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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Matthew 22



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Verse 2

Matthew 22:2

The marriage of Christ is the mystery of the Church, and it belongs to the initiated. To those who stand in the outer circle of thought it is a word and a fable. To those who are within it is the simplest and the grandest of all possible realities.

I. Consider how this union, of which all marriage is the intended allegory, actually takes place between Him and us. The first mover is, as it ought to be, the Lord Jesus Christ. The wife does not seek her husband, but the husband seeks his wife. Gradually, by His own sweet constraints, and the outgoings of His Spirit to Us, we begin to love Him. And then come the early betrothals of a heart made willing—the moving of holy desires and of sacred yearnings. And then the contract—that indissoluble contract which is between Christ and the believer, strong as adamant.

II. Note the conditions of the union. In the presence of witnesses the covenant of marriage must be ratified. And so here angels and the Church look on when Christ, before the whole universe, confesses you, and will confess you, to be His for ever. And you, on your part, must confess Him before Christians, before the world, before angels, before all men. The mutual confession is the basis of the stipulation.

III. And with common consent it must be. Free as the wind was His choice of you; absolute and explicit must be your surrender to Him. No compulsion, no outside circumstances, no secondary motive will avail. It must be your own independent, unbiassed will, the full accord of your whole heart. It is a compact of perfect affection, absolute duty, untiring allegiance. The soul of all attachment to you is Christ. It is a relation of the most exquisite fondness, but it is a relation of the most unqualified obedience.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 193.

Verses 2-7

Matthew 22:2-7

Our Lord's parable has fulfilled itself again and again in history, and will fulfil itself as long as foolish and rebellious persons exist on earth. This is one of the laws of the kingdom of Heaven. It must be so, for it arises by necessity out of the character of Christ, the King of Heaven—infinite bounty and generosity; but if that bounty be despised and insulted, or still more, if it be outraged by wanton tyranny or cruelty, then—for the benefit of the rest of mankind—awful severity. So it is, and so it must be, simply because God is good.

I. The king in the parable was very angry, as he had a right to be. Let us lay that to heart, and tremble, from the very worst of us all to the very best of us all. There is an anger in God. There is indignation in God. An awful thought, and yet a blessed thought. Under God's anger, or under God's love, we must be, whether we will or not. We cannot flee from His presence. We cannot go from His Spirit. If we are loving, and so rise up to heaven, God is there—in love. If we are cruel and wrathful, and so go down to hell, God is there also—in wrath. With the clean He will be clean; with the froward man He will be froward. On us, and us alone, it depends whether we shall live under God's anger or live under God's love.

II. We pride ourselves on our superior light and our improved civilization, and look down on the old Roman Catholic missionaries, who converted our forefathers from heathendom in the middle ages. These men made mistakes, and often worse than mistakes, for they were but men. But if they had not had a deep and sound belief that they were in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven—and that they and all men must obey the laws of the kingdom of Heaven; and that the first law of it was that wrong-doing would be punished, and right-doing rewarded in this life every day, and all day long, as sure as Christ, the living Lord, reigned in righteousness over all the earth: if they had not believed that and acted on it, we should probably have been heathen at this day. Let us lay this to heart with seriousness and godly fear. For so we shall look up with reverence, and yet with hope, to Christ the ascended King, to whom all power is given in heaven and earth.

C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day and other Sermons, p. 274.

References: Matthew 22:2.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons in Country Churches, p. 62. Matthew 22:2, Matthew 22:3.—C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. ii., p. 411; R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 235. Matthew 22:2-4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 975. Matthew 22:3.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 265. Matthew 22:4.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 208. Matthew 22:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 98. Matthew 22:8.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1st series, p. 245. Matthew 22:8-10.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 47. Matthew 22:10.—E. H. Bradby, Sermons at Haileybury, p. 85.

Verse 11-12

Matthew 22:11-12

The Guest without the Wedding Garment.

I. The service of Christ requires qualifications. Many may be attracted to the service who shrink from obtaining these necessary qualifications. Yet they may for a long time pass muster, and they may even bring themselves to believe that they have a right to pass muster. Their conceptions of the qualifications required may be utterly inadequate, till a light suddenly flashes in on their conscience, to convict, to expose, and to condemn. Now what do we mean by the expression "not having a wedding garment?" What is the kind of disqualification which is here indicated? There is but one qualification for the presence of Christ—faith in Christ. We must honestly wish to be Christ's servants. We must trust to His love and power to make us so.

II. Note the danger of appearing in Christ's presence without the true qualification. Faith in Christ has been presented to us not as a cold dogma, not as a badge of party, not as the devout but somewhat effeminate antagonist to an honest and calumniated reason; but as the guiding rule of lives which we are sure must be pleasing to God. If we have not gathered from the Bible the true nature of that wedding garment in which the redeemed of Christ must appear before their Master it is our own neglect. We, too, shall inevitably be speechless when the question is put to us: How camest thou in hither? We are not tempted to be unbelievers; or rather, that is not the main temptation of our day: we are tempted to be dishonest Christians; we are tempted to let our Christianity influence everything—our tastes, our prejudices, our professions— everything but our hearts. But it is on these that Christ looks. He sees at a glance whether they are cold or warm.

H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 1st series, p. 387.

References: Matthew 22:11, Matthew 22:12.—D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,209; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 241. Matthew 22:11-13.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 262. Matthew 22:11-14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 976. Matthew 22:12.—J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, 2nd series, p. 303.

Verse 14

Matthew 22:14

We have to do in the text not with an arbitrary call and an arbitrary choice, as if God called many in mockery, meaning to choose out of them only a few, and making His choice independently of any exertion of theirs. The picture is very different; it is a gracious call to us all to come and receive the blessing; it is a reluctant casting out the greatest part of us, because we would not render ourselves fit for it.

I. We have all been called, in a Christian sense, inasmuch as we have all been introduced into Christ's Church by Baptism; and a very large proportion of us have been called again at our Confirmation. We have been thus called to enter into Christ's kingdom; we have been called to lead a life of holiness and happiness from this time forth even for ever.

II. Now, if this be the prize to which we are called, who are they who are also chosen to it? (1) In the first and most complete sense, no doubt, those who have entered into their rest; who are in no more danger, however slight; with whom the struggle is altogether past, the victory securely won. (2) Those we may call chosen who, having heard their call, have turned to obey it, and have gone on following it. (3) Those are chosen who, having found in themselves the sin which did most easily beset them, have struggled with it, and wholly, or in a great measure, have overcome it.

III. What is the proportion between those who are chosen and those who are called only? This I dare not answer; there is a good as well as an evil which is unseen by the world at large, unseen even by all but those who watch us most nearly and most narrowly. All we can say is, that there are too many who, we must fear, are not chosen; there are too few of whom we can feel sure that they are.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 101.

References: Matthew 22:14.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, vol. ii., No. 18. Matthew 22:15-22.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 468. Matthew 22:15-46.—Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 131. Matthew 22:16.—W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 458. Matthew 22:16-22.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 336. Matthew 22:20.—A. Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 133. Matthew 22:20, Matthew 22:21.—A. P. Stanley, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 10.

Verse 21

Matthew 22:21

Sacrifice to Cæsar or to God.

I. The only Cæsar which we have to fear nowadays is called Public Opinion—the huge, anonymous idol which we ourselves help to make, and then tremble before the creation of our own cowardice; whereas, if we will but face him, in the fear of God and the faith of Christ, determined to say the thing which is true, and do the thing which is right, we shall find the modern Cæsar but a phantom of our own imagination—a tyrant, indeed, as long as he is feared, but a coward as soon as he is defied. To that Cæsar let us never bow the knee. Render to him all that he deserves—the homage of common courtesy, common respectability, common charity—not in reverence for his wisdom and strength, but in pity for his ignorance and weakness. But render always to God the things which are God's. That duty lies on us as on all mankind still, from our cradle to our grave, and after that through all eternity. Let us go back, or rather, let us go home to the eternal laws of God, which were ages before we were born, and will be ages after we are dead—to the everlasting rock on which we all stand, which is the will and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to whom all power is given (as He said Himself) in heaven and in earth.

II. There are three sacrifices which every man, woman, and child can offer, and should offer, however lowly, however uneducated in what the world calls education nowadays. Of these sacrifices our Lord Himself said: The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. Now, what are these spiritual sacrifices? (1) First and foremost, surely, the sacrifice of repentance, of which it is written: "The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." (2) Next, the sacrifice of thankfulness, of which it is written: "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord." (3) Lastly, the sacrifice of righteousness, of which it is written: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."

C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day and Other Sermons, p. 378.

I. These words have two aspects, as they had, we must believe, two purposes. In the first place, they were an answer to the Herodians and Pharisees, and their question had not been an honest one. The answer was an escape from a skilfully laid trap—a path formed where his enemies fondly hoped that all pathway was cut off. But there must be another aspect also. It cannot have been related by the Evangelists among the great sayings of that most solemn week as an instance only of adroitness in baffling human wit and malignity. It was an answer, in the first place, to a question asked with a malicious purpose. But that question might have been asked, would be asked in after days, in some form or other, by humble souls eager for guidance in real difficulties. The answer must have been meant for them too.

II. Should they give tribute to Cæsar or not? The world as they lived in it was in the hands of heathen rulers, who had crucified the Lord of Glory, and who despised or persecuted His disciples. How were Christians to live with such a society? Were they to submit to such rulers? And submitting, were they to do so cheerfully, or under protest? Christ's answer may seem to us hardly to solve such difficulties. It is an answer which has been often misunderstood, and even made to teach the lesson which it was meant to unteach. The difficulty may seem to us in any particular case to be precisely the one which it does not meet—the question: What is Cæsar's and What is God's? The answer does not meet the difficulty directly, yet it takes its sting from it. The sting of the question lies in the false views which men have taken of the meaning of our Lord's words—as though He had meant to distinguish two provinces, two claims—to set them as rivals, fronting one another, limited by one another. The point of our Lord's answer was to heal and reconcile. It was possible, it was a duty, to satisfy both. What is Cæsar's really is what God has given to Cæsar; and in satisfying that claim to the very fullest extent we are satisfying, so far, that larger claim which exists on all our heart and life.

E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 262.

References: Matthew 22:21.—C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 1st series, p. 171; H. G. Robinson, Man in the Image of God, p. 127; R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 367; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 430; H. N. Grimley, Tremadoc Sermons, p. 206; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 46; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 295. Matthew 22:29-32.—J. J. Murphy, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 102. Matthew 22:30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 842; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., 4th series, p. 551; 5th series, p. 75, Matthew 22:32.—J. N. Norton, Old Paths, p. 468. Matthew 22:34-40.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons (1870), p. 426. Matthew 22:34-46.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 351; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 156. Matthew 22:35-40.—S. Cox, Expositions, vol. iv., p. 88.

Verse 36

Matthew 22:36

Consider the law of love as a natural force of humanity. It will help us to understand this principle if we first distinguish it from some other principles of our nature.

I. It is to be distinguished from the principle of will, and in some regards is indeed to be opposed to it. The human life and the law of human life must give us personality in man, but also a being of God. The law must give us distinction, without the isolation in which human life is impossible. And the law must give us union, for which all human life is a craving, without the confusion from which it shrinks. All human lives that are following the law of will, of self, of individualism, are breaking life's true law, and missing life's true aim.

II. The law of love is to be distinguished from the principle of knowledge. Knowledge is not a primary fact, and can never become an ultimate law of life. "Knowledge shall vanish away, but love never faileth."

III. The law of love is wholly opposed to the spirit of fear. Fear is not natural to man. Fear only came to man when tempted by knowledge. He transgressed the obedience of love, and having transgressed he hid himself from the presence of God. And Adam represents us all. We hide from God because we have sinned. When we kneel at the foot of the Cross, and feel that because God loves us we must love God, we learn again the law of life, the law of being: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy mind, and all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself." That is the law of God—an unbroken actual principle. It is the law of your being. Are you living it? You cannot rest without it. You cannot, because it is the law of your being; God has made you to love Him, to have communion with Him. And in that perfect communion the law of God is not broken, and that law is, that with all your heart, with all your being, with all the powers that you have, shall you love God. Then reason shall be linked to heaven, and affection linked to heaven, and conscience linked to heaven, and idea, and imagination, and all the powers of mind and soul linked to heaven by the eternal principle of love.

Archdeacon Watkins, Cambridge Review, Nov. 26th, 1884.

References: Matthew 22:36, Matthew 22:37.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,450. Matthew 22:36-38, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 232. Matthew 22:36-40.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 220; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 116; see also Sermons, 4th series, p. 205.

Verse 37

Matthew 22:37

The Mind's Love for God.

I. Is it not manifestly true that besides the love of the senses, and the love of the heart, and the love of the soul, and the love of the strength, there is also a love of the mind, without whose entrance into the completeness of the loving man's relation to the object of his love his love is not complete? Is your greatest friend contented with your love before you have come to love him with all your mind? Everywhere we find our assurances that the mind has its affections and enthusiasms, that the intellect is no cold-hearted monster who only thinks and judges, but that it glows with love, not merely perceiving, but delighted to perceive, the beauty of the things with which it has to do.

II. Christ bids His disciples to love God with all their minds. Is there not something sublimely beautiful and touching in this demand of God that the noblest part of His children's nature should come to Him? "Understand me," he seems to cry, "I am not wholly loved by you unless your understanding is searching out after My truth, and with all your powers of thoughtfulness and study you are trying to find out all you can about My nature and My ways."

III. There are ignorant saints who come very near to God, and live in the rich sunlight of His love, but none the less for that is their ignorance a detraction from their sainthood. There are mystics who, seeing how God outgoes human knowledge, choose to assume that God is not a subject of human knowledge at all. Such mystics may mount to sublime heights of unreasoning contemplation, but there is an uncompleteness in their love, because they rob one part of their nature of all share in their approach to God. Love God with all your mind, because your mind, like all the rest of you, belongs to Him; and it is not right that you should give Him only a part to whom belongs the whole. Give your intelligence to God. Know all you can about Him. In spite of all disappointment and weakness, insist on seeing all you can see now through the glass darkly, so that hereafter you may be ready when the time for seeing face to face shall come.

Phillips Brooks, Sermons in English Churches, p. 22.

The Beatific Vision.

I. Our feeling of the beauty of goodness comes, as St. John tells us, from Christ, the Light who is the life of men, and lights every man who comes into the world; and that light in our hearts, which makes us see, and admire, and love what is good, is none other than Christ Himself shining in our hearts, and showing to us His own likeness and the beauty thereof. But if we stop there, if we only admire what is good, without trying to copy it, we shall lose that light. Our corrupt and diseased nature will quench that heavenly spark in us more and more till it dies out—as God forbid that it should die out in any of us.

II. It is but a faint notion, no doubt, that the best men can have of God's goodness, so dull has sin made our hearts and brains; but let us comfort ourselves with this thought—that the more we learn to love what is good, the more we accustom ourselves to think of good people and good things, and to ask ourselves why and how this action and that is good, the more shall we be able to see the goodness of God. And to see that, even for a moment, is worth all sights in earth or heaven. Worth all sights, indeed. No wonder that the saints of old called it the "Beatific Vision," that is, the sight which makes a man utterly blessed; namely, to see, if but for a moment, with his mind's eye what God is like, and behold He is utterly good. No wonder that they said with St. Peter, when he saw our Lord's glory: "Lord, it is good for us to be here;" and felt like men gazing upon some glorious picture or magnificent show, off which they cannot take their eyes, and which makes them forget for the time all besides in heaven and earth. And it was good for them to be there; but not too long. Man was sent into the world not merely to see, but to do; and the more he sees, the more he is bound to go and do accordingly. St. Augustine, though he would gladly have lived and died doing nothing but fixing his soul's eye steadily on the glory of God's goodness, had to come down from the mount and work, and preach, and teach, and wear himself out in daily drudging for that God whom he learnt to serve, even when he could not adore Him in the press of business, and the bustle of a rotten and dying world.

C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 1.

Verse 37-38

Matthew 22:37-38

There are two reasons why men do not love God. For one of them there are great excuses; for the other there is no excuse whatsoever.

I. In the first place, too many find it difficult to love God, because they have not been taught that God is lovable, and worthy of their love. They have been taught dark and hard doctrines, which have made them afraid of God. They have been taught—too many are taught still—not merely that God will punish the wicked, but that God will punish nine-tenths, or ninety-nine hundredths, of the human race. That He will send to endless torments not merely sinners who have rebelled against what they knew was right, and His command; who have stained themselves with crimes, who wilfully injured their fellow-creatures: but that He will do the same by little children, by innocent young girls; by honourable, respectable, moral men and women; because they are not what is called sensibly converted, or else what is called orthodox. Often—strongest notion of all—they have been taught that, though God intends to punish them, they must still love Him, or they will be punished—as if such a notion, so far from drawing them to God, could do anything but drive them from Him. Our love must be called out by God's love. If we are to love God, it must be because He has first loved us. If we really believed that God who made heaven and earth was even now calling to each and every one of us, and beseeching us, by the sacrifice of His well beloved Son, crucified for us, "My son, give Me thine heart," we could not help giving up our hearts to Him.

II. Provided—and there is that second reason why people do not love God, in which I said there was no excuse—provided only that we wish to be good, and to obey God. If we do not wish to do what God commands we shall never love God. It must be so. There can be no real love of God which is not based upon the love of virtue and goodness, upon what our Lord calls a hunger and thirst after righteousness. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" is our Lord's own rule and text.

C. Kingsley, The Water of Life, p. 214.

References: Matthew 22:37.—H. N. Grimley, Tremadoc Sermons, p. 212; C. Taylor, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. vi., p. 363; S. Macnaughton, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 85; E. Bersier, Sermons 2nd series, p. 176. Matthew 22:37-40.—H. W. Beecher. Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 229; see also Plymouth Pulpit, 10th series, p. 7. Matthew 22:39.—G. Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, p. 189; C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 41.

Verse 42

Matthew 22:42

I. Some people do not think much about Him any way. Their minds are pre-occupied; they think of something else.

II. Some do think, and now it is of much importance that we inquire what they think. (1) There is a historic ideal of Christ. It admits all the facts of His biography. I do not think it helps one's salvation, or cleanses his nature, any more than did the love and longing of the Ancient Britons who believed that Arthur had achieved matchless excellence, and who fondly anticipated his return one time to gather his knights anew at the remembered Round Table. (2) There is also a theologic ideal of Christ. Such a conception, when left alone, is only enough to render an individual a mere polemic, or disputant. A cold and cheerless dogmatism is the result. (3) There is a poetic ideal of Christ. It is not so much Jesus Christ that these enthusiasts love as the imaginative picture of Christ which they invest with all that their hearts admire. (4) There is an evangelic ideal of Christ. The result here is a career. The man sees the one peerless life in the New Testament moving before him; he has no wish more pervading and swaying than simply to become like it, and plant his own feet in the prints of the beloved Master's.

III. Ideals control life. Some say it makes no difference what a man believes if he is only sincere in his faith. Alas! it makes all the difference in the world. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he; character decides destiny too. So the more sincere one is, if he be in error, the worse it is for him. "What think ye of Christ?" Observe that by-and-bye this great question of the ages will be reversed; and then it will be of the highest moment to ask: What does Christ think of me?

C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 206.

References: Matthew 22:42.—G. Calthrop, Pulpit Recollections, p. 101; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 105; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 366; Ibid., Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1,093. Matthew 23:5.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 158. Matthew 23:8.—J. H. Thom, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, p. 199; F. W. Aveling, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 385. Matthew 23:8-10.—A. Harnack, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 322. Matthew 23:8-12.—A. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 116; Contemporary Pulpit, vol. x., p. 184. Matthew 23:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 10; B. F. Westcott, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 461. Matthew 23:15.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 323; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 114.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 22:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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