And they did to them in like manner.” This is eloquently described by St. Paul to the Hebrews. (11:35, &c.)

37. But the excessive patience and goodness of God is manifested more clearly still, in sending “His Son,” or, as St. Mark has it, His “one Son most dear to Him” (11:6). St. Luke (20:13), says, He asked, “What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son.” These words do not imply any doubt in God. They may, probably, be merely an ornamental part of the parable, or, rather, they convey the excessive love of God for man, when desirous of leaving nothing undone for their reparation, He thinks of the last expedient, viz., sending His Son.

They will reverence my son.” These words, any more than the former, employed by St. Luke (20:13), “it may be … they will reverence him,” do not imply any ignorance on the part of God. They merely express what the clear duty of the husbandmen was, and the great crime they committed in violating this clear duty. Moreover, they are spoken, in accommodation to the parable; and they seem to denote the exercise of human liberty, with which God’s prescience nowise interferes. How often does not God expect, in vain even from Christians, “they will reverence My Son.” At least, should He not expect, that out of gratitude towards HIM, who has done and suffered so much for them, they would observe His ordinances, and thus show their love for Him? Would, that even in approaching the Holy Altar, those whom He has chosen as His friends and special confidants, when about to receive the Lamb without spot, always remembered these words, “they will reverence My Son.” With what fervour of soul and purity of conscience, would they not approach the altar; with what reverence would they perform the most Divine of all works, “verebuntur filium meum.” What of those Christians who receive Him into hearts polluted with mortal sin—the abodes of the devil? Do they reverence the Eternal Son of God, when they thus betray Him into the hands of His enemies?

38. “But the husbandmen”—now about “to fill up the measure of their fathers” (23:32), who had slain, and in different ways maltreated the Prophets—“seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir,” &c. By “the son,” as was evident, even to the Pharisees, against whom the parable is directed, is meant our Redeemer Himself, the Eternal Son of God. How it is the Jews recognised Him for the Son of God, is not so easily seen; since, we are assured, they would not have crucified Him, had they known it (1 Cor. 2), and “they had slain the Author of life in ignorance” (Acts 3:15–17).

But, all the words of a parable are not to be applied in their strict sense. Hence, these words may be understood to mean, that they had sufficient evidence, from the testimony of the Baptist, who proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, and from the doctrine and miracles of our Redeemer Himself, to know Him to be such; and hence although “their own malice blinded them, and they knew not the secrets of God” (Wisdom 2:21, &c.), still, they may be said to know Him to be the Son of God in a certain sense, inasmuch as they had the clearest evidence to this effect, and, it is owing to their own voluntary blindness, they did not expressly know Him. It may be also said, that the princes did know Him; for, the texts from 1 Cor. 2, and Acts 3:17, only prove, they did not know the wisdom of the mystery of His death, or the consequences that were to follow from it.

When, then, He came to demand the fruits of the vineyard, the fruits of penance and good works, which redounded to God’s glory, and which His Father expected (John 15:8), they conspired amongst themselves, and resolved to put Him to death, in order to keep “His inheritance,” that is, in order to retain the hold they had of the people; to secure the emolument and reverence resulting therefrom to themselves, without any regard to the glory of God. They had also in view, to prevent the Romans from coming, “and taking away their place and nation.” They preferred subjecting Him to death, who preached the truth, rather than embrace the truth which He preached. The celebrated passage from chapter 2, verses 12–20, of the Book of Wisdom, which is understood by all the ancients to refer to the outrage committed by the Jews against our Blessed Lord, throws great light on the preceding exposition. In fact, it almost describes beforehand what is recorded in the Gospel The impious are there represented as conspiring against the just man, since he is “contrary to their doings, and uporaideth them with transgressions of the law,” &c. Hence, they say, “if He be the true Son of God, He will defend Him,” &c., Hence, they are represented as doubting our Lord’s Divinity. Similar are the words of the Jews, St. Matthew (27:42), “if He be the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross,” &c. But although they should have regarded Him as the Son of God, from His miracles and doctrine, from the testimony of the Prophets, still, “their own malice blinded them, and they knew not the secrets of God” (Wisdom 2:21, 22).

39. “They east him out of the vineyard,” &c., is allusive to the mode in which our Redeemer was put to death, outside the gates of Jerusalem. (Heb. 13:12, &c.)

40, 41. “They say to him: He will bring these evil men,” &c. This is the conclusion for which the parable was chiefly intended. This menaced ruin was inflicted by Titus here, and will be inflicted by the demons of hell hereafter. St. Luke (20:15, &c.), says, it was our Redeemer said this, and the Pharisees answered, “God forbid.” Both accounts are true. Most likely, the Pharisees answered, as is stated here by St. Matthew, not seeing the tendency of their answer; and our Redeemer repeated this answer, and approved of it, as is stated by St. Luke, so that they perceived, from His manner of expressing it, its full application, and the sentence they had unconsciously pronounced against themselves. Hence, on perceiving this, they replied, “God forbid,” meaning to repudiate the application of the parable to themselves, and the punishment entailed by the crimes referred to. They could not deny the wicked dispositions they were in regarding the murder of the Son of God, the Heir of the vineyard. For, St. Luke says, they “sought to destroy Him” (19:47).

The words, “He will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen,” &c., as St. Chrysostom remarks, denote the reprobation of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles. However, they more immediately regard the Doctors of the Law, on the one hand; and the Apostles and the first teachers of the Gospel, on the other; to whom the vineyard was to be let to cultivate it, and to present the expected fruit in due season. This fruit was exhibited in the conversion of the entire world to the faith, and to a life of Christian sanctity, and in the heroic constancy of so many virgins and martyrs. It also, in a certain sense, regarded each soul in particular; since, every one is bound to labour, by good works, to save his own soul, and by cultivating this spiritual vineyard, to edify his neighbour. It is let to each one of us, on condition of bringing forth fruit in due time, according to the several circumstances of life in which we may be placed.

42. The connexion of this with the preceding can easily be seen, when we look to the reading of St. Luke (20:16). It arises out of their repudiation of the conclusion drawn in verse 41, as applicable to themselves, “absit:” “God forbid” (Luke 20:16), although, indeed, the same is implied in the interrogative form used by St. Matthew here, and by St. Mark, “Have you never read?” &c. Our Redeemer, looking on them, in order to add to their confusion, with an air of stern severity, refers them, in proof of the truth and applicability of the conclusion they would fain reject and deny, to the SS. Scriptures, in the knowledge of which they gloried; and He shows that in these same Scriptures, that was predicted which they denied, they said, “God forbid,” viz., that they would reject Christ, the Son of God; that they would be destroyed, and the vineyard transferred to other hands. The first and third points He shows here; the second, viz., that they would be destroyed, He shows in verse 44.

The stone which the builders rejected.” Our Redeemer exhibits the same idea under the different similitudes, of workmen, vine-dressers, labourers. Here, the idea is borrowed from that of architects. This latter is frequently employed by St. Paul. (1 Cor. 3:9, &c.)

By “the stone rejected by the builders,” is meant, as we are informed by St. Peter (1 Ep. 2:4, &c.), our Lord Himself. The idea is, that, like a stone cast aside as worthless by the builders of one edifice, and made the chief binder, the corner stone in another; Christ was rejected by the Pharisees and Doctors of the Old Law, in the building up of the synagogue and house of God, of which they were the chief builders; but, He was chosen by God to be set in Sion with honour, as the chief corner and foundation stone. This He became, when He united two peoples in one, connecting and cementing them in His Blood, reconciling them by His Cross. There is a tacit opposition conveyed here between God’s selecting Him, and men’s rejecting Him.

By the Lord this has been done,” as if to say, this economy in assigning the honourable place in the building of His Church to Christ, who had been rejected by the Jews, the builders of the synagogue, was not accomplished by man, as it was in opposition to human power; but, against all human exertions, it was brought about by the power of God alone, who, by an admirable disposition of His providence, made the malice of His enemies the means of exalting Christ; thus, drawing good, out of evil. It is all divine. The means employed are altogether independent of human strength or wisdom. Hence, this admirable display of Divine power and wisdom, through means, humanly speaking, weak and foolish, “is wonderful in our eyes,” that is, in the eyes of the believers, who regard Christ, crucified and rejected, as “the wisdom and power of God” (1 Cor. 1) This transferring of the Gospel to the Gentiles—a mystery hidden for ages in the bosom of God (Eph. 3:9), and unknown even to the Prince of the Apostles himself, till he was shown it in the vessel let down from heaven, in the form of a great linen sheet, &c. (Acts 10:11)—is what was “wonderful in their eyes.”

43. In this verse, without any ambiguity whatsoever, He directly applies to them this parable, as well as the two preceding ones, of the disobedient son and wicked husbandmen, and He points out the punishment of their obstinacy and ingratitude. “Therefore, as the direct consequence of the fulfilment of the Scripture testimony, that the stone which was to be made the head of the corner, was rejected by them, and as a punishment of their ingratitude, “the kingdom of God,” viz., all the marks which distinguished them as the people of God, having God for their king, viz., the ceremonies of the Old Law, the sacrifices, the temple and city of Jerusalem, which constituted the glory of the entire Jewish nation, were to be destroyed. The words, “kingdom of God,” may also refer to the Church, where God reigns, by faith and grace, which is the entrance to heaven, where He reigns in glory, as also the Gospel law and privileges, whereby the dominion of the devil is destroyed. These “shall be taken away from you,” and in order to excite their jealousy the more, “given,” or transferred, by the gratuitous goodness of God, “to a nation yielding the fruits thereof,” that is, to a nation, to whom, by a mysterious dispensation, the ingratitude and infidelity of the Jews would be made the occasion of imparting God’s grace, and of rendering them His chosen people. “The fruits thereof,” that, is, of the kingdom of God.

44. It is clear, the different parts of this verse denote a fall of greater or lesser destructiveness. They have reference to the punishment of greater or lesser magnitude, to be inflicted on the Pharisees, whom our Redeemer here addresses. The idea is borrowed from frail, brittle vessels, to which men are sometimes compared in SS. Scripture, as well here as elsewhere, either falling from a lofty eminence against a hard rock, or upon which a rock falls from some lofty elevation. The injury done in the former case is not beyond all hopes of reparation; while, in the latter case, when the stone falls on the brittle object, the ruin is supposed to be irreparable, and the object broken in pieces. In these words, our Redeemer proves against the Pharisees one of the points denied by them, when they cried out, “God forbid” (Luke 20:16), viz., that they would be utterly destroyed.

Commentators are not, however, agreed as to the precise meaning of the words, and difference of the two antithetical members of the sentence. By those, “who shall fall upon this stone, and shall be broken,” some, with Jansenius, &c., understand those who, in this life, haughtily raising themselves against this mystical stone, wish to despise it and trample it under foot, thus injuring only themselves, both in mind and body. This injury, however, is not of such a nature as not to be reparable by penance. This class refer to the persecutors of the name of Christ, who enter on a course very injurious to themselves, and impossible as regards success. To them apply the words, “durum est tibi contra stimulum calcitrare.” By those, “on whom it shall fall and grind them to powder,” they understand, those on whom God shall execute His vengeance from heaven, without any hopes of reparation. This was illustrated in the utter ruin and dispersion of the Jews by Titus; and it will be illustrated in a still clearer way, when, on the last day, He shall consign the reprobates to everlasting flames. The idea of designating utter ruin by the breaking of earthen vessels, is frequent in SS. Scripture. (Isa. 30:14; Jer. 19:11, &c.) Others understand the words, “whosoever shall fall on this stone,” to refer to the class who were scandalized at our Redeemer when here on earth; at His poverty, humiliation, and doctrine. Such were those to whom He was speaking. They fell against this Divine stone, and were broken before God, owing to their pride and envy. On the other hand, by those on whom it fell, utterly “grinding them to powder,” are meant, those who, after our Redeemer’s death and ascension into heaven, obstinately resisted His doctrine and the truth of His resurrection. Such were the Jewish Doctors in opposing the Apostles, in persecuting them, now that our Lord sat in heaven at the right hand of His Father. Upon these and their children, the weight of His vengeance and rigorous justice had fallen from the height of heaven. This was exemplified in their utter destruction by Titus; and their dispersion as vagabonds on the face of the earth unto the present day.

Others think, that to “fall on this stone,” means, incredulity, the refusal to believe in Christ. To these unbelievers, He is a rock of offence. This is the meaning attached to the words, rock of offence by St. Paul (Rom. 9:33; 1 Peter 2:7, 8) By the words, “on whomsoever it shall fall,” these understand, the coming of Christ from heaven to judge them irrevocably, and condemn them to the frightful punishments of the life to come, as if the whole verse meant: they shall be miserable in this life, and shall undergo the first death, who refuse to believe in Christ; “whosoever shall fall … shall be broken;” and they shall be more miserable still in the life to come, where “this stone shall fall” upon them, “and grind them to powder,” when Christ shall condemn them to the second and everlasting death (Apoc. 2:20; 6:14, &c.; 21:8).

45. From our Redeemer’s significant manner and gestures, as also from the Scriptural quotations, they understood Him to speak of themselves.

46. Far, however, from being seized with holy fear, and falling down and adoring Jesus Christ, as they should have done, they were blinded with malice, and planned His destruction, which they accomplished three days after.

The preceding parable, although directly addressed to the Jews, whose ingratitude to God had provoked the most signal chastisements, temporal and eternal, is still pregnant with instruction for all Christians, who have reason to apprehend like punishment, should they also be guilty of like crimes, by proving unfaithful to grace, and by not rendering the fruits of justice and sanctity in due time. This dreadful judgment has, in fact, unhappily, been executed on entire kingdoms, who have lost the faith. And the same has happened, and happens every day, to private individuals, who, in punishment of their obstinacy and neglect of God’s grace, are left to themselves, and delivered over to a reprobate sense. God frequently sent the Jewish people His holy Prophets to instruct them; His heavenly lights and inspirations to point out their duty, and stimulate them to perform it. These they repeatedly spurned, which ended in their trampling under foot the Son of God, and crucifying Him. Christians act a similar part, when they commit mortal sin, and offer an affront to the Spirit of Grace. The grace which is denied these haughty, ungrateful souls, is bestowed on the meek and humble of heart.

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