The Parable of the Marriage Feast. Matt. 22, 1-14.

V. 1. And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, v. 2. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, v. 3. and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding; and they would not come. V. 4. Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fat-lings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage. A vivid description of the elaborate preparations for an Oriental wedding-feast, to point a moral in the matter of the kingdom of God. For Christ always had a definite purpose in telling His parables, in most cases to teach the proper qualification for becoming a member of His great kingdom. "Learn first of all that the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of Christ, our Lord, where the Word and faith are present. In this kingdom we have the life in hope and are, according to the Word and faith, pure from sins and free from death and hell, though we are still retarded by this old hull and lazy flesh. The hull is not yet torn away, the flesh is not yet removed; that is still to be done, then there will be for us nothing but life, righteousness, and salvation." 170) In its external form, in its appearance in this world, this kingdom is like unto a man that was a great king, a mighty ruler, who prepared a marriage-feast for his son. Such a wedding-festival was not an affair of an hour or two, but often lasted for days, Judg. 14, 17. At the appointed time, servants were sent out to announce that fact to those that had received an invitation, probably the princes, the rich and powerful people of the kingdom. This second calling seems to agree exactly with Eastern custom, Esther 6, 14. The result, whether by common consent or by individual meanness, was a flat refusal. But the king was patient. He sent other servants with a more urgent message for the invited guests. They are given the very words to commend the feast, to stimulate desire for its offering. The attention of the invited guests should be called to the fact that the midday meal, with which the festivities began, was even now fully ready for them. The oxen and the fatted rams had been slaughtered and cooked, nothing of the usual delights of the table was missing. The wealth of the king had overlooked nothing in the endeavor to honor both himself and his guests.

The rejection: V. 5. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise. V. 6. And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. V. 7. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth; and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Here was a case of studied insolence and insult. They were indifferent to the urgent call, they paid absolutely no attention to it, in the majority of cases. They turned away and devoted themselves to their own private affairs, the landholder to his farm, the merchant to his store. But a few of the invited guests were not satisfied with merely indicating their disapproval of the king and their contempt for the wedding-feast in this fashion. They vented their spite on the messengers. Having laid hold on them, they treated them with every mark of contempt, and finally killed them. These were acts of open rebellion, naturally followed by war. Deeply angered, the king sent out his armies and punished the murderers by taking their life in turn and by burning their town. The refusal to come to the wedding-feast, together with the acts of violence against the servants, constituted acts of gross disobedience, which were justly punished in this way.

New guests: V. 8. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. V. 9. Go ye, therefore, into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. V. 10. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all, as many as they found, both bad and good; and the wedding was furnished with guests. Then, when the report of the failure of his servants to persuade the former guests was made. Time was pressing; great hurry was demanded. So they should go out on the highways, to the place where there is a crossing over of roads, either a crossroads from which the roads radiate in every direction, or a place near the gates where the roads from all directions ran together. In either case, many people would be passing by in just a little while, and the chance of finding guests would be much greater. No care should be exercised by the servants to make a careful selection, especially not so far as nationality was concerned: The unworthy guests should be replaced as rapidly as possible by others, whomever they might find. And the servants followed the command literally. Going out on the streets and roads, they brought together all whom they found, bad as well as good, and the nuptial assembly of those that were to partake of the feast was made complete.

The missing wedding-garment: V. 11. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding-garment; v. 12. and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. V. 13. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. V. 14. For many are called, but few are chosen. The king was naturally pleased over the success of his plan, and as soon as the guests were placed and the wedding-feast was in progress, he came in to welcome them all. But while passing down between the rows of tables his attention was drawn to one man who, although reclining with the rest at a table and partaking of the food, yet was not clothed in a proper wedding-garment. This was not only inexcusable, it was insulting. For the guests of Oriental kings were at all times, but especially upon such an occasion, provided with festal garments, and the accidental guest above all was taken care of in this respect. It was natural, also, and in keeping with the dignity of the occasion that the guests should take unusual care with their dress, in order not to seem insensible to the honor bestowed upon them. No wonder that the king's surprised inquiry as to the way in which he managed to slip in unobserved, when, as he knew, a wedding-garment was required and might have been obtained for the asking, caused the guilty fellow literally to be strangled in his speech and unable to say a single word in explanation or defense. It was a case of foolishly and deliberately despising the bounty, the largess, of the king. And so the king passed summary sentence. The servants received orders to bind the guilty one hand and foot and to thrust him into the outer darkness of the dungeon, where he would have plenty of time to repent of his folly with weeping and gnashing of teeth. For, adds Jesus, many are called, but few are chosen.

The lesson of this parable is similar to that of the previous one, and was probably understood by the Jews in its first part. In the second part it went beyond the Jewish Church and contains a warning for all time. God Himself is the king. The wedding-feast is that of the Messiah's kingdom, the marriage of the Lamb. The first invitation was issued to the chosen people of the Old Testament, the nation of the Jews. The prophets came to them in increasing numbers, with increasing clearness of message. Then came John the Baptist, Christ Himself, the apostles, with their urgent call to repentance and salvation. But the answer was indifference, hatred, blasphemy, murder. Then God's patience was exhausted, then His judgment was executed upon Jerusalem and upon the Jewish nation, the Romans under Vespasian and Titus laying siege to their capital and destroying both Temple and city, 70 A. D. Since that time the Lord has faithfully attempted to get other guests for His wedding-feast. His messengers have gone forth on the highways and byways of the Gentile nations throughout the world. The Christian Church has spread to practically every country of the earth. Men of every tongue have been assembled in the great hall of the Lamb's wedding-feast. Good and bad, hypocrites and sincere believers, are joined in the outward communion known as the visible Church. But the time of the King's reckoning is coming. He has provided, through His Son Jesus Christ, a wedding-garment of spotless righteousness and purity for every sinner that is called to the feast. His mercy and grace are indeed free for all men, but they cannot partake of the meal without having first accepted this festal garment to cover the filth and nakedness of their sin. He will lay bare the deceit, if not before, then on the great Day of Judgment. And the insult to the love of God will be properly punished when every person that puts his trust in his own merit and works will be cast into the dungeon of hell with its everlasting torments. "That will be the punishment that the time of visitation has not been recognized nor accepted, that we were invited, had Sacrament, Baptism, Gospel, absolution, and still did not believe it, nor made ourselves of use. Would to God that the dear Lord would teach us thoroughly and bring us to that point that we would realize what great mercy we have received in being invited to such a blessed feast, where we shall find salvation from sin, devil, death, and eternal wailing! He that will not accept this with thanks, but despises such grace, shall have eternal death instead of it. For one of the two it must be: Either receive the Gospel and believe and be saved, or do not believe and be condemned eternally." 171)

The Question Concerning Tribute. Matt. 22, 15-22.

Insincere flattery: V. 15. Then went the Pharisees and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. V. 16. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man; for Thou regardest not the person of men. The Pharisees had again felt the sting of the application in the last parable, and it did not improve their temper. Force was out of the question on account of the people, so they contemplated ways and means to find a catch-question, the answer to which could be construed so as to invite either the hatred of the common people or the investigation of the Roman government. They deliberately plan and study out some question which would serve this purpose. Having found one which, in their opinion, was suitable, they first tried to divert the attention of Jesus by placing the sand of flattery in His eyes, — a bungling attempt at best when one remembers the omniscience of Christ. They sent some of their own disciples with the Herodians. The latter belonged to a sect or clique related to the Sadducees in belief, but more strongly political in organization. According to the most trustworthy accounts, they came into existence at the time of Herod the Great, and encouraged the idea of a national kingdom under the rule of the Herodian dynasty. With learning, wealth, and influence at their command, they were not to be despised as allies by the Pharisees and Sadducees, with their political hopes. They seem to have been drafted for this delegation in order not to make the design too apparent. The strangest part was that their words were absolutely true. Jesus, being the Truth Himself, did indeed teach the way of God and to God in truth; He was entirely independent of all people and had not the slightest hesitation, if need be, to speak His opinion before any man. But in the mouth of these enemies these facts became hollow mockery and malice, a false flattery calculated to deceive and dupe. It was most insincere, devilish hypocrisy.

The question and the reply: V. 17. Tell us therefore, What thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? V. 18. But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites? V. 19. Show Me the tribute-money. And they brought unto Him a penny. V. 20. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? V. 21. They say unto Him, Caesar's. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. V. 22. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him, and went their way. They come out with their question as though they were altogether innocent and harmless, merely asking for the opinion of a respected teacher, desiring to know whether it is the right, the proper thing, whether it should be done thus, to pay tribute or poll-tax to the Roman emperor. The difficulty of the question lay in this, that it was put from the religious point of view: Would it not seem that the tax-payer is in danger of coming into conflict with God and with his duty toward the Church? They expected, of course, that Jesus would declare against the paying of the tax, in which case they would have had reason to denounce Him before the Roman governor as a rebel. On the other hand, if He favored the paying of this most objectionable tax, they could easily cast the suspicion upon Him as though He were a friend and agent of the Roman government and had no proper love for the privileges of the Jews as the chosen people of God. But Christ knew their wickedness. He tells them that they are hypocrites with their attempt to mask their attack under the guise of sincere compliments, poor actors in tempting Him from the path of His ministry. He demands to be shown the coin of the census, the piece of money which had to be paid for this tax. And when they showed Him a denarius, the Roman silver coin with the image and inscription of Caesar, worth about seventeen cents in American money, He quickly gave them His decision: Caesar's give to Caesar, God's to God; a simple and most effective rule for keeping the distinction between Church and State clearly defined. It was an answer which silenced them completely, and should provide the necessary information on this vexed question for all time. God's people should above all give to God due honor and obedience. In those things which concern the Word of God, worship itself, faith, and conscience, we are obedient to God only and pay no attention to objections made by men. But in mere temporal, earthly things, which concern money, possessions, body, life, we obey the government of the country in which we live. "Though they were not worth it, yet the Lord taught them the right way. And with these words He also confirms the temporal sword. They hoped He would condemn it and talk against it; but He does nothing of the kind, but praises the worldly government and commands they should give to it what pertains thereto. Thereby He states His will that there should be government, princes, and lords, to whom we should be obedient, let them be whoever and whatever they will. And we should not ask whether they have the rule and the government with justice and right or with injustice, and hold it thus; we must merely look upon the power and government which is good, for it has been ordained and instituted by God, Rom. 13, 1. Thou dare not abuse the government if thou occasionally be oppressed by princes and tyrants, and they abuse their power which they have from God; they will surely have to give an account of it. The abuse of a thing does not make the thing evil which in itself is good…. But what if they should want to take the Gospel from us, or prohibit its preaching? Then thou shalt say: The Gospel and the Word of God I will not give you, neither have ye any power concerning that; for your government is a temporal government over earthly goods, but the Gospel is a spiritual, heavenly possession; therefore your power does not extend over the Gospel and the Word of God…. That we shall not yield, for it is the power of God, Rom. 1, 16; 1 Cor. 1, 18, against which even the portals of hell cannot prevail, Matt. 16, 18. Therefore the Lord condenses these two points very nicely, and separates them from each other in one verse, and says: 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.' To God pertains His honor, that I believe Him to be the true, almighty, and wise God, and confess that He is the Author of everything good. And though I do not give Him this honor, yet He keeps it; thy honoring will neither add to nor detract from it; but in me He is true, almighty, and wise if I consider Him thus and believe that He is just as He has it told about Him. But to the government is due fear, custom, tribute, tax, and obedience. God wants the heart; the body and goods are under the government, over which it should rule in the stead of God." 172)

The Question of the Sadducees. Matt. 22, 23-33.

V. 23. The same day came to Him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked Him, v. 24. saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. V. 25. Now there were with us seven brethren; and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother; v. 26. likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. V. 27. And last of all the woman died also. V. 28. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her. The Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees had been silenced. But this fact seemed like a challenge to the Sadducees who prided themselves upon their cleverness. It was not merely in a spirit of mischief that these men came, but with the intention of making Christ appear ridiculous. For they themselves, as Matthew remarks, did not believe in the resurrection, and incidentally accepted only the five books of Moses as authentic words of God. Both of which was well known to Jesus, and He here made use of His knowledge to their utter discomfiture. They relate a story which has all the ear-marks of having been invented for the occasion, and cite Moses, Gen. 38, 8; Deut. 25, 5. 6, in support of their question. It was the so-called Levirate marriage to which they had reference, according to which it was ordered, for the preservation of families, that if a man died without male children, his brother should marry the widow, and that the first-born son should be held in the registers to be the son of the dead brother. The Sadducees purposely tell the story in such a way as to bring out the foolishness of the ensuing situation after the resurrection, in their opinion: Whose wife will she be? All of the brothers have equal rights.

Christ's answer: V.29. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. V. 30. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. In an entirely dispassionate way, but with crushing emphasis, Jesus gives them His answer: Ye are altogether wrong, and that because ye know neither the plain facts of Scripture nor the power of God. According to the first, they should have known that the fact of the resurrection is stated in the Old Testament. According to the second, they should have known that God is able to raise from the dead. Note: Their question itself is a secondary consideration with Christ; the motive for the question concerns Him far more. And so far as their story goes, the difficulty which, they sneeringly imply, exists in case there is a resurrection, is by no means so great. In heaven, Christ tells them, the resurrected believers will be sexless, like the angels, since there is no longer any need for marriage, both the procreation of children and the sexual desires of the body being things of the past.

Proof for the resurrection: V. 31. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, v. 32. I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. V. 33. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine. A bit of Bible explanation, which is as irrefutable as it is surprising. Christ's manner implies a censure of their reading the books of Moses without understanding: Ye are ignorant of the very books which ye profess to hold sacred, in which the Lord speaks directly to you. It was on Mount Horeb that the Lord said these words to Moses, Ex. 3, 6. 16. If the patriarchs were dead, body and soul, if they were annihilated and no longer in existence, how could God call Himself their God, He, who is the God of the living only? The resurrected dead, according to their souls, live with God in heaven; they are truly alive, and on the last day their souls will be reunited with the body to live in the abode of the angels forever, and in much the same manner. No wonder the people, the many that crowded around the disputing parties, were very much surprised at this bit of clear doctrine. "Behold, who would have thought that in these short, simple, common words so much would be contained, and would yield such a fine, rich sermon, yea, a great and mighty book, which could be derived therefrom. Which words they had known well, and yet had not believed that in the entire books of Moses a single word concerning the resurrection of the dead was to be found; for which reason they adhered to Moses only, and repudiated the prophets, though these took all their sermons on the chief articles of Christ's faith from Moses." 173)

The Silencing of the Pharisees. Matt. 22, 34-46.

Information asked and given: V. 34. But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. V. 35. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, v. 36. Master, which is the great commandment in the Law? V. 37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. V. 38. This is the first and great commandment. V. 39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. V. 40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets. The Sadducees had been most effectually silenced, so that they had nothing more to say. Now the ancient rivalry between the two sects came into play. Should the members of the one succeed in conquering Jesus in an argument, it would be a feather in the cap of the entire party. So the Pharisees determined to find a point in which they could triumph over the Lord. They came together and finally agreed upon a certain question, whose answer would be sure to compromise Him. In a very earnest manner, as though they were most sincere in their longing after truth, their spokesman, one well versed in the Law, put the question; Which is the great commandment, the most important, the one upon which everything depends? His purpose is evident. If Jesus should select some single precept of the Law and place it above the rest, He might be accused of giving to the other commandments a correspondingly low position and denying their validity. But Christ avoids the pitfall by giving a summary of the entire Law, placing that of the first table first and that of the second table immediately beside it. The love toward God is the fulfillment of the Law. But the entire heart, the entire soul, the entire mind must be His, Deut. 6, 5. Reason and intellect, sentiment and passion, thought and will, must be given into His service. "Take, then, before thee this commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and think upon that, seek after it, and try to understand it, what kind of a law it is, how far thou still art from fulfilling this commandment; yea, that thou hast not really begun to fulfill it rightly, namely, to suffer and to do from thy heart what God wants of thee. It is pure hypocrisy if one will crawl into a corner and think: Aye, I want to love God! Oh, how dearly I love God: He is my Father! Oh, how well-intentioned I feel toward Him! and similar things. Indeed, when He does according to our pleasure, we can say many such words, but when once He sends us misfortune and adversity, we no longer consider Him to be a God or a Father. A true love toward God does not act thus, but feels it in the heart and says it with the mouth: Lord God, I am Thy creature, do with me as Thou wilt, it is all the same to me; for I am Thine, that I know; and if it should be Thy will that I should die this hour or suffer some great misfortune, I should suffer it with all my heart; I shall never consider my life, honor, and goods, and whatever I have, higher and greater than Thy will, which shall be well-pleasing to me all my life." (Luther.) This is the first commandment, the one with which sanctification begins. And it is great, since it includes all the other commandments. But the second is like it, Lev. 19, 18. 34, since it brings the love to God, in the fulfillment of His Law, into a visible, tangible form, in the relation toward one's neighbor. As every person by nature has the wish to have only the good and pleasant fall to his lot, so he should endeavor, in all his relations toward His neighbor, to yield and provide for him the same pleasant and agreeable things wherever he can. In these two commandments hang the whole Law and the prophets. The faith of the heart finds its expression in the doing of the will of God, and the sanctification of life begins and ends in love toward God and man. Love is the fulfilling of the Law, Rom. 13, 10.

The counter question of Jesus: V. 41. While the Pharisees were gathered together Jesus asked them, v. 42. saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He? They say unto Him, The Son of David. The attack of the Pharisees had failed; their very spokesman had been obliged to admit the truth of Christ's answer, Mark 12, 32. 33. But now Christ turns to the attack by proposing a question which would impale His adversaries on the horns of a real dilemma. His question concerns the sonship of Christ, of the Messiah; from what family is He to spring? It is the most momentous subject of investigation before the world, not only at the time of Christ, but at all times. According to the way in which men decide in their estimate of Christ will their fate be decided. A mere head knowledge and lip confession, such as was made here by the Pharisees, who could answer in a mechanical manner glibly enough, is not sufficient for the true believer, as the Lord proceeds to point out in this instance.

Driving home the conclusion: V. 43. He saith unto them, How, then, doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, v. 44. The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? V. 45. If David, then, call Him Lord, how is He his Son? V. 46. And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions. That the Messiah was to be an offspring of David is stated so often in the Old Testament that every Jew was accustomed to call Him by that name, as a matter of fact. But the Pharisees had never compared the various passages concerning the Messiah, His person and His work, and were for that reason ignorant of His mission. The fact of the twofold nature in Christ was plainly taught in the Old Testament, but their eyes had been blinded by their false hopes and aspirations. "Jesus refers only to that fact that David, Ps. 110, 1, calls Him his Lord: If, then, David, He says, calls Him Lord, how is He his Son? It sounds strange and is contrary to nature that a father calls his son a lord, that he also becomes subject to him and serves him. Now, David calls Christ his Lord, and such a Lord to whom God Himself says: Sit Thou at My right hand, etc., that is, Be equal with Me, known and adored as very, true God; for on God's chair or at His right hand no other may properly sit; He is so jealous that He will permit no one else to sit as His equal with Him, as He says in the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 48, 11: Neither will I give My honor, etc. Since, then, He places Christ on a level with Him, the latter must be more than all creatures." 174) To be Lord on high, equal with God, and yet to be the Son of David, according to the flesh, to have the divinity and the humanity combined in one person, that is the Messiah of prophecy. And what the learned Jews could not understand and explain, which made them speechless and utterly discomfited, is the great comfort of the believers of all time. "That is appreciating the person of Christ and knowing whose Son He is, namely, a Son of David; for He is a man, but yet also a Lord of David, as He that is sitting at the right hand of God and has His enemies, sin, death, and hell, as a footstool for His feet. Therefore, he who is in need of salvation against such enemies, let him not seek it with Moses, not through the Law, his own works, and piety; let him seek it with the Son and Lord of David, there he will surely find it. This the blind Pharisees do not know, therefore they do not respect the Lord Christ; they are satisfied with what they know out of the Law, how one should love God and one's neighbor. And yet it is impossible to know God, much less to love God, unless one knows Christ. As He says Matt. 11, 27: No one knows the Father but the Son, and to whom the Son reveals it. ... But here we see the riches of the superabundant goodness and mercy of God, that God spared not His only-begotten Son, but delivers Him into the death of the cross for us, in order that we, liberated from sins, through Him should live forever. That is an eternal, boundless, fathomless love and mercy, which no man can know unless he knows Christ." 175)

Summary. Jesus tells the parable of the marriage-feast, answers the question of the Herodians regarding tribute-money, convicts the Sadducees with their denial of the resurrection, gives the Pharisees the proper information as to the greatest commandment, and proposes a question concerning the twofold nature of the Messiah which they are unable to answer.