vv 21:23 ελθοντος (ερχομαι) gen. aor. part. "[Jesus] entered" – a genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause; "when he entered….
διδασκοντι (διδασκω) pres. part. "while teaching" - the participle serves to also form a temporal clause, those some take it as causal, "because he was teaching."
οι αρχιερεις (υς εως) "the chief priests" – i.e. priestly aristocracy who led the temple services and were members of the Sanhedrin.
οι πρεσβυτεροι (ος) "the elders" – non-members of the Sanhedrin.
του λαου (ος) gen. "of the people" - adjectival.
λεγοντες (λεγω) "saying”. attendant circumstance participle; "came and said."
εν + dat. "by [what authority]" - instrumental, expressing means, idiomatically, “what right have you to teach/speak as you are?"
ταυτα pro. "these things" - referring to the miracles, his activity in the temple, or possibly his teachings.
εδωκεν (διδωμι) aor. "gave" likely not a genuine question, but rather serves as a form of entrapment, which explains why Jesus plays with their question rather than answering it.
v24 In return, Jesus asks his own question, δε but - here slightly adversative.
αποκριθεις (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. part. - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb, so "answered and said."
καγω "I" – an emphatic, ερωτησω (ερωταω) fut. "will [also] ask" (Jesus can ask hard questions too.)
v25 Ιωαννου (ης ου) το βαπτισμα gen. "John's baptism" - immersion (either literally in water, or figuratively in a pressure-cooker situation). Here, Jesus possibly has in mind the totality of John's ministry rather than just his practice of baptism.
ποθεν "where [did it come from]?" - a question of authority, i.e. "Who gave John the right to baptize?"
διελογιζοντο (διαλογιζομαι) imperf. "[they] discussed it" - the imperfect possibly indicating the discussion went on a bit, ie. It was a durative action (- the Greek is a construct that identifies the beginning of a discussion that is bound to go on; so some translate "they began to argue with each other".
εαν + subj. "if" - a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true.
v26 δε "but" – “if – but” a classic Law dichotomoy.
φοβουμεθα (φοβεω) pres. pas. "we fear” - political expediency is not new to the 21st century. The religious authorities lined up with Herod and Pilate. "We can't say John acted on his own authority. The people are convinced that he is a prophet and they might turn on us."25
γαρ "for" - a causal clause explaining why they are afraid.
παντες adj. "they all" - everyone. We have heard such absolutes uttered in tense church debates before. (Everyone/no one________(fill in the blank).
εχουσιν (εχω) pres. "hold" - in the sense of regard “John as a prophet",
v27 αποκριθεντες (αποκρινομαι) aor. pas. pat. "so they answered" – i.e. they held a meeting, took a vote, and at least two thirds of them decided the best theological way forward. It could also be rendered, :they said” but what fun is there in that? Especially anticlimactic when you consider the set up over the length of the discussion inferred in vs 25
οιδαμεν (οιδα) perf. "we don't know" – “literally, we cannot ‘see’ the answer. The authorities considered John slightly unhinged, but were too afraid to say it publically. Jesus demonstrates that they really had no authority to ask the question since they had failed to address the scriptures that pointed to John, that is they did not do their homework, so the result of their discussion was underserving of his attention.
v28 The parable of the two sons, v28-30. Unlike kingdom parables, teaching parables serve to illustrate a truth. The parable of the two sons illustrates the difference between saying and doing. The Pharisees had a real problem in this department; claiming to be righteous, but neglecting the weightier matters of the law. So Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven", 7:21
Τι δε υμιν δοκει "what do you think?" - what seems ‘right’ to you? We would say "let me run this by you." This construction is peculiar to Matthew. As a typical teaching parable once upon a time would better set the tone; "”Let me tell you a story about a man who had two sons…" This is a sermon illustration!
προσελθων (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "he went" - attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb.
τω πρωτω dat. adj. "the first" - dative of direct object after the verb προσ prefix verb "to come to." So probably a comparative i.e. , "senior", "older", "the elder".
v29 ου θελω "I will not" - emphatic, "no, I will not !
υστερον adv. "later" μεταμεληθεις (μεταμελομαι) aor. pas. part. "he changed his mind" – which of course infers he had a mind worth changing, the implication is that the Pharisees for all their learning, do not. Possibly ‘he regretted’ what he had said."
v30 προσελθων (προσερχομαι) aor. part. "then [the father] went " - a temporal clause. "The father" added for meaning to "he went". "Approached", Phillips.
τω ετερω dat. pro. "the other [son-" - the different son! Pronoun serves as a substantive, so the ‘second/younger’ son.
ωσαυτως adv. "the same thing" - likewise.
εγω "I will" - "emphatic”, I got your back.
και "and/but [he did not go]" - the literal "and went not" indicates that an adversative sense works best for the modern ear.
v31 των δυο adj. "of the two" του πατρος (ηρ ος) gen. "[did the will of] his father.
αμη λεγω υμιν "I tell you the truth" – normally found in John, this is a Semitisms, it can be translated, “believe me when I say to you” οτι - that…
οι τελωναι και αι πορναι " tax collectors and prostitutes" - the two groups excluded on moral grounds from the Kingdom.
προαγουσιν (προαγω) pres. "are entering [the kingdom of God] ahead of you" – Some think this reads “those who never accepted God's authority over them are now accepting it in Jesus and are entering the kingdom while those who reject it in Jesus will find themselves outside the kingdom.” However, “entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" is about priority, not entering. They will go first fits with the theme of the parable told before about the workers in the vineyard. All get their pay but the pecking order gets turned upside down. Any use of ‘intellect’ to derive ‘authority’ is rejected. Jesus believes in realized (revelatory) truth as well as ’received” or taught truth- not either/or but both/and.
v32 δικαιοσυνης (h) gen. "of righteousness" – forensic use, what the Law deems right, an attributive, limiting "way"; do "the righteous way." The word "righteousness" is theologically charged as well and fosters numerous meanings. But Matthew often uses the word to mean doing what is right according to the Father's will (i.e. forensic, legal right) and sometimes possessing a righteousness of which God is the source. But always true "righteousness" is beyond our ability.
αυτω "[you did not believe] him" – i.e. John, direct object after the verb πιστευω, "to believe in/to trust."
ιδοντες (οραω) aor. part. "even [after] you saw" adverbial, best taken as concessive, "although/even though".
εστερον adv. "after" – so although you saw the witness of outcasts responding to the kingdom, ουδε μετεμεληθητε (μετομελομαι) aor. pas. "you did not change your minds" – not μετανοια (repent = change your ways). This word often takes the sense "be sorry" extending to "change your mind". The stronger religious sense "repent" may be inferred but is NOT overt.
του πιστευσαι (πιστευω) aor. inf. "and believe/trust [him]" This construction, (genitive articular infinitive) usually forms a purpose clause in Matthew, "in order that". Following this line some scholars translates this clause "did not repent afterward, so as to believe in him." At any rate, as is typical of the gospels there is an interlocking of repentance and faith as a valid response to the gospel - a ‘turning around’ of thought and action and a relying upon Christ.