Matthew Chapter 22

Gospel of Matthewmatthew-24-35This is a not to miss chapter!  In today’s reading Jesus tells a powerful parable about a wedding feast.  It represents God’s invitation to all to go to heaven.  The problem is that we all make excuses.  God calls his servants (us as Christ followers) to help him invite people.  It’s why at The Ridge we are so big on using Invite Cards and door hangers because we are called by God to be inviting others.  Then Jesus fields questions about paying taxes, the Resurrection and then is asked which commandment is the greatest.  Jesus answer is gold as he summarizes the whole Old Testament into two commands!

JESUS TELLS THE PARABLE OF THE WEDDING FEAST / 22:1-14 

Jesus had already told two parables focusing on rejection of him as God’s Son and God’s resulting judgment. The parable of the two sons (21:28-32) showed how the rewards of the sons were switched according to their ultimate service rendered. The parable of the wicked tenants (21:33-46) explained that “other tenants” would be given the vineyard. The following parable of the wedding feast showed that those least expected, from “the highways,” would be invited to the feast.

22:1-3 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.”NRSV Jesus spoke in parables, but he made his subject clear—the kingdom of heaven. The scenes changed, but the theme remained consistent.

Jesus’ message was that God extends a gracious invitation to people to participate in his kingdom. Accepting the invitation leads to joy while rejection leads to punishment. When Jesus spoke of God’s kingdom, he spoke with authority. His stories convicted because he knew his audience. His parables have a universal character; they make the hearer or reader ask, “If this parable is about everyone, I must fit here somewhere. Which character in the story represents me?” Those for whom the parables were immediately intended usually felt their sting (see 21:45; 22:15).

This was something completely unnatural; in real life a royal invitation is not refused. . . . Their [invited guests’] outward profession was a long way from glad acceptance of the ways of God. When they were summoned by the King of heaven, they should surely have complied.

Leon Morris

In this parable, Jesus pictured the kingdom of heaven being offered to those who might be least expected to enter it. In the story, a king gives a wedding banquet for his son (clearly this was allegorical and may point to the messianic feast of the last days, described in Isaiah 25:6-8 and Revelation 19:7-9). In this culture, two invitations were expected when banquets were given. The first asked the guests to attend; the second announced that all was ready. When the king sent his slaves to call those who had been invited, this referred to the second invitation. These invitees had already accepted the first invitation. At this second one, however, these guests said they would not come. Not only that, but they refused yet another invitation, as described in 22:4-6. Like the son who said he would go to the vineyard and didn’t (21:30) and the tenant farmers who refused to pay the rent (21:34-39), these guests reneged on an earlier agreement.

LIFE APPLICATION

DELIVERING THE INVITATIONS

Jesus pictured two equally effective ways of rejecting a summons. Some ignored the invitation while others abused the servants who brought the message. The servants in this parable seldom receive much attention in sermons. They certainly got a mixed reception from those they approached with the Good News. But they delivered their message anyway.

 Those who invite others to meet Jesus will still experience rejection. It will take both forms—active and passive. None of us enjoys rejection. We usually take it personally. The more carefully we make the invitation to meet Christ clear and appealing, the more we will feel the impact of a rebuff. Are you a servant? Your challenge remains the same: Faithfully deliver the message God has given you. Trust him for your safety.

22:4-6 “Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.”NRSV Oxen and calves were food only the wealthy could afford. This was a grand feast. In this story the king invited his guests three times; these verses describe the third invitation. After having originally agreed to come, these people refused the last two invitations. The meal was ready, the king had made great preparations, but these guests placed a higher priority on their farms and businesses, deciding not to go to the great banquet. The Messiah had arrived, yet they went about their daily business as if nothing important were happening. In fact, many made light of it and went away. The seizing and killing of these slaves stretches the imagination for this story, but probably recalls the same meaning as in the parable of the wicked tenants who killed those servants. The servants are the prophets whom God had sent to offer his invitation. Their invitation was rejected, with many of the prophets mistreated and killed (see 21:35-36).

22:7-8 “The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.'”NRSV The king’s invitation had been refused, even ridiculed and his servants had been murdered, so he was enraged. Sending troops and destroying the city has been interpreted as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. More likely it refers to the final war between good and evil, a very popular theme in passages about the end times (Isaiah 25:6-8; Ezekiel 39:17-24; Revelation 19:17-21). The feast was ready and waiting, but those invited were not worthy. This is similar to the giving of the vineyard to “other tenants” in the previous parable (21:41). The kingdom will go to those whom God has deemed “worthy.”

LIFE APPLICATION – WHAT A MIX!

In this parable, invitations are delivered to the whole range of people. Christ’s church is multicultural, multicolor, multilingual, multiethnic. Make no mistake. No nation or personality type has a lock on the gate to heaven. Lots of different kinds of people will be there. As a result . . .

l Open your church to the wider world.

l Develop programs to meet a wider set of needs.

l Consider worship services in minority languages.

l Learn simple hymns from other continents.

l Open your heart to people different from yourself. This may be the hardest of all, but if you succeed, the rest will follow.

Let God expand your heart, and sure enough, the church will become a warmer place for strangers.

22:9-10 “‘Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.”NRSV The king still wanted to share his banquet, so he ordered his servants to go out into the main streets and invite everyone they found. They did so, bringing both good and bad (meaning the servants didn’t discriminate with regard to social standing, reputation, or moral character) into the wedding hall for the feast. The metaphor focuses on the outcasts and sinners (see also 21:31-32) as well as righteous people. An unlikely scenario in ancient times, this scene pictures God’s gracious invitation to all kinds of people—Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, good and bad. As the servants gathered all who would respond, so God gives salvation to all who hear and respond.

LIFE APPLICATION – SPEECHLESS

One ill-prepared guest showed up for the wedding. He failed to wear wedding clothes. Whether we imagine this person neglecting to dress for the occasion or refusing the wedding robes offered at the door, the same results occurred. The banquet hall was filled with a cross section of humanity (“both good and bad,” 22:10), but that one guest stood out because he wasn’t covered like the other guests. He came to the banquet without forethought. Others had no better right than he to be present, but they knew where they were and dressed accordingly. He, however, came as he was, without acknowledging his unworthiness. When asked about his attire, he was “speechless” (22:12).

This speechless character represents a superficial response to Christ’s gospel. Such persons view the gracious invitation of the gospel as a mere formality. They assume themselves worthy of the invitation. What others receive as grace, they take for granted. They are unwilling or incapable of seeing themselves honestly. Therefore, when God confronts their unworthiness, they can say nothing.

We dare not consider the invitation of Christ lightly. We must be ready to meet the One who invites us into the kingdom of heaven.

22:11-12 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.”NIV The late arrival of the king was customary, for often the host did not partake of the banquet but came after the meal had begun. The wedding clothes probably refers to clean, fresh clothing. It was unthinkable to come to a wedding banquet in soiled clothes. This would insult the host, who could only assume that the guest was ignorant, had not truly been invited, or was not prepared for the banquet. When the king pointed this out, the man was speechless. He had no explanation for his appearance (he had had plenty of time to get ready), so the king declared him unprepared and unworthy. The man had been invited, but he needed his wedding garment or he would miss out on the banquet.

The wedding clothes picture the righteousness needed to enter God’s kingdom—the total acceptance in God’s eyes that Christ provides for every believer (Isaiah 61:10). Christ has provided this garment of righteousness for everyone, but each person must put it on (accept Christ’s gracious provision of his life given for us) in order to enter the King’s banquet (eternal life). There is an open invitation, but we must be ready. For more on the imagery of clothes of righteousness and salvation, see Psalm 132:16; Zechariah 3:3-5; Revelation 3:4-5; 19:7-8. Those who refuse God’s invitation will face judgment, as the following verse indicates.

22:13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”NIV In Jesus’ parable, he moved beyond normal reality (for this would never happen in real life) to teach a spiritual truth. In the final judgment, God’s true people will be revealed. Claiming to belong at the wedding feast while refusing to wear the correct garments was like the nation of Israel claiming to be God’s people but refusing to live for him. Like the wicked tenants who deserved “a wretched end” (21:41), so this impostor at the banquet found himself tied up and thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth—a common biblical description of hell (see also 8:12; 13:42, 50).

LIFE APPLICATION  – ETERNAL INSECURITY?

Does this passage in Matthew teach the eternal insecurity of all who claim faith in Christ? No, but neither does it give a blank check for all who march the sawdust trail. That kind of religion reduces faith to a life insurance policy. Once signed, it may be forgotten until death, when its terms come due. This is not Christian faith. Eternal insecurity, however, reduces faith to a guessing game in which we all hope not to be the one tossed away on Judgment Day. This is not Christian faith. Christian faith is living in a new relationship to God, characterized by love and proven by faithful service.

God’s love will never let you go, but don’t be presumptuous. If you recited the sinner’s prayer twenty years ago and haven’t thought of God since, wake up—you’re fooling no one. God calls you to a life of love and service. Follow it in faith every day.

22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”NKJV Those who are called but reject God’s invitation will be punished, as will those who seem to accept the call but fail to follow through. The use of the word “called” means “invited,” not the irresistible call of God as Paul used it (see Romans 8:28-29). The invitation had gone out to all Israel, but only a few had accepted and followed Jesus. “Chosen” refers to the elect. Jesus was applying this teaching to the Jews, who believed that because they were descendants of Abraham, they would be sure to share in the blessings of God’s kingdom through the Messiah. But Jesus taught that not all those invited would actually be among the chosen of God. As Jesus had noted earlier, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13 niv).

RELIGIOUS LEADERS QUESTION JESUS ABOUT PAYING TAXES / 22:15-22 

The Pharisees and Herodians who approached Jesus usually were parties in conflict, with one side against Rome and one side pro-Rome. They were young men, sent in the hope that Jesus would not suspect them of trickery. They addressed Jesus as a mediator, inviting him to settle their dispute. Their true purpose, however, was to discredit him.

22:15-16 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.NIV The Jewish leaders would not be put off—they were so intent on killing Jesus. The Pharisees were a religious group opposed to the Roman occupation of Palestine. The Herodians were a political party that supported the Herods and the policies instituted by Rome. These groups with diametrically opposed beliefs usually were antagonistic toward each other. It may seem strange that any group of Jews would support Rome and the Herods, but the real hope of the Herodians was to keep the nation together so that one day they might again be free. After Herod the Great’s death in 4 b.c., Palestine had been divided among his sons. Although the nation had been split apart, the rulers were still of one family. The Herodians’ love was more for country than for Herod; they realized that the only way to preserve their land and national identity was to keep Herod’s family in the ruling positions.

These two groups found a common enemy in Jesus. The Pharisees did not like Jesus because he exposed their hypocrisy. The Herodians also saw Jesus as a threat. They had lost political control when, as a result of reported unrest, Rome had deposed Archelaus (Herod’s son with authority over Judea) and had replaced him with a Roman governor. The Herodians feared that Jesus would cause still more instability in Judea and that Rome might react by never replacing the Roman leaders with a descendant of Herod.

Despite Jesus’ solemn warning to the Jewish leaders in his previous parable, they didn’t let up. More delegates arrived whose intentions were simply to trap Jesus in his words. These two groups, on different sides of religious and political issues (the Pharisees opposed the Roman tax; the Herodians supported it), hoped to get an answer from Jesus that one of them would be able to use against him.

“Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.”NIV The men in this delegation, pretending to be honest, flattered Jesus before asking him their trick question, hoping to catch him off guard. Their flattering words focused on Jesus’ sincerity, his refusal to show deference or partiality toward those in authority, and his truthfulness. These words reek with irony because the reader knows that Jesus was a man of integrity and taught the way of God.

LIFE APPLICATION – GOOD TIMING

The Pharisees and Herodians thought they could trap Jesus by forcing him to choose between two responsibilities. He stunned them by choosing both. He demonstrated that behind many of our conflicts lies a failure to recognize priorities. Should we give time and attention to our families or our work? Can we communicate our relationship with God through the work we do or by setting our work aside and engaging our fellow workers in conversation? Should we support our church or other worthy causes? According to Jesus’ handling of this situation, these problems are issues of timing and priority, not right and wrong. The real challenge for most of us concerns whether or not we are doing what we should be doing at the appropriate time.

Citizenship in the kingdom of God doesn’t lessen commitments. In fact, it often intensifies them! Marriage duties, parental roles, church involvement, earthly citizenship—all take specific place under God’s authority. Make sure your commitment to God stays strong, then all your priorities will be under his authority.

22:17 “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”NIV Judea had been a Roman province since 63 b.c. But recently, the Jews had been forced to pay taxes or tribute to Caesar—in a.d. 6, the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council) was made responsible to collect taxes. There were three basic types of taxes: (1) A land or produce tax took one-tenth of all grain and one-fifth of all fruit (or wine); (2) everyone aged fourteen to sixty-five paid a head or poll tax collected when a census was taken—one day’s wages; and (3) a custom tax was collected at ports and city gates as toll for goods transported—rates were 2 to 5 percent of the value of the goods. This question may have been focusing on the poll tax or on taxes in general.

This was a hot topic in Palestine. The Jews hated to pay taxes to Rome because the money supported their oppressors and symbolized their subjection. Much of the tax money also went to maintain the heathen temples and luxurious lifestyles of Rome’s upper class. The Jews also hated the system that allowed tax collectors to charge exorbitant rates and keep the extra for themselves. The Roman government allowed tax collectors to contract for tax collection by paying the Romans a flat fee for a district. Then the tax collectors could profit from collecting all they could get. Anyone who avoided paying taxes faced harsh penalties. Thus, this was a valid (and loaded) question, and the crowd around Jesus waited expectantly for his answer. Matthew, as a former tax collector, was certainly interested in Jesus’ response to this question.

The leaders, however, did not really want an answer; their motives were only to put Jesus in a dilemma between the religious and political implications of their question. The Pharisees were against these taxes on religious grounds; the Herodians supported taxation on political grounds. Thus, either a yes or a no could get Jesus into trouble. If Jesus agreed that it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees would say he was opposed to God, and the people would turn against him. If Jesus said the taxes should not be paid, the Herodians could hand him over to Herod on the charge of rebellion.

22:18-19 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.NRSV These crafty religious leaders were not able to deceive Jesus. He immediately saw through their flattering words and their pretense to the underlying hypocrisy. He knew it was a trap, so without hesitation he asked them why they were testing him with their question. Jesus knew why, of course, but his question exposed their motives and revealed them to those listening.

Jesus then asked his questioners to produce a denarius, which was the coin used for the tax, so he could use it to make a point. A denarius, a typical day’s wage for a laborer, was a silver coin with Caesar’s portrait on it. The tax paid to Rome was paid in these coins.

22:20-21 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”NKJV The coin was brought to Jesus. The denarius had a portrait (image) of the reigning Caesar, probably Tiberius Caesar who reigned a.d. 14-37. The inscription referred to Caesar as divine and as “chief priest.” The Caesars were worshiped as gods by the pagans, so the claim to divinity on the coin itself repulsed the Jews. In addition, Caesar’s image on the coins was a constant reminder of Israel’s subjection to Rome.

The Pharisees and Herodians thought they had the perfect question to trap Jesus. But Jesus answered wisely, again exposing their self-interest and wrong motives. Jesus said, Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s—that is, the coin bearing the emperor’s image should be given to the emperor. In their question, the religious leaders used the word didomi, meaning “to give.” Jesus responded with the word apodidomi, meaning “to pay a debt.” In other words, having a coin meant being part of that country, so citizens should acknowledge the authority of Caesar and pay for the benefits accorded to them by his empire (for example, peace and an efficient road system). The Pharisees and Herodians tried to make it appear that it was incompatible to be a Jew and pay taxes to a pagan emperor who claimed to be divine. But Jesus explained that no such incompatibility existed because God was ultimately in control. They would lose much and gain little if they refused to pay Caesar’s taxes (see Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Paying the taxes, however, did not have to mean submission to the divinity claimed by the emperor. The words on the coins were incorrect. Caesar had the right to claim their tax money, but he had no claim on their souls. The Jews had a responsibility to render to God the things that are God’s. While they lived in the Roman world, the Jews had to face the dual reality of subjection to Rome and responsibility to God. Jesus explained that they could do both if they kept their priorities straight. The tax would be paid as long as Rome held sway over Judea, but God had rights on eternity and on their lives. To Jesus, this was the crucial issue. Were they giving their lives to God? These Jews (and especially the self-righteous Pharisees) claimed to be God’s chosen people, but were they “rendering” to God what truly belonged to him—themselves?

22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.NRSV Everyone was once again amazed. The Pharisees and Herodians were unable to believe that somehow Jesus had escaped their trap. True to what they had said, Jesus had been sincere, showed no deference or partiality, and truthfully taught God’s way even when asked about a hotly debated topic.

LIFE APPLICATION – CIVIL OBEDIENCE

Jesus taught that Christians should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. In this passage, Jesus did not elaborate on all the issues related to a Christian citizen’s responsibility to the state, but he did indicate a preference for compliance and civil stability. So . . .

l Choose your battle carefully. No state is perfect. If you refuse to live with moments of unfairness or bureaucratic hassle, you’ll need to live by yourself on an island.

l Cooperate and support the state as far as faith will take you. Fortunately in democratic countries (unlike Judea in Jesus’ time), we can work for peaceful change through speeches, publications, assemblies, and media campaigns. There is no need to be a hermit or a rebel.

l Be wary of radicals on the left and reactionaries on the right. Militia movements have appealed to worried Christians and caused them to become more worried still. Leftist movements have attracted other Christians, who confuse political change with spiritual growth.

l When resistance is required, pray a lot and take counsel from Christian friends. Citizenship requires compromise, but Christians should not compromise Christ or do injustice before God.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS QUESTION JESUS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION / 22:23-33 

The Sadducees asked Jesus what marriage would be like in heaven. Jesus said it was more important to understand God’s power than know what heaven will be like. In every generation and culture, ideas of eternal life tend to be based on images and experiences of present life. Jesus answered that these faulty ideas are caused by ignorance of God’s Word. We must not make up our own ideas about eternity and heaven by thinking of it and God in human terms. We should concentrate more on our relationship with God than about what heaven will look like. Eventually we will find out, and it will be far beyond our greatest expectations.

22:23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.NIV The combined group of religious leaders from the Sanhedrin had failed with their first question (21:23-27); the paired antagonists of Pharisees and Herodians had failed with a political question (22:15-22); here the Sadducees, another group of religious leaders, smugly stepped in to try to trap Jesus with a theological question. The Sadducees were at odds theologically with the Pharisees (the other major group of Jewish leaders) because they honored only the Pentateuch— Genesis through Deuteronomy—as Scripture and because they rejected most of the Pharisees’ traditions, rules, and regulations. The Pharisees expected a cataclysmic restoration of David’s kingdom by the Messiah, while the Sadducees were pro-Herod and favored cooperation with political powers and pursuit of earthly prosperity. Little more is known about the Sadducees. We have no writings from them; the only descriptions come from Christian or Jewish sources, both of which put them in a negative light. The group may have originated in the second century b.c.

The Sadducees said there is no resurrection of the dead because they could find no mention of it in the Pentateuch. Apparently, the Pharisees had never been able to come up with a convincing argument from the Pentateuch for the resurrection, and the Sadducees thought they had trapped Jesus for sure. But Jesus was about to show them otherwise.

LIFE APPLICATION – IMPOSSIBILITIES

People who impose human limitations on God shouldn’t be surprised when he fails them. Deadly arrogance underlies an attitude which says to God, “If I can’t imagine it, you can’t do it!” Inventing problems for God may seem like an effective way to delay responsibility before God, but the approach still fails. A camouflaged excuse is still an excuse.

Case studies and hypothetical situations like the one that the Sadducees presented to Jesus often appear to create unsolvable dilemmas. Situation ethics, for instance, largely bases its approach on the assumption that humans must make decisions on their own, apart from any divine help or guidance of absolutes. Thus, when faced with a difficult situation, ask these questions as you work to find an answer: (1) Will God be allowed to help with the solution? (2) How do the guidelines of Scripture relate to this situation? (3) What would Jesus do if faced with this question?

22:24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.”NIV This may have been a question the Sadducees always used to argue with others about the resurrection. Because the Sadducees recognized only the books attributed to Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), their question referred to Moses’ writings. In the Law, Moses had written that when a man died without a son, his unmarried brother (or nearest male relative) was to marry the widow and produce children. The first son of this marriage was considered the heir of the dead man (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). The main purpose of the instruction was to produce an heir and guarantee that the family would not lose their land. The book of Ruth gives an example of this law in operation (Ruth 3:1-4:12; see also Genesis 38:1-26). This law, called “levirate” marriage, protected the widow (in that culture widows usually had no means to support themselves) and allowed the family line to continue.

22:25-28 “Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”NRSV The book of Tobit (an apocryphal book not accepted by Protestants as part of the Old Testament canon but highly regarded by Jewish scholars at that time) includes the story of a woman who was married to seven men successively without ever having children. In Tobit the men are not brothers.

The law of levirate marriage, written by Moses in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, would cause a real problem for the woman in the situation the Sadducees described, for she had been married seven times to seven different men, all according to the law. The Sadducees reasoned that because this was in the law, there could not be a resurrection. According to Jewish history, this was an ongoing debate among the rabbis. When all eight of them were resurrected (the seven brothers and the woman), Whose wife of the seven will she be?

The Sadducees erroneously assumed that if people were resurrected, they would assume physical bodies capable of procreation. They did not understand that God could both raise the dead and make new lives for his people, lives that would be different than what they had known on earth. The Sadducees had brought God down to their level. Because they could not conceive of a resurrection life, they decided that God couldn’t raise the dead. And since they thought that Moses hadn’t written about it, they considered the case “closed.”

22:29-30 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”NIV Jesus wasted no time dealing with their hypothetical situation but went directly to their underlying assumption that resurrection of the dead was impossible. Jesus clearly stated that these Sadducees were wrong about the resurrection for two reasons: (1) They didn’t know the Scriptures (if they did, they would believe in the resurrection because it is taught in Scripture), and (2) they didn’t know the power of God (if they did, they would believe in the resurrection because God’s power makes it possible). Ignorance on these two counts was inexcusable for these religious leaders.

Furthermore, Jesus said, at the resurrection (spoken with certainty—it will happen, so the Sadducees were wrong at the very foundation of their beliefs), people will not rise to an extension of their earthly lives. Instead, life in heaven will be different. Believers will be like the angels in heaven regarding marriage. Believers do not become angels, because angels were created by God for a special purpose. Angels do not marry or propagate; neither will glorified human beings. On earth where death reigns, marriage and childbearing are important in order to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28 nkjv); but bearing children will not be necessary in the resurrection life because people will be raised to glorify God forever—there will be no more death. Those in heaven will no longer be governed by physical laws but will be “like the angels”; that is, believers will share the immortal and exalted nature of angels, living above physical needs.

Jesus was not teaching that people will not recognize their spouses in heaven. Jesus was not dissolving the eternal aspect of marriage, doing away with sexual differences, or teaching that we will be asexual beings after death. Nor was he teaching that the angels are asexual. We cannot learn very much about sex and marriage in heaven from this one statement by Jesus. His point was simply that we must not think of heaven as an extension of life as we now know it. Our relationships in this life are limited by time, death, and sin. We don’t know everything about our resurrection life, but Jesus was affirming that relationships will be different from what we are used to here and now. The same physical and natural rules will not apply.

Jesus was not intending to give the final word on marriage in heaven. Instead, this response was Jesus’ refusal to answer the Sadducees’ riddle and fall into their trap. The Sadducees did not believe in angels either (Acts 23:8), so Jesus’ point was not to extend the argument into another realm. Instead, he was showing that because there will be no levirate marriage in the resurrection or new marriage contracts, the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant. But their assumption about the resurrection needed a definitive answer, and Jesus was just the one to give it.

LIFE APPLICATION – FACING ARGUMENTS

The Sadducees tried to trick Jesus with a clever question. Clever arguments against the Bible and against faith in Christ are easy to find. If you are faced with such cleverness and hope to make a meaningful reply . . .

l Don’t address all the problems. Instead, cut to the heart of the issue, which includes motives and unstated agendas.

l Don’t try to embarrass the questioner with your superior logic; instead, address the heart issue with compassion. Your goal is not to win a contest, but to win a person to faith in Christ.

l Stay with clear teachings of Scripture that you understand. If you get over your head in theology, you’ll be frustrated and ill tempered. At the same time, keep learning, keep searching, keep growing yourself.

22:31-32 “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”NIV The Sadducees’ underlying comment regarded their view of the absurdity of resurrection. Their question to Jesus was intended to show him to be foolish. So Jesus cut right to the point: But about the resurrection of the dead. Because the Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch as God’s inspired Word, Jesus answered them from the book of Exodus (3:6). God would not have said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” if he had thought of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as dead (he would have said, “I was their God”). Thus, from God’s perspective, they are alive. This evidence would have been acceptable in any rabbinic debate because it applied a grammatical argument: God’s use of the present tense in speaking of his relationship to the great patriarchs who had been long dead by the time God spoke these words to Moses. God had a continuing relationship with these men because of the truth of the resurrection.

God had spoken of dead men as though they were still alive; thus, Jesus reasoned, the men were not dead but living. God would not have a relationship with dead beings. Although men and women have died on earth, God continues his relationship with them because they are resurrected to life with him in heaven.

Some might argue that this shows only the immortality of the soul, not necessarily the resurrection of the body. But Jesus’ answer affirmed both. The Jews understood that soul and body had inseparable unity; thus, the immortality of the soul necessarily included a resurrection of the body. Therefore, the Sadducees were wrong in their mistaken assumption about the resurrection.

22:33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.NRSV These discussions with the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees were public, with crowds standing around as important but silent participants. When they heard Jesus’ answers to these difficult questions, they were astounded at his teaching. They saw Jesus as much wiser than their religious leaders.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS QUESTION JESUS ABOUT THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT / 22:34-40 

The questions leading up to the one recorded in this section were intended to trap Jesus rather than to find answers. Here, however, an “expert in the law” asked Jesus to condense the law to a single principle. Because Matthew was highlighting the atmosphere of rejection during the final week, he did not emphasize the cordial exchange between Jesus and this lawyer that Mark included in his account (Mark 12:28-34).

22:34-36 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”NIV The Pharisees were probably delighted to hear Jesus’ definitive answer about the resurrection that had finally silenced the Sadducees. So another Pharisee stepped up. Mark portrays him as more sincere than the others, asking his question in order to get an answer. This expert in the law asked Jesus, Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

The legal expert was referring to a popular debate about the “more important” and “less important” of the hundreds of laws that the Jews had accumulated.

The Pharisees had classified over six hundred laws and would spend much time discussing which laws were weightier than others. Some religious leaders tried to distinguish between major and minor laws; some taught that all laws were equally binding and that it was dangerous to make any distinctions. As a Pharisee, the man had in mind the debates over the relative importance of ritual, ethical, moral, and ceremonial laws, as well as the positive versus negative laws. Jesus’ definitive answer about the resurrection caused this man to hope that Jesus might also have the final answer about all these laws.

The mind is a gift from God. It may be used for his glory, neglected to its waste or abused idolatrously. It is no exaggeration to say that the process of secularization which had posed so many difficulties for Christians in our century is in considerable measure the result of Christians . . . neglecting questions of the mind.

Mark A. Noll

22:37-38 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”NIV This quote comes from Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (niv). Jesus added “with all your mind.” Jesus’ purpose was to show that a person’s total being must be involved in loving God. Nothing must be held back because God holds nothing back. Much of the New Testament focuses on Jesus’ addition (with all your mind) by strongly emphasizing the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23). We need this emphasis every bit as much as this scribe who came to Jesus. Much of modern-day teaching attempts to bypass the mind. Yet the mind is vital, and we need to take every thought captive for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

LIFE APPLICATION = WHOLE LOVE

Jesus used “heart,” “soul,” and “mind” to express the dimensions of our love for God. The terms should be taken together to mean, “Love God with your whole being.” In life they cannot be completely isolated (such as, “I will love God today with all my heart while my soul and mind are otherwise occupied”). Heart, soul, and mind function in harmony in our love for God.

Take each of these components and meditate on how to express your love. “Heart” refers primarily to our emotional response. When we think about love, we usually stop with emotions. The helpful roles of “soul” and “mind” become clear when our emotions (or heart) fail us. What do we do with the command to love God if we don’t feel like it? “Soul” includes the willful, decision-making part of us. Loving God with our soul covers those times when we love God apart from our feelings, such as when we truly forgive another while part of us feels like exacting revenge on that person.

“Mind” refers to an active component of our love for God. In a world where faith is often described as characteristic of people who don’t think, Jesus’ words point to the importance of engaging our mind as a central aspect of what we believe. Of course, loving God with our mind covers much more than the practice of thinking about God. If we place our mind into service for God, it will enjoy its greatest usefulness. Identify what area of your whole love for God needs special attention, and make it a point to involve that part of yourself in loving God.

The word for “love” is agapao, totally unselfish love, a love of which human beings are capable only with the help of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit helps us love him as we ought. God wants our warmhearted love and devotion, not just our obedience. The heart is the center of desires and affections, the soul is a person’s “being” and uniqueness, the mind is the center of a person’s intellect. To love God in this way is to fulfill completely all the commandments regarding one’s “vertical” relationship.

LIFE APPLICATION – KEEPING ALL THE COMMANDMENTS

Faith is both freedom and responsibility. In Christ, we are freed from the religious rules and duties that frustrate and consume religious people around the world. At the same time, we are morally responsible to love others.

l Clear biblical rules are part of God’s plan for your success in life, but the application of those rules should always consider the supreme need to exhibit our faith in loving ways.

l When you face a decision not so clearly covered by biblical rules (or where rules conflict), let love set a priority.

l If you have a choice between exhibiting faith as a strict rule keeper (straight as an arrow, regimented, unbending) or as someone who loves a lot (sometimes flexible, sometimes firm), better to err on the side of love than on the side of rule keeping. To love a lot, in Jesus’ view, is to obey God by reflecting his care for people—his character at its very heart.

22:39-40 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”NKJV In addition to the law quoted in 22:37-38, there is a second and equally important law. This second law focuses on “horizontal” relationships—dealings with fellow human beings. A person cannot maintain a good vertical relationship with God (loving God) without also caring for his or her neighbor. For this second law, Jesus quoted Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The word “neighbor” refers to fellow human beings in general. The love a person has for himself or herself (in the sense of looking out for oneself, caring about one’s best interests, etc.) should be continued, but it should also be directed toward others.

In answer to the man’s question, Jesus explained that on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. The Ten Commandments and all the other Old Testament laws are summarized in these two laws. By fulfilling these two commands to love God totally and love others as oneself, a person will keep all the other commands.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS CANNOT ANSWER JESUS’ QUESTION / 22:41-46

22:41-42 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”NIV This was still presumably Tuesday of Jesus’ final week on earth. Jesus had answered questions from various groups of religious leaders: the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees. Then Jesus turned the tables and asked the Pharisees a question that went right to the heart of the matter—what they thought about the Messiah’s identity. The central issue of life for these ancient religious leaders (as well as for us) is Jesus’ true identity.

“The son of David,” they replied.NIV The Pharisees expected a Messiah (the Christ, the Anointed One), but they erroneously thought he would be only a human ruler who would reign on King David’s throne, deliver the Jews from Gentile domination by establishing God’s rule on earth, and restore Israel’s greatness as in the days of David and Solomon. They knew that the Messiah would be a son (descendant) of David, but they did not understand that he would be more than a human descendant—he would be God in the flesh. They were correct, but only halfway.

Jesus’ question was designed to force the Pharisees to take the extra step that would explain the truth of the Messiah’s identity. This first question was rhetorical—the scribes said that the Messiah would be the son of David because the Old Testament Scriptures clearly state this truth.

22:43-45 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘”NIV The Jews and early Christians knew that the Scriptures (our Old Testament) were inspired by God, bearing his authority in its teachings. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 to show that David, speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit, understood the Messiah to be his Lord (that is, one who had authority over him), not just his descendant. The Messiah would be a human descendant of David, but he would also be God’s divine Son. The religious leaders did not understand that the Messiah would be far more than a human descendant of David; he would be God himself in human form, much greater than David. (Hebrews 1:13 uses the same text as proof of Christ’s deity; see also Acts 2:34-35)

Using the same type of rabbinic debate technique that he had used before (22:31-32), Jesus took the specific words of this verse in David’s psalm and explained their implications.

  • David said, “The Lord.” This first “Lord” is Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God the Father.
  • The second “Lord” in Hebrew is Adonai (in Greek, Kurios) and refers to David speaking of the coming Messiah as his “Lord.”
  • “Sit at my right hand” means the Messiah would sit at the right side of God’s throne, the place of highest honor and authority in God’s coming kingdom. In ancient royal courts, the right side of the king’s throne was reserved for the person who could act in the king’s place.
  • “Until I put your enemies under your feet” describes the final conquering of sin and evil. In ancient Oriental battles, the conquered ruler was forced to put his neck under the foot of the triumphant ruler, showing defeat and subjection.

“If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”NRSV If the great King David himself called the coming Messiah his Lord in Psalm 110:1, then how could the scribes say that the Messiah would be merely David’s son (meaning “descendant”)? David himself didn’t think the Messiah would be just a descendant; instead, David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had realized that the Messiah would be God in human form and would deserve due respect and honor.

The answer to Jesus’ question is that David was clearly saying the Messiah was his Lord. Jesus was revealing his divine identity. The divine Messiah had, indeed, come in human form; he was standing among them.

LIFE APPLICATION – SILENCE

Jesus’ opponents tried to make him incriminate himself. They missed. Their opposition grew in intensity as their efforts to get rid of him were frustrated. Each of their frontal attacks failed. Matthew recorded that from this point on in the final week, the “trick question” tactic was canceled.

Within the opposition to the gospel there will always be questioners who will refuse to be answered, doubters who will reject any reason, and unbelievers who will be determined to remain such. Compassion and honesty require that we attempt to answer and care for each questioner, doubter, and unbeliever. Sooner or later, however, we may be faced with silence. When all that can be done has been done, silence may well lead to progress. Silence creates a vacuum for reflection. Arguments and debates seldom convince people. But a calm after the storm often leads to reconsideration. Keep silent and give God extra room to work!

22:46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.NRSV The silence of Jesus’ opponents shows their total defeat. This was Jesus’ last controversy with the religious establishment. It established with finality his victory over his opponents.

www.RidgeFellowship.com

Source:  Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of The Ridge Fellowship: Leander, Jarrell & Taylor, TX
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