Sunday, June 4th, 2023
Dr. Constable's Expository Notes Constable's Expository Notes
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 22". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ dcc/ matthew-22.html. 2012.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 22". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
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C. Israel’s rejection of her King 21:18-22:46
This section of Matthew’s Gospel presents Israel’s formal rejection of her Messiah. Jesus had made a formal presentation of Himself to the nation’s populace and leadership in the messianic capital with His triumphal entry (Matthew 21:1-17). Jesus’ earlier rejection had taken place in rural Galilee (ch. 12). Now Matthew recorded Israel’s response. [Note: For more light on the connections that unite this pericope with the previous one, see Mark Moulton, "Jesus’ Goal for Temple and Tree: A Thematic Revisit of Matthew 21:12-22," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 41:4 (December 1998):561-72.]
2. Rejection by the chief priests and the elders 21:23-22:14 (cf. Mar_11:27 to Mar_12:12; Luke 20:1-19)
The cursing of the fig tree happened as Jesus and the disciples walked from Bethany to Jerusalem on Tuesday. The disciples’ exclamation about the withered tree and Jesus’ lesson followed on Wednesday. Jesus and His disciples proceeded into Jerusalem where confrontations with three groups erupted in the temple courtyard that day.
The NASB says, "Jesus answered." This was Matthew’s way of introducing what Jesus said (cf. Matthew 11:25). It does not mean that what Jesus said was a response to a particular question someone had asked Him. Jesus responded to the leaders’ desires (cf. Matthew 21:45-46). The antecedent of "them" was the Jewish leaders, but there were many other Jews in the temple courtyard listening to the dialogue.
The parable of the royal wedding banquet 22:1-14
The three parables in this series are similar to three concentric circles in their scope. The scope of the parable of the two sons encompassed Israel’s leaders (Matthew 21:28-32). The parable of the wicked tenant farmers exposed the leaders’ lack of responsibility and their guilt to the people listening in as well as to the leaders themselves (Matthew 21:33-46). This last parable is the broadest of the three. It condemned the contempt with which Israel as a whole had treated God’s grace to her.
Jesus said the kingdom was similar to what the following story illustrated (cf. Matthew 13:24; Matthew 13:31; Matthew 13:33; Matthew 13:44-45; Matthew 13:47; Matthew 20:1). The king represents God the Father. His son, the bridegroom (cf. Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1), is Messiah. The wedding feast is the messianic banquet that will take place on earth at the beginning of the kingdom (Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 25:1; cf. Psalms 132:15; Isaiah 25:6-8; Isaiah 65:13-14; Revelation 21:2). As in the previous parable, the slaves (Gr. douloi) of the king are His prophets (Matthew 21:34-36). [Note: Pentecost, The Parables . . ., pp. 139-40.] They announced the coming of the banquet and urged those whom God invited to it, the Jews, to prepare for it. However most of those who heard about it did not respond to the call to prepare for it. Several writers have taken this invitation as corresponding to the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. [Note: E.g., Morgan, p. 263; Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 165; and Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 254.]
The fact that the king repeated his invitation and urged those who had previously shown no interest in attending demonstrates his grace and compassion. This was customary practice in the ancient Near East. [Note: Goebel, The Parables of Jesus, p. 351.] The Greek word translated "dinner" (ariston) usually refers to the first of two meals that the Jews ate each day, most commonly near mid-morning. This was the first of many meals that the guests at this banquet would enjoy since wedding feasts usually lasted a week or so in the ancient Near East (cf. Matthew 22:13). [Note: Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World," Bibliotheca Sacra 135:539 (July-September 1978):241-52. See also Paul E. Robertson, "First-Century Jewish Marriage Customs," Biblical Illustrator 13:1 (Fall 1986):33-36.] The king emphasized the imminency of the feast as he sent out his servants again. This is, of course, what John and Jesus had been preaching as they urged the Jews to get ready for the kingdom. Some scholars took this invitation as one that the apostles issued after Jesus’ ascension that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. [Note: E.g., Morgan, p. 263; Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 165; and Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 254.]
"A very important fact revealed in the parable is the fact that the offer of the kingdom was a genuine one. The kingdom in all of its reality was as prepared and near as was the feast of the parable." [Note: Ibid., p. 255.]
The wedding feast is not the kingdom, however. It is the celebration at the beginning of the kingdom, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
The people the slaves of the king invited showed more interest in their own possessions and activities than they did in the banquet (John 1:12). They refused the invitation of their king that was both an honor and a command.
Some of those invited not only refused the gracious invitation but abused and even murdered the king’s servants. Enraged at their conduct the king sent his army, destroyed the murderers, and burned down their city (cf. Matthew 21:38-41). Burning down an enemy’s city was a common fate of rebels in the ancient East (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:19; Nahum 3:14-15). Here Jesus implied it would happen to Jerusalem again. It did happen in A.D. 70 when the Roman emperor Titus finally overcame the Jewish rebels and scattered them from Palestine. This was Jesus’ first prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem.
The king did not begin the wedding feast then. He sent out more slaves to invite anyone to attend. The original guests were not worthy because they disregarded the king’s invitations. They failed to respond to his invitation to come freely. The king sent His slaves out into the "main highways" (NASB, Gr. tas diexodous ton hodon, lit. "street corners," NIV, places where people congregated) to invite everyone to the feast (cf. Matthew 8:11; Matthew 21:43). His slaves went out into the streets and gathered everyone who would come, the evil and the good in the sight of men. Finally the wedding hall was full of guests.
"The calling of other guests now (still going on) takes the place of the first invitation-a new exigency and preparation being evolved-and the supper, until these guests are obtained . . . is postponed to the Second Advent." [Note: Peters, 1:379.]
The majority of the Jews were not worthy to attend the messianic banquet at the beginning of the kingdom because they rejected God’s gracious offer of entrance by faith in His Son. Therefore God’s slaves would go out into the whole world to invite as many as would to come, Jews and Gentiles alike (Matthew 28:19). Jesus predicted that many, not just Jews but also Gentiles, would respond so when the kingdom began the great banquet hall would be as full as God intended.
The man who did not wear the proper wedding garment was unprepared for the banquet. In that culture the proper wedding garment was just clean clothes. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., pp. 826-27.] He was there, whether evil or good (Matthew 22:10), because he had accepted the king’s gracious invitation. However he was subject to the king’s scrutiny. The king addressed his guest as a friend. He asked how he had obtained admission without the proper (clean) garment. The man was speechless due to embarrassment. Then the king gave orders to his servants (Gr. diakonois) to bind the man hand and foot like a prisoner and to cast him out of the banquet hall. They would throw him into the "outer darkness" (NASB) or "outside, into the darkness" (NIV). The place where he would go would be a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is probably significant that Jesus referred to the king’s slaves (Gr. douloi, Matthew 22:3-4; Matthew 22:6; Matthew 22:8; Matthew 22:10) as heralding the kingdom, but He said the king’s servants (Gr. diakonoi, Matthew 22:13) evicted the unworthy guest. Evidently the slaves refer to the prophets and the servants to the angels.
These verses have spawned several different interpretations. One view is that the man who tries to participate in the banquet but gets evicted represents those whom God will exclude in the judgment that will take place before the kingdom begins. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., pp. 254-55.] This view takes the man evicted as representing a Jew who hopes to gain entrance to the kingdom because he is a Jew. Since he does not have the proper clothing, the robe of righteousness, he cannot enter the kingdom. The lesson Jesus wanted to teach was that individual faith in Him, not nationality, was necessary for entrance. This view seems best to me.
"Christ revealed that unless they prepared themselves to be judged acceptable by the host, they would be excluded from the kingdom when it was instituted." [Note: Pentecost, The Parables . . ., p. 142.]
A second view is that the man was at the banquet because he was a believer in Jesus. There the king upon careful examination discovered that he did not have the prerequisite righteousness. Therefore the king excluded him from the kingdom. In other words, he withdrew the man’s salvation. The problem with this view is that it involves the withdrawing of salvation. This view is untenable in view of Scripture promises that once God gives the gift of eternal life He never withdraws it (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:31-39).
A third view is that the loss of salvation is not in view, but the loss of eternal reward is. The man has eternal life. The wedding garment does not represent salvation but good works with which the believer should clothe himself in response to the demands God has on his or her life.
"There is no suggestion here of punishment or torment. The presence of remorse, in the form of weeping and gnashing of teeth, does not in any way require this inference. Indeed, what we actually see in the image itself is a man soundly ’trussed up’ out on the darkened grounds of the king’s private estate, while the banquet hall glows with light and reverberates with the joys of those inside. That is what we actually see. And that is all!" [Note: Hodges, Grace in . . ., p. 89. See also Dillow, pp. 344-53.]
However the term "weeping and gnashing of teeth" as Jesus used it elsewhere seems to describe hell, the place where unbelievers go (cf. Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28). This term was a common description of Gehenna, hell (4 Ezra 7:93; 1 Enoch 63:10; Psalms of Solomon 14:9; Wisdom of Solomon 17:21). The works just cited in parentheses are Hebrew pseudepigraphal and apocryphal books. [Note: For Rabbinic parallels to this parable, see Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:425-30.]
Jesus concluded the parable with a pithy statement that explained it (cf. Matthew 18:7). Not all whom God has invited to the kingdom will participate in it. Only those who respond to God’s call and prepare themselves by trusting in Jesus will.
"Finally, the parable teaches that a general call does not constitute or guarantee election (verse fourteen). The Israelites took great pride in the fact that they as a nation possessed the kingdom promises. But this of itself did not mean each Jew was elected to it. Entrance was an individual responsibility, and that is what Christ is emphasizing in the last portion of the parable." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 256.]
"Ironically, the ’chosen people’ show in their refusal of the invitation that they are not all among the ’elect’ but only among the ’called.’" [Note: Hagner, Matthew 14-28, p. 632.]
"While the invitation is broad, those actually chosen for blessing are few." [Note: Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 165.]
The point of these three parables is quite clear. God would judge Israel’s leaders because they had rejected Jesus, their Messiah. He would postpone the kingdom and allow anyone to enter it, not just the Jews as many of the Jews thought. [Note: See Toussaint and Quine, pp. 140-41.] The prophets had predicted that Gentiles would participate in the kingdom; this was not new revelation. However the Jews, because of national pride, had come to believe that being a Jew was all the qualification one needed to enter the kingdom. Jesus taught them that receiving God’s gracious invitation and preparing oneself by trusting in Him was the essential requirement for participation.
The Pharisees wanted to ensnare or entrap (Gr. pagideuo) Jesus by their question. Clearly their purpose was not simply to get Jesus’ opinion on a controversial issue. It was to alienate Him from a major portion of the Jewish population or to get Him to lay Himself open to a charge of treason, depending on His answer, and to lose face.
The Pharisees had come into existence during the Babylonian exile. The word "Pharisee" means "separate one." During the Exile the Jews were in danger of assimilation by the Gentiles. The Pharisaic party began because the Jews wanted to maintain their distinctiveness from their pagan neighbors. This was a good thing then. However, as time passed and the Jews returned to the Promised Land, the Pharisees’ separation became too much of a good thing. It resulted in isolation as those Jews built up traditions designed not just to keep the Mosaic Law but to enforce the rabbis’ interpretations of the Law. The result was what we have seen in this Gospel, namely, Pharisaic devotion to the traditions of the elders that surpassed devotion to the Word of God.
The Herodians constituted a party within Judaism that favored cooperation with the Herods who ruled Israel under Rome’s authority. They supported the reigning Herods and their pro-Roman policies. The Romans had deposed the Herod who ruled over Judea in A.D. 6, but Herods ruled other parts of Palestine. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 832.] This position compromised Jewish independence and distinctiveness in the minds of many Jews including the Pharisees. Consequently it was very unusual that representatives from these two competing groups would unite in opposing Jesus. They rarely united on any subject, but both parties viewed Jesus as a threat to their individual interests.
3. Rejection by the Pharisees and the Herodians 22:15-22 (cf. Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)
The dialogue continued in the temple courtyard. Israel’s leaders proceeded to confront Jesus three times attempting to show that He was no better than any other rabbi. Jesus responded with great wisdom, silenced His accusers with another question of His own, and disclosed His identity again in a veiled way.
"Jesus was going to die as the Lamb of God, and it was necessary for the lamb to be examined before Passover (Exodus 12:3-6). If any blemish whatsoever was found on the lamb, it could not be sacrificed. Jesus was examined publicly by His enemies, and they could find no fault in Him." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:79.]
The unholy alliance introduced its question with a flattering preamble. The leaders credited Jesus with being a teacher or rabbi. Moreover they said they believed He spoke the truth and taught God’s will truthfully. If Jesus failed to reply to their question after such an introduction, He would appear to be trying to hide something, perhaps because of pressure He felt. His integrity would be open to question.
Their question was theological since all such issues involved God’s will in Israel. They wanted to know how Jesus felt about their Roman overlords. Paying the poll or head tax was a kind of litmus test of one’s feelings toward Rome, as one’s attitude toward paying taxes has indicated one’s attitude toward government throughout history. This was a particularly volatile issue in Israel since it was a theocracy. The poll tax was not objectionable because it was large. Really it was quite small. However it was almost universal, covering women between the ages of 12 and 65 and men between 14 and 65. "Caesar," the family name of Julius Caesar, had become a title for Roman rulers by this time. The Roman emperor then was Tiberius. The accusers phrased their question to elicit a yes or no answer from Jesus. They thought that either answer would embroil Him in controversy.
"The poll tax had been among the taxes imposed on Judea following the imposition of direct Roman rule in A.D. 6, not long before, and had been fiercely resented by patriotic Jews, resulting in a serious revolt led by Judas (Josephus, War 2.117-18; Ant. 18.4-10). That revolt was the inspiration for the later Zealot movement which led to the war of independence beginning in A.D. 66 and so to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple in A.D. 70." [Note: Ibid., p. 829.]
Jesus refused to give the yes or no answer they wanted. Instead He initially pointed out, for the benefit of the crowd standing around, that they were testing Him (Gr. peirazo, to demonstrate intrinsic quality by testing, cf. Matthew 4:1; Matthew 16:1). This was a more gracious word than the one Matthew used to describe their real intent (Matthew 22:15). Their question did not intimidate Jesus even though He perceived their malice, but He saw it as an opportunity to reveal His identity. They were hypocrites in that they came under a pretense of great respect, but they really had little respect for Him.
Jesus chose to answer on His own terms, not theirs. The coin that most people used to pay their Roman poll tax was a denarius, the value of which was one day’s wage for a workingman or soldier. This coin bore the image of the emperor and the inscription "Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus" on one side and "pontifex maximus" on the other. The Jews understood "pontifex maximus" (lit. chief bridge-builder) in the sense of high priest. Both inscriptions were offensive to the Jews. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 459.]
The fact that Jesus asked someone to give Him a denarius has led some readers to conclude that He was extremely poor. Others believe He did this because He and His disciples shared a common purse. Still others believe He was using a pedagogical technique. Whatever His reason may have been, we should probably not make much of it since Matthew did not.
Jesus’ answer accorded with the Old Testament teaching that people should pay taxes to those over them, even pagans, because rulers ultimately owe their positions to God (Proverbs 8:15; Daniel 2:21; Daniel 2:37-38; cf. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). He did not side with the Zealots, a party that sought the violent overthrow of Rome, or with any other group that wanted Messiah to bring immediate political independence to Israel.
"The questioners had said dounai ["to give"] (Matthew 22:17), as though of a gift which might be withheld; the Lord replies with apo dote ["render to"], the payment of a rightful due." [Note: M’Neile, pp. 319-20.]
However, Jesus also advocated rendering to God what belonged to Him. As the coin bore the emperor’s image and so testified to his ownership of it, so human beings bear God’s image and so testify to His ownership of them. God has an even more fundamental claim on people than Caesar did. The Jews should acknowledge Caesar’s claim by paying their taxes, but what is more important they should acknowledge God’s claim by obeying Him. This was a condemnation of Israel’s leaders who were not obeying God as well as an exhortation to all the people to follow God’s will. For them that involved believing in and following Jesus.
This incident shows Jesus’ great wisdom and authority, the intensity of the leaders’ opposition to Him, and how Jesus prepared His disciples for what lay ahead of them (cf. Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:11-17).
The Pharisees believed in resurrection from the dead (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2). The Sadducees did not because they did not find it explicitly taught in the Pentateuch. They believed that both the material and the immaterial parts of man perish at death (cf. Acts 23:8). [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 18:1:3-4; idem, The Wars . . ., 2:8:14.] There was much diverse opinion concerning death and the afterlife in Jesus’ day. [Note: Cf. G. W. E. Nickelsburg, Resurrection, Immortality and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism.]
4. Rejection by the Sadducees 22:23-33 (cf. Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40)
Sometime later that day another group of leaders approached Jesus with another question but with the same purpose: to trap Him in a theological controversy that would destroy His reputation.
The Sadducees also approached Jesus with hypocritical respect calling Him "teacher" (cf. Matthew 22:16). They had evidently learned to appreciate Jesus’ high regard for the Old Testament because they came to Him with a question of biblical interpretation (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). This is only the second recorded time that Jesus had come into public conflict with the Sadducees (cf. Matthew 16:1).
Levirate marriage was an ancient Near Eastern custom that antedated the Mosaic Law (Genesis 38:8). The Law incorporated it and regulated it. This law encouraged the younger brother to marry his deceased brother’s widow and have children by her. People considered the first child born to be the older brother’s heir, and that child would perpetuate his name in Israel.
This was an unlikely question for Sadducees to ask since they did not believe in resurrection. Probably they knew that Jesus believed in resurrection and wanted to create what they thought was an impossible situation to embarrass Him.
"It was probably an old conundrum that they had used to the discomfiture of the Pharisees." [Note: Robertson, Word Pictures . . ., 1:176.]
The case they posited could have been a real one or, more likely, a hypothetical one. Their question presupposed that life the other side of the grave will be exactly as it is this side, in terms of human relationships. Since the woman had had seven husbands, whose wife would she be in the resurrection, or would she be guilty of incest? For the Sadducees, belief in resurrection created insuperable problems. Would Jesus deny the resurrection and so obviate the problem but alienate Himself even further from the Pharisees?
The Sadducees did not understand the Scriptures because the Scriptures taught resurrection (e.g., Psalms 16; et al.). They did not understand God’s power because they assumed life after resurrection, in heaven, would be the same as it is now. They assumed that the resurrection would just involve an awakening, not a transformation. God is able to raise people to a form of existence unlike what we experience now (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35-49).
In the resurrection form of existence, sexual relationships will be different from what they are now. Jesus was speaking of the resurrection life, not a particular resurrection event, as is clear from the Greek preposition en ("in," Matthew 22:30, not "at," NIV). Marriage relationships as we now know them will not exist after our resurrection. Jesus’ reference to the angels was an additional correction of their theology since the Sadducees also denied the existence of angels (Acts 23:8).
Jesus did not say that in the resurrection state all memory of our former existence and relationships will end. This is a conclusion some interpreters have drawn without warrant. Neither did He say that we will become angels. We will not be. We will be like the angels.
"The greatness of the changes at the Resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:44; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:1-2) will doubtless make the wife of even seven brothers (Matthew 22:24-27) capable of loving all and the object of the love of all-as a good mother today loves all her children and is loved by them." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," pp.461-62.]
Jesus returned to what Scripture teaches (Matthew 22:29). He introduced His clarification with a customary rebuke, "Have you not read?" (cf. Matthew 21:42; et al.). The passage He cited, Exodus 3:6, came from the Pentateuch, a part of the Hebrew Bible that the Sadducees treated with great respect.
God described Himself to Moses as then being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was still their God even though they had died hundreds of years earlier. This statement implied the continuing bodily existence of the patriarchs. The logical conclusion is that if God will fulfill His promise to continue to be the God of the patriarchs He must raise them from the dead. Thus Jesus showed that the Pentateuch, the abbreviated canon of the Sadducees, clearly implied the reality of a future resurrection.
"The argument is not linguistic: ’I am the God of Abraham’ would be a perfectly intelligible way for God to identify himself as the God whom Abraham worshiped long ago. The argument is based rather on the nature of God’s relationship with his human followers: the covenant by which he binds himself to them is too strong to be terminated by their death." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 840.]
Matthew closed his account of this encounter by recording the reaction of the multitude, not the reaction of the Sadducees. Probably few of the Sadducees changed their theology as a result of this conversation since they continued to oppose Jesus. However the reaction of the crowd shows that Jesus’ teaching had a powerful impact. To the unprejudiced observer, Jesus’ arguments, authority, and understanding of the Old Testament were astonishing. Matthew undoubtedly hoped this would be the reaction of his readers too.
This pericope reveals the intensity of the opposition to Jesus that existed among Israel’s leaders. This was the third group to try to trap Him in one day. It also shows the guilt of Israel’s leaders since they did not understand either the Scriptures or God’s power. Jesus had spoken of people entering the kingdom after death (Matthew 22:10). To do so there would have to be a resurrection. Jesus also confirmed belief that the patriarchs would live in the kingdom by what He said. Thus Jesus’ teaching about resurrection answered questions about participation in the kingdom because of its postponement. Not many in Jesus’ immediate audience may have understood this, but Matthew’s readers could.
The Pharisees learned that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. In other words, they learned that the Sadducees would no longer oppose Him publicly. Consequently the Pharisees decided to renew their attack against Him.
A Pharisee’s question of Jesus 22:34-40 (cf. Mark 12:28-34)
5. Rejection by the Pharisees 22:34-46
This pericope contains two parts. First, a representative of the Pharisees asked Jesus a question (Matthew 22:34-40). Then Jesus asked the Pharisees a question (Matthew 22:41-46).
The NASB describes the Pharisees’ spokesman as a lawyer. The Greek word nomikos means "expert in the law" (NIV). He would have been a teacher of the Old Testament who was particularly learned in both theology and law. He subjected Jesus to a test (Gr. peirazon) to prove His quality.
He, too, addressed Jesus with hypocritical respect as "teacher," though as the discussions with Jesus progressed this day His opponents’ respect for Him undoubtedly increased. The Pharisee asked Jesus another controversial question to which various Scripture experts gave various answers.
"The scene is like an ordination council where the candidate is doing so well that some of the most learned ministers ask him questions they themselves have been unable to answer-in the hope of tripping him up or of finding answers." [Note: Ibid., p. 464.]
The rabbis documented 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law, 248 positive and 365 negative. Since no one could possibly keep them all, they divided them into "heavy" (more important) and "light" (less important). The Pharisees taught that the Jews needed to give attention to all the laws but particularly the "heavy" ones. This Pharisee was asking which of the "heavy" ones Jesus considered the "heaviest."
To answer, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and then Leviticus 19:18. The terms "heart," "soul," and "mind" are not completely distinct, watertight categories. They overlap somewhat and together cover the whole person. Taken together the meaning is that we should love God preeminently and unreservedly.
"Jesus loves God with his whole heart, for he is blameless in his fealty to God (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus loves God with his whole soul, for he is prepared to surrender his life should God so will (Matthew 26:36-46). And Jesus loves God with his whole mind, for he lays claim for himself neither to the prerogatives of worldly power [cf. Matthew 20:25; Matthew 20:28; Matthew 21:5] nor to the security of family, home, and possessions (Matthew 8:20; Matthew 12:50)." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 12.]
The "and" in Matthew 22:38 is explicative. The one command is great because it is primary.
The second greatest command is similar to the first in character and quality (Matthew 22:39). It also deals with love (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). We should love our fellowman unselfishly (cf. 1 John 3:17-18).
"A simple reading of Leviticus 19:18 . . . divulges that the command pertained to loving others, not oneself. The ’as yourself’ part of the command only furnishes a comparison of how Jesus’ disciples are to love others." [Note: Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics, p. 130.]
The writer just quoted went on to discuss why it is inappropriate hermeneutically to argue from this command that one needs to learn to love himself or herself before he or she can love someone else.
The rest of the Old Testament hangs from or flows out of these two commandments. All the other laws deal with specific applications of one or the other of these two commands. The prophets consistently stressed the importance of heart reality with God and genuine love for one’s neighbor. Without these two commandments the Old Testament lacks unifying summaries. These are the most important commandments, but they are not the only ones.
"Mark includes the clause ’. . . is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices’ (Mark 12:33). Matthew omits this since it might offend his [unsaved] Jewish reader, and the point is well made without it." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 259.]
This declaration prepared for Jesus’ denunciation of the religious leaders in Matthew 23:1-36.
"Jesus had now answered three difficult questions. He had dealt with the relationship between religion and government, between this life and the next life, and between God and our neighbors. These are fundamental relationships, and we cannot ignore our Lord’s teachings. But there is a question more fundamental than these, and Jesus asked it of His enemies." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:82.]
Having received several questions from His critics, Jesus now turned the tables and asked the Pharisees one. He wanted them to explain what the Scriptures taught about Messiah. This would face them and the crowd with who He really was. The real issue was Christological, not taxes, resurrection, or even the greatest commandment.
Jesus broached the subject of Messiah’s identity by asking whose son He was (Matthew 22:42). This was perhaps "the most familiar subject in their theology, that of the descent of Messiah." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:405.] The Pharisees gave a standard correct answer based on Old Testament passages (2 Samuel 7:13-14; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10; Jeremiah 23:5). He was David’s son or descendant (cf. Matthew 1:1; Matthew 9:27-28; et al.). However it was not the full answer.
Jesus had previously asked His disciples a similar question about His identity (Matthew 16:13; Matthew 16:15). Peter, for the disciples, had given the proper full answer (Matthew 16:16). That response led to commendation (Matthew 16:17-21). The Pharisees’ improper response here led to condemnation (ch. 23). Everything hinges on one’s view of Jesus.
Jesus’ question of the Pharisees 22:41-46 (cf. Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44)
Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees’ answer contained a problem. How could Messiah be David’s son if David called Him his Lord? Jesus referred to Psalms 110, the most frequently quoted Old Testament chapter in the New Testament. This was a psalm that David wrote, as is clear from the superscription. Jesus regarded it as He regarded all the Old Testament, namely, inspired by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 22:43; cf. Acts 4:25; Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 10:15; 1 Peter 1:21). Jesus assumed that Psalms 110 was Davidic and Messianic, and the Pharisees agreed. He referred to the psalm’s inspiration here to reinforce its correctness in the minds of His hearers. David had not made a mistake when he wrote this. The "right hand" is the position of highest honor and authority (cf. Matthew 19:28).
There is good evidence that almost all Jews in Jesus’ day regarded Psalms 110 as messianic. [Note: David M. Hay, Glory at the Right Hand: Psalms 110 in Early Christianity, pp. 11-33.] Jesus’ point was that Messiah was not just David’s descendant, but He was God’s Son also. This is a point that Matthew stressed throughout his Gospel (chs. 1-2; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 8:20; Matthew 17:5; et al.). Jesus was bringing together the concepts that Messiah was the human son of David and the divine Son of God. [Note: See Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 82.]
Moreover this quotation also shows the preexistence of Messiah. David’s Lord was alive when David lived. Furthermore it reveals plurality within the Godhead. One divine person spoke to another.
The psalm pictured Messiah at God’s right hand while His enemies were hostile to Him. However, Messiah would crush that hostility eventually. This is precisely the eschatological picture that has been unfolding throughout this Gospel. Rejected by His own, Jesus would return to the Father, but He would return later to earth to establish His kingdom. The Jewish rabbis after Jesus’ time interpreted David’s lord as Abraham, not Messiah. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 851.]
This question silenced the public criticism of Jesus’ critics permanently. The confrontation had ended. His enemies could not escape the logical consistency of Jesus’ biblical arguments. Rather than submitting to His authority, as they should have (cf. Matthew 21:23), they plotted His destruction.
"Defeated in debate, the leaders withdraw from Jesus in the temple, just as Satan, also defeated by Jesus in debate, had earlier withdrawn from him (Matthew 4:11)." [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 7.]
Matthew 22:46 finishes off this entire sub-section of the Gospel (Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 22:46). Israel had rejected her King. Jesus had predicted this rejection (Matthew 21:18-22). It resulted from the series of confrontations with Israel’s leaders that happened on a single Wednesday in the temple courtyard. Now the King would formally reject the nation, but not permanently in view of the promises to the patriarchs.