by Paul George
We have here the parable of the guests invited to a wedding-feast. The parable of the vineyard represents the sin of the rulers that persecuted the prophets; it shows also the sin of the people, who generally neglected the message, while their rulers persecuted the messengers. The wedding-feast represents the rejection of the son. This is the last confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish authorities until His arrest in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56). The recipients of the parable are “the multitudes” of 21:46. The Jews generally associated the concept of the wedding feast with the future reign of the Messiah; the messianic reign is compared to a feast or banquet.
The time had come for the wedding celebration to begin. Therefore, it is also time for the people who had been invited to come: “And he sent his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding celebration” (22:3a). In accordance with Jewish marriage customs of the day, the king sends “his servants” to contact those who had previously been invited and to advise them to come to the wedding celebration. Typically, at some time prior to the banquet, invitations were sent. Then, when the time for the celebration of the marriage arrived, the servants were sent to advise that everything was ready and it was time to come. The previous unrecorded invitation represents the general call by God to the messianic banquet made through the Old Testament prophets. John the Baptist, the 12 apostles, and other early pre-Pentecost witnesses, best interprets the recorded call to the wedding-feast for Christ, in the coming kingdom.
Those initially invited reject the offer: “they did not wish to come” (22:3b). They were expected to attend the royal function but refused to do so. To decline an invitation by a commoner without a legitimate excuse would be insulting. However, to do this to a monarch would be even more so. This refusal to attend the wedding-feast sets the stage for the second call to the wedding-feast.
“Again he sent other servants and “Say to those who have been invited, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner my oxen and fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding-feast’” (v. 4). The message is more specific than before, possibly to provide added incentive for them to come. The first part of the message concerns the nature of the wedding banquet. This meal is now ready and waiting. The king has already prepared everything in advance, anticipating the acceptance of his invitation to the banquet. The invitation ends with a final plea: “Come to the wedding-feast.” The king earnestly desires the presence of the people he had invited to the wedding celebration. He has expended much effort in preparing the feast and has overlooked their first rejection. The second group of servants represents the post-Pentecost missionaries for Christ. Through these, God continued to offer to Israel a place at the wedding celebration for His Son. The parable now turns to the second response of those invited to the wedding-feast.
Those invited a second time respond in two ways. Some are apathetic; some are openly antagonistic. The rejection of the first group of people is found in v 5: “But, paying no attention, they went away, the one to his own field, the other to his business.” The attitude of these people is one of indifference. They leave the servants and return to their own affairs. The first rejection was very insulting to the king since the invitation to a royal function is both an honor and a command. To do this on the grounds of routine business commitments is even more insulting.
A second group of invitees responds with open rebellion and violence: “But the others, after seizing his servants, mistreated and killed them” (Matthew 22:6). The word “mistreated” denotes mistreatment that is of a violent nature and may involve both verbal and physical abuse. This abuse went one-step further, because they also killed the servants. The violence of the people against the servants is representative of the persecution and martyrdom of the post-resurrection apostles and Christian witnesses by the Jews, most particularly by the religious authorities who are here “the others.”
The second refusal of the king’s graciousness now sets the stage for the second response of the king.
The king, who had previously responded graciously, now responds in wrath: “But the king was enraged and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire” (v. 7). This verse seems to be a clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.
The king has now issued two invitations to those he had invited to the wedding-feast for his son and has twice been refused. The second refusal brought to some a harsh judgment by the king. The verses as a whole depict the sad history of the nation of Israel. God, through His servants, repeatedly offered the people an invitation to attend the wedding-feast for His Son, the Messiah. Their persistent refusal culminated in the Romans destroying Jerusalem.
Now the king sends out his servants with new instructions. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is ready, but those who had been invited were not worthy. Go, therefore, to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding-feast’” (Matthew 22:8-9). The third invitation represents the extension of the invitation to the wedding-feast to all people, including the Gentiles.
The obedience and success of the servants is reflected in verse 10, “Those servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.” The servants obeyed their king and went out and amassed a new collection of people to attend the banquet. Although the text does not explicitly state that an invitation was issued, it must be inferred that one was given and that these people responded affirmatively.
The people described as “evil and good” signifies the varying moral states of those who accepted the invitation to the banquet. The servants did not discriminate as to whom they invited. All who were willing to come were welcome. The desire of the king to have many people in attendance at the wedding-feast for his son is finally realized.
The scene now shifts to the banquet itself (v 11): “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes” The wedding-fest is now in progress and the king enters the palace to observe the guests. He immediately notices a man dressed unsuitably for a wedding. It was customary for each person who would attend such an affair to clothe himself appropriately before going. The man obviously did not prepare himself in a fitting way for a royal banquet. This man was not naked, or in rags but he did not put on the wedding garment. The king did not rebuke his servants for letting this man into the wedding feast. The king rebukes the man for coming into the wedding feast inappropriately dressed.
When the king questioned the man, he was speechless, being convicted and condemned by his own conscience. They who live within the church, and die without Christ, will not have one word to say for themselves in the judgment of the great day, they will be without excuse. Those who never heard a word of this wedding feast will have more to say for themselves; their sin will be more excusable, and their condemnation more tolerable, than those who came to the feast without the wedding garment.
The king orders his servants to bind the man hand and foot and cast him into “that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 13). When the wickedness of hypocrites appears, they are to be taken away from the communion of the faithful, to be cut of as withered branches, taken away from the king, from the kingdom, from the wedding feast. Those that walk unworthy of their calling, forfeit all the happiness they presumptuously laid claim to.
Jesus ends the parable with the statement, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14). If you consider all those that make light of the invitation to the wedding-feast, prefer other things before it. If you consider all that make a profession of religion, but their lives are a constant contradiction to it. If you consider all the profane, and hypocritical, you will find that there are few, very few, that are chosen.
Prior to Matthew 22:15, those who opposed Jesus had been mostly the chief priests and the elders. Jesus will now face opposition from another quarter the Pharisees. They will try to trap Jesus using the interpretation of the law. This has been an old practice of Satan and his agents; it began in the Garden of Eden.
The Pharisees send their disciples and the Herodians to Jesus with a question they believe the Romans will accept as a conspiracy against Rome. The Herodians were the pacifist of the first century. They advocated a peace at any price and the appeasement of Rome. Some historians believe the Herodians were the collectors of the land tax, as the publicans were of the customs. In this plot against Jesus, we have two opposing parities joining in a common cause, the destruction of Jesus. The Herodians demanded the tax, and the Pharisees denied it. Herod being obliged, by the charter of the sovereignty, to take care of the tribute, these Herodians, by assisting him in that, helped to endear him to his great friends at Rome. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were zealous for the liberty of the Jews, and did what they could to resist the Roman yoke. Now, if Jesus agrees with the Herodians the Pharisees cam use this to prove Jesus does not have the interest of the people in what He does and teaches. If Jesus agrees with the Pharisees, the Herodians can convince Jesus is an enemy of Rome.
Listen to how the enemy lays the groundwork in the plot to trap Jesus into saying something to discredit Himself (Matthew 22:16). If they had come to Jesus with a serious enquiry, and the most sincere intention, they could not have expressed themselves better. What they said to Jesus was right, even if they did not believe it. Jesus is a faithful Teacher, He the Truth itself. As for His doctrine, the matter of his teaching was the way of God, the way that God requires us to walk in, the way of duty that leads to happiness. The manner of it was in truth; He showed people the right way, they way in which they should go. He was a skilful Teacher, and knew the way of God. He is a faithful Teacher that would be sure to let us know it what is the right way and the way we should go.
This is the character of a good teacher, to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and not to suppress, pervert, or stretch, any truth, for favor or affection, hatred or good will, either out of a desire to please, or a fear to offend, any man.
Jesus, in preaching, He did not seek the approval of man, He did not dread the most powerful of His enemies. He did not turn from the truth to please man nor from his work, for fear of the most formidable and He showed partiality.
Even though what the enemy’s agent said was true, yet there was nothing but flattery and treachery in the intention of it. They called Jesus, Master, when they were contriving to treat Him as the worst of criminals. They pretended respect for Him, yet their hearts were filled with hatred. They showed their hatred and disrespect when they questioned His wisdom, His omniscience as God, of which he had so often given undeniable proofs, when they imagined that He could not see through them and their pretense.
The question, “Tell us then what do you think?” (v. 17a). In other words, we knew what our religious and political leaders and the common man has answered the question, “Is it lawful to give a poll tax to Caesar, or not?” (v. 17b), but you are a truthful Teacher and teach the way of God and fear no man, what do you believe? This question implies two question they enemy’s agents did not ask, “Does Caesar have the right to impose a tax upon the people, is it lawful to pay the tax? However, by this question they hoped to entangle Jesus and expose Him to the fury either of the jealous Jews, or of the jealous Romans.
Jesus’ question, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites” does not imply Jesus did not know the purpose of the questions they enemy’s agents asked Him. Our Lord Jesus knew why they asked Him the questions they asked. He saw all the wickedness in the hearts of these pretenders. He was letting them know they could not sway Him with their flatteries and pretenses He that searches the heart can call hypocrites by their own name. Those that presume to tempt Jesus will certainly find He knows what is hidden in the deepest recesses of the heart. He sees the hate and wickedness of hypocrites that use flattery and pretense to hide their true motives.
In verses 19 and 20 Jesus forced the pretenders to confess the authority of Caesar over them. In dealing with those that look for and point out faults and defects in others, it is good to give our reasons, and, if possible, our point of view, we give our conclusions. This can catch those who are looking for and pointing out faults and defects in others off guard because they were prepared to oppose the truth and not against the reason of it. Jesus told those who were testing Him, “Show Me the coin used for the poll tax (v. 19). They gave Jesus a denarius and Jesus asked them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (v. 20). They said “Caesar” v. 21). Jesus told them to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21).
Christianity is no enemy to civil government, but a friend to it. However, the same cannot be said of civil government. Christ’s kingdom does not clash or interfere with the kingdoms of the earth. The kingdoms of the earth clash with Christ’s kingdom. It is the duty of subjects to render to the civil government that which, according to the laws of their country, is their due. The civil government being entrusted with the public welfare, the protection of the subject, and the conservation of the peace, are entitled to a just proportion of the public wealth (Romans 13:6).When we render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s we must remember to render to God the things that are God’s, out of our time and resources. However, if Caesar’s commands interfere with God’s we must obey God rather than man.
In Matthew 22:23-33, we have the question concerning the resurrection.
The Sadducees were the fewest in number of all the sects among the Jews, but generally persons of some rank. They maintained, that, except God, there is not spirit (Acts 23:8), nothing but matter and motion. They would not own the divine inspiration of the prophets, nor any revelation from heaven, but what God himself spoke upon Mount Sinai. Now the doctrine of Christ carried that great truth of the resurrection and a future state much further than it had yet been revealed, and therefore the Sadducees in a particular manner set themselves against it. The Pharisees and Sadducees were contrary to each other, and yet joined in the plot to destroy Jesus.
The Sadducees open the question concerning the resurrection quoting Deuteronomy 25:5 (v. 24). The purpose of the law was to preserve the distinction of families and inheritances. The question involves seven brothers and their obedience of the law. The woman also dies. The question, if there is a resurrection, which of the seven would be her husband, the first or the last brother.
Jesus told the Sadducees their problem was they did not understand the Scriptures that affirm that there shall be a resurrection and a future state. The scriptures speak plainly, that the soul is immortal, and that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Job knew there would be a resurrection (Job 19:26). Those who deny the resurrection of the just and unjust do not understand what is written in the Scriptures or do not believe them, or do not take the true sense and meaning of them.
Jesus corrects the Sadducees error in verso 30. When the resurrection occurs, we will not live in the state we are now in upon earth. In our present state marriage is necessary; it was instituted in innocency; whatever intermission or neglect there has been of other institutions, this was never laid aside, nor will be until the end of time. All civilized nations understand the marriage covenant; and it is requisite for the gratifying of the desires, and recruiting the deficiencies, of the human nature. However, the resurrection, there is no occasion for marriage. In the glorified bodies, there will not be any distinction of sexes and there will be in it no carnal desires to be gratified. When the mystical body is completed, there will be no further occasion to seek a godly seed, which was one purpose of the institution of marriage Malachi (2:15).
In heaven, we will live in the same state the angels live in. Man in his creation was made a little lower than angels (Psalm 8:5) but in his complete redemption he will be as the angels; pure and spiritual, knowing and loving as the angels, ever praising God like them and with them. Our bodies will be incorruptible and glorious. We should therefore desire and endeavor to do the will of God now as the angels do it in heaven, because we hope we will soon be like the angels who always behold our Father’s face. Jesus said nothing of the state of the wicked in the resurrection; but, by consequence, they shall be like the demons, whose will they have done.
Jesus’ argument to confirm this great truth of the resurrection and a future state backed the truth with a solid argument. In verse 31 Jesus asked the Sadducees, “have you not read what was spoken to you by God?” What the scripture speaks God speaks. What God spoke to Moses was spoken to us; it was spoken and written for our benefit. This is why we should read and hear what God hath spoken, because it is spoken to us. It was spoken to the Jews in the first place, because to them were committed the oracles of God.
The question answered, the Sadducees silenced (v. 34), the people amazed and astonished by the teachings of Jesus (v. 33) one of the Pharisee, a lawyer asked Jesus, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” (v. 36). The testing of Jesus has not been laid to rest. The lawyers were students in, and teachers of, the Law of Moses, as the scribes were; but some think that they differed, because they dealt more in practical questions than the scribes did. The purpose of the question was to test Jesus’ knowledge of the law.
The question “What is great commandment of the law” (v. 36) was one greatly debated by the scribes and lawyers. Some claimed the law of circumcision was the great commandment. Others said, the law of the Sabbath was the great commandment, others the law of sacrifices. Which these commandment (vv. 37-39), could be consider the greatest?
All the law is fulfilled in one word, and that is “love” (Romans 13:10).All obedience begins in the affections, and nothing in religion is done right, that is not done there first. Love is the leading affection, which gives law, and gives ground, to the rest; and therefore love is the foundation of the law. Man is a creature created for love; therefore, the law written in the heart is the law of love.
The love of God is the first and great commandment of all, and the summary of all the commands of the first table God wrote the Ten Commandments on. God, being infinitely good and eternally, is to be loved in the first place, and nothing loved beside Him. We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. Our love of God must be a sincere love, and not in word only, it must be a strong love. We must love Him more than any thing else. All our love is too little to bestow upon Him, therefore all the powers of the soul must be involved.
The second great command, love our neighbor as we love ourselves (v. 39), this implies we should do nothing to our neighbor we do not want our neighbor to do to us. When Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love our self He was not referring to a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins. A love we must mortify. We must love ourselves, that is, we must have a due regard to the dignity of our own natures, and a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies.
The love of love is the sum and substance of all those precepts written in men’s hearts by nature, revived by Moses, and backed and enforced by the preaching and writing of the prophets. All hang upon the law of love; take away this, and all falls to the ground, and comes to nothing. Rituals and ceremonials must give way to these, as must all spiritual gifts, for love is the excellent way.
The many questions the Pharisees asked Jesus were intended to discredit Him, but now let him ask them a question; and he will do it when they are gathered together (v. 41). He did not take some of them apart from the rest to shame them. He questioned them when they were all together, when they were consulting against Him. In verse 42, Jesus asked the Pharisees a question that they could easily answer. They asked Jesus questions about the law, but He asks a question about the promise. There are many who are so concerned about keeping the law they forget Christ, as if their duties would save them without His merit and grace. It concerns each of us seriously to ask ourselves, what think we of Christ? Some seldom think about Him, He is not in all, not in any, of their thoughts.
When the Pharisees answered Jesus’ question (v. 42) Jesus asked two questions in response to the Pharisees answer (vv 43-45). The Pharisees were probably proud of the knowledge they possessed that enabled them to answer Jesus’ question. However, when they are called to confirm the truth, and to vindicate and defend it, they reveal their lack of knowledge concerning what is written in the Scriptures. Jesus’ purpose in asking the questions He asked the Pharisees was not to entrap as they were trying to do to Jesus. Jesus’ purpose was to instruct them in a truth they were rejecting the expected Messiah is God.
The question, if the Christ, the Messiah is the son of David, why does David call Him Lord? The Holy Spirit inspired David to write verse 1 of Psalm 110, which the scribes understood to be a reference to the Messiah. Psalm 110 verse 1 is a prophetical summary of the doctrine of Christ; it describes him executing the offices of a Prophet, Priest, and King, both in his humiliation and in his exaltation.
It is not easy for those who do not believe in the Godhead of the Messiah, to see Psalm 110 verse 1 as a reference to the Messiah. It is difficult to explain why the father, David the king, would call his Son Lord. There can be only one reason why David would call his son Lord, he was not referring to the one who would replace him on the throne after his death, he was referring to one who come from the lineage of the house of David and one day take His place on David’s throne.
No man was able to answer Jesus’ questions or from that day on ask Jesus another question (v. 46).
In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus turns His attention toward the crowds and His disciples.