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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Matthew 22

 

 

Verses 1-46

10. The Parable of the Marriage Feast.

The King's Answers and His Question.

CHAPTER 22

1. The Parable of the Marriage Feast. (Matthew 22:1-14.)
2. The Herodians Answered. (
Matthew 22:15-22.)
3. The Sadducees Answered.(
Matthew 22:23-33.)
4. The Pharisees Answered.(
Matthew 22:34-40.)
5. The Unanswered Question.(
Matthew 22:41-46.)

A third parable follows immediately. They would have laid their hands upon Him, after that searching second parable had been uttered by the Lord, but His hour was not yet. Once more He flashes forth His truth and reveals events to come.

“And Jesus answering spoke to them again in parables, and said, The Kingdom of the heavens has become like a king, who made a wedding feast for his son, and sent his bondmen to call the persons invited to the wedding feast, and they would not come. Again he sent other bondmen, saying, Say to the persons invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatted beasts are killed, and all things are ready; come to the wedding feast. But they made light of it, and went, one to his own land, and another to his merchandise. And the rest laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew them. And when the King heard of it he was wroth, and having sent his forces, destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he says to his bondmen, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy; go therefore into the thoroughfares of the highways, and as many as ye shall find invite to the wedding feast. And those bondmen went out into the highways and brought together all as many as they found, both evil and good; and the wedding feast was furnished with guests. And the King having gone in to see the guests, beheld there a man not clothed with a wedding garment. And he says to him, Friend, how camest thou in here not having a wedding garment? But he was speechless. Then said the King to the servants, Bind him feet and hands and take him away, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called ones, but few chosen ones” (Matthew 22:1-14).

The dispensational character of this parable is very marked. It is ushered in with the familiar words found alone in this Gospel. “The Kingdom of the heavens is like,” or as it ought to be, “has become like.” No doubt it is the same parable as in Luke, chapter 14:16-24; only here the Holy Spirit makes prominent the dispensational features, which are not mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, because they do not belong there. The marriage feast which the King makes for his son and to which he invites guests typifies the gracious offer of God to give joy, comfort and blessings to those whom he wishes to partake of it. It is for the Son, in honor of the Son, that the feast is made. Of the Bride, who of course belongs also to the marriage feast, nothing is said. This parable foreshadows a great deal more than the other two parables in the previous chapter. It goes beyond the cross, for the offer is made not only to Israel but also to the Gentiles. The Kingdom was offered to the nation; had the Jews repented, there would have been a marriage feast for them, a feast of fat things, as promised by the prophets. God’s mercy would have been manifested upon them. The invitation contained in the third verse was given in the preaching of the Kingdom before the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Between the third and fourth verses these great events, as well as the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, must be placed. The preaching of the Kingdom with its gracious blessings stopped, as we learned in the study of this Gospel, with the twelfth chapter. In the thirteenth chapter the Lord teaches the mysteries of the Kingdom, that which takes place during this present dispensation. Now, in the fourth verse we read of a second invitation. When was this second invitation given to the invited guests, that is to Israel? Not before the Cross, but immediately after, with the Holy Spirit come down from Heaven. These servants were to tell them which were bidden, that all things are ready. The work of redemption accomplished, God in His infinite mercy gives another call and now He can say that indeed all is ready, even for the people who had rejected the Son of His love and had crucified Him. The opening chapters of the Book of Acts give us the history of this invitation. There we find the record of the second call to Israel.

The preaching of the Kingdom is resumed for a brief period and with this preaching is the promise of forgiveness of sins and the times of refreshing and restitution. The invitation, which went forth after the Lord had taken His place at the right hand of the Majesty on high, is clearly stated by Peter in the third chapter of Acts. “Repent, therefore, and be converted, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send Jesus Christ, who was foreordained for you, whom heaven indeed must receive till the times of restoration of all things, of which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since time began” (Acts 3:19-21).

No Gentile heard this message, nor was it meant for a Gentile; it was exclusively addressed to Jerusalem. It is a mistake to teach otherwise. The times of restoration or restitution of all things, refer us to that which is promised to Israel when converted, with the Kingdom restored. To use this passage, as it is done so often, as an argument for that wicked doctrine, the restitution of all things, including the unsaved, is fundamentally wrong. Most of the soul-destroying errors taught in these last days spring from a wrong division of the Word of Truth. If this new invitation had been accepted by the Jews, then the Lord would have returned and the restoration of all things, spoken by the prophets and promised to His earthly people, would have come to pass. But the call was not heeded; the restoration of all things, promised to Israel, has been postponed.

Of this refusal to accept this gracious invitation to come to the marriage feast we read in this parable in the fifth and sixth verses. They made light of it, they ignored the offer and occupied themselves with earthly things, such as merchandise. They did the same, what Judah had done after he had with his brethren sold Joseph, he turned a merchant (Genesis 38:1-30). But simple rejection of the gracious offer is not all, “the rest (the leaders of the people) laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew them.” The Book of Acts show how literally these words of the Lord were fulfilled. The climax was the stoning of Stephen.

And after this rejected second offer to the bidden guests, the Jews, comes the punishment sent upon them by God. Their city is destroyed, burned by fire, and these evil men, who are now called murderers, suffer the judgment as well. The Roman army came against Jerusalem, the city is burned; that awful judgment the Lord had predicted when He beheld the city, fell upon Jerusalem and the nation was dispersed. Again we say, what a literal fulfilment! This ends God’s dealing with Israel as a nation for the present age. He will deal with them again ere long; but nationally they are set aside during this age, which, however, does not mean that the individual Jew could not hear and accept the offer of Grace.

Now follows something new. It corresponds to that of which we read in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-58, “the sower went out to sow.” It is now outside of Israel nationally that the Grace of God is offered and the invitation to the wedding feast is given. The servants go out into the highways and give the invitation and bring together all as many as they found, both evil and good, so that the wedding feast was furnished.

It is clear that this going forth of the servants stands for the Gospel call going out to the Gentiles. “By their fall salvation is come to the Gentiles” as the Holy Spirit later testifies through Paul, is taught by the Lord Himself in this parable.

Something follows, which is often misapplied. All the confusion about the wedding garment springs from the wrong conception of the parable, in giving it a church application and putting the scene into Heaven. However, the church is here not at all in view. It is, as in Matthew 13:1-58, the Kingdom of the heavens, the professing sphere of Christendom. The Lord shows that this sphere where His Name is professed and His gracious Gospel invitation is heard, is in a mixed condition. It is composed of professors and possessors. The call goes forth, many hear and follow the call, but not all believe with the heart unto salvation. The man without the wedding garment is the representative of this class and a large class it is. This is evident from the words with which our Lord closes the parable, “For many are called, but few chosen.” The many which are called are all those who heard the call and made an outward profession, without having accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. The wedding garment is the same as the “best robe” which by the Father was put upon the prodigal. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the wedding garment and all who are mere professors of Christ, without having put on the Lord Jesus Christ, will share the fate of this man in the parable. They will be cast into the outer darkness. Awful fate for every one who has not Christ to cover him in the presence of a holy and righteous God. However man may cover himself, however moral and cultured he may be, or religious and philanthropic, if he has not put on Christ he is naked and his place will be where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever. We only wish to add that the scene of viewing the guests must not be put in heaven. None but those who are Christ’s, saved and in possession of eternal life, will be in heaven, and none of those can nor ever will be cast out. It refers to the same time as Matthew 13:40-43. Nor does the Lord teach the last things here, how judgment is to take place, where and in what order. In a general way He teaches this as a warning that though His invitation goes forth and many hear, yet not all will be chosen and that simply because they refuse to accept the gift of God -- the wedding garment, which alone fits us to be in the presence of the King.

The wonderful parable had been uttered; the fearful doom of Jerusalem and its evil leaders predicted; once more the Pharisees are silent in the presence of the King. Their hearts and moral condition had been uncovered, but determined to refuse the light which shone upon them, their darkness became greater than before. We see them withdrawing from His presence. They had nothing to say to Him; no answer to give; no confession to make. Led by their evil hearts, under the control of Satan they turned their backs upon the Lord. Light refused becomes darkness. “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” This is a solemn word, especially in our day. Light received, truth revealed and not acted upon and followed, results in darkness in our days.

We see now the Pharisees in desperate council against the Lord. “Then went the Pharisees and held council how they might ensnare Him in speaking” (Matthew 22:15). This was their only weapon now. They tried to find a way to ensnare Him, and having defeated Him, they intended to publish their victory abroad and find cause to accuse Him and reject Him. The second half of this chapter is occupied with the record of these attempts. The three great factions, Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees combine in this. Ritualists, Worldlings and Rationalists make common cause to defeat the Lord. Though so essentially different, they unite in this one thing, the rejection of the Lord. It is not better in our day. First came the Pharisees and sent their disciples with the Herodians to Him. After He had answered their very subtle question the Sadducees appeared; they also have to return completely silenced. Then comes a great lawyer of the Pharisees and he tempts and once more the Lord wins the victory. Three times the Devil tempted the Lord and three times the Lord is tempted by the leaders of the people. No doubt the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees were but the instruments of that evil being. Then the Lord turns questioner. He only needs to put one question. They cannot answer Him. Not a word could they say nor did any one dare from that day to ask Him another question. After this the King takes the place of the Judge and pronounces judgment upon the corrupt ecclesiastical leaders.

But let us look briefly at the account of the temptings. “And they sent out 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 men’s persons; tell us therefore what Thou thinkest: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said, Why tempt ye me, hypocrites? Show me the money of the tribute. And they presented unto Him a denarius. And He says to them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say to Him, Caesar’s. Then He says to them: Pay then what is Caesar’s to Caesar and what is God’s to God. And when they heard Him they wondered and left Him and went away” (Matthew 22:16-22).

With what cunning.and flattery they had approached Him. For once they spoke the truth when they had declared, “Thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth.” But He knew them, He read their thoughts and sinister purpose.

The temptation was a very subtle one. The Pharisees had no doubt planned it all amongst themselves and had brought the Herodians along as witnesses to take down His answer. The Herodians were mean, low Jews, who favored the political rule and Roman authority and that, no doubt, for selfish reasons. Had the Lord answered the question in the negative and had He forbidden to give tribute to Caesar, these Herodians with the Pharisees (whom the Herodians must have hated) would certainly have accused the Lord as being a conspirator against the Roman government. Had the Lord answered the question in the affirmative and demanded that Caesar should receive tribute, the Pharisees would have claimed that He could not be the Messiah of Israel, inasmuch as He taught subjection under a Gentile King. “There was a strong party in the land, with which, not only politically but religiously, many of the noblest spirits would sympathize, which maintained, that to pay the tribute money to Caesar was virtually to own his royal authority, and so to disown that of Jehovah, who alone was Israel ‘s King. They argued that all the miseries of the land and the people were due to this national unfaithfulness.” (Edersheim.)

To the Pharisees it must have seemed as if for the Lord there could be no escape. Their astonishment when He answered the question, in His heavenly wisdom, shows that they had not anticipated any defeat at all.

They had to show Him the tribute money and on it appeared the image and superscription of Caesar. They had to make the declaration whose image it was. And in His answer He tells them plainly that not only should that be given to Caesar which is Caesar’s, but unto God that which is God’s. How was it that the people had to give at all tribute to Caesar? Did God mean that His people should be under Gentile rule and power? What had put them there? If they had given to God that which is God’s they would never have had to pay tribute to Caesar. Now that they had put themselves by their sin and apostasy in that condition they were to render that to Caesar which belongs to him and to God what is His. This surely was a divine answer such as only the Lord Himself could give. They could give no answer. They wondered and went away.

The Sadducees appear next upon the scene. These deniers of the resurrection come with a temptation of their own. “On the same day there came unto Him Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, and they asked Him saying, Teacher, Moses said, if a man die, not having children, that his brother should marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers, and the first having married died, and not having seed left his wife to his brother. In like manner also the second and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection therefore of which of the seven shall she be wife, for all had her?”

This attempt is as blunt as the other was subtle. The Sadducees denied both the resurrection and the existence of angels; it was not at all believed by them what they had asked. There was also a sneer at the Pharisees in their words. The question is based on the divine law as given through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy Matthew 25:5, etc.). However, the law in this respect was far from being practiced in those days, and the interpreters of this law had put all kinds of limitations upon it. There may, of course, be a case possible like the one recited by the Sadducees, but it is unlikely that it was a real case they laid before Him; it was no doubt gotten up for the occasion. Ignorance, unbelief and sarcasm prompted this question. And what did He answer? He lays bare both their ignorance of the Scripture and the power of God. “And Jesus answering said to them, Ye err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). They did not believe in the Scriptures as the God breathed Word; they were the “Higher Critics” of their day. But the Lord does not try to prove to them the validity of the Scriptures, but tells them that they are ignorant. Then He continues, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven.” In a few words the Lord affirms the truth of resurrection, the existence of angels, which they denied, and shows that their carnal imaginations were but the result of their carnal hearts. The body of humiliation will not be continued in resurrection and earthly relations such as marrying and giving in marriage will cease there. The Lord of course does not teach about resurrection itself in this passage. His purpose is to answer the Sadducees with their foolish question. What He had stated about the state of resurrection was generally believed by the Jews living at that time. The rabbis declared, as learned from talmudical literature, “that in the world to come there would be neither eating nor drinking, fruitfulness nor increase, business nor envy, hatred nor strife, but that the righteous would sit with crowns on their heads and feast on the splendor of the Shekinah.”

He has still an additional word to say about resurrection, which is convincing proof that there will be a resurrection. “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard it they were astonished at His doctrine” (Matthew 22:30-32). God calls Himself by the name of these three men (Exodus 3:1-22), and as He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living, therefore a resurrection must take place. There was nothing left for the Sadducees then but to withdraw.

Once more the Pharisees appear. “But the Pharisees, having heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, were gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, demanded, tempting Him, and saying, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law, And He said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law and the prophets hang” (Matthew 22:34-40). There were various disputations among the Jewish scribes, the lawyers, about the greatest commandment, but the Lord does not enter into these at all. Once more His answer manifests perfect wisdom and according to the record given in the Gospel of Mark the lawyer was greatly moved by this answer. The Lord told him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God “ (Mark 12:34). However, the questioner did not realize that He who stood before him in that hour was Jehovah Himself, the giver of the law.

After this the hopelessness of their case is apparent. They gathered together in a group, but none can suggest a new question, another temptation. All their attempts had proven futile. The Lord now approaches them. He has a question for them. The question of the Messiah, His personality, was never touched upon by the Pharisees and it was after all the most important. The Lord has a question for them about Himself, and, unlike the Pharisees, he uses the Scripture, quoting from His own Word. “And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus demanded of them, saying, What think ye concerning the Christ? Whose Son is He? They say to Him, David’s. He says to them, How, then, does David in Spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand until I put thine enemies under thy feet? If, therefore, David call Him Lord, How is He His son? And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did any one dare from that day to question Him any more” (Matthew 22:41-46).

It is from the 110th Psalm the Lord draws His question. This Psalm is one of the great messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. It is very prominent in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is quoted a number of times as being fulfilled in Him, who is now the man of glory, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. This will be done when He comes again. In sending Him, the First begotten, into the world, God will put down all his enemies. It is almost impossible to believe that, with the evidences from Scripture, such as the word of our Lord and the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Hebrews, certain men who call themselves “scholars” and assume the place of “critics” can deny the 110th Psalm was composed by David and that the Psalm has any messianic reference at all. This surely is wicked unbelief, as pronounced, perhaps more so, than the unbelief of the Pharisees.

Well, the Pharisees here answer that Messiah is to be the Son of David. They were professed teachers of Israel and still they did not understand the Scriptures. The question the Lord now puts to them, David calling Him who is to be a son of his, Lord, that is Jehovah, they could not, perhaps would not, answer. The passage teaches clearly who Messiah is. He is Jehovah incarnate, the Son of David and David’s Lord. And the interrogator is He. His Davidic descent could not be denied; that He has a legal title to the throne of David is clearly proven by the genealogy. In His ministry throughout these years, He had manifested Himself in His mighty works as Jehovah. They could give Him no answer. Solemn moment it was. No answer! No repentance! They are silenced, and when they open their lips again it is to cry “Crucify Him!” The end is now coming on rapidly. In the next chapter He speaks as Judge pronouncing His judgment upon the leaders of the nation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Matthew 22:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/matthew-22.html. 1913-1922.

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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