Jesus tells the polemical Parable of the Wedding Feast. Next, he answers the question: Should we pay taxes to Caesar? The Sadducees ask him about the resurrection. He affirms the final resurrection, and it is explored here. An expert in the law asks him which commandment is greatest. He straightens out the Pharisees on the greatness of the Son of David, because David, inspired by the Spirit, called him Lord. A table of the events during Passion Week is presented at the end.
As I write in the introduction to every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section, for discipleship.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. A pronunciation guide is also offered. But I keep things nontechnical.
The translation is mine. I do not offer it in competition with the excellent published ones or because I think mine is better or necessary. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
Links are provided for further study.
Parable of the Marriage Feast (Matt. 22:1-14)
1 And in reply, Jesus again spoke in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a man, a king, who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to call the ones who had been invited to the wedding banquet, and they did not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Say to those invited, “See! My feast has been prepared. The bulls and fatted cattle have been slaughtered and everything is ready! Come to the wedding banquet!”’ 5 But they ignored them and left, one to his field and another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants and mistreated and killed them. 7 The king, becoming enraged, sent out troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he told his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but those who were invited did not deserve it. 9 Go therefore into roads outside of town and whomever you may find invite to the wedding banquet.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered everyone whom they could find, both the bad and the good, and the wedding banquet was filled with those reclining at table. 11 The king, going inside, inspected the guests and saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you enter here without having wedding clothes?’ He was speechless. 13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his feet and hands and throw him out into outer darkness.’ In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Let’s look at this parable as one whole, instead of verse-by-verse. It is the third polemical (hard-hitting) parable designed to provoke the temple establishment; the previous two are in the last chapter.
“parables”: literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.
Jesus was replying to the reaction of the religious leaders in the last two verses in the previous chapters. The word “reply” or “respond” is not meaningless as some commentators or various translations may say.
Luke 14:16-24 has a similar story about a wedding banquet, but the details are sufficiently different (for me) to conclude that Jesus told those two parables at different times, to different audiences. This parable was tailor made for the elders, chief priests Pharisees and probably teachers of the law, whom he was addressing in Matt. 21.
Here are the main elements in the story and what or who they symbolize. We shouldn’t overinterpret the details, but the following ones are clear enough.
Son: Jesus, but he is in the background; his Father is the one who preserves his Son’s honor.
Servants: prophets and other messengers in Israel’s past:
25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors. (Jer. 7:25-27, NIV)
The word servant here in this verse is doulos (pronounced doo-loss and plural is douloi and pronounced doo-loi) and could be translated as slave, but I chose servant because in Jewish culture a Hebrew man who sold himself into servitude to his fellow Jew was like an indentured servant whose term of service had a limit; he was freed in the seventh year. But then the indentured servant could stay with his family, if he liked his owner (Exod. 21:2-6; Lev. 25:38-46; Deut. 15:12-18). So there was a lot of liberty even in servitude, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
It is a sure thing, however, that Matthew’s Greek audience, knowledgeable about Greek culture, would have heard “slave” in the word doulos. So if you wish to interpret it like that, then that’s your decision. But culturally at that time slavery had nothing to do with colonial or modern slavery.
First Invited Guests: Israel and more specifically its leaders, the ones listening to this parable and introduced in Matt. 22.
Second invited guests: converted Jews (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 21:20) and converted Gentiles; people of no special status. They are the new nation or people who produce fruit (Matt. 21:43). “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Eph. 2:15, NIV)
Ejected Guest: Anyone who does not repent and become a disciple and a true citizen of the kingdom
Burned city: Jerusalem (Matt. 24:2)
Now let’s cover the meaning of “kingdom of heaven,” as I have done throughout this commentary.
Matthew substitutes “heaven” (literally heavens or plural) nearly every time (except for 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43, where he uses kingdom of God). Why? Four possible reasons: (1) Maybe some extra-pious Jews preferred the circumlocution or the roundabout way of speaking, but this answer is not always the right one, for Matthew does use the phrase “kingdom of God” four times; (2) the phrase “kingdom of heaven” points to Christ’s post-resurrection authority; God’s sovereignty in heaven and earth (beginning with Jesus’s ministry) is now mediated through Jesus (28:18); (3) “kingdom of God” makes God the king (26:29) and leaves less room to ascribe the kingdom to Jesus (16:28; 25:31, 34, 40; 27:42), but the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” leaves more room to say Jesus is the king Messiah. (4) It may be a stylistic variation that has no deeper reasoning behind it (France). In my view the third option shows the close connection to the doctrine of the Trinity; the Father and Son share authority, after the Father gives it to him. The kingdom of heaven is both the kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Messiah (Carson). And, since I like streamlined interpretations, the fourth one also appeals to me.
Now let’s go for a general consideration of the kingdom of heaven / God. As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5). The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
With those preliminaries discussed, now let’s look at the gist of the parable.
This is a parable about the initially invited not responding to the original invitation of the king, who is God. The invitation had been given, and now the slaves / servants went out to announce that the preparation had been done. These invited guests should have been ready, even standing outside the king’s palace. However, they “take no notice” or “ignore” or are “unconcerned,” “neglect,” “take no regard” (the Greek verb ameleō and pronounced ah-meh-leh-oh). They blithely went on their way to conduct their business. The king graciously invited them, but they rejected his call or invitation.
Their disrespect for the king is shocking. Worse than that, the first group of invited guests mistreated the messengers, a gruesome element which closely resembles the last parable about the vineyard, so it is clear we should draw the same conclusion in the two parables. One key point: when an improbable element surfaces in a parable (they mistreated and killed the slaves for no apparent reason), we need to pay close attention to it. Therefore, the king is justified in taking military action against the first batch of disrespectful invited guests and burning their city. This must refer to Jerusalem (Matt. 24:2). Luke 21:5-9 and 20:24 say that armies will surround Jerusalem and destroy it. And sure enough Roman armies began their attack the city in A.D. 66 and finally conquered it in A.D. 70. Judaism as it was then practiced was over, finished. No more animal sacrifices in the temple, to cite only one example. The Jerusalem establishment was also done away with.
And here we have another instance of their (see 4:23; 7:29; 8:34; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54; 22:7; 22:16). He burned their city, as if they were foreigners. Why does Matthew keep saying “their synagogue or their city or their teachers of the law? My opinion: his community has moved well past Judaism and must distinguish between the newly formed Christian community and the Jewish community.
When the first invited guests are nonchalant about the king’s invitation, Matthew refers to the preaching of John the Baptist:
8 So then produce fruit in keeping with repentance, 9 and do not think to say among yourselves, ‘We have Father Abraham.’ For I tell you that God is able from these rocks to raise up children to Abraham! (Matt. 3:8-9)
The next wave of guests were people of no special status, but were both the bad and the good, relative to the religious leaders who dominated the temple and Jerusalem. In this element of the parable, Jesus draws from a pronouncement he spoke back in 9:13: “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Then the king inspected the guests—those reclining at table—and saw one without proper wedding clothes on. Commentators says that back in those days, people readied their finest garment, in order to attend the festival held by a king! One commentator said the garment should have been white. However, he sneaked in, unprepared, getting past the porter, somehow. As a punishment, the man was bound by his hands and feet and thrown out into outer darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus is referring back to these verses:
21 “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? And in your name expel demons? And in your name do many miracles?” 23 And then I’ll declare to them, “I never knew you! Depart from me, you practitioners of lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:21-23)
So what kind of clothes should he have been wearing, spiritually speaking? The clothes of repentance and discipleship. Matthew introduced the idea through John the Baptist: “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven has drawn near!” (Matt. 3:2). Jesus on repentance: “From then on, Jesus began to proclaim and say, ‘Repent! For the kingdom of heaven has drawn close!’” (Matt. 4:17).
In these next two passages Jesus boils down discipleship:
38 “And so anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not deserving of me. 39 The one finding his life will lose it, and the one losing his life because of me will find it. (Matt. 10:38-39).
Then he says:
24 Then at that moment, Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and pick up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. And whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what shall it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but damages his life? And what will a person give in exchange for his life? (Matt. 16:24-26)
Repentance and following Jesus, even to the point of denying yourself and your will, is how a follower of Jesus is not thrown into outer darkness.
Let’s discuss the place of punishment.
It is outside the lit-up wedding feast that often went on through the night, even for days. Here are some options for you about what all of this means, as I noted at Matt. 8:12. The Greek says ekei (pronounced eh-kay), which means “there” or “that place.” Unfortunately most translation don’t pick up on the ambiguity of their translations: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here it is more awkwardly but accurate: “The weeping and the gnashing will be there.” The standard translation (“there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth)” makes “there” into the wrong kind of adverb, or at least it is not clear in English. The clearer translation is as I have it.
So where is “that place”? Some see it as a spiritual dimension, but away from God so far that his light does not reach it, so that place is dark. Others see it as far outside the banquet, but they can see the lights coming from the feast; they are not invited in, but remain outside. Others ask: how can the lake of fire, which produces light, coexist with farthest or outer darkness? They cannot. Therefore, some interpreters conclude that punishment in the afterlife takes on different dimensions: fire in one place, and darkness in another. Still another interpretation is possible. Charismatic theologian J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:
These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.
One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).
For the record, Williams does not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).
If you want to take the images of darkness and fire literally, you may certainly do so. It’s up to you. It should be noted that Jesus says nothing about the outer darkness lasting for eternity here.
Please read a three-part series, which have plenty of Scriptural support:
Each theory teaches punishment in the afterlife, but the debate is over the duration of punishment. It may be surprising to many traditional Christians, but the latter two theories have plenty of Scriptural support. But whichever theory you decide on, please don’t call the other theories heretical or unorthodox, particularly if you believe in eternal, conscious torment. The theory of eternal, conscious torment did not gain momentum until Augustine’s time in the fifth century. Until then, church leaders easily believed in the other theories of annihilation or restoration.
I suggest that God has not made the details as clear as some in the eternal conscious torment camp have led us to believe because he wants us to focus on kingdom living right now and reach as many people as possible.
Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
Give people space to choose one of these nonessential, Bible-supported theories. You can still have fellowship with them.
“weeping and gnashing”: In their comments at 8:12, Keener says that weeping means mourning over damnation, and gnashing of teeth may indicate anger or a strong emotion similar to it. Carson says weeping may indicate suffering, and gnashing indicates despair, and Osborne agrees. In any case, existence in punishment is unhappy and produces despair and even anger. Perhaps the gnashing can also mean cursing in anger. (See these verses for gnashing: Acts 7:54; Job 16:9; Pss. 34:16; 36:12; 112:10; Lam. 2:16). Since weeping indicates remorse, it is not quite accurate to claim that hell is locked from the inside as if people want to be there, though maybe only the enraged do want this.
It is best to avoid such punishment, whatever it entails, by putting your faith in Christ and remaining in union with him.
Jesus tags his long parable with a line-drawing statement that says: “many are called, but few are chosen.”
Commentator Blomberg is on target. We should not over-read “many” and “few.” He writes:
Many people hear the summons of the gospel, but only a certain percentage responds properly. In light of the imagery of the parable itself and in view of common Semitic usage, “many” here may well mean all. “Few” may thus imply nothing about how many are saved except that the number is noticeably less than all. This is interesting use of election terminology. Klētoi (literally, called) is not to be taken here as irresistible calling, … but in the sense of “invited.” Those responding properly may be said to have been chosen. The elect are the true community of the people God chooses to save, even as Israel had once been so chosen, but those people must freely respond to the Spirit’s work in their lives. The imagery here is in fact more that of corporate than of individual election, but the former cannot exist without the latter. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are again finely balanced. Neither can be jettisoned at the expense of the other. The man’s behavior demonstrates he is not elect. Election does not violate free will nor occur irrespective of the man’s conduct.
So “few” just means that the ones who enter the kingdom are fewer than those who are invited in. Key line in the excerpt: “Those responding properly may be said to have been chosen.”
So it works out like this:
Invitation → The corporate community enters → They were chosen
People also choose to enter. They responded properly. This does not mean, however, that God himself acted to exclude the ones who were unwilling to respond to the general invitation. In the parable, the man who was “disinvited” into the kingdom did not have the right garments on. He sneaked in. The whole context of the parable reveals a corporate calling (Israel or Gentiles), not individual salvation.
We need to be cautious about overinterpreting this tagline as if it reveals that some are predestined to hell. The truth is much more contextual. Those who belong to the Israelite community, especially the leaders, are invited, but not necessarily chosen. More broadly, Jesus is referring to these words in the Sermon on the Mount:
13 Enter through the narrow gate because wide is the gate and broad is the road leading to destruction, and many are the ones going through it, 14 because the gate is narrow and the road is restrictive leading to life, and few are the ones finding it. (Matt. 7:13-14)
Not everyone will willingly walk through the narrow gate while they are being wooed by the Spirit and Word.
Carson says of v. 14:
Many are invited, but some refuse to come, and others who do come refuse to submit to the norms of the kingdom and are therefore rejected. Those who remain are “chosen” … a word implicitly denying that the reversals in the parable in any way catch God unawares or remove sovereign grace from his control. At the same time, it is clear from all three parables (21:28-22:14) that not the beginning but the end if crucial.
France writes of v. 14, and note how many times nations and groups are referenced:
[This epigram] picks up the language of the parable: the first group of guests had all been “invited” (vv. 3, 4, 8), but that did not mean that they would enjoy the feast. So in their place others have been “invited” (v. 9), but now even one of them has failed to make the grade. Who then are the “chosen”? The term will recur in 24:22, 24 to designate God’s true people, threatened but protected through time of trial, and in 24:31 for those summoned from all over the world to make up the new people of God after the failure of the old regime. It is a term with strongly ideological overtones deriving from the OT concept of Israel as God’s chosen people, But its use here and in 24:31 introduces a radically new element to that ideological concept: the true “chosen people” is not automatically identified with those who belong to the Israelite community, not even those who are its official leaders: these are the invited, but not necessarily the chosen. The “many” and the “few” speak of a wedding process, whereby many of those invited will not make it to the feast. The chosen are new tenants who will produce the fruit, who, as we have seen in the last parable, may be Jewish or Gentile; their chosenness does not depend on their racial origins but on their response to God’s summons and their readiness to give God their due. The principle applies both to old Israel (vv. 3-7) and to those who have taken their place (vv. 8-13)
So France is wisely saying that we must not look at this parable in any other way than corporate chosenness: Israel or the Gentiles or both. We must steer clear of an interpretation that reduces the parable to individual salvation.
Osborne writes of the corporate nature of the parable more succinctly than France does:
This [v. 14] tells in a sense “the moral of the story” and provides a deeply theological conclusion to the parable. “Many” … and “few” … should be interpreted in Semitic fashion as equivalent to all / not all,” meaning all Israel was called by God but only some (including Gentiles) were actually chosen for the Messianic banquet.
The play on words [in Greek] between “called” and “chosen.” The “called” are those “invited” (see the cognate … in vv. 4, 8, 9) and refers to the sense of election Israel claimed as the special people of God. However, the leaders and those following them in rejecting God’s Son were not truly the “elect” / “chosen” of God. Here there is both human responsibility and divine sovereignty at work, a fitting conclusion to the parable. “Called” … catches it well: the people must respond to God’s summons with both repentance and right living to be part of God’s elect! (comment on v. 14)
So the parable is corporate, not individualistic, and human free will and God’s sovereignty are at work. And I like how he says that we must not be overly literal with “many” and “few.” In other places in Jesus’s discourses (e.g. Mark 1:34; 3:10) the two words just mean all / not all. God invites everyone, but not all respond out of their own free will. They can resist his call or invitation or summons. And even when they enter the kingdom, they must not insult God by not being dressed properly; that is, “only those who respond worthily [to the call of repentance] will share the inheritance of the chosen, covenant people” (Keener, p. 523).
I read Carson’s comment in the same way.
Turner reminds us that the man who was not dressed properly may be the false prophets and charismatic followers who produced bad fruit and practiced lawlessness (Matt. 7:15-23).
Bottom line: don’t build a federal case out of this statement for the doctrine of limited atonement. It is never a good idea to “limit” his atonement by indirect reasoning.
Example: (a) people can never resist his grace for salvation; (b) not all people are saved; (c) therefore his grace for salvation is not offered to everyone; and (d) therefore his salvation done on the cross (atonement) is limited to the elect or those who were called by grace; (e) and therefore, finally, the atonement is limited to the elect. Convoluted and indirect.
It is better to look directly at verses covering Christ’s atoning death on the cross—and he died for all. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, NIV, emphasis added). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding off his blood—to be received by faith (Rom. 3:23-25, NIV, emphasis added). This redemption and atonement is received by faith. Therefore, the door is open to anyone and everyone—all—who have faith to receive his grace, which leads to redemption and the atonement being applied to anyone and everyone—all—who have faith! The initiative begins with God, and our faith responds to his freely offered grace—offered to anyone and everyone—all. His grace is efficacious or effective to everyone who believes or has faith, and Christ’s sacrifice of atonement is received by faith.
As I read things, the call or invitation of the gospel potentially goes to all, but some won’t respond in faith, while some will. Grace is resistible, because God in his grace gave humankind a significant degree of free will (though not enough for people to save themselves).
GrowApp for Matt. 22:1-14
A.. You have entered the wedding feast. Do you wear the wedding clothes of repentance and discipleship? What are they?
Jesus Is Tested about Paying Taxes (Matt. 22:15-22)
15 Then the Pharisees went and took counsel in order to trap him by a statement. 16 And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the path of God truthfully, and you are not swayed by anyone, for you are not intimidated by people. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to give a poll tax to Caesar or not?” 18 Knowing their wickedness, Jesus said, “Why do you test me, hypocrites? 19 Show me a coin for a poll tax.” They brought to him a denarius. 20 He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 On hearing this, they were astonished and, leaving him, they departed.
In this confrontation, the temple and Jerusalem establishment strike back. They intended to trap him into making a statement about taxes. They wanted him to say, “I’m a political revolutionary! I denounce Caesar and his tax requirement! I signal my followers: Now! Let’s all revolt!” If he had said to pay the tax to Rome, they could have accused him of being a Roman sympathizer. If he had told them not to pay, they could bring a political charge against him. They wanted to intimidate Jesus, so they could win the cultural battle of shame and honor. They would get the honor in public with other experts standing around, while Jesus would slink away. But Jesus was not flustered or startled. He held his ground.
For many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he is about to reply to the test and pass it. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them.
Further, during his ministry, he did not cower or surrender. He fought back. His growing movement and lives were at stake. If he let his opponents get away with their criticism, his silence could have been misinterpreted as weakness, so he would not have been worthy to be followed. The listeners would have abandoned him and gone home, and rightly. “He’s not sure of his own message? He lets the religious leaders walk all over him? He’s not the Messiah!” Often silence can be misinterpreted as agreement. And if the sparring match is over eternal truths (as distinct from nonessential issues), don’t give in to your erroneous and broken opponents.
No, don’t be rude or contemptuous or defiant or stubborn, especially when you don’t know very much of Scripture or basic doctrine; don’t be those things particularly to your pastor who has a good heart and knows the Word. But if the Scripture is really, really clear, be firm and resolute about your interpretation of such issues Christ is the Lord, or sin should not be accepted in the church, despite the culture’s pressure to compromise (e.g. about same-sex marriages).
This group, among others, were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (David E. Garland, Luke: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, 2011], p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others.
“statement”: it is the Greek noun logos, and its definition is huge, but I like “statement” because it is as if the Pharisees are the religious police. But if you want to translate it as “word,” you may certainly do so.
“disciples”: of the Pharisees. Young Saul was a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee, who lived in Jerusalem (Acts 5:34; 22:3). It would be a bridge too far to believe that Saul was among these disciples. If he had been, surely we would have heard about it, even hinted at, in his epistles. But did he hear about this confrontation from them a few years later? We’ll never know.
All of these words were flattery and hypocritical, but they were true in an objective sense. It’s a bad idea to accept flattering words, even if true. Just stand there and smile, as you wait for the hypocrisy to come out.
“you are not swayed by anyone”: literally the Greek says, “It is no concern of yours about anyone.” I just couldn’t go literal this time. In sum, the flattering Pharisees and Herodians tell him that he doesn’t care what people say or think about him. He’s not easily swayed by shifting opinions. The church needs to be careful about following the trends in society.
“for you are not intimidated by people”: literally it says, “You do not look towards face of people.” I just could not go literal here, either. Preachers often look at the faces of people and get intimidated. Don’t.
Satan was the first to test Jesus (4:1-11). Jesus sees these religious leaders as being in league with the evil spirit being. However, he will teach these religious leaders a lesson in basic theology.
“hypocrites”: originally it comes from the Greek play actor on the stage. They wore masks and played roles. There were stock characters, such as the buffoon, the bombastic soldier, or the old miser. The Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent and abbreviated LXX for the “seventy” scholars who worked on it) is a third to first century translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It uses the term hypocrite to mean the godless. However, in Matthew’s Gospel (it is used only once in Mark 7:6 and three times in Luke 6:42; 12:56; 13:15), it is more nuanced. Hypocrites appeared one way, but in reality they were different. They appeared outwardly religious, but inwardly they were full of dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27). They wore religious masks. They actually did many things that the law required, but they failed to understand God’s view of righteousness. They were more self-deceived than deceivers, though in Matt. 23, Jesus denounced the Pharisees and experts in the law for teaching one thing but living another. They are religious show-offs who act out their righteousness to impress others but are out of touch with God’s mercy and love. Eccl. 7:16 says not to be overly righteous, but that is what they were and displayed it publicly.
They pose their question. To be honest, it was an effective strategy of entrapment. However, we are about to watch the literal genius and literal anointing of Jesus on full display. It is stunning (to me at least) that he could come up with such a piercing and clarifying and rich answer immediately after this challenge. At the end of the discussion the Pharisees and Herodians will be hushed, and Jesus will emerge victorious in public.
Jesus used his discernment to perceive or recognize their wickedness or evil. He knew that they were testing him.
A denarius was the standard daily wage for a laborer (Matt. 20:1-16).
How would he reply? A revolt? Then his enemies would have reported this defiant reply to the governor, who would have come out and arrested him at the wrong time, before the connection to Passover. He was going to be the Passover lamb who would die for the sin of the whole world (1 Cor. 5:6; John 1:29). The flow of events would have been out of line. He had a higher and different mission, from God.
Instead, his answer is going to be brilliant and revealing. Even his opponents will be amazed.
Caesar’s image and inscription are on the coin, which, representing the entire worldly economy, belongs to him or his administration representing him. Jesus’s kingdom does not belong to or is tied down by this kingdom. His kingdom rises above it. However, let’s not overlook the truth that ultimately all kingdoms are overseen by God. In his sovereignty, he is the Lord of the world, not Caesar, though all government officials nowadays may believe that they are.
Gen. 1:26-27 says that people have the image of God in them. God can restore clarity of this truth by their entering the kingdom of God and following him. They find their true identity in him, not in seeking their own way and their own image. It is best to let God make his image in them. So the coin had Caesar’s image on it, and we have God’s image inside of us.
One prominent NT scholar said on youtube that this passage does not separate off Caesar’s kingdom from God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom overarches and influences Caesar’s kingdom. That’s partly true, for God’s kingdom should influence kingdoms of the world. However, God’s kingdom is eternal, while the earth-bound kingdoms are all doomed to pass away. So this passage does separate off God’s kingdom from Caesar’s. But see my comments just above, for a slightly contrary view. God in his sovereignty does rule over everything.
Jesus’s answer was brilliant. This was a word of wisdom, delivered by the Spirit of God (see 1 Cor. 12:10). Some say all of Jesus’s miracles and wisdom were brought out by the Spirit; others say most or all were done by his divine nature, which he took with him when he left heaven. The dominant picture of Jesus is that he worked by the Spirit; the Spirit worked through him by the Father’s will. However, if his divine nature shone out, as at the Mt. of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-13), then who am I to argue? Or maybe he answered by the Spirit and by his divine nature, both. But the dominant image, in my viewpoint, in the Gospels is that Jesus replied by the Spirit.
Paul in Rom. 13:1-7 and 1 Pet 2:13-17 develop this idea of rendering to Caesar the things that belong to him. “(1) the obligation demand ‘submission’ and loyalty. (2) All earthly rulers are put in place by God to serve its citizens and are answerable to him. (3) Submitting to Caesar is part of our submission to God; it is a mandate, not an option. (4) Paying taxes is part of that obligation and an example of submission (Rom 13:6-7).” … (Osborne on 22:21).
Recall that Jesus lived in an honor-and-shame society. When someone wins, the other guy loses or is shamed. As noted, people wrongly believe that Jesus was meek and mild out in public, as if he would just stand there and say nothing, but let his opponents steamroll right over him, as he sneaked off in defeat. These interpreters must be getting their bad ideas from a misreading of his trial, which is about to happen. Even in that case, he replied. In his public ministry, he also answered back their questions and devious strategies. He shamed them in public. No, don’t do this to shy people who mean you no harm, but stand up to the bullies. There is nothing wrong if you win the debate, and they slink away and not bother you again.
In any case, Jesus brilliantly separated off the Roman empire from the kingdom of God.
However, his accusers at his trial or arraignment before Pilate accuse him of these crimes: 1 “Then the whole group of them got up and led him to Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man to be misleading our nation and forbidding them from giving tribute to Caesar and saying of himself that Christ is king.’” (Luke 23:1-2)
So the accusations were false.
GrowApp for Matt. 22:15-22
A.. Have you ever been challenged about your faith in God? How did you respond? Were you fearful, or bold like Jesus? Tell your story.
B.. Read Gen. 1:26-27. You have God’s image in you. With this image, how do you belong to God, like a coin with Caesar’s image and inscription belongs to Caesar?
See my post Image of God for more ideas.
Sadducees Question Jesus about Resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33)
23 On that day, the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up to him and asked him, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If someone dies without having children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up a descendant for his brother’ [Deut. 25:5] 25 There were seven among us. The first married and died, and since he had no descendant, he left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise also the second and third until the seventh. 27 Last of all, the wife died. 28 At the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For all of them were married to her.”
29 In reply, Jesus said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scripture nor the power of God, 30 for at the resurrection neither do they marry nor are given in marriage, but instead they are like angels in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, who said, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? [Exod. 3:6, 15, 16] He is not the God of the dead, but instead of the living.” 33 And on hearing this, the crowds were astonished at his teaching.
Some religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, believe in reincarnation. However, this passage contradicts it. We, the redeemed, will be like angels when we die.
Please see this post and scroll down in alphabetical order:
Here’s a passage about the Levirate marriage. Deut. 25:5-6 reads:
5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. (Deut. 25:5-6, NIV)
This requirement is known as the Levirate marriage (from the word “brother”). It was a legal provision for a brother to marry his brother’s widow, in order to keep his brother’s name alive. The problem is that this could incur heavy financial responsibility, so some brothers broke the family law (see Gen. 38:8-10).
The number seven speaks of completion, as if this was the ultimate unsolvable case. It was their attempt to show how ridiculous the idea of the resurrection was.
It may seem odd that these Sadducees speak of the resurrection when they don’t believe in it. But they were simply testing Jesus on his own grounds. Implied: “Since you believe in the resurrection of the dead (and we don’t), let’s assume for the sake of argument that such a thing does happen. People really are raised from the dead. Whose wife will she be when it happens? All seven took her as wife!” The clearest resurrection text is Dan. 12:2, but Jesus is about to teach it by using the Torah, which is their home turf.
In effect, Jesus is challenging liberal theologians.
“power”: it is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-na-mees or dee-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on Miracles, Signs and Wonders.
Jesus declaring that the Sadducees denied the power of God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:5) may refer to the traditional Jewish view that “God expresses his power most visibly in the resurrection of the dead” (Keener, p. 529).
God is powerful and able to make people alive after they die.
“at the resurrection”: This does not refer to his personal resurrection, which will happen in a few days. His resurrection on the third day will lead the way for everyone’s resurrection on the last day. On the last day, which is ushered in by the Second Coming, our bodies will be transformed into new bodies, just like his.
Let’s see if we can spot a consistent teaching in Jesus’s words in the Gospels and how it coordinates with a few–just a few–passages in the Epistles.
Jesus focused on one idea in John 6:39, 40, 44, 54. In those verses he said that on the last day he will raise up (from the dead) everyone who believes in him. Once again, this resurrection happens on the last day. Emphasis added (my translation):
39 This is the will of the one who sent me: That everyone whom he gives me I will not lose any of them, but I will raise them up on the last day. (39)
40 For this is the will of my Father: everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. … (40)
44 No one can come to me unless the one who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. … (44)
54 The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (54)
Paul agrees with the idea of last day. In 1 Cor. 15:51-54 the Second Coming will happen at the resurrection of the dead at the last trumpet.
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality… (1 Cor. 15:51-54, ESV, emphasis added)
Those verses agree perfectly with Jesus’s teaching in John 6.
Further, in 1 Cor. 15:26 Paul said that the last enemy to be defeated will be death.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26, ESV, emphasis added).
It’s hard to believe that death will still defeat people after an early rapture (before the Second Coming) and that God will need to “redefeat” death a “second first” time at his Second Coming! Too complicated! No, death will no longer defeat people only at the Second Coming.
Further, there is no intervening thousand-year age (a millennium), which appears only in a few verses in Rev. 20, the most symbolic book in the Bible. Even the numbers can definitely be symbolic, particularly when Peter writes, in the context of the Second Coming / day of the Lord (same thing) that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day (2 Pet. 3:8; see Ps. 90:4). In biblical idiom, a thousand years symbolize a long time. If Peter sees it that way in a nonsymbolic section of his epistle, then I can surely interpret the number “thousand” in Rev. 20 symbolically.
Next, here is the clearest teaching in the NT about the rapture, which means, in Latin, “snatching up” or “catching up” (Latin: rapto, raptura). In Greek, the language of the NT, the verb harpazô (pronounced hahr-pah-zoh) means the exact same thing: “snatching up” or “catching up.” In the next passage, the dead in Christ will rise first (cf. John 6:39, 40, 44, 54), which is also a kind of rapture, and then the clause “we who are alive” (Paul and the Thessalonians and now us) is linked with the rapture.
15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep [died]. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up [harpazô = rapture] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15-17, ESV emphasis added)
That above passage coordinates perfectly with 1 Cor. 15:25, 51-52 and John 39, 40, 44, 54. To interpret 1 Thess. 4:15-17, the trumpet and the raising (a kind of rapture) of the dead and the snatching up (rapture) of the living occur at the same time and are the same event. And therefore the Second Coming and the rapture occur at the same time. Then we will descend with him and be with him on the reconstituted and renovated and renewed and transformed earth forever.
Why will we descend with him to a renovated and reconstituted new heaven and new earth and not shoot back up into heaven and disappear for three-and-a-half or seven years? The Parousia (see 1 Thess. 4:15) by definition typically means arrival or being there. In its historical context, a parousia happens when a Roman dignitary, like a senator or even the emperor, arrived (parousia) in a Roman colony, e.g. Corinth or back to Rome. At his arrival (parousia), the dignitaries of the city went out to meet him, and they escorted him back into their city. Then they had feasts and games to celebrate his arrival (parousia). The dignitaries in the colony did not board the senator’s or emperor’s ship and abscond away for three-and-a-half or seven years.
Please see this post here:
So, to repeat, the rapture and the Second Coming are the same event and happen on the last day. See my post:
So what happens immediately after the Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead? Judgment of both the wicked and righteous, at the same time. Jesus says:
27 And he [the Father] has given him [the Son of Man] authority to pass judgment because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be amazed at this because the hour is coming when those in their tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out: those doing good things to the resurrection of life, but the ones practicing wickedness to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:27-29, my translation)
Matt. 13:39-43, 16:27, 19:28, and 25:31-46 also teach the judgment of the righteous and wicked at the same time.
To see how consistent Jesus’s teaching is, please see these posts:
Matthew 13 (scroll down to vv. 42-43)
Matthew 16 (scroll down to vv. 27-28)
Matthew 19 (scroll down to vv. 28-29)
Matthew 24 (scroll down to Summary and Conclusion)
Matthew 25 (scroll down to Summary and Conclusion)
Jesus’s teaching is streamlined, consistent, and unconvoluted, without two “final” judgments or “several” first resurrections or a separate rapture and then the Second Coming. The Gospels and Epistles teach the same message and timeline of events. Neither Jesus in the Gospels nor his apostolic community in the Epistles taught complicated end-time scenarios, as popular prophecy teachers do today.
Next, Jesus gives some very interesting revelations of what the afterlife is like. We will be like the angels at the final resurrection (we won’t be angels). Heb. 2:7 says that God made humankind a little lower than angels or lower than angels for a little while (either translation works). So down here on earth, in our current earth suits, we are lower than angels. But in our deathless new earth suits we will be unable to die, for mortality will be shucked off and God will put on us immortality. We will be like angels. It’s going to be amazing!
Why will we be unable to die and be like angels? Because we are the children of God and the children of the resurrection. This shows directly that our immortality depends on God’s transforming power.
We will not get married or be married off (given in marriage) because we won’t need to propagate the human species. We will have new resurrection bodies. But this does not mean that we won’t know our spouses and other family members. We will not be floating on clouds and playing harps. God will refurbish the heavens and the earth, and he is infinitely creative, so we will have lots to do. Our relationships in this life will be enhanced and better than we could ever dream of or experienced. They will be more intimate.
Blomberg once again calls it right:
Whatever we may think of Jesus’ interpretation, it obviously impressed his original listeners (v. 33, much as in 7:28–29), who were used to such logic (cf. especially b. Sanh. 90b [Babylonian Talmud] on precisely this issue in which the resurrection is derived from Num 18:28, which speaks of giving the heave offering to “Aaron” in the promised land long after his death). The objection that Jesus’ argument proves only the immortality of the soul and not the resurrection of the body ignores the fact that immortality was not an option Jews considered. Either all the body was resurrected or nothing survived. Contemporary objections to Jesus’ logic here perhaps reveal an unnecessary rigidity in our modern historical / grammatical hermeneutics rather than any fallacy with Jesus’ interpretation. (comment on 22:29-33)
In v. 31, using the peri de (pronounced peh-ree deh) construction, which indicates a change in topics (“but concerning” or “now concerning”), Jesus shifts gears and addresses the Sadducean unbelief about the resurrection. He beautifully reads the text in Exod. 3. Both God and Moses said that the Lord is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3:6, 15, 16). By itself, some could accuse this interpretation of overreading the passage. God was simply identifying who he was in relation to the Israelites. He was the God of their ancestors. However, Jesus reminds us that God is omniscient. Everyone is alive to God. So when Moses spoke those words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive before God. And so is everyone else who walked the planet, whether in sheol or hades or paradise or some sort of holding tank before Jesus’s resurrection. This theology goes way beyond ancestry.
After citing many references to Jewish writings, Keener says that there was a widespread belief that “the Patriarchs are not really dead” (p. 529). All of these living humans, even after their death, leads to the further belief, not spoken of here but elsewhere (1 Cor. 15:35-58), that everyone will be reunited with their transformed bodies and undergo judgment to decide their ultimate fate, whether heaven or hell.
See my posts about heaven and hell:
This pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or unit or section ends suitably. The crowds, listening in, were astounded. What happened to the Sadducees? Why were they not said to like the teaching? To judge from their silence, apparently the Sadducees were humiliated.
Jesus was in control. He “owned” every major religious-political sect or group and everyone else who opposed him. This is the power of the Spirit flowing through him and his receiving wisdom from God.
“teaching”: it comes from the Greek noun didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay), and I almost translated it as doctrine, but that word sounds a bit stiff or formal in this context, but make no mistake. It is a doctrine or a set of beliefs which he taught. It was mostly practical, but he did teach them that his words were on an equal plane to the Torah, which hints at his authoritative and divine status. He will judge people, on that day. He will be the divine judge.
Let’s explore this Greek noun more thoroughly.
It is, as noted, the word didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay). BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) “The activity of teaching, teaching, instruction”; (2) “the content of teaching, teaching.” Yes, the word is also used of Jesus’s teaching: Matt. 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22, 27; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Luke 4:32; John 7:16, 17; 18:19. And it is used of the apostolic teaching: Acts 2:42; 5:28; 13:12; 17:19; Rom. 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 2 John 9 (twice), 10; Rev. 2:14, 15, 24.
Renewalists (Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics) need much more instruction and doctrine than they are getting. Inspirational preaching about God fulfilling their hopes and dreams is insufficient. We need to discern the signs of the times or seasons (Matt. 16:3). We live in the time or season of the worldwide web. The people are getting bombarded with strange doctrines, on youtube (and other such platforms). These youtube “teachers” know how to edit things and put in clever colors and special effects, but they have not been appointed by God. They do not know how to do even basic research. They run roughshod over basic hermeneutical (interpretational) principles. These “teachers” do not seem to realize that they will be judged more severely (Jas. 3:1) and will have to render an account of their (self-appointed) “leadership” (Heb. 13:17). If they destroy God’s temple (the church), God will (eventually) destroy them (1 Cor. 3:17).
Further, my impression is that the main platform speakers on TV whose budgets are big enough to put them on TV every day don’t even know the basics about doctrine. They couldn’t explain the dual natures of Christ (true God and true man), if they were asked (I admit I’m still learning basic doctrine). Why not? They are too busy being corporate managers and even Chief Executive Officers of large churches. They are not turning over the practical side of church leadership to their elders and deacons. They do not spend hours a day—all day, every day—studying nothing but Scriptures, with good ol’ commentaries. (Maybe this one can help.) They do not spend hours a day reading up on theology and doctrine. (Maybe my website can help, a little.)
A better translation of Eph. 4:11 reads: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors,” not pastors and teachers. Do we have teaching pastors or management or corporate pastors who specialize in organizational leadership? Or do we have psychology pastors? These areas should be turned over to a team. The teaching pastors should do nothing but study Scripture and should have the bulk of the teaching time on Sunday morning and in other services.
We need to change our ways and follow Scripture, or else much of the church will spiritually diminish and be swept away by strange teachings. Yes, good ol’ fashioned theology and even a little apologetics about difficult passages is what the global Church needs. They need the basics—even on Sunday morning, delivered by teaching pastors, not corporate, inspirational pastors.
GrowApp for Matt. 22:23-33
A.. Study 1 Cor. 15:50-57. What will the resurrection of the dead look like?
Jesus Tells of the Two Greatest Commandments (Matt. 22:34-40)
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together in one place, 35 and one of them, an expert in the law, asked him, testing him, 36 “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the law?” 37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ [Deut. 6:5] 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 The second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Lev. 19:18] 40 On these two commandments the whole law and prophets depend.”
The Pharisees were happy that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, but maybe not. Maybe they pulled together to counter this new threat whom they regarded as a revolutionary. (“Pharisees and Sadducees, testing him, approached and requested him to show them a sign from heaven” [Matt. 16:1]). Remember he had already overturned the money tables. The Jerusalem and temple establishment are striking back.
In general terms, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were at odds with each other. Acts 23:6-10 describes a dissension Paul caused when he was arrested and stood before the Jewish council. The passage reads:
6 Paul, knowing that one part was Sadducee and the other was Pharisee, shouted in the High Council: “Men, brothers! I am a Pharisee, son of Pharisees! I am on trial for the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” 7 When he said this, a dispute happened between the Sadducees and Pharisees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection nor angels or a spirit; the Pharisees acknowledge all of it. 9 A great shouting match took place, and some teachers of the law from the Pharisee faction stood up and waged a verbal battle: “We find nothing wrong with this man, if a spirit or angel spoke to him!” 10 When the huge dispute happened, the commander, being afraid in case Paul might be torn apart by them, ordered a contingent of troops to come down and whisk him away from the middle of them, to bring him to the barracks. (Acts 23:6-10, my tentative translation)
An expert of the law did exactly as his name says. See v. 15 for their Watchdog function.
“test”: Now the legal expert wants to see what Jesus is made of, and the expert is about to find out. No doubt he wanted to intimidate Jesus, so the expert could win the cultural battle of shame and honor. The expert would get the honor in public with other experts standing around, while Jesus would slink away. But Jesus was not flustered or startled.
Once again, we are about to watch the literal genius and literal anointing of Jesus on full display. As I wrote before in this post, it is stunning (to me at least) that he could come up with such a piercing and clarifying and rich parable immediately after this challenge. (He may have already been challenged on this matter earlier in his ministry; see Luke 10:25-28, but he still speaks with authority and intelligence.) At the end of the discussion the legal expert will be hushed, and Jesus will emerge victorious in public.
“the law”: In this verse, it means the law of Moses. Now was the moment for the expert in the law to shine. Jesus based his entire ministry on Scripture, but he was about to fulfill most of Scripture, at his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. He will fulfill all of it when he returns.
In Luke’s version of the dialogue (10:25-37) the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself and asked who his neighbor was. That’s when Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The neighbor is the one in need. The surprise is that the one who answered the call to help the needy neighbor was the despised Samaritan, unexpected by the teacher of the law in the parable.
But caution! Luke’s version may be a different episode since it took place outside of Jerusalem; after all, it is reasonable to believe that teachers of the law, who obsessed over the Torah, would ask which commandment was the greatest or most important more than once in his ministry.
Turner (p. 536) highlights two rabbis who gave summations of the law. Hillel (40 BC to AD 10) said, “Do not do to your neighbor what is hateful to you; this is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.” Akiba (c. AD 50-135) said: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself … This is the encompassing principle of the law.” A famous passage in the Mishnah says: “The world rests on three things: the Torah, sacrificial worship, and expressions of love.” And recall Jesus’s summation of the law: “Therefore, everything that you want people to do to you, in the same way you also do to them. For this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Paul writes: “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8, ESV). We can be sure that the teacher of the law in Luke 10:25-37 was different from the teacher of the law in Mark, here. But it is interesting to note how Jesus quickly attached the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the quotation about loving one’s neighbor.
Jesus could have quoted verses that talked about law keeping (Deut. 6:6-8). He could have recited all or any one of the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21). But he talked about the love relationship with God and with his neighbors. That’s what gives us eternal life—loving God—not law keeping. Jesus was in the process of revealing who the Father was and fulfilling all of the Torah (first five books of the Bible, particularly the legal aspects), so that the way to God is less complicated and more streamlined than the way that the Torah prescribes.
“you shall love”: the future tense in these contexts is equivalent to a command: “Love!” It is difficult to sustain love if we define it as a gooey feeling, so it must go deeper.
“love”: it is the verb agapaō (pronounced ah-gah-pah-oh). BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love”; (2) “to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in; (3) “to practice / express love, prove one’s love.” In most instances this kind love in Scripture is not gooey feelings, though it can be a heart-felt virtue and emotion, as we see in the first definition. Rather, mostly, love is expressed by action.
Further, both the noun agapē (pronounced ah-gah-pay) and the verb mean a total commitment. For example, God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to the dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?
Agapē and agapaō are demonstrative. This love is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.
It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.
Jesus adds the phrase “with your whole mind”; it could be translated “with your entire mind.” It is perfectly all right to love God with our whole mind. Life in Christ is not only emotional and feelings based. So many big-name preachers don’t emphasize the intelligent side of the kingdom of God, so the people are inadequately trained to handle the challenges from intelligent skeptics. This is especially true of high school and college students. Therefore many of them needlessly fall away from the faith. Training of the mind can fix the problem. So it is possible to love the Lord God with our whole minds.
There is some discussion about the inner being of humankind. Are they two parts (body and soul / spirit, which are just synonyms), or are they three parts (body, soul, and spirit, and the latter two are not synonyms)? As far as I can tell, the vast majority of Renewalists believe in three parts, but it is not as easy a question to solve, as they may think.
In any case, if our love for the Lord does not translate to loving people, then our love for God is merely academic. 1 John 4:7-9 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:7-9, ESV). So now the New Covenant Scriptures offers a fuller picture of God’s love. He is love, and when we are born of God, we will love one another. The greatest expression of God’s love is that he sent his Son into the world.
Further, 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us” (ESV). Rom. 5:5 says that the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. The NT says therefore that any love we have for him begins first with him. Love flows from him to us and back to him. The NT fills out the picture more than the Torah does.
“whole”: it could be translated as “entire” or “all.” All of the law and prophets is another way of referring to the whole Old Testament. It hangs on or depends on or is clarified by those two greatest commandments.
“mind”: The Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent) is the third-to-first-century translation of the OT from Hebrew into Greek. And it does not have the word for “mind” in Deut. 6:5. Jesus inserted it, though the Hebrew word for “heart” can also be interpreted as “mind” or the seat of thinking.
It may be difficult for members of Renewal Christianity to receive, but we can love the Lord with our minds, and not just our hearts. I belong to the Renewal Movements, and I know this anti-intellectualism from observing things first hand. The mind and thinking are downplayed too often, and people go astray easily, as they take flights of fancy through their revelations and words from the Lord and out-of-bounds interpretations of plain Scriptures. Don’t neglect your love for God through your mind or thinking.
Once again: Word Study on Spirit, Soul, and Body
Yes, be sure your mind is renewed (Rom. 12:2), but live a balanced life, body (strength), soul / mind, and spirit.
GrowApp for Matt. 22:34-40
A.. Jesus’s answer is a challenge to us. In Christ, the heart-mind work together to love him. How do you love him with your whole heart and your whole mind?
B.. Study Luke 10:29-37. Who is your neighbor? How do you love your neighbor?
Jesus Clarifies Who the Son of David Is (Matt. 22:41-46)
41 While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “Of David.” 43 He said to them, “Then how does David by the Spirit call him Lord, saying:
44 The Lord said to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand
Until I put your enemies under your feet’? [Ps. 110:1]
45 If therefore David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him a question any longer.
Once again, let’s take this pericope or section as a whole, not verse by verse. Jesus’s main point is clear: He is above David, the exemplar king. Jesus is the Lord.
Now let’s explore his Lordship and Kingship more thoroughly.
The right hand or side indicates power. The Greek could be translated as “on my right” (without “hand”).
Jesus had a high view of Scripture, because he says David was inspired by the Spirit. We should hold to this belief, too.
During Jesus’s ministry and long before, the people believed that the Messiah was also called the son of David.
Here are some data points which I note in the post about God’s covenant with David:
Ps. 89:20-37 says in the context of God’s love and commitment to David that he has anointed him with sacred oil (v. 20); his hand and arm will sustain him (v. 21); the enemy will not get the better of him and not get victory over him (vv. 22-23); God’s love will go so deeply that that God’s love and commitment will sustain him forever (vv. 25-28). God will establish his lineage forever, and his throne will endure as long as the heavens endure (vv. 28-29). This commitment and love for his specially chosen will last forever, even if his sons and descendants should forsake God’s law and violate his decrees, so God would have to punish their sin with flogging and the rod (vv. 30-33). Still, even in those cases, God will not take his love for him and not violate his covenant with his anointed one. His line will continue forever (vv. 34-37).
So God promised to establish and maintain the Davidic dynasty on the throne of Israel and provide her with a godly king like David and through his descendants bring her to rest in the promised land.
It is mentioned to Solomon (1 Kings 2:2-4) and celebrated by him (1 Kings 8:22-26); it is mentioned to King Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:34-36) and reaffirmed during his reign (2 Kings 8:19); it was celebrated by the psalmists (Ps. 89:3; 132:1-12); it was reaffirmed by Isaiah (Is. 9:6-7) and by Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:24-25).
Jesus fulfilled and is fulfilling and always shall fulfill the Davidic covenant, for he is the righteous ruler for whom Israel had been looking or should have been looking.
Luke 1:32 says that Gabriel himself announced that the Lord God will give the Messiah Jesus the throne of David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; “his kingdom will never end.”
Matt. 1:1 and Rom. 1:3 says that Jesus was the son of David.
John 18:33-37 says that in a dialogue with Pilate Jesus affirmed that his kingdom is not of this world, so his fulfillment of David’s covenant would take place in heaven—for now.
In Acts 13:22-23, 34 Paul preached that Jesus fulfilled the Davidic covenant.
Paul also says that Jesus will hand over his kingdom to his Father when he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power (1 Cor. 15:24-25).
Jesus is called THE KING OF KINGS (Rev. 19:16).
Jesus sits on the throne of David now and will remain there forever, whatever happens to the sun and earth. David will never co-rule on this throne, as if David and Jesus would sit side by side. In heaven David will announce that the KING OF KINGS is the best and most qualified king to sit there, infinitely better than he is.
Before the end, however, Jesus sits on the throne of David in heaven and is watching out for Israel.
The priesthood is said to endure forever, and it does through the great high priest, Jesus. The kingship of David is said to endure forever, and it does through the eternal reign of King Jesus.
Personally, I believe David will kneel before his descendant and Lord and say, “Thank you for fulfilling the covenant God made to me. I was a sinner, but you are the true King and Lord. You sit on the throne by yourself! I submit to you. Thank you, King Jesus!” He will not sit on the throne next to Jesus, who has fulfilled the Davidic covenant, any more than Aaron will stand next to Jesus sacrificing animals in the eternal kingdom. There will be no more sacrifices. Jesus’s accomplished this, once and for all. To be blunt, both images of David sharing the throne or Jesus sacrificing animals seem silly or worse.
That Jesus is greater than David in already clear (12:1-4; cf. 12:6, 8, 41), but now Matthew explains why: the Messiah is the son of David and the Son of God. But the Pharisees will not accept a Messiah who, as David’s Lord, is greater than David. On this extremely sad note ends Matthew’s story of Jesus’s conflict with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Nothing more can be said, and unfortunately, the conflict remains a theological watershed today, as Judaism expects a human Messiah and Christianity worships a divine one. (comment on 22:45)
Jesus takes over Ps. 110:1, as if it is talking about him. He is called “my lord.”
[Jesus] bases his argument on Ps 110:1, assuming with the Judaism of his time the accuracy of the Davidic superscription, and the inspiration of the actual text itself, which would therefore imply its truthfulness. Given these assumptions, the second “Lord” (Heb. aḏōnāi, not Yahweh) can only be the Messiah. Again Jesus’ reasoning finds pre-Christian Jewish precedent. This “lord” resides at the position of highest privilege and authority, second only to God the Father. He sits next to the Father’s throne and rules over all his enemies (Ps 110:4), presumably including those in Jesus’ audience! (comment on 22:43-44)
GrowApp Matt. 22:41-46
A.. King David called Jesus Lord. What does Jesus’s Lordship mean in your life?
Summary and Conclusion
As I did in Matt. 21, let’s first look at a table that lays out the events of Passion Week:
|Friday||Arrival in Bethany (Jn 12:1)|
|Saturday||Mary’s anointing of Jesus (Jn 12:2-8; Mt 26:6-13 // Mk 14:3-9)|
|Sunday||Triumphal Entry (Mt 21:1-11 // Mk 11:1-10 // Lk 19:28-38); surveying temple (Mk 11:11), return to Bethany (Mt 21:17 // Mk 11:11)|
|Monday||Clearing temple (Mt 21:12-17 // Mk 11:15-19 // Lk 19:45-48); cursing fig tree (Mt 21:18-22; // Mk 11:12-14); miracles and challenge temple (Mt 21:14-16); return to Bethany (Mk 11:19)|
|Tuesday||Disciples’ question about fig tree (Mk 11:20-21); debates with leaders of temple (Mt 21:23-22:46 // Mk 11:27-12:40 // Lk 20:1-44); Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:1-36); return to Bethany, but Lk 21:37 says he lodged on Mount of Olives|
|Wednesday||Little recorded in Gospel—Jesus and disciples apparently remain in Bethany; Judas arranges for Jesus’ betrayal (Mt. 26:14-16 // Mk 14:10-11 // Lk 22:3-6); I say he could be teaching in the temple or praying privately|
|Thursday||Preparation for Passover (Mt 26:17-19 // Mk 14:12-16 // Lk 22:7-13); after sundown, Passover meal and Last Supper (Mt 26:20-35 // Mk 14:17-25 // Lk 22:14, 21-23, 15-20); Farewell Discourse (Jn 13-17); Gethsemane (Mt 26:30-46 // Mk 13:32-42 // Lk 22:40-46)|
|Friday||After midnight, betrayal and arrest (Mt 26:47-56 // Mk 14:43-52 // Lk 22:47-53);
Jewish trials—Annas (Jn 18:13-14); Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Mt 26:52-75 // Mk 14:53-72 // Lk 22:54-71); full Sanhedrin (Mt 27:1-2);
Roman trials—Pilate (Mt 27:2-14 // Mk 15:2-5 // Lk 23:2-5); Herod Antipas (Lk 23:6-12); Pilate (Mt 27:15-26 // Mk 15:6-15 // Lk 23:17-27);
Mocker by soldiers (Mt 27:27-31 // Mk 15:16-20);
Road to Golgotha (Mt 27:32 // Mk 15:21 // Lk 23:26-32);
Crucifixion 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. / 15:00h (Mt 27:27-56 // Mk 15:22-41 // Lk 23:33-49);
Burial (Mt 27:57-61 // Mk 15:42-47 // Lk 23:5-56)
|Grant R. Osborne, Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010), who got it from Michael J. Wilkens, Matthew: NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 2004). I modified it.|
Here in Matthew 22, Jesus continues his polemical (hard-hitting) attack on the Jerusalem and temple establishment. He tells a rather long parable with lots of moving parts. It is said that parables are not allegories, and that may be true for most of them, but once in a while a parable is told in which the people represent ideas or divine or holy persons: king = God, Son = Jesus, servants = prophets, and farmers = deceived religious leaders (and so on). This parable closely resembles his parable of the tenant farmers, who were wicked and abused the landowner’s servants and even his son. He denounces the establishment. One commentator said that the temple establishment collected so many taxes for the temple that the authorities did not know what to do with it, so they built golden decorations. He turned over the money tables just outside the temple (21:12-13), and this marks the beginning of his confrontation. Matt. 22 continues it, even into the next two chapters.
Jesus meant business.
But the Jerusalem establishment fought back. They tested him, intending to see if he would give a wrong answer. They asked him about paying taxes to Caesar. Apparently, they thought this trap would work because deep down he was a political revolutionary. He had ridden into the city on a colt, which was not a poor man’s animal (21:1-11). Donkeys were ridden by kings. But they miscalculated. He was not a political revolutionary in that sense. He was not going to proclaim an abolition of all taxes to Rome. His kingdom was nonpolitical. It was heavenly, and it was breaking in on the world through Jesus, and he was about to send out his followers into all the world. His kingdom was global.
Then the Sadducees asked him a theological question about the resurrection and the Levirate marriage. Seven brothers for one wife! Whose wife would she be in the next-age kingdom after the resurrection of the dead. Not that the Sadducees believed in any resurrection. They created a rare, absurd scenario, just to stump Jesus. It was insulting to talk about seven deaths. They could have asked about his belief in the resurrection. That would have been better for us, because his teaching would have been longer. However, he made his points. We know that we shall be like angels. Wonderful.
Then an expert in the law, coming from a gathering of Pharisees, asked him a lawyerly question: which is the greatest commandment? Would it be the first of the Mighty Ten Commandments? The one about the Sabbath? The one about no adultery? No, he went outside the Mighty Ten. The two greatest were relational. What is our love for God like? And then what about love for our neighbor. If we obey those two, the other laws would fall into place. The entire Bible hangs on them.
Finally, he took back the initiative. He countered the gathering of Pharisee with a question of his own. The Messiah was whose son? David’s, they replied. Then why does David call him his Lord? How can he be his son? The Lord is greater than David. The Messiah, standing in front of him, whom they did not recognize, is greater than their expectations. But greater only in a sense they did not grasp. They could not comprehend the triumphal entry and his healing the blind and the lame, two healing miracles that the Messiah was supposed to perform (Matt. 22:14).
But the fireworks are not over yet. He is about to denounce them in the clearest terms, in the next chapter. And then in Matt. 24 he is about to predict that their temple was going to be destroyed.
I refer to a community of Bible scholars. They are excellent. They humble me. I hope I have simplified their ideas for the laity. I also write from a Renewal perspective.
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew: The New American Commentary. Vol. 22 (Broadman, 1992).
Carson, D. A. Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. Ed. by Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Vol. 9. (Zondervan, 2010).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans 2007).
Garland, David E. Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth and 2001).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Keener, Craig. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. (Eerdmans 1999).
Olmstead, Wesley G. Matthew 15-28: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2019).
Osborne, Grant R. Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2010).
Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008).