Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Matthew 22

Verse 17

THIRD ANNOUNCEMENT OF DEATH

With this third announcement our Lord has indicated the three classes of His foes, the leaders of His nation in the first announcement, one of the twelve in the second, and now the Roman Gentiles (Matthew 20:17-19).

The ambitious request of James and John (Matthew 20:20-28), is in keeping with the selfishness previously expressed by Peter. The immediate occasion for the request is found in our Lord’s words which they had misunderstood (Matthew 20:19-28). The gentleness of Jesus (Matthew 20:22) is as marked as in the other case. His “cup” stood for all the agony of the Cross, how could they drink it? Not the bodily agony merely, but that experienced in the withdrawal of His Father’s face. They would indeed be partakers of His suffering in one sense (Matthew 20:23), not that from the side of God but from the side of man (Colossians 1:24; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:21), but their place in the Kingdom when it should be set up, must be determined by the Father. Of course, the subjection He here expresses towards the Father, is not that of His divine nature, which was co-equal with the Father, but His human nature. It is as the glorified man at the head of the Kingdom He now speaks (1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Philippians 2:9-11). The indignation of the ten against the two was not because of the latter’s presumption towards the Lord, but because of the advantage they were seeking over them. The ten, in other words, were as selfish as the two; hence the rebuke and instruction following, for all.

The healing of the two blind men (Matthew 20:29-34) recalls the instance of Matthew 9:27-31, but it is not the same. Mark 10:46 and Luke 18:35 mention but one man and the common explanation is that there were two miracles of the kind connected with this visit to Jericho, one as Christ entered and the other as He left the city. But some account for this seeming discrepancy in another way. For example, as son of David and heir to the throne, Christ was soon to be presented to Jerusalem, and ere this takes place He has the testimony of two witnesses that He is the Son of David, which was necessary according to the law. This they think, is the reason why two blind men are mentioned exclusively in Matthew’s Gospel which is the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11), which took place on the first day of the last week of our Lord’s earthly life, is His formal offer of Himself to the nation as their King. This was necessary to His formal rejection by the nation, and is established by His fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. This allusion to Zechariah’s words would mark Him as an impostor or else their true Messiah. The leaders of the nation regard Him in the former light; and even the multitude, though they at first acclaimed Him as “the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9), in their cooler judgment settled on the simpler title of 5:11, and afterwards took up the cry “Crucify Him!”

This is the second time Jesus cleansed the temple (Matthew 21:12-17), the first near the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-16). It becomes a foreshadowing of His second coming to fulfill Malachi 3:3, the necessity for which appears in Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15 ff.; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:8. How different the scene in Matthew 21:14, type of that which shall follow also in that day when He comes again to Israel! The language of the chief priests and scribes (Matthew 21:15) accentuates the rejection of Him manifested all along. Psalms 8, which Jesus quotes, is Messianic, and His use of it is a further asserveration of His claim to be that Promised One. Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, was His abiding place during this week (Matthew 21:17).

The barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22) stands for the nation of Israel. On seeing the leaves of profession, He had a right to expect fruit, but there was nothing on it for Him, though He hungered. Comparing Zechariah 4:7, a mountain is used in Scripture to represent a large or difficult undertaking, in which sense probably it is here used (Matthew 21:21). If Israel at this time was a mountain in the way of the gospel, it could be removed, as it was removed, by faith, and cast into the sea of the nations.

The climax is nearing. As the nation had rejected the Messiah, so now the Messiah rejects the nation in the parables following: the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32); the Householder (Matthew 21:33-46); the Marriage of the King’s Son (Matthew 22:1-14). The immediate occasion for them is in Matthew 22:23-27 another attack of the leaders. They were incensed at His action in the Temple on the previous day and the words He then spake against them. Behold the divine wisdom with which He now deals with them, silencing them utterly!

The first of these parables is interpreted by our Lord Himself. The second requires no extended comment. God is the householder, Israel the vineyard, the leaders of the nation the husbandmen, the servants the holy prophets, the son Christ Himself. The chief priests and the Pharisees are condemned out of their own mouths (Matthew 22:41). The next verse is a quotation from Psalms 118, which is Messianic. Christ as the “Stone” is revealed in a three-fold way. To Israel He was a stumblingblock and rock of offense, for He came to them not as a monarch but in the form of a servant (Isaiah 8; Isaiah 14-15; Romans 9:32-33; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8). To the church He is the foundation-stone and head of the corner (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5). To the Gospel world-powers, He is the smiting stone of destruction (Daniel 2:3-4). The Kingdom would not be given to that generation which had rejected Christ, but to the faithful remnant in the latter days.

The third parable foreshadows more than the other two, as it brings in the Gentiles ivy. 8-10). Verse 3 applies to the offer of the Kingdom made to Israel up to the time of Christ’s death and resurrection. Verse 4 perhaps applies to the renewed offer down to the time of its further rejection in the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7). Read especially Acts 3:19-21. Verse 7 applies to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70. Verses 8-10 apply to the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles beginning with Peter at Acts 10. The man without the wedding garment (Matthew 22:11-12) may mean the mere professor in Christendom. “Many are called,” and make this outward profession, but “few are chosen,” in the sense that they really accept and put on Christ as their righteousness.

QUESTIONS

1. How did Christ distinguish His foes in connection with the announcement of His death and resurrection?

2. What spirit was evinced by James and John?

3. What dispensational meaning is attachable to the healing of the two blind men?

4. To what was Christ’s entry into Jerusalem equivalent?

5. What does His cleansing of the Temple foreshadow?

6. Of what is the barren fig tree a type?

7. How would you interpret 21:21?

8. Name the three parables in which our Lord rejects the nation.

9. Name the three ways in which Christ is revealed as the “Stone.”

10. Apply the parable of the marriage feast dispensationally.

Verses 15-39

WOE AND FAREWELL

Another effort to “entangle him in his talk,” and a new enemy, the Herodians. They were the politicians of the time, a low class of Jews who, for selfish reasons, favored the Roman rule represented by Herod. With flattery He is approached (Matthew 22:16), but had He answered their question negatively (Matthew 22:17), the Herodians would have accused Him before the Roman judges, while affirmatively, the Pharisees could have done so before the Sanhedrin. No true Messiah, they would have said, would teach subjection to the Gentiles. But as before, He silences them, for had they rendered unto God the things that were God’s, they would not now be obliged to render anything unto Caesar (Matthew 22:18-22). The Sadducees were the rationalists who denied the future life and all connected with it; hence their question, although founded on Deuteronomy 25:5, and the following, was combined of ignorance and sarcasm. There will be a resurrection but it does not imply marriage (Matthew 22:30). The proof of resurrection He employs (Matthew 22:32), is a proof also of the inspiration of the words of the original Scriptures. In the quotation from Exodus 3:14, the present tense of “to be” is used, and on that He bases His argument for the future life. The Pharisees fare no better with their inquiry than the other two (Matthew 22:32-40), and then our Lord asks them a question which ends attempts of this kind on their part. He quotes Psalms 110 which at once proves Him the Messiah and the very God (Matthew 22:41-46).

Now the declaration of the judgments on His enemies. The Scribes and Pharisees were the national leaders of the Jews, in which sense they sat in Moses’ seat, and it became necessary to obey them. But to observe their instruction was one thing, and to follow their example another (Matthew 23:3). As to the first, compare Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. “Phylacteries,” meaning things to observe, get their name from Exodus 13:9-16, Deuteronomy 6:9 and the following verses. A phylactery is a strip of leather attached to a small box containing a parchment copy of Deuteronomy 6:4-8. This strip is used to fasten the box around the head so that it rests in the middle of the forehead. Another is wound around the left arm. This literal interpretation of the Scriptures was for show (5-7). And they not only loved show, but to be addressed by high-sounding names, which must not be true of disciples of Christ (Matthew 23:8-12).

The eight woes of the next chapter all pronounced against various forms of hypocrisy, and with which our Lord closed His public ministry, suggest the Beatitudes with which He opened that ministry. We cannot do more than touch upon a few of the distinctions He makes. The first, that of hindering (Matthew 23:13), comes home to preachers and teachers of Christianity who are not regenerated and taught of the Spirit in the Word. The second and third, Matthew 23:14-15, need no explanation. The fourth, Matthew 23:16-22, displays the ignorance of the mere ritualist. The fifth and sixth describe the formalist (Matthew 23:23-26). The seventh is a figurative description of their religious character (Matthew 23:28), and the eighth no less so (Matthew 23:29-31). They made a show of zeal in adorning the burial places of the prophets their fathers had slain, and yet they were exhibiting the same spirit. Did our Lord ever utter a severer word than Matthew 23:33? And in that connection note the personal pronoun of authority “Behold, I send unto you prophets.” All He there predicts was soon fulfilled in the Acts.

Now the pathetic farewell (Matthew 23:37-39). Their house is left desolate. It is Tuesday of that last week, and as He leaves the temple and the city it is not to return until Thursday, the day of the last passover and the betrayal. And yet His final word is one of hope. Israel would see him again, i.e., at His second coming, and the faithful remnant would exclaim, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

QUESTIONS

1. Who were the Herodians?

2. What is the spiritual significance of the words, “Render unto Caesar”?

3. How does the quotation from Psalms 110 prove the deity of Christ?

4. Explain the reference to the phylacteries.

5. How many woes are there, and against what feature of iniquity are they directed?

6. Quote our Lord’s final words of hope.

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Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Matthew 22". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/matthew-22.html. 1897-1910.