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The design and scope of this parable of the marriage supper, is to set forth that gracious offer of mercy and salvation, which was made by God in and through the preaching of the gospel to the church of the Jews.
The gospel is here compared to a feast, because in a feast there is plenty, variety, and dainties. Also to a marriage-feast, being full of joy, delight, and pleasure. And to a marriage-feast made by a king, as being full of state, magnificence, and grandeur. To this marriage-feast, or gospel-supper, Almighty God invited the church of the Jews; and the servants sent forth to invite them, were the prophets and apostles in general, and John the Baptist in particular, whom they entreated spitefully, and slew.
The making light of the invitation, signifies the generality of Jews' refusal and careless contempt of the offers of grace in the gospel. By the armies which God sent forth to destroy those murderers, are meant the Roman soldiers, who spoiled and laid waste the city of Jerusalem, and were the severe executioners of God's wrath and judgment upon the wicked Jews. The highways signify the despised Gentiles, who upon the Jews' refusal were invited to this supper, and prevailed with to come in.
The king's coming in to see his guests, denotes that inspection which Christ makes into his church in the times of the gospel.
By the man without the wedding garment, understand such as are destitute of true grace and real holiness, both in heart and life. In the examination of him, Christ says, Friend, how comest thou in hither? not, Friends, why came ye along with him?
Teaching us, that if unholy persons will press in to the Lord's supper, the sin is theirs; but if we come not, because they will come, the sin is ours. The presence of an unholy person at the Lord's table, ought not to discourage us from our duty, or cause us to turn our back upon that ordinance. The command to bind the unqualified person hand and foot, and to cast him into outer darkness, plainly intimates, that the condition of such persons as live under the light, and enjoy the liberty of the gospel, but walk not answerably to their profession, is deplorably sad and doleful: they do not only incur damnation, but no damnation like it. Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness.
From the whole, note, 1. That the gospel, for its freeness and fulness, for its varieties and delicacies, is like a marriage-supper.
2. That gospel-invitations are mightily disesteemed.
3. That the preference which the world has in man's esteem is a great cause of the gospel's contempt. They went one to his farm, and another to his merchandise.
4. That such as are careless in the day of grace, shall undoubtedly be speechless in the day of judgment.
5. That Christ takes a more particular notice of every guest that cometh to his royal supper, than any of his ministers do take, or can take. There was but one person without the wedding garment, and he falls under the eye and view of Christ.
6. That it is not sufficient that we come, but clothed we must be before we come, if ever we expect a gracious welcome to Christ's supper; clothed with sincerity, clothed with humility; clothed with love and charity; if we be not thus clothed, we shall appear naked to our shame, and hear that dreadful charge, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
See Luke 14:17.
This is our blessed Saviour's application of the foregoing parable to the Jews; he tells them, that many of them, indeed all of them were called, that is, invited to the gospel-supper; but with few, very few of them, was found that sincere faith, and that sound repentance, which doth accompany salvation.
Learn hence, That amongst the multitude of those that are called by the gospel unto holiness and obedience, few, very few comparatively, do obey that call, and shall be eternally saved.
Here we have another new design to entangle our blessed Saviour in his discourse.
Where observe, 1. The persons employed to put the ensnaring question to our Saviour, namely, the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees were against paying tribute to Cesar; looking upon themselves as a free people, and the emperor as an usurper. But the Herodians were for it. Herod being made by the Roman emperor king of the Jews, was zealous for having the Jews pay tribute to Cesar; and such of the Jews as sided with him, and particularly his courtiers and favourites, were called Herodians.
Observe, 2. The policy and wicked craft here used, in employing these two contrary sects to put the question to our Saviour concerning tribute; thereby laying him under a necessity (as they hoped) to offend one side, let him answer how he would. If to please the Pharisees he denied paying tribute to Cesar, then he is accused of sedition; if to gratify the Herodians he voted for paying tribute, then he is looked upon as an enemy to the liberty of his country, and exposed to a popular odium: it has been the old policy of Satan and his instruments, to draw the ministers of God into dislike, either with the magistrates or with the people, that they may either fall under the censure of the one, or the displeasure of the other.
Observe, 3. With what wisdom and caution our Lord answers them; he first calls for the tribute-money, which was the Roman penny, answering to seven pence halfpenny of our money, two of which they paid by way of tribute, or poll-money, for every head to the emperor.
Christ asks them whose image or superscription their coin bore? They answer, Cesar's: Render then, says Christ, to Cesar the things that are Cesar's. As if he had said, "The admitting of the Roman coin amongst you, is a testimony that you are under the subjection to the Roman emperor, because the coining and imposing of money is an act of sovereign authority. Now you have owned Cesar's authority over you, by accepting of his coin as current amongst you, give unto him his just dues, and render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's."
Learn hence, That there was no truer paymaster of the king's dues, than he that was King of kings; he preached it, and he practised it, Matthew 17:27 And as Christ is no enemy to the civil rights of princes, and his religion exempts none from paying their civil duties; so princes should be as careful not to rob him of his divine honour, as he is not to wrong them of their civil rights. As Christ requires all his followers to render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's, so should princes oblige all their subjects to render unto God the things that are God's.
Our blessed Saviour having put the Pharisees and Herodians to silence, next the Sadducees encounter him. This sect denied the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body, and as an objection against both, they propound a question to our Saviour, of a woman that had seven brethren successively to her husbands; they demand, Whose wife of the seven this woman shall be at the resurrection? As if they had said, "If there be a resurrection of bodies, surely their will be a resurrection of relations too, and the other world will be like this, in which men will marry as they do here. And if so, whose wife of the seven shall this woman be, they all having and equal claim to her?
Now our Saviour for resolving of this question, 1. Shews the different state of men in this world, and in the other world. The children of this world, says Christ, marry, and are given in marriage, but in the resurrection they do neither. As if our Lord had said, "After men have lived a time in this world, they die, and therefore marriage is necessary to maintain a succession of mankind; but in the other world, men shall become immortal, and live forever; and then the reason of marriage will wholly cease. For when men can die no more, there will be no need of any new supplies of mankind."
2. Our Saviour having got clear of the Sadducees objection, by taking away the ground and foundation of it, he produceth an argument for a proof of the soul's immortality, and body's resurrection. Thus, "Those to whom Almighty God pronounced himself a God are alive; but God pronounced himself a God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, many hundred years after their bodies were dead; therefore their souls are yet alive, federally alive unto God; their covenant relation lives still, otherwise God could not be their God; for he is not God of the dead but of the living. If one relation fails, the other necessarily fails with it; if God be their God, then certainly they are in being, for God is not the God of the dead; that is, of those that are utterly perished.
Therefore it must needs be, that although their bodies be naturally dead, yet do their souls still live, and their bodies shall also live again at the resurrection of the just.
From the whole, Note, 1. That there is no opinion so absurd, no error so monstrous, that having had a mother, will die for the lack of a nurse. The beastly opinion of the mortality of the soul, and the annihilation of the body, finds Sadducees to profess and propagate it.
Note, 2. The certainty of another life after this, in which men shall be eternally happy or intolerable miserable, according as they behave themselves here; though some men live like beasts, they shall not die like them, nor shall their last end be like theirs.
Note, 3. That glorified saints in the morning of the resurrection, shall be like unto the glorious angels; not like them in essence and nature, but like them in their properties and qualities, in holiness and purity, in immortality and incorruptibility, and in their manner of living; they shall no more stand in need of meat or drink, than the angels do; but shall live the same heavenly, immortal, and incorruptible life, that the angels live.
Note, 4. That all those that are in covenant with God, whose God the Lord is, their souls do immediately pass into glory, and their bodies, at the resurrection, shall be sharers in the same happiness with their souls. If God be just, the soul must live, and the body must rise: for good men must be rewarded, and wicked men punished: God will most certainly, some time or other, plentifully reward the righteous, and punish the evil-doers; but this being not always done in this life, the justice of God requires it to be done in the next.
The Sadducees being put by Christ to silence, the Pharisees again encounter him; they send to him a lawyer, that is, one of their interpreters and expounders of the law of Moses, who propounds this question to him, Which is the great commandment of the law? Our Saviour tells them, It is to love the Lord with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind. That is, with all the powers, faculties, and abilities of the soul, with the greatest measure and highest degrees of love. This is the sum and substance of the duties of the first table.
And the second is like unto it, not equal with it, but like unto it. The duties of the second table are of the same authority, and of the same necessity with the first. As a man cannot be saved without the love of God, so neither without the love of his neighbour.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets: that is, the whole duty of man, required by Moses and the prophets, is comprehended in, and may be reduced to, these two heads, namely, the love of God and our neighbour.
From the whole, Note, 1. That the fervency of all our affections, and particularly the supremacy of our love, is required by God as his right and due. Love must pass through and possess all the powers and faculties of the soul; the mind must mediated upon God, the will must choose and embrace him, and the affections must take complacency and delight in him; the measure of loving God, is to love him without measure. God reckons that we love him not at all, if we love him not above all.
1. We must love him above all, appreciative, so as to prize him in our judgment and esteem above all, and before all things.
2. We are to love God above all things, comparative, preferring his favours above all things, comparatively hating whatever stands in competition with him.
3. We are to love God above all things intensive. That is, our longing desires must run out after him, we must pant and thirst for the enjoyment of him.
4. We must love everything in subordination to God, and nothing co-ordinately, or equal with God.
Note, 2. That thus to love God is the first and great commandment. Great, in regard of the object, which is God the first cause and the chief good. Great, in regard of the obligation of it. To love God is so indispensible a command, that God himself cannot free us from the obligation of it; for so long as he is God, and we his creatures, we shal lie under a natural and necessary obligation to love and serve him. Great, in regard of the duration of it, when faith shall be swallowed up in vision, and hope in fruition; love will then be perfected in a full enjoyment.
Note, 3. That every man may, yea, ought to love himself, not his sinful self, but his natural self, and especially his spiritual self, the new nature in him. This it ought to be his particular care to increase and strengthen. Indeed there is no express command in scripture for a man to love himself, because the light of nature directs, and the law of nature binds and moves every man so to do. God has put a principle of self-love and of self-preservation into all his creatures, but especially into man.
Note, 4. As every man ought to love himself, so it is every man's duty to love his neighbour as himself.
1. Not as he does love himself, but as he ought to love himself.
2. Not in the same degree and measure that he loves himself, but after the same manner, and with the same kind of love that he loves himself. As we love ourselves freely and readily, sincerely and unfeignedly, tenderly and compassionately, constantly and perseveringly; so should we love our neighbour. Though we are not commanded to love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves, yet we are to love him like as we love ourselves.
Note, lastly, That the duties of the first and second table are inseparable. The love of God and our neighbour, must no be parted. He that loveth not his neighbour whom he hath seen, never loved God whom he hath not seen. A conscientious regard to the duties of both tables, will be an argument of our sincerity, and an ornament to our profession. Let it then be our prayer and daily endeavour, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. For this is the sum of the law and the substance of the gospel.
The Pharisees had often put forth several questions maliciously unto Christ, and now Christ puts forth one question innocently unto them; namely, What the thought of the Messiah whom they expected? They reply, that he was to be The son of David, a secular prince descending from David, that should deliver them from the power of the Romans, and restore them to their civil rights. This was the notion they had of the Messiah, that he should be a man, the Son of David, and nothing more.
Our Saviour replies, Whence is it then that David calls the Messiah Lord? The Lord said unto my Lord Psalms 110:1; how could he be both David's Lord, and David's son? No son is lord to his father; therefore if Christ were David's sovereign, he must be more than man, more than David's son. As man, so he was David's son; as god-man, so he was David's Lord.
Note hence, That although Christ was truly and really man, yet he was more than a bare man: he was Lord unto, and was the salvation of his own forefathers.
Note, 2. That the only way to reconcile the scriptures which speak concerning Christ, is to believe and acknowledge him to be God and man in one person. The Messiah, as a man, was to come forth out of David's loins; but as a god-man, he was David's sovereign and Saviour. As man, he was his father's son; as God, he was Lord to his own father.
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 22". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany