Matthew 21 (The Message)

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1 When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples 2 with these instructions: "Go over to the village across from you. You'll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you're doing, say, 'The Master needs them!' He will send them with you." 4 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet: 5 Tell Zion's daughter, "Look, your king's on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal." 6 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. 7 They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. 8 Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. 9 Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, "Hosanna to David's son!" "Blessed is he who comes in God's name!" "Hosanna in highest heaven!" 10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, "What's going on here? Who is this?" 11 The parade crowd answered, "This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee." 12 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. 13 He quoted this text: My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves. 14 Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them. 15 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, "Hosanna to David's Son!" they were up in arms and took him to task. 16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" Jesus said, "Yes, I hear them. And haven't you read in God's Word, 'From the mouths of children and babies I'll furnish a place of praise'?" 17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night. 18 Early the next morning Jesus was returning to the city. He was hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree alongside the road, he approached it anticipating a breakfast of figs. When he got to the tree, there was nothing but fig leaves. He said, "No more figs from this tree - ever!" The fig tree withered on the spot, a dry stick. 20 The disciples saw it happen. They rubbed their eyes, saying, "Did we really see this? A leafy tree one minute, a dry stick the next?" 21 But Jesus was matter-of-fact: "Yes - and if you embrace this kingdom life and don't doubt God, you'll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles. This mountain, for instance, you'll tell, 'Go jump in the lake,' and it will jump. 22 Absolutely everything, ranging from small to large, as you make it a part of your believing prayer, gets included as you lay hold of God." 23 Then he was back in the Temple, teaching. The high priests and leaders of the people came up and demanded, "Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to teach here?" 24 Jesus responded, "First let me ask you a question. You answer my question and I'll answer yours. 25 About the baptism of John - who authorized it: heaven or humans?" 26 if we say 'humans,' we're up against it with the people because they all hold John up as a prophet." 27 They decided to concede that round to Jesus. "We don't know," they answered. Jesus said, "Then neither will I answer your question. 28 "Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, 'Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.' 29 "The son answered, 'I don't want to.' Later on he thought better of it and went. 30 "The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, 'Sure, glad to.' But he never went. 31 "Which of the two sons did what the father asked?" They said, "The first." 32 John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn't care enough to change and believe him. 33 "Here's another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip. 34 When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits. 35 "The farmhands grabbed the first servant and beat him up. The next one they murdered. They threw stones at the third but he got away. 36 The owner tried again, sending more servants. They got the same treatment. 37 The owner was at the end of his rope. He decided to send his son. 'Surely,' he thought, 'they will respect my son.' 38 "But when the farmhands saw the son arrive, they rubbed their hands in greed. 'This is the heir! Let's kill him and have it all for ourselves.' 39 They grabbed him, threw him out, and killed him. 40 "Now, when the owner of the vineyard arrives home from his trip, what do you think he will do to the farmhands?" 41 "He'll kill them - a rotten bunch, and good riddance," they answered. "Then he'll assign the vineyard to farmhands who will hand over the profits when it's time." 42 Jesus said, "Right - and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles: The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone. This is God's work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it! 43 "This is the way it is with you. God's kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. 44 Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed." 45 When the religious leaders heard this story, they knew it was aimed at them. 46 They wanted to arrest Jesus and put him in jail, but, intimidated by public opinion, they held back. Most people held him to be a prophet of God.
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