Mat 21 outline:
Mat 21:1-11, Jesus enters Jerusalem praised as Messiah, the Son of David
Mat 21:12-17, Jesus cleansed the temple of money changes + healed the blind and lame there
Mat 21:18-22, The fig tree withered that did not bear fruit
Mat 21:23-32, Chief priests + scribes question Jesus’ authority/ parable of the two sons
Mat 21:33-41, The parable of the wicked vinedressers
Mat 21:42-46, The stone the builders rejected the chief cornerstone
Mat 21 chiastic structure:
1a) Mat 21:1-17, Jesus received as Messiah and King + chief priests angered;
1a) Mat 21:1a, Jesus + His disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives;
1b) Mat 21:1b-11, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the Son of David to the hosannas of the multitude;
1c) Mat 21:12a, Jesus went into the temple of God / drove out all those who bought + sold in the temple;
1d) Mat 21:12b, He overturned the tables of the money changers + the seats of those who sold doves;
central axis) Mat 21:13a, He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer;’
2d) Mat 21:13b, But you have made it a ‘den of thieves;’
2c) Mat 21:14, Then the blind + the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them;
2b) Mat 21:15-16, Chief priests + scribes were indignant/ the children cried out Hosanna to the Son of David;
2a) Mat 21:17, Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.
1b) Mat 21:18-22, The fig tree withered that did not bear fruit;
1c) Mat 21:23-26; The chief priests confront Yeshua’s authority / They did not believe John;
1d) Mat 21:27, The chief priests do not answer Jesus’ question;
central axis) Mat 21:28-30, The parable of the father and his two sons;
2d) Mat 21:31a, The chief priests do answer Jesus’ question;
2c) Mat 21:31b-32, Tax collectors + harlots believed John/ the chief priests did not repent or believe him;
2b) Mat 21:33-41, The landowner who does not receive his fruit in its season;
2a) Mat 21:42-46, The cornerstone made chief that the builders rejected.
This structure reveals that the chief priests did not believe that John was from God (or authorized by God), even though he bore evidence that he was from God. Now John did not perform miraculous signs. He preached returning to the way of righteousness, and immersion in baptism (or mikvah in Hebrew) as the sign of the desire to be purified from sin – which is unrighteousness or Law- lessness.
So what does Jesus say is the evidence that John’s authority was from heaven and that he was sent from God? The tax collectors and harlots believed him and repented at his preaching. This, Jesus told the chief priests, was evidence that his authority was from God, and when the chief priests saw this evidence, they should have relented, and repented, and believed John also.
Now, the chief priests have the same problem with Jesus that they had with John. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were doing the will of the Father (central axis), but they were outside the church professional circle. (And the flip side is that the chief priests were apparently not doing the will of the Father, even though they were inside the church professional circle. That is not to say that all church professionals don’t walk the walk. But let the walk talk, not only the talk talk).
All the people held Jesus to be a prophet — however, they themselves did not — and they wanted to lay hands on him and lock Him up or worse, but refrained because they feared what the people would do to them if they did so.
The structure reveals, through the C pairs, that just as the chief priests did not believe John’s authority was from heaven, they did not believe Jesus’ authority — to receive the adoration of the people as Messiah, to cleanse the Temple or to heal the blind and lame in it, or to teach in it — was from heaven. Therefore, they confronted Him as He was teaching. They saw the evidence that His authority was from heaven (supernatural healing), at which they should have relented and believed, but they refused to believe.
You know, just because someone is a big name, or has made himself an authority in the church, or has a great church job, does not mean that they are doing the will of the Father, or returning to Him His fruit in its season. It does not even mean that they believe Jesus! May we as sheep ever be on our guard against following hirelings instead of the Good Shepherd of the sheep!