Notes Matthew chapter 22

©  copyright  1997 drs Gijs van den Brink


The Parable of the Wedding Banquet 22:1-14

22:1. Jesus spoke to them again in parables. In Matt 21:45-46 we read of the conclusion of the meeting between the delegates from the Sanhedrin. Matthew tells us here that Jesus takes up the threads again ('to them again'). Again Jesus spoke in parables (a categoric plural, cf. Mark 3:23), i.e., in the form of a parable.

We find a similar parable in Luke 14:15-24, spoken on another occasion in another place, that is, during a meal in a Pharisee's house. There does not have to be any connection between the parables. We must accept that Jesus used certain words and stories on different occasions and possibly also with different intentions (this in connection with the tiny points of difference).

The meaning of the story which follows is closely connected to the previous parable (Matt 21:33-46). Here too the leaders are addressed as representatives of the people (compare v. 7 with Matt 21:43).

2. a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. Marriages always took place in the bridegroom's home, and the parents were responsible for the feast. The Greek word for 'wedding banquet' (gamoi) means both wedding feast and wedding hall (v.10), as well as wedding banquet. The wedding banquet is a picture of the joy of the Kingdom of God, cf. Rev 19:7,9; Isa 25:6.

Jesus must have meant Himself when He spoke of the King's son, not now as the son who was killed (Matt 21:37-38), but as the son who rules.

3. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet. In upper class circles in those days it was usual for Jews and heathens alike to send out a general invitation and later, when the preparations were all finished, to announce the exact time and place or even to fetch the guests (cf. Esther 5:8 and 6:14).

to tell them to come. Those who were summoned here had therefore received an earlier invitation and they were now told that everything was ready (cf. v. 4). Of course, to refuse now was the height of impoliteness.

The servants who were sent to summon the guests are the disciples (cf. Matt 10:5 ff; Luke 10:1 ff). But although the guests, i.e., the people of Israel (cf. Isa 55:1 ff) had been summoned they did not want to come, cf. Matt 23:37.

4. It was usual for the marriage celebrations to last seven days. But if it was a royal marriage, it could well take longer.

I have prepared my dinner. The Greek word for 'dinner' (ariston) literally means an early-morning meal, a breakfast, but also more generally 'mealtime'. Perhaps this is intended to emphasise that the Jews were summoned first, or even that the meal had only just begun, a foretaste of the great chief feast.

The invitation in this verse is strongly reminiscent of that of Wisdom in Prov 9:2,5.

5. But they paid no attention. At first the guests did not want to come (v. 3), but now they ignored the invitation (Gk. amele - take no notice of, not to care for, cf. Heb 2:3; 8:9). We learn further why they reject the invitation.

one to his field, another to his business. They were more interested in, and had more concern for their own affairs, their fields and their business. Jesus paid much attention to these things (especially family and possessions), which stood in the way of discipleship (cf. Matt 6:24; 10:34- 39).

We read that the repeated invitation called two reactions forth: disregard (v.5) and persecution (v.6).

6. The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them. Those invited in this verse are more evil-natured than those mentioned in v. 5. This verse, like Matt 21:35,39, is similar in content to Matt 10:17-23 and Matt 23:34, and therefore has a prophetic meaning. In the Book of Acts we read that these words came to pass, and how that happened (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 9:1; 12:1,2,3; 16:22).

7. He sent his army ... and burned their city. We are dealing here with a time when a king could have a town destroyed, usually by fire, for the least annoyance (SB, I, 881).

Jesus is doubtless speaking prophetically about the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, which was fulfilled in 70 A.D., when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.

8. those I invited did not deserve to come. Because those who were invited refused the invitation, they were unworthy of the feast, i.e., they did not deserve to attend the wedding.

9. Go to the street corners. When the people of the city ignored the invitation, the king orders his servants to go to the squares of the streets. The Greek word diexodos is not a crossroads as we understand it, but it is the place where a street reaches the city boundary and debouches into open country, i.e., it is the end of the street, a square outside or on the edge of the city (Bauer, s.v.). Many people always gathered here, especially beggars, robbers, the unclean.
It is obvious that Jesus is speaking prophetically about the gentiles.

10. the servants ... gathered all the people they could find. The servants set forth yet again, this time to invite all whom they met (cf. Matt 28:19).
Good and bad, of course, means according to worldly standards. For no-one is good in the eyes of God (Matt 7:11; 19:17).

11. the king came in to see the guests. The king entered the hall where the guests were reclining, apparently to greet them. The fact that the host did not eat with them himself was a sign of great courtesy in those days.

wedding clothes. The wedding garment was not some unusual festive garment, but clean washed clothes (SB I, 882). This washed garment is an image of the 'garment of salvation', the 'robe of righteousness' (Isa 61:10; cf. Rev 3:4,5,18; 19:8), i.e., of the new life we receive when we are cleansed and forgiven from our sins.

12. 'Friend,' he asked. 'Friend' is a familiar expression normally used when speaking to someone whose name one did not know.
How did you get in here, does not mean 'in what way', but 'by what right'.
The man was speechless. He might have been silent out of shame or fear, but equally well he remained silent on purpose, out of pride.

13. 'Tie him hand and foot. Not wearing suitable clean clothing was a great insult and for this reason it is quite understandable why the king had this guest punished.

throw him outside: being sent away from a meal was considered a great humiliation.

into the darkness (lit. outer darkness). As far as outer darkness is concerned where there will (!) be weeping and gnashing of teeth, image and reality are intertwined (just as in Matt 25:30). Although it is an image of Judgment (cf. Matt 13:42,50), which, as a contrast, can easily be associated with the image of the brightly-lit hall (cf. Matt 8:12), the darkness is not to be found before the king's palace but in Gehenna (Matt 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33).

14. This verse suitably concludes the double parable.
many are invited. The Greek word for 'many' (polloi) in Semitic fashion, has to do with both quantity and totality and must therefore be understood in the sense of 'all' (cf. Dan 12:2).

but few are chosen. The call mentioned here is the invitation to all men in the preaching of the Gospel. There are indeed only few who accept the offer, but those who do so are called the elect of God. In this parable Jesus is not speaking about predestination but about guilt: 'they refused to come' (v. 3; cf. Matt 23:37).

Only those who both accept the offer of the Gospel (vv. 1-10) and in consequence receive new life (vv. 11-13) are elect, saved.


Paying Taxes to Caesar 22:15-22

15. the Pharisees ... laid plans to trap him in his words. In contrast to Matt 21:45, only the Pharisees are named here, which shows that Jesus is not being confronted now by representatives of the Sanhedrin (as in Matt 21:23), but by the Pharisaic party.

to trap him in his words. The Greek word for 'trap' is a hunting term and means 'to set a trap', 'to catch in a trap'.

16. along with the Herodians. The Herodians formed a political party which supported the dynasty of Herod. Being well disposed towards the Romans, they were politically directly opposed to the Pharisees, who were nationalistically inclined. But now they met in their opposition to Jesus, and were able to collaborate. The initiative came from the Pharisees, who had organized this collaboration, and the trap (v. 15) lay in the fact that Jesus' answer must be repugnant to one of the two parties, and thereby make Him unpopular with the people or provide grounds for an accusation to the governor. The long adulatory introduction is an attempt to coerce Jesus to give a direct answer this time.

17. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? In Roman times there were three general taxes to be paid: a land-tax (tributum soli, in money or in kind); a toll (in ports or cities) and a poll-tax (tributum capitis, a sort of capital gains tax). The last mentioned is the one involved here. Payment of the capitation to the emperor was a sign of subjection and much hated by the people, also in view of the image of the emperor on the tribute money, the silver denarius. The Zealots refused unconditionally to pay the tax. The Pharisees expected Jesus to answer the question negatively with the consequence that the Herodians would immediately lay a complaint with the governor (Luke 20: 20). If Jesus were to answer affirmatively, his position as a respected rabbi would be seriously affected, at the least.

18. Jesus, knowing their evil intent. Even though they had managed to conceal their hatred and had posed their question in a flattering way, Jesus saw through them (cf. Matt 9:4; John 2:25; 4:29; 16:30). He unmasked them by saying bluntly: "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? They are hypocrites, dissemblers, people who conceal their false thoughts behind beautifully sounding words (see commentary on 6:2).

19-20. Show me the coin ... They brought him a denarius. One denarius was the sum to be paid for the poll-tax. It was a silver coin with the image and inscription of the emperor: Ti(berius) Ceasar divi Aug(usti) f(ilius) Augustus, which means: Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus.

"Whose portrait is this? In fact the Jews did not accept likenesses on coins. That was a breaking of the Second Commandment. None of the earlier members of the descendants of Herod had dared to mint coins bearing their likeness. Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12) was the first to do so. A coin symbolised the ruler's might. It was a generally accepted principle that the rule of the king or emperor extended over the area in which his coinage was current (SB I, 884). Thus the mere fact that they had such coins with them was the first answer to their question in v. 17.

21. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." From the fact that the Roman silver denarius is current in Judea (see vv. 19-20) Jesus now explicitly concluded that the emperor must be given what he is owed. This was not just the tribute money, but everything he demanded legally. In doing this Jesus spoke out against revolution and rejected Zealotism. If God gives a heathen state power for a time, that must be His will. Further, He alone will determine the time when that power comes to an end and the Kingdom of God is set up. Earthly rulers are therefore to be obeyed in obedience to God (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). But the Lord Jesus went further, and His answer reached a climax with the words 'render unto God the things that are God's.' On the one hand this indicates the limits of one's duties towards the government (cf. Acts 5:29). But on the other hand it is a fact that whoever attains this total surrender to God and gives Him what is rightly His, will be freed from the problems which the Roman Empire entailed for believers under the law.

22. When they heard this, they were amazed. Their marvelling will not so much have been at the truth contained in the words, but much more at the incomprehensible in the answer.

Their marvelling did not alter their purpose. That only happens through conversion.


The Question (of the Saducees) About the Resurrection 22:23-33

23. the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. The teaching of the Sadducees, who were connected with the priestly class, was opposed to that of the Pharisees. They were conservative in their teaching, for they adhered exclusively to the written law, the Pentateuch. They did not believe in angels and spirits (Acts 23:8), in the resurrection (Acts 23:8), in a judgment at the end of time or in the coming of the Messiah.

24. if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow. This has to do with leviratical marriage (marriage to one's brother-in-law). This stated that if a man died without leaving an heir, his brother was to marry the widow so that the family would not die out.

The first son born in the new marriage was to be regarded as the son of the deceased, but not any further children. See Deut 25: 5-10.

25-28. there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, ... he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second ... Although the Sadducees' story seems unlikely, it is nevertheless a picture of the customs of the times (cf. Tobit 3:8; 6:9-14; 7:12-13). It is clear that in this story and the question that follows it they wanted to make belief in the resurrection ridiculous.

29. You are in error. This is the only clash between Jesus and the Sadducees reported in the Gospels. Jesus did not speak so sharply against them as He did against the Pharisees, for the Sadducees were no hypocrites but openly said what they thought.

you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. Jesus gave these religious leaders two reasons for their error, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. Because they did not recognize the Scriptures (the Sadducees considered only the Pentateuch to be authoritative), they denied the fact of the resurrection (vv. 31-32). And because they did not know the power of God (Gr. dunamis, the resurrection power, which alters everything completely, cf. Luke 4:36; 9:1; 24:49; 1 Cor 6:14), they understood nothing of how the resurrection will affect things (v. 30).

30. At the resurrection people ... will be like the angels. It is not by chance that Jesus compared the state of man at the resurrection with that of the angels (Acts. 23:8) when He talks to the Sadducees, who deny the existence of angels. Jesus did not say that the angels were sexless, but that after the resurrection believers would have a spiritual, immortal body, as have the angels (Luke 20:36). For this reason there will be no marriage after the resurrection, because with the disappearance of death the purpose of marriage and reproduction also lapses.

The rabbis taught that the world to come would be a continuation of this world, though without evil or death; Jesus taught on the contrary that the Kingdom of God would not only restore the original creation but would also surpass and complete it in a new and higher order.

31-32. But about the resurrection of the dead. Now Jesus began to speak on the fact of the resurrection. To do so He directed them to the books of Moses (Exod 3:6), that part of the OT regarded by the Sadducees as authoritative.

I am the God of Abraham ... At the time that God said, 'I am the God of...', Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for many hundreds of years. We clearly see here that He is the God of the living, not of the dead, for they are all alive to Him (Luke 20:38), even though they are dead in the eyes of the world. For this reason God will awaken the believers from death, because He will keep His promise to be their God.

33. the crowds ... were astonished at his teaching. Here we meet the same reaction as in Matt 7:28.

The people did not merely hear a new interpretation of Scripture. They encountered in Jesus primarily someone who spoke with authority (Matt 7:29; cf. 21:23).


The Question About the Greatest Commandment 22:34-40

34. Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. The same word for silence is used as in v. 12. The Greek word phimo is literally 'to muzzle, to put a muzzle (phimos) over the mouth' (Deut 25:4 LXX). This means figuratively 'to put someone to silence, to close someone's mouth, to strike dumb'.

35. an expert in the law. After it appeared that the Sadducees got the worst of their encounter with Jesus (vv. 23-33), the Pharisees did not send any more disciples (v. 16), but had a lawyer take over. A lawyer was not a jurist, as at a later date, but someone skilled in the law of Moses (a halachist). Mark writes that it was a scribe (Mark 12:28). In Jesus' time there was no official distinction between a scribe and a lawyer.

tested him with this question. The Greek word for 'test' (peiraz) does not always mean that someone tries to get to know something that can be used against the person in question. It can also mean 'put to the test, investigate', in order to ascertain with whom one is dealing (cf. 1 Kings 10:1 LXX; 2 Cor 13:5; Rev 2:2). In Mark, where we also read that this man was not far from the Kingdom of God (Mark 12:34), we see clearly that it was the latter case (Mark 12:28).

36. which is the greatest commandment in the Law? The Jews found 613 commandments in the law, one for each of the letters in the Ten Commandments. The 613 commandments consisted of 248 positive commands ('thou shalt') and 365 negative commands ('thou shalt not'). The positive and negative commands were subdivided into greater and lesser, i.e., into more and less important. This often coincided with more difficult or easier to obey (SB, I, 901).

37-39. Jesus summarises the law into two basic principles, a combination of Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18b. Deut 6:5 is part of the Shema (Heb. = 'hear'), the Jewish confession of faith (Deut 6:4 ff), which every adult male Israelite had to recite morning and night. No special attention had previously been paid to Lev 19:18 (after Jesus Rabbi Akiba, ob. 135 A.D., did so).

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' The word 'all' speaks of total submission and dedication and excludes all half-heartedness. The heart is the seat of the emotions in general and of love in particular. The soul is the centre of our personality, and loving with the soul implies that the love must permeate to the core of our self-awareness, where the will plays a central part. The mind is important in relation to loving in truth (cf. 1 John 3:18), i.e., in full agreement with the revealed will of God.

'Love your neighbour as yourself.' Our neighbour is he who is near, with whom one comes into contact. The Jews limited the concept of neighbour to that of compatriot (in contrast to Lev 19:34!) or even to that of fellow-believer. In this way, Samaritans and foreigners and sometimes even ordinary people were excluded from those towards whom one had neighbourly duties and responsibilities. Jesus expressly rejects these limitations (cf. Luke 10:29 ff).

Finally, it must be said that Jesus is not simply making a summary with a pedagogic intention, as was usual among the Jews, but that He was also indicating priorities. It is the first and great commandment. In this sense He is not only giving a summary of the commandments, but He is also giving a new commandment, which superlatively abolishes the commandments of the OT (cf. John 13:34).

40. All the law and the prophets means all the Scriptures (i.e., the OT), as falling into two parts (cf. Matt 5:17).

hang on these two commandments. All the Scriptures, Jesus says (vv. 37-39), depend on these two commandments, as a door hangs from two hinges. They make up the heart of the Scriptures. This implies that all commandments can be brought back to this summary or derived from it.


Is Christ the Son of David 22:41-46

41-42. "What do you think about the Christ? After answering the three questions put to Him (vv. 15-40), Jesus in His turn posed one to the Pharisees, who were still standing round Him. His question concerned a vital problem: the identity of the Messiah.

"The son of David." The Pharisees gave the usual answer, which was correct though incomplete: the son of David. By so characterising him, they stressed the Messiah's national and political meaning.

43. "How is it then that David ... calls him 'Lord'? Jesus pursued His question in the form of a rabbinical counter-question. This entailed asking for an explanation on the grounds of an (apparent) contradiction in Scripture. The usual answer was: both are valid, but have different terms of reference. For this reason Jesus did not deny that the Messiah was the son of David, but showed that this characterisation was incomplete as the only characterisation, and He tried to bring the full truth to them in a sort of riddle (cf. v. 45).

44-45. The Lord said to my Lord. Jesus quotes Ps 110:1, although only the first line 'The Lord (= God) said to my lord (= the Messiah)' is important for Him, which appears from the context (vv. 43, 45).

If then David calls him 'Lord', how can he be his son?" The apparent contradiction is clear: how can the Messiah be at one and the same time David's son and his lord? Jesus wished to clarify to them that the Messiah does not simply have a national, political, earthly ministry in the line of David ('son'), but at the same time a heavenly, divine origin and calling ('Lord'). The Messiah is also the heavenly man (cf. Dan 7:13; commentary on Son of Man, Matt 8:20). Compare Matt 26:63-64, where Jesus combines Ps 110:1 and Dan 7:13.

46. No-one could say a word in reply. But the Pharisees could give Jesus no answer (because of their one-sided exegesis?) to His question. This marks the end of the arguments with them. The next time He met them was when He was brought before their court (Matt 26:57 ff).

The dialogues of Chapter 22 took place on the Thursday of the Passover Week, as did everything in Mark 11:20-13:37, paralleling Matt 21:20-25:46.