Matthew 21:46

ESV And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
NIV They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
NASB And although they sought to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, since they considered Him to be a prophet.
CSB Although they were looking for a way to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because the people regarded him as a prophet.
NLT They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.
KJV But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

What does Matthew 21:46 mean?

Jesus knew He would be rejected, condemned, and executed in the coming days (Matthew 17:22–23). For now, however, He was enormously popular among the people in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–11). A cowardly lust for power, even at the cost of truth, kept Jewish religious leaders from arresting Jesus immediately. Above all, the chief priests had become politicians. They could not afford to lose the support of the people. For the time being, the people believed Jesus to be a legitimate prophet from God. Some apparently believed Him to be the Messiah.

These beliefs would not last the week for most Israelites, but the chief priests and Pharisees knew that if they arrested Jesus now, they would be seen as standing against God's man. Ironically, this is exactly what they were doing.
What is the Gospel?
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