Matthew 21-24 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
21 When Jesus and his disciples came near Jerusalem, he went to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives and sent two of them on ahead. 2 He told them, “Go into the next village, where you will at once find a donkey and her colt. Untie the two donkeys and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks why you are doing that, just say, ‘The Lord[a] needs them.’ Right away he will let you have the donkeys.”
4 So God’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said,
5 “Announce to the people
6 The disciples left and did what Jesus had told them to do. 7 They brought the donkey and its colt and laid some clothes on their backs. Then Jesus got on.
8 Many people spread clothes in the road, while others put down branches[b] which they had cut from trees. 9 Some people walked ahead of Jesus and others followed behind. They were all shouting,
10 When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, “Who can this be?”
11 The crowd answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Jesus in the Temple
12 Jesus went into the temple and chased out everyone who was selling or buying. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of the ones who were selling doves. 13 He told them, “The Scriptures say, ‘My house should be called a place of worship.’ But you have turned it into a place where robbers hide.”
14 Blind and lame people came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses were angry when they saw his miracles and heard the children shouting praises to the Son of David. [e] 16 The men said to Jesus, “Don’t you hear what those children are saying?”
“Yes, I do!” Jesus answered. “Don’t you know that the Scriptures say, ‘Children and infants will sing praises’?” 17 Then Jesus left the city and went out to the village of Bethany, where he spent the night.
Jesus Puts a Curse on a Fig Tree
18 When Jesus got up the next morning, he was hungry. He started out for the city, 19 and along the way he saw a fig tree. But when he came to it, he found only leaves and no figs. So he told the tree, “You will never again grow any fruit!” Right then the fig tree dried up.
20 The disciples were shocked when they saw how quickly the tree had dried up. 21 But Jesus said to them, “If you have faith and don’t doubt, I promise that you can do what I did to this tree. And you will be able to do even more. You can tell this mountain to get up and jump into the sea, and it will. 22 If you have faith when you pray, you will be given whatever you ask for.”
A Question about Jesus' Authority
23 Jesus had gone into the temple and was teaching when the chief priests and the leaders of the people came up to him. They asked, “What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus answered, “I have just one question to ask you. If you answer it, I will tell you where I got the right to do these things. 25 Who gave John the right to baptize? Was it God in heaven or merely some human being?”
They thought it over and said to each other, “We can’t say that God gave John this right. Jesus will ask us why we didn’t believe John. 26 On the other hand, these people think that John was a prophet, and we are afraid of what they might do to us. That’s why we can’t say that it was merely some human who gave John the right to baptize.” 27 So they told Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Then I won’t tell you who gave me the right to do what I do.”
A Story about Two Sons
28 Jesus said:
I will tell you a story about a man who had two sons. Then you can tell me what you think. The father went to the older son and said, “Go work in the vineyard today!” 29 His son told him that he would not do it, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The man then told his younger son to go work in the vineyard. The boy said he would, but he didn’t go. 31 Which one of the sons obeyed his father?
“The older one,” the chief priests and leaders answered.
Then Jesus told them:
You can be sure that tax collectors[f] and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you ever will! 32 When John the Baptist showed you how to do right, you would not believe him. But these evil people did believe. And even when you saw what they did, you still would not change your minds and believe.
Renters of a Vineyard
33 Jesus told the chief priests and leaders to listen to this story:
A land owner once planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it and dug a pit to crush the grapes in. He also built a lookout tower. Then he rented out his vineyard and left the country.
34 When it was harvest time, the owner sent some servants to get his share of the grapes. 35 But the renters grabbed those servants. They beat up one, killed one, and stoned one of them to death. 36 He then sent more servants than he did the first time. But the renters treated them in the same way.
37 Finally, the owner sent his own son to the renters, because he thought they would respect him. 38 But when they saw the man’s son, they said, “Someday he will own the vineyard. Let’s kill him! Then we can have it all for ourselves.” 39 So they grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40 Jesus asked, “When the owner of that vineyard comes, what do you suppose he will do to those renters?”
41 The chief priests and leaders answered, “He will kill them in some horrible way. Then he will rent out his vineyard to people who will give him his share of grapes at harvest time.”
42 Jesus replied, “You surely know that the Scriptures say,
‘The stone that the builders
43 I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken from you and given to people who will do what he demands. 44 Anyone who stumbles over this stone will be crushed, and anyone it falls on will be smashed to pieces.”[g]
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these stories, they knew that Jesus was talking about them. 46 So they looked for a way to arrest Jesus. But they were afraid to, because the people thought he was a prophet.
The Great Banquet
22 Once again Jesus used stories to teach the people:
2 The kingdom of heaven is like what happened when a king gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 The king sent some servants to tell the invited guests to come to the banquet, but the guests refused. 4 He sent other servants to say to the guests, “The banquet is ready! My cattle and prize calves have all been prepared. Everything is ready. Come to the banquet!”
5 But the guests did not pay any attention. Some of them left for their farms, and some went to their places of business. 6 Others grabbed the servants, then beat them up and killed them.
7 This made the king so furious that he sent an army to kill those murderers and burn down their city. 8 Then he said to the servants, “It is time for the wedding banquet, and the invited guests don’t deserve to come. 9 Go out to the street corners and tell everyone you meet to come to the banquet.” 10 They went out on the streets and brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike. And the banquet room was filled with guests.
11 When the king went in to meet the guests, he found that one of them wasn’t wearing the right kind of clothes for the wedding. 12 The king asked, “Friend, why didn’t you wear proper clothes for the wedding?” But the guest had no excuse. 13 So the king gave orders for that person to be tied hand and foot and to be thrown outside into the dark. That’s where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. 14 Many are invited, but only a few are chosen.
15 The Pharisees got together and planned how they could trick Jesus into saying something wrong. 16 They sent some of their followers and some of Herod’s followers[h] to say to him, “Teacher, we know that you are honest. You teach the truth about what God wants people to do. And you treat everyone with the same respect, no matter who they are. 17 Tell us what you think! Should we pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”
18 Jesus knew their evil thoughts and said, “Why are you trying to test me? You show-offs! 19 Let me see one of the coins used for paying taxes.” They brought him a silver coin, 20 and he asked, “Whose picture and name are on it?”
21 “The Emperor’s,” they answered.
Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.” 22 His answer surprised them so much that they walked away.
Life in the Future World
23 The Sadducees did not believe that people would rise to life after death. So that same day some of the Sadducees came to Jesus and said:
24 Teacher, Moses wrote that if a married man dies and has no children, his brother should marry the widow. Their first son would then be thought of as the son of the dead brother.
25 Once there were seven brothers who lived here. The first one married, but died without having any children. So his wife was left to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brothers and finally to all seven of them. 27 At last the woman died. 28 When God raises people from death, whose wife will this woman be? She had been married to all seven brothers.
29 Jesus answered:
You are completely wrong! You don’t know what the Scriptures teach. And you don’t know anything about the power of God. 30 When God raises people to life, they won’t marry. They will be like the angels in heaven. 31 And as for people being raised to life, God was speaking to you when he said, 32 “I am the God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”[i] He isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 The crowds were surprised to hear what Jesus was teaching.
The Most Important Commandment
34 After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. 35 One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, 36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets[j] are based on these two commandments.
About David’s Son
41 While the Pharisees were still there, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose family will he come from?”
They answered, “He will be a son of King David.”[k]
43 Jesus replied, “How then could the Spirit lead David to call the Messiah his Lord? David said,
44 ’The Lord said to my Lord:
45 If David called the Messiah his Lord, how can the Messiah be a son of King David?” 46 No one was able to give Jesus an answer, and from that day on, no one dared ask him any more questions.
Jesus Condemns the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law of Moses
23 Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
2 The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. 3 So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.
4 They pile heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and won’t lift a finger to help. 5 Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. They even make a big show of wearing Scripture verses on their foreheads and arms, and they wear big tassels[m] for everyone to see. 6 They love the best seats at banquets and the front seats in the meeting places. 7 And when they are in the market, they like to have people greet them as their teachers.
8 But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters. 9 Don’t call anyone on earth your father. All of you have the same Father in heaven. 10 None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. 11 Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. 12 If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.
13-14 You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won’t go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in.[n]
15 You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You travel over land and sea to win one follower. And when you have done so, you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are.
16 You are in for trouble! You are supposed to lead others, but you are blind. You teach that it doesn’t matter if a person swears by the temple. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gold in the temple. 17 You blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?
18 You also teach that it doesn’t matter if a person swears by the altar. But you say that it does matter if someone swears by the gift on the altar. 19 Are you blind? Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Anyone who swears by the altar also swears by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple also swears by God, who lives there. 22 To swear by heaven is the same as swearing by God’s throne and by the one who sits on that throne.
23 You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either. 24 You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel.
25 You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes, while inside there is nothing but greed and selfishness. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of a cup, and then the outside will also be clean.
27 You Pharisees and teachers are in for trouble! You’re nothing but show-offs. You’re like tombs that have been whitewashed.[o] On the outside they are beautiful, but inside they are full of bones and filth. 28 That’s what you are like. Outside you look good, but inside you are evil and only pretend to be good.
29 You Pharisees and teachers are nothing but show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You build monuments for the prophets and decorate the tombs of good people. 30 And you claim that you would not have taken part with your ancestors in killing the prophets. 31 But you prove that you really are the relatives of the ones who killed the prophets. 32 So keep on doing everything they did. 33 You are nothing but snakes and the children of snakes! How can you escape going to hell?
34 I will send prophets and wise people and experts in the Law of Moses to you. But you will kill them or nail them to a cross or beat them in your meeting places or chase them from town to town. 35 That’s why you will be held guilty for the murder of every good person, beginning with the good man Abel. This also includes Barachiah’s son Zechariah,[p] the man you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I can promise that you people living today will be punished for all these things!
Jesus Loves Jerusalem
37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you. I have often wanted to gather your people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you wouldn’t let me. 38 And now your temple will be deserted. 39 You won’t see me again until you say,
“Blessed is the one who comes
The Temple Will Be Destroyed
24 After Jesus left the temple, his disciples came over and said, “Look at all these buildings!”
2 Jesus replied, “Do you see these buildings? They will certainly be torn down! Not one stone will be left in place.”
Warning about Trouble
3 Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him in private and asked, “When will this happen? What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?”
4 Jesus answered:
Don’t let anyone fool you. 5 Many will come and claim to be me. They will say that they are the Messiah, and they will fool many people.
6 You will soon hear about wars and threats of wars, but don’t be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn’t the end. 7 Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. People will starve to death, and in some places there will be earthquakes. 8 But this is just the beginning of troubles.
9 You will be arrested, punished, and even killed. Because of me, you will be hated by people of all nations. 10 Many will give up and will betray and hate each other. 11 Many false prophets will come and fool a lot of people. 12 Evil will spread and cause many people to stop loving others. 13 But if you keep on being faithful right to the end, you will be saved. 14 When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come.
The Horrible Thing
15 Someday you will see that “Horrible Thing” in the holy place, just as the prophet Daniel said. Everyone who reads this must try to understand! 16 If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains. 17 If you are on the roof[q] of your house, don’t go inside to get anything. 18 If you are out in the field, don’t go back for your coat. 19 It will be a terrible time for women who are expecting babies or nursing young children. 20 And pray that you won’t have to escape in winter or on a Sabbath.[r] 21 This will be the worst time of suffering since the beginning of the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again. 22 If God doesn’t make the time shorter, no one will be left alive. But because of God’s chosen ones, he will make the time shorter.
23 Someone may say, “Here is the Messiah!” or “There he is!” But don’t believe it. 24 False messiahs and false prophets will come and work great miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God’s chosen ones. 25 But I have warned you ahead of time. 26 If you are told that the Messiah is out in the desert, don’t go there! And if you are told that he is in some secret place, don’t believe it! 27 The coming of the Son of Man will be like lightning that can be seen from east to west. 28 Where there is a corpse, there will always be buzzards.[s]
When the Son of Man Appears
29 Right after those days of suffering,
“The sun will become dark,
30 Then a sign will appear in the sky. And there will be the Son of Man.[u] All nations on earth will weep when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 At the sound of a loud trumpet, he will send his angels to bring his chosen ones together from all over the earth.
A Lesson from a Fig Tree
32 Learn a lesson from a fig tree. When its branches sprout and start putting out leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time has almost come.[v] 34 I can promise you that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all this happens. 35 The sky and the earth won’t last forever, but my words will.
No One Knows the Day or Time
36 No one knows the day or hour. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know.[w] Only the Father knows. 37 When the Son of Man appears, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. 38 People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day that the flood came and Noah went into the big boat. 39 They didn’t know anything was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man appears.
40 Two men will be in the same field, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 41 Two women will be together grinding grain, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 42 So be on your guard! You don’t know when your Lord will come. 43 Homeowners never know when a thief is coming, and they are always on guard to keep one from breaking in. 44 Always be ready! You don’t know when the Son of Man will come.
Faithful and Unfaithful Servants
45 Who are faithful and wise servants? Who are the ones the master will put in charge of giving the other servants their food supplies at the proper time? 46 Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job. 47 You may be sure that a servant who is always faithful will be put in charge of everything the master owns. 48 But suppose one of the servants thinks that the master won’t return until late. 49 Suppose that evil servant starts beating the other servants and eats and drinks with people who are drunk. 50 If that happens, the master will surely come on a day and at a time when the servant least expects him. 51 That servant will then be punished and thrown out with the ones who only pretended to serve their master. There they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.
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