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THE PARABLE OF THE MARRIAGE OF THE KING'S SON; THE TRIBUTE TO CAESAR; IN HEAVEN; WHOSE WIFE SHALL SHE BE? THE GREAT COMMANDMENT; HOW THEN DOES DAVID IN THE SPIRIT CALL HIM LORD? THE PARABLE OF THE KING'S SON
And Jesus answered and spake again in parables unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son (Matthew 22:1-2)
This is the third of a series of three parables Jesus directly addressed to the Pharisees. There is a definite connection in all three, revealing a progressive intensity in the sins of the Pharisees, and setting forth stronger and stronger punishments to be incurred by them. For a comparison and analysis of all three parables, see under Matthew 22:14, below. This parable has the following analogies:
The king represents God.
The king's son is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The marriage supper stands for the privileges of the true faith.
The messengers are the evangelists of all ages who preach the truth.
The mistreatment of the messengers refers to the hostility of the Pharisees against the apostles, first, and to other preachers later.
The rejection of the invitation is the rejection of Christ's message by the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders.
The destruction of their city is the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and Vespasian in 70 A.D.
The sending of the messengers into the byways prefigures the call of the Gentiles.
The man without a wedding garment represents all who despise the privilege of true faith, and, while professing it, prove themselves unworthy of it.
The coming in of the king to see the guests is the arraignment of all men at the final judgment.
The binding of the offender and casting him out show the punishment of the wicked in hell.
The speechlessness of the offender shows that evil men at last shall concur in their own punishment, being able to make no defense of their own conduct.
And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the marriage feast: and they would not come.
Israel had long known of that approaching appointment to receive and honor the King's Son when he should appear in their midst. Their whole nation had been protected and nurtured through long history for the specific purpose of equipping them to recognize and hail their Messiah when he came. The first of those servants sent to announce that the great feast was at hand was John the Baptist. They rejected him. They also rejected the apostles, mistreating them and bluntly rejecting the invitation, offering no excuse, but simply refusing to come to the marriage feast.
Again he sent forth other servants saying, Tell them that are bidden, Behold I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage feast.
These other servants and their invitation represent the evangelistic program of the church following the resurrection of Christ. Trench said:
This second summons I take to represent the invitation to the Jewish people, as it was renewed to them at the second epoch of the kingdom, that is, after the resurrection and ascension.
Two things support Trench's view: (1) God was willing to overlook the first blunt rejection of Christ (even his crucifixion), attributing it to ignorance (Acts 3:17). (2) Also, the Jews continued to have a priority in hearing the gospel for a long while after Pentecost, as indicated by Paul's motto, "To the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16). The marvelous solicitation and tenderness of the apostolic preaching, even after the resurrection, shows the forbearance and mercy of God as he yet pleaded with those evil men to acknowledge and receive their true King. That the messengers in this second invitation were the same as the first, in many cases, is no problem. In the most genuine sense, they were "born again" and thus were "other servants." Besides, there were many more of them in the second appeal, including many who were not in the first group.
But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise.
That was the crowning insult, not merely rejecting it, but belittling it and making light of it. Matthew Henry saw in the two classes mentioned here examples of rural and urban mankind, thus including practically all people. It has also been suggested that the two great classifications of all human activity, involving production and distribution, are also indicated.
And the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
The shameful treatment and murder of the servants were fulfilled by the imprisonment of the apostles by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and their stoning of Stephen. The first few chapters of Acts record a graphic narrative of events exactly in keeping with the words here.
This passage also shows that the destruction of Jerusalem was a direct action of heavenly vengeance upon the Jewish nation for their rejection of Christ. People may temporize and avoid the fact if they will, but the wrath of God is the ultimate answer to all human perversity. Nor can the Gentiles afford any complacency. The type of historical visitation upon cities and nations that disobey God, like that which fell upon Jerusalem, has not disappeared but may still be seen. France rejected the Bible, tied it to the tail of an ass, dragged it through the city, and burned it on the city dump, elevating at the same time the low goddess of Reason; but since that time, the government of France has fallen 35 times! Hitler burned the Bibles at Nuremburg in 1933, but it was that same generation that saw God's armies split open the ugly heart of Nazism and spill its filth upon the ground. God still uses armies to punish wicked nations. The armies of destruction which visited wrath upon Nazi Germany were no better than the pagan legions of Titus (referred to in this parable as the armies of the king, who stands for God in the metaphor), but they were nonetheless instruments of the divine wrath. God grant that our own beloved America, now on a collision course with most of God's teachings, receives an awareness of this truth before it is too late.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they that were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore to the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast.
God's purpose is never defeated by sinful men. There will be guests at the wedding feast, even if those first bidden despise it. We have already noted that Christ was praised with Hosannas in the temple (Matthew 21:16), even though the Pharisees would not honor him. Children took up the song they should have sung, and the temple rang with his praises anyway. The king did not cancel the royal wedding because certain invited guests insulted his gracious invitation. The Jewish nation rejected Christ (although not all of them), but the city responsible for it was utterly destroyed, because it was no longer the King's city but, in the words of the parable, "their city." When people reject God's will, even the sacred institutions they had formerly received from God become no longer his, but THEIRS. The true privileges will always go to those willing to receive them. The Gentiles would be called to the feast which the Jews, for the greater part, rejected.
And those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests.
The wedding was a success. So also will the true religion of God prevail at last. His will will be done. No man or group of men, no nation or group of nations, can prevent the accomplishment of the eternal design of God. The fact that the ultimate guests were "both bad and good" emphasizes the probationary nature of the church in this dispensation. Christ was always at pains to make that clear. The kingdom, under the figure of a drag net, also was represented as having "both bad and good," or "fishes of every kind" (Matthew 13:47,48).
Invariably, in all Christ's teaching, it is also clear that mankind in the broadest sense is not worthy of salvation; that is, they cannot merit it. In the three parables in this series here delivered to the Pharisees, it is clear that in the case of the two sons, neither of them was what a son should have been; and in the case of the one before us, the total population, in the truest and highest sense, were not ENTITLED to be invited, the first because they were unworthy of it, and the others because they were not of sufficient excellence. In the light of this, how can any man feel that God, in any sense, "owes" him eternal life? Then there is the case of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). The owner of the vineyard could not have been impressed with either class, either those who worked all day and murmured at the end of it, or those who idled all day and put in only an hour's work. Surely it must be glaringly plain that GRACE is what enables any to stand justified in the sight of God. So also in the parable of the prodigal, both sons were unworthy.
But when the king came in to behold the guests, he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.
This stands for the final inspection of all men in the judgment. To be sure, the King is constantly beholding the men of his kingdom, and continually observing the conduct of all his servants; but this coming in of the king on a formal and stated occasion to view the guests indicates a far more auspicious examination. It is the judgment of the great day when the King shall suddenly appear and review the credentials of those who have accepted his invitation. Judgment shall indeed begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).
And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
That man's apparel was an insult to the occasion, indicating that immoral and shameful conduct on the part of Christians is an insult to God that will at last be punished. We may not excuse him on grounds that he was poor, unable to obtain a wedding garment, or that he had no chance to supply one. Note that the man himself was speechless. It was totally his fault, and he could not think of any word to utter in defense of what he had done. We do not appeal to traditions handed down, nor to customs of monarch's who always provided royal garments for their guests, nor to anything else except the speechlessness of that intruder who thus marred the happy festivities by entering without a wedding garment. He could not defend himself or offer any excuse; rash is the person who will trump up one for him. What kind of person could fabricate a defense for that rude person's insult of the king? In cases where men have sought to defend him, it appears that their cavil should be avoided and stored up for the time when those persons who make it will need it in their own defense; and yet it is certain that such persons will be as speechless as was he. This simply means that, at last, every condemned sinner will have to agree in his very heart that he deserves condemnation, and that it is no one's fault but his own!
Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
This does not bestow inquisitorial rights on God's ministers in this dispensation. The exposure and punishment of that offender occurred at the arraignment before the king, not before. The servants in this verse therefore cannot be the apostles or ministers of the word, but the angels of God (13:47ff). The punishment refers to hell (Matthew 25:46).
For many are called, but few chosen.
Sitting down at the marriage feast was not alone sufficient to insure the favor of the king. Membership in the church, and acceptance of its privileges, are not enough to assure eternal life. Every diligence to appear before God, not naked, but clad in the garments of righteousness, should be exerted by all who hope to enter eternal fellowship with God (Revelation 3:18).
AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF THE THREE PARABLES
(a) The Parable of Two Sons; (b) of the Wicked Husbandmen; and (c) the Marriage of the King's Son
There is a remarkable progression in this series of three parables.
I. There is progression in the obligations violated. In (a), it is the respect and honor due a father; and in (b), it is the legal and binding requirements of a commercial contract; and in (c), it is the honor, loyalty, and submission due to a great and noble king on the part of his servants.
II. There is a progressive aggravation of the guilt incurred. In (a), it is the rejection of a loving father's request. In (b), it is murder to escape a legal debt. In (c), it is a hateful and insulting degradation of the king himself, in the person of his messengers, not to escape an obligation but to deliver an insult, against all reason, against the highest government of the land, and upon an occasion when the king, far from exacting a tax or requiring a benefit, was in the gracious attitude of bestowing honor and privilege upon them. Moreover, their guilt reached such a climax of wickedness that it appeared on the occasion of the royal wedding and in such a way as to dishonor the most important and sacred event possible, the marriage of the king's son!
III. There is a progression in the penalties exacted. In (a), the father disapproves. In (b), the wicked husbandmen are destroyed, their contract canceled, and the vineyard let out to others. In (c), the offenders are not only destroyed but their city is razed and burned, and great armies of the king move upon them for swift and total vengeance.
IV. There is a progression in the duration of the offenses. In (a), the conduct of the sons, while serious enough, is a matter of only one day's disobedience. In (b), the wicked husbandmen rejected their duty over an extended period of time. In (c), the hatred of the king had become a permanent part of the lives of the offenders. This is seen in the fact that they could not have rejected such an invitation except from reasons of prior hatred in their hearts. Their mistreatment of the king's messengers, shameful as it was, was only the symptom of a far more terrible offense within themselves, namely, their hatred and animosity against the king. As Drummond said concerning such a thing, "It was the occasional bubble rising to the surface, that betrayed the rotting carcass at the bottom of the lake."
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might ensnare him in his talk.
Far from being humbled and reproved by those wonderful parables in which the Lord had held up, as in a mirror, the truth concerning themselves that they might see it and repent, the Pharisees were all the more ready to destroy him. Their first maneuver was to confront Christ with some questions from which, if they could, they would obtain words from the Master which they would twist or misquote, thus giving them some pretext for condemning him to death. They thought to do this through intermediaries while they remained in the background.
And they, send to him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any one: for thou regardest not the person of men.
How could the Pharisees have said a thing like that? Did they in conscience know, as they said, that Jesus taught the way of God in truth? From the parable of the wicked husbandmen, it appears that they did. It will be recalled that they said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him" (Matthew 21:38). The same fatal admission is here. Their disregard of what the people might think (who were necessarily privy to this admission) was quite astonishing. It is as though they said, "We do not care who knows he is the Christ, we intend to destroy him anyway!" Such words spoken by his enemies were truth of very truth; but in their mouths even the truth underwent a metamorphosis, becoming vile, deceitful, hateful, and repulsive to Christ. How completely they misjudged him is seen in their thinking to deceive and ensnare him with such flattery.
Tell us, therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
The design of the question is plain from the Herodians having been made a part of the group asking this question. The Herodians ardently advocated Caesar's cause and favored a complete submission of Israel to Caesar's government. If the Christ made it unlawful to give tribute to Caesar, they would, of course, have haled him into court on a charge of sedition, punishable by death. On the other hand, if Jesus had made it right to pay the tribute, they would have advertised it in order to diminish his popularity with the people who groaned under Caesar's yoke and longed to throw it off. They thought they had him impaled upon the horns of a dilemma.
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why make ye trial of me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a denarius. And He saith unto them, Whose is the image and superscription?
In view of their true character, the Lord's designation of those men as "hypocrites" is mild enough. They were far more. They were cowardly, crooked murderers, intent on committing the crime of the ages. Christ fully understood their most secret thoughts; and, although the Pharisees were not actually present, his words were more addressed to them than to those visible emissaries who were carrying out their orders. Only God can know men's thoughts; therefore, this passage is another which carries the necessary inference that Christ is God in the flesh.
Specimens of the coin that came into view here may still be seen in the Museum of Money on West 50th Street, New York City. It had a value of about 17 cents and bore an engraving of Caesar with a superscription making him the ruler of the land. The very prevalence of those coins in Israel identified the land as Caesar's. It showed his title and authority to be recognized there. At that point in the interview, the inquirers must have felt that they had Jesus going their way. They reacted accordingly and promptly answered his question regarding the coin.
They, say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
Nearly two thousand years have not diminished the wisdom and truth of that sensational answer. It fell like a blow on the questioners. It gave the truth about the tribute question, namely, that it should be paid, and that it could not be wrong to do so since it was paid with Caesar's own money, a plain fact attested by his picture and title on the coins! Christ then went far beyond their question and commanded the tax be paid, but in such a manner that no breach in the popular esteem of Jesus would result. Then, vaulting over all earthly and secular considerations, Christ, as always, directed their attention to the higher ground of God's authority rather than to Caesar's, pointing out that man also is, in a sense, a coin, bearing the image and superscription of his maker, God, and commanding that men should not merely pay taxes to those entitled to receive them but also render to God his just dues also. Thus, while answering the evil question about the tribute, Christ continued to press the claims of the Father upon people for their true allegiance and obedience.
And when they heard it, they marveled, and left him, and went their way.
The trap they had devised for Jesus was sprung upon them. Viewing the whole incident without its underlying connotations, the occasion had produced a remarkably bold admission by the Pharisees that they knew Jesus taught the way of God in truth, yet without producing the slightest thing that they could use against him. No wonder they marveled and withdrew from the scene.
On that day there came to him Sadducees, they that say that there is no resurrection: and they asked him ...
The Sadducees were the sophisticated materialists of their day, relatively few in number, but holding most of the important offices of the Jewish system. They despised spiritual things, especially anything bordering on the supernatural, and were thoroughly detested and hated by the Pharisees who made common cause with them only in opposition to Christ. They too had a question for Jesus.
Saying, Teacher, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first married and deceased, and having no seed, left his wife unto his brother; in like manner the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And after them all, the woman died. In the resurrection therefore whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
First, note the question on its merits, or DEMERITS! As Matthew Henry said, "The seventh who ventured last to marry the widow (many a one would say) was a bold man!" The possibility of such a thing happening must be set down as remote. Like all fancy arguments trumped up as an objection to God's word, the whole proposition, on its face, is a lie, designed to support a lie, namely that there is no resurrection.
Yet Christ allowed the question to stand, at least for the moment, because it COULD have happened. The Sadducees' statement of Moses' position on the Levirate marriage was correct, as witnessed by the case of Boaz and Ruth (from the Book of Ruth). Yet, in the reply that followed at once, Christ, as always, resolved the issue, not on the basis of what Moses said, but upon what God said, affirming, in effect, that it was not Moses but God whom they were quoting.
But Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
Certainly, the Scriptures teach the resurrection. Many passages, such as Daniel 12:2; Job 19:25-27; etc., plainly indicate the resurrection; and the Sadducees' disbelief of it was due to their ignorance of the Scriptures. As for their objection that a resurrection would be impossible because of the absurdities it would create, Christ disposed of that by attributing it to their ignorance of the power of God. They were practical atheists and made light of such things as the resurrection. Christ went further and disposed of their vulgar ideas of what a resurrection must be in the enlightening teaching he gave a moment later.
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.
The Sadducees' ideas were founded on ignorance and a common and vulgar view of all spiritual things, including the resurrection. Christ, in refutation of their false views, unveiled some of the glories of the future state. Men shall not marry. They will have no such need or desire. All earthly ties and relationships shall have been outgrown, their purpose ended, and no longer needed or desirable. Like the holy angels, men shall have an existence in God, apart from all limitations and necessities of the flesh. They shall hunger no more, nor thirst. Weeping and crying shall not exist. How strange that such thoughts had not occurred to the Sadducees!
Mention of angels was a further comment on the ignorance of the Sadducees, for they did not believe in angels either. Thus, as usual, Christ answered far more than his questioners intended.
But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
Note the contrast. The Sadducees had spoken of what "Moses said," but Christ quoted from the same source and declared the message to have been spoken "by God"! The endorsement of the Bible as God's word is plainly intended. Nor may it be supposed that the "by God" imputation is limited to the conversation of Moses. By the words here and elsewhere, Christ boldly declared the Old Testament to be the word of God, and it should be so received by Christ's disciples forever.
Christ went much further in his effort to correct the ignorance of the Sadducees, and dealt with their fundamental trouble, namely, a failure to believe the Old Testament as God's word. Christ, then, in the presence of the multitude, made an argument for immortality of the soul, basing it absolutely upon what "God said" in Exodus 3:6. The argument is bold, plain, and easily understood. Since God used the present tense in that Old Testament passage, saying, "I AM" instead of "I WAS," etc., it means that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living. This is a most important case. Christ made an argument on such an important subject as the resurrection to turn upon a single word in the Old Testament, a single verb, and the very tense of the verb at that! What bold confidence in the Scriptures! How strongly Jesus relied upon the Scriptures which the Sadducees despised through their ignorance of them. If the Son of God could afford to put such trust in a single word in the Holy Scriptures, his disciples need not hesitate to trust every word of it without doubt or reservation.
No wonder the multitudes were "astonished" at his teaching. Christ demonstrated that he was no prudent scribe with his proof-texts, no fawning sycophant deferring to the opinions of superiors in the Jewish hierarchy, no mealy-mouth uttering platitudes; but he stood forth plainly in that interview as the Son of God, the Christ of glory, answering with certainty and authority the deepest questions of the human spirit, and doing so with a perfection and grace that confounded the opposition. The Sadducees, like the Pharisees before them, withdrew from the scene, vanquished and shamed in the presence of all.
But the Pharisees, when they heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, gathered themselves together.
Of course the Pharisees had already been routed too, but since they had maneuvered the Herodians into fronting for them, they decided to have a try at it in their own name. It is amazing that they should not have regarded Jesus' triumph over the Sadducees (their perpetual enemies) with jubilation. Their old enemies had been put to silence by Christ, in the presence of a multitude, and that in reference to the very points of difference between them and on which they opposed the Sadducees, namely, the resurrection, and the existence of angels. How happy they should have been that their old enemies had had the intellectual rug pulled out from under them, and that at the hands of Jesus, whom they denominated as ignorant! The joy of such a victory over their foes by Jesus, however, was lost in their hatred of the Lord. The news of the Sadducees' failure only spurred them to greater efforts. Better, in their view, that the truth should fail than that it should be championed and upheld by one whom they despised.
Apparently all of the questions in this chapter followed each other in rather close sequence, as Satan doubled and redoubled his efforts of opposition and hatred.
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, trying him: Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?
One of them means one of the Pharisees. The "first team" would now take up the challenge, and the Pharisees themselves would confront him with a question in a field wherein they imagined they had a vast superiority. Their strategy was to ensnare Christ in some technical fault regarding countless questions of the law. One of their best legal minds was put forward with a question regarding the "great commandment." Of course it is obvious that they hoped Christ would name a commandment, ANY commandment. They would then accuse him of belittling the others! That they were themselves guilty of what they hoped to accuse in him was no problem. Their motives and intentions were totally devoid of any honesty or fairness.
Like the Sadducees, the Pharisees were also ignorant of the Scriptures, in the sense that they lacked any true perception of them. Their pre-assumption in asking such a question was founded on the false opinion that there are relative ranks among God's commandments, some being more and others less in importance. God said, "ALL thy commandments are righteousness" (Psalms 119:151). Yet, in a sense not intended by them, Christ singled out the "great commandment."
And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments, the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.
Jesus' answer is far more than a clever summary of all the commandments. It is the fundamental commandment underlying the whole economy of redemption. Above everything else, God desires and commands his human children to love him totally and completely. That is why Christ came. That is the purpose God had in saving man, that the Father might be loved for his own blessed sake. Such a plea for love was lost upon people like the Pharisees. A bleeding child might have pleaded for the affection of a mad dog with the same results!
In a technical sense, all the law and prophets do hang on the twin injunctions Christ named before the Pharisees. The first five words of the decalogue deal with man's relation to God, and the second five have to do with man's relationship to men. The fifth commandment might go in either group. A profoundly significant deduction required by Christ's words on that occasion is that man's heavenward duties are more important, ranking higher, than his man-ward duties. The first commandment is to love the Lord; the second is to love thy neighbor. This, of course, is utterly different from the prevailing concept that lays great stress on human obligations such as "Thou shalt not kill," etc., but makes the other class of religious obligations secondary.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I put thine enemies under thy feet? If David then calleth him Lord, how is he his son?
Christ in that question pinpointed the precise truth the Pharisees had missed concerning him, that he was (and is) God in man. "What think ye of Christ?" is the most important question ever asked. All depends on the answer. No man can be saved who fails this test. To recognize and hail Christ as God come in the flesh, this is the beginning of eternal life. Without that perception, man must forever remain guilt-ridden, soul-blinded, and condemned forever. By propounding that question, it would seem that Christ, even at that late hour, was trying to relieve the sad condition of those evil men. He would even then have removed the scales from their eyes and directed their attention to the precise problem where their error lay, and which gave rise to the most important reason for their failure to recognize him.
The reason the Pharisees did not recognize Christ (though some did) was that not all the Messianic prophecies were received by them. In the very nature of God's revelation to humanity of the coming of that Holy One who is both God and man at once, there were necessarily SEEMING contradictions. Thus, Isaiah hailed the Coming One as "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace," etc., while at the same time portraying him as a man or sorrows, acquainted with grief, with no form nor comeliness, a root out of dry ground, bruised, chastised, and suffering death. That was too much for the unspiritual Pharisee to understand. They did the natural, human thing: they believed the more agreeable prophecies and rejected the others. One outstanding example of such duality in the prophecies was singled out by Christ and made the subject of the question here.
The Old Testament passage Christ stressed in this confrontation of the Pharisees is Psalms 110:1. Of course, they had access to that information and could have known that Christ was both David's son and David's Lord; but they could not explain it, thus being liable, as were the Sadducees, to a charge of ignorance. Their ignorance, however, was not so much their sin as was their pride and egotism that prevented their learning from him who alone is "the Truth"!
And no one was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
Thus in that profound question of Jesus, the Pharisees no longer had a case of knowing the answer, and through self-interest avoiding a reply. They WERE ignorant of the riddle Jesus propounded, but they would not accept the truth from him. But their day of grace was almost over. The plot was laid. Before the week expired they would kill him. Never again would they ask him any questions. They confessed themselves unable to stand before his searching words. Intellectually, morally, and spiritually, they were vanquished by the Lord; and, like a wounded serpent that sinks its fangs again and again into its own flesh, those unfortunate men would kill their own head and Redeemer, involving themselves and their whole nation in irreparable ruin. What a commentary on religious bigotry is that!
Some commentators attribute his characterization of the Pharisees to a kind of prejudice on Matthew's part, but that is not true. As a former tax collector, he had indeed enjoyed a peculiarly advantageous position from which to learn the true character of the Pharisees, but it must not be thought that Matthew colored or perverted that picture in any way. On the contrary, his emphasis on their conduct was NECESSARY; and, as God always chooses his instruments, Matthew was ideally suited to the task of presenting those enemies of Jesus in their true light.
Reasons for the need to expose those men rise from the fact that, as the official representatives of Judaism, their failure to recognize and accept their Messiah would ever afterwards be used by Satan as an argument against the validity of Christ's claim upon all mankind as the true Messiah. If there had been, therefore, the least vestige of anything honorable or upright in the Pharisees et al., there could have continued through history some suspicion that since "good men," as they were supposed to be, rejected the Messiah, there must have been some reason for their doing it. Matthew successfully broke that crutch of infidelity. His analytical, yet fair and generous, treatment of those bigots in their hatred of Christ forever removes any suspicion or even the outside possibility of any doubt that their actions were otherwise motivated than through blind, fanatical, and selfish hatred of the truth. Their every argument, invented through despair, maliciously urged, and distorted to appear plausible; their every connivance with even their worst enemies to find some pretext against him; their reliance at last upon suborned and lying witnesses, perversion of Sacred Scriptures, malevolent torture of truth itself, and, withal, their prejudice against him, not desiring to accommodate with him but only striving for a means of his murder - all these things are so faithfully detailed in Matthew's gospel that, two thousand years after the facts, any fair-minded person can easily understand WHY SUCH MEN rejected the Christ.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 22". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension