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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 22

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-14

The Marriage Feast (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24)

The two versions of this story in Matthew and in Luke reveal a common basis the invitation to the feast, the refusal of those invited, the invitation issued then to all who came until the room was full. But the differences are striking and show that we are confronted by two differing traditions taking their rise from the same story. Luke includes some traits which are very lifelike those invited are too busy; the master of the house invites "the poor and maimed and blind and lame"; then, in a second sending he enlarges yet further the circle of those invited and declares that none of those who were originally invited shall taste of the banquet. We find here a well-known theme, a faithful image of what has happened during Jesus’ ministry the allusion to the Messianic banquet is evident to those who are initiated, but remains veiled from the others.

The story of Matthew strongly accentuates the Messianic character of the parable. The one who issues the invitation is a king, and the occasion is a marriage feast. Those who are invited are not content to decline the invitation; they assassinate the messengers (vs. 6). The king decides to burn the city (vs. 7). It is difficult not to see in this feature an allusion to the burning of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 an interpretation of the parable in the light of events. The king sends his servants to invite all whom he meets "both bad and good" The new community which Jesus comes to found does not include only the pure!

To this first parable is linked that of the man without the wedding garment who is cast out (vss. 11-14). What is its meaning? Some interpreters call upon an oriental custom according to which a garment required for the occasion was delivered to the invited guests (Genesis 45:22; Judges 14:12-13). Hence, no one was excusable for not having been clothed with it. But the garment here likely has a symbolic meaning. God "clothes" us with his righteousness and his salvation (see Isaiah 61:10; Psalms 132:9; Psalms 132:16; Zechariah 3:3-5; Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 19:7-8). The wedding garment shows that one is a participant in the feast. All ugliness, all sadness, all impurity, is 1 a discordant intrusion in the wedding chamber. Thus the children of the Kingdom are known by the joy which radiates from them. If they do not participate in the feast, they will be only intruders.

Jesus opens wide the doors of the Kingdom. He calls, he urges the crowd to enter. But how few respond to the invitation! "For many are called, but few are chosen."

Verses 15-22

God and Caesar (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)

This passage is important because men have frequently attempted to build out of this word of Jesus a theory concerning the State. Let us note first of all that the intention of the Pharisees is to lay a trap for Jesus, to "entangle" him. The leaders of the Pharisees refrain from coming in person. They send some "Herodians," that is to say, some men of the circle of Herod, who were partisans of his pro-Roman politics. Herod’s politics were not at all those of the Pharisees, but every means is good in compelling Jesus to imperil himself by taking sides either for or against Rome. In the popular expectation the coming of the Messiah meant the end of the Roman yoke. If Jesus declares himself for Roman authority, he loses the confidence of the people; if he declares himself against Caesar, he becomes a political insurgent. It is the Messianic problem which is posed here. It was an effort to shut Jesus up to a dilemma. It is then quite justifiable to charge as "hypocrites" those who approach him with flattering words but whose only purpose is to destroy him.

Pious Jews shunned even looking on the image of Caesar. Jesus has no such vain scruples. He takes a coin and shows it to his questioners. He confronts them with their real situation they are under the dominion of Caesar. Let them, therefore, render to him what is his! But let them also render to God what is God’s! We know from elsewhere what Jesus thinks of temporal authority it is its nature to "domineer" (Matthew 20:25). This domineering is a part of the order of this world which is destined to disappear. The norms of the Kingdom to come are exactly the opposite (Matthew 20:26-27; see 5:5). But this Kingdom cannot be established by violence; it can be established only by God himself, in his own time. All revolutionary messianism is thus discarded. The authority of Caesar is acknowledged within its proper limits. The Gospel according to John states clearly the thought of Jesus on this point: his Kingdom is not of this world. But God governs history, and temporal authority exists only because he has willed it thus (see John 18:36; John 19:10-11). Sovereign and final authority remains that of God. The State can require only our money and our services, never our souls that is to say, the obedience which we owe only to God.

Verses 22-23

Of the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40)

This time the attack does not come from the Pharisees but from the Sadducees, the representatives of the priestly caste. The resurrection was a subject of controversy among the Jews. Belief in the resurrection appears rarely in the Old Testament and then only in the latest parts, such as the Book of Daniel (Daniel 12:2). The Pharisees believed in it while the Sadducees rejected it, accepting only the authority of the Pentateuch the original Mosaic Law. On this point Jesus shares the conviction of the Pharisees. The Sadducees try to prove their argument by an absurd example: To whom will a wife belong who has had seven husbands? The Sadducees are not the only ones who have asked such trifling questions about the beyond. We would all like to pierce the mystery of it. Jesus refuses to reply to this question in the form in which it is posed. He accuses his adversaries of not understanding the Scriptures because they do not believe in the power of God. It is a matter of a new creation, of an order of things other than the one here below. Marriage and procreation belong to the order of this world. The angels, by their nature, are not involved in these temporal conditions. Jesus says no more than that. We must receive in faith the affirmation of the life to come, without trying to know more than Jesus has judged it well to tell us.

In the saying which follows (vss. 31-32), Jesus bases his faith in the resurrection on the fact that God is the living God who communicates his life to those who believe on him. Speaking to the Sadducees, who wish to acknowledge only the authority of Moses, Jesus reminds them of the word spoken by God from the midst of the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are among the living because they have believed in God (see Matthew 8:11).

Let us note that this conception is totally .different from the Greek conception shared by so many moderns! according to which the physical body is destroyed and the soul is immortal by nature. For Jesus, eternal life is a gift of God; it is a resurrection from the dead, a wholly new mode of existence, a fullness of being whose form remains veiled from us.

Verses 34-40

The Great Commandment

(Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28)

The question of the Pharisees is presented by Matthew as a new attempt to embarrass Jesus (compare the slightly different setting in Mark where the questioner seems sincere). The commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is recited every day by faithful Jews. Tradition brought together the two commandments of love of God and love of neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus makes no innovation in calling to mind these two commandments, and his adversaries find no basis to counter him, for it is true that the whole Law springs from them. The difference between Jesus and his opponents lies in the fact that "they preach, but do not practice" (Matthew 23:3). They do not see that the absoluteness of the divine demand condemns them. It is this absolute that Jesus has already stressed in the Sermon on the Mount (see ch. 5). Far from abolishing the ancient commandment, Jesus makes it the very center of his teaching. Yet with the same stroke he drives us into the corner of the impossible.

Who of us loves God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, that is, with his whole being? Who of us does not secretly love himself more than he loves his neighbor? Thus the Law when reduced to these two commandments is more than ever our condemnation. It shuts us up to the mercy of God (Matthew 5:7), to a life entirely renewed which only his Spirit can create in us. It is the Pharisees’ refusal to confess their bankruptcy and impotence which shuts them up to an awkward silence.

Verses 41-46

Son or Lord? (Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44)

The argument here may seem subtle to us who are not trained in rabbinic discussions. But it poses an essential question that of the humanity and the divinity of the Messiah. Some saw in the Messiah a temporal king, a descendant of David, who would re-establish the kingdom of Israel in its ancient glory (see Isaiah 9:5-7; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24); others, laying stress upon Daniel 7:13-14 and on the Book of Enoch, were looking for a pre-existent "son of man" who would come from heaven, as Judge and King.

Several times Jesus had been called "Son of David" and did not reject the title (Matthew 20:31; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 21:15; compare Matthew 1:1). His descent from David never seems to have been contested (see Romans 1:3). But in calling himself the "Son of man," in announcing his return as King and Judge of men, he affirms his divine authority (Matthew 16:27-28; Matthew 25:31-32). In this double human and divine nature lies the mystery of his Person. He poses the enigma to the Pharisees by citing Psalms 110, which was acknowledged by tradition as a Messianic Psalm. How can the Son of David be at the same time David’s Lord? The question is left without reply. Jesus will openly proclaim his Messiahship only later at his trial (Matthew 26:63-64).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 22". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/matthew-22.html.
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