Saturday, June 3rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ matthew-22.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Matthew 22:1. Answered.—What? Obviously the unspoken murderous hate, restrained by fear, which had been raised in the rulers’ minds and flashed in their eyes, and moved in their gestures (Maclaren). The use of this word would rather suggest the idea that some conversation not reported had intervened (Gibson).
Matthew 22:3. Sent forth his servants.—It is still customary in the East, not only to give an invitation some time beforehand, but to send round servants at the proper time to inform the invited guests that all things are ready (Kitto). Cf. Esther 6:14.
Matthew 22:4. Dinner.—The introductory meal which opened the series of wedding feasts; an early meal toward mid-day, not the same as the δεῖπνον “supper” (Lange). Fatlings.—All the animals smaller than the oxen, that had been specially fed for the occasion (Morison).
Matthew 22:5. His farm.—His own farm (R.V.). It was his own concerns, and not the gratification or honour of his sovereign, in which he was interested (Morison). Egoism (“suitas”), says Bengel.
Matthew 22:7. Burned up their city.—As the Saviour’s mind was running on the thing signified, He parabolically supposes that the originally invited guests were the inhabitants of a certain city. He was thinking of Jerusalem, and parabolically predicted its destruction by the hands of the Romans (Morison).
Matthew 22:9. The highways.—The partings of the highways (R.V.). Strictly, into the places where different roads branch off. The “servants” are the earliest Christian missionaries, who went in their journeys to such meeting-places of the nations as Rome, Antioch, and Corinth (Carr).
Matthew 22:12. Friend.—See note on Matthew 20:13.
Matthew 22:13. Outer darkness.—See note on Matthew 8:12.
Matthew 22:14. For many are called, etc.—See Matthew 20:16. The “calling” answers, both verbally and in substance, to the “bidding” or invitation of the parable. The “chosen” are those who both accept the invitation and comply with its condition; those who, in the one parable, work in the vineyard, and in the other, array themselves with the wedding garment of holiness. The “choice,” as far as the parable is concerned, appears as dependent upon the answer given to the calling (Plumptre).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 22:1-14
The calling of the Gentiles.—In this passage the same persons are addressed by the same Speaker in much the same way as before. Jesus “again” “answers” (Matthew 22:1) the murderous thoughts of those who were before Him (Matthew 21:46) by speaking to them in “parables”—in two (1–10, 11–14) at the least. In these He both takes up and follows up what He had previously said in three principal ways; showing us a picture:
1. Of a singularly rebellious people.
2. Of a singularly mixed assembly.
3. Of an absolutely indispensable requirement.
I. A singularly rebellious people.—This rebelliousness is exhibited, first, by the treatment, given by the people described, to the first message of their king. This message is one of special bounty and grace. The king is purposing to give a great banquet in celebration of the marriage of his son. He sends out his servants to proclaim this abroad, and invite his people to come. The interpretation put on a previous parable (Matthew 21:45) teaches us to understand this of the giving of the law to Israel, and of the purport of that law as a means of preparing men for the then coming grace of the gospel (Galatians 3:24, and references). In other words it was a preliminary “invitation” to Christ. How that invitation was received is told us here in very few words in the end of Matthew 22:3; and is related at length in the long story of the murmurings of the wilderness, and of the consequent almost withdrawal, more than once, of the favour of God (Psalms 95:8-11, and references); and is shown to us, yet further, in the sad retrospect of Romans 10:21. Up to the coming of Christ, indeed, this was the true attitude of Israel as a nation. They refused the preliminary message of God. The same attitude was shown still more in regard to the second message He sent. After a time—“again”—He sent forth “other servants” to Israel—other servants with a new message to tell, viz., not only as before to proclaim His purpose of giving a banquet, but to say, rather, that now the banquet was spread (Matthew 22:4). This seems to refer to such passages as Matthew 4:17; Acts 3:22-26; Hebrews 7:19, etc. Also, the even worse reception given by them to this message, as shown partly by their giving preference to almost anything else (Matthew 22:5), and partly by their putting to death the persons who brought it (Matthew 22:6), seems to refer us for fulfilment to such passages as John 18:40; Acts 22:22; Acts 23:21, etc. While, finally, the awful result of this rejection and persecution of Christ and His Apostles, as described in Matthew 22:7, seems to refer to that destruction of the “city” of Jerusalem and that utter “casting away” of Israel both as a nation and church which afterwards came to pass. Israel, in short, is thus shown to be “rebellious” till its “casting away.”
II. A singularly mixed assembly.—Something of this had been shown previously in that application of another parable which is given us in Matthew 21:41-43. But several important additional particulars are vouchsafed in this place. We are not only told, e.g. that there shall be a fresh “nation” or gathering, in place of the old nation or congregation; but we are told, also, why it was that those first-invited guests had been rejected, viz., because they had shown themselves not “worthy” (Matthew 22:8) of the invitation received. See Acts 13:46. We are also shown whither the servants are bid to go to seek for fresh guests, viz., to the “highways” (Matthew 22:9-10), or, in other words, to wherever men are most to be found (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). Further, we are shown of what sorts the guests so collected will naturally turn out to be (Matthew 22:10), viz., of those who were reckoned as “evil” (see Acts 10:14; Acts 10:28) as well as of those who were regarded as “good.” Lastly, we are shown yet both how numerous and how suitable would be the persons thus collected together. The “wedding” would be “furnished with guests.” There would be enough—enough of the proper sort—for the purpose in view! There would be a collection of guests representative (finally) of all parts of the world; a nation made up of all nations, partly in place of and partly in addition to the nation invited before (Galatians 3:28; Galatians 4:26; Romans 11:11; Romans 11:5). No more mingled no greater gathering could very well be (cf. Revelation 7:9).
III. An indispensable requirement.—The mention of this grows immediately out of that spoken of last. In so “mixed” an assembly would every man present be of the right sort? Would there be none there to bring discredit on him who had invited them there? This is the point which the king is next described as looking into himself. “He came in to see the guests” (Matthew 22:11). What is represented by this? We take it as representing the way in which He “whose eyes are as a flame of fire” is described in Revelation 2:3 as examining the “churches” and those who compose them; and as showing us, therefore, that if there is no manner of scrutiny about men (Matthew 22:9-10) before they are invited to partake of the fulness of the gospel, there is very much indeed, and that from the highest quarter, when they have professed to accept it. And we see in that mentioned next, therefore, the chief point on which this examination will turn. A wedding guest, in the nature of things, should be clad in wedding apparel. Especially is this the case where such apparel has been previously offered him (as is assumed by all here) by his host. This is that, therefore, for which above all that host will inquire, “How earnest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment?” This is that, also, for the absence of which no excuse can be offered on the one hand (end of Matthew 22:12), and no punishment, on the other, be considered too harsh (Matthew 22:13). “Take him away” from this light to where there is nothing but darkness! From this feast to where is nothing but sorrow! In such a condition, also—“bound hand and foot”—that he can never come back!
In regard to the warning to which this series of verses thus brings us at last, we may note, in conclusion:—
1. Its precise practical meaning.—The “wedding garment” is that, which, whatever its exact condition and texture (of which nothing is said), serves to distinguish those who are “wedding guests” from those who are not. It seems to represent, therefore, that “newness of life” (or true desire for it) which serves at least to distinguish the true guests of the kingdom as well from others as from themselves in the past. For a professed disciple not to “put on” this (Colossians 3:10; Colossians 3:12, etc.) is indeed to trifle with God!
2. Its abounding mercy.—Mercy in requiring from us this “newness of life.” We cannot have anything better (Romans 6:21-22). Mercy in offering it to us. We cannot otherwise have it at all.
3. Its deep solemnity.—Such is the profound deceitfulness as well of sin, as of the great deceiver, and of our own hearts, that there is nothing in which we are more likely to be deceived, or to fancy ourselves “chosen” where we have only been “called” (Matthew 22:14). Let “him that thinketh he standeth”—on that very account—“take heed” all the more.
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 22:1-14. Two ways of despising God’s feast.—
I. The judgment on those who refuse the offered joys of the kingdom.—In the previous parable the kingdom was presented on the side of duty and service. That is only half the truth, and the least joyful half.
1. So this parable dismisses all ideas of work, duty, service, requirement, and instead gives the emblem of a marriage feast as the picture of the kingdom.—It therein unites two familiar prophetic images for the Messianic times—those of a festival and of a marriage. How pathetic this designation of His kingdom is on Christ’s lips, when we remember how near His bitter agony He stood, and tasted its bitterness already!
2. The invitations of the king.—There had been an invitation before the point at which the parable begins, for the servants are sent to summon those who had already been “called.” That calling, which lies beyond the horizon of our parable, is the whole series of agencies in Old Testament times. So this parable begins almost where the former leaves off. They only slightly overlap.
3. The two classes of rejecters.
4. The fatal issue is presented, as in the former parable, in two parts: the destruction of the rebels, and the passing over of the kingdom to others. But the differences are noteworthy. Here we read that “the king was wroth.” The insult to a king is worse than the dishonesty to a landlord. The refusal of God’s proffered grace is even more certain to awake that awful reality, the wrath of God, than the failure to render the fruits of the good possessed. Love repelled and thrown back on itself cannot but become wrath.
5. The command to gather in others to fill the vacant places.
II. The judgment of the unworthy accepters of the invitation.—There are two ways of sinning against God’s merciful gift: the one is refusing to accept it; the other is taking it in outward seeming, but continuing in sin. The former was the sin of the Jews; the latter is the sin of nominal Christians. Note, that there is one man only without the dress needed. That may be an instance of the lenity of Christ’s charity, which hopeth all things; or it may rather be intended to suggest the keenness of the king’s glance, which, in all the crowded tables, picks out the one ragged losel who had found his way there—so individual is His knowledge, so impossible for us to hide in the crowd.—A. Maclaren, D.D.
Matthew 22:1-10. The parable of the marriage feast.—
I. The undeserved goodness of the invitation.
II. The well-deserved severity of the exclusion.—Sir E. Bayley, Bart., B.D.
The royal marriage feast: the wedding guests.—
I. The marriage festival made by the king in honour of his son, points manifestly to redemption completed in the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ. Banquets had before this period been provided by the King, and enjoyed by the favoured circle of His guests; much advantage was possessed by the Jews over the Gentiles in every way, but especially in that to them were committed the oracles of God. But the feast depicted in this parable was the last and best; it was the way of salvation in its completed state.
II. When the fulness of time had come, the Lord Himself undertaking the work, as well as assuming the form, of a servant, carried to the chosen people the message, “Come, for all things are now ready.” His immediate followers and their successors repeated and pressed the invitation. The servants when they went out with the commission of the king, did not announce the feast as a new thing, then for the first time made known; they spoke of it as that which was promised before, and actually offered them; they summoned those who had previously been fully informed that the feast was provided for their use. These favoured but unthankful people were not taken at their word; after the first refusal, another and more urgent invitation is sent. The successive reiterated mission of the servants to the class who were originally invited, may be understood to point to the ministry of the Lord and the Seventy until the time of the crucifixion, and the second mission of the Apostles after the Pentecost, and under the ministration of the Spirit.
III. Significant are the differences in the treatment which the message and the messengers received from different classes within the privileged circle of the first invited. We learn here the solemn lesson that though there is much diversity in the degrees of aggravation with which men accompany their rejection of the Saviour, all who do not receive Him perish in the same condemnation. At first, no distinction is made between class and class of unbelievers; of all, and of all alike, it is recorded, “they would not come.” But when the offer became more pressing and more searching, a difference began to appear, not as yet the difference between the believing and the unbelieving, but a difference in the manner of refusing, and in the degrees of courage or of cowardice that accompanied the act. The greater number treated the message lightly, and preferred their own business to the life eternal which was offered to them in Christ; while a portion, not content with spurning away the offer, persecuted to the death the ambassadors who bore it.
III. Although those privileged Hebrews rejected Him, Christ did not remain a king without subjects, a shepherd without a flock. In the exercise of the same sovereignty through which He chose Abraham at first, He passed over Abraham’s degenerate posterity, and called another family. This family was Abraham’s seed, not by natural generation, but in the regeneration through faith. Peter went to the house of Cornelius, and in that lane of the world’s great city found a whole household willing to follow him to the feast his royal Master had prepared. Soon thereafter Paul and Barnabas, Silas, Titus, Timothy, and others traversed the continents of Europe and Asia, bringing multitudes of neglected outcasts into the presence and the favour of the King. “They brought in good and bad.” This is a cardinal point in the method of Divine mercy, and therefore it is articulately inserted in the picture. The thought and the style of ordinary life are adopted in the parable, and every reader understands easily what is meant. The invitations of the gospel come to fallen human kind, and to all without respect either of persons or of characters.—W. Arnot, D.D.
Matthew 22:5-6. Different treatment of the gospel message.—There are two different classes of unbelievers:—
1. The indifferent.
2. The absolutely hostile. Or:
1. Contemptuous scorners.
2. Bitter persecutors.—D. Brown, D.D.
Matthew 22:7. Anger in God.—Our Lord’s parable has fulfilled itself again and again in history, and will fulfil itself as long as foolish and rebellious persons exist on earth. This is one of the laws of the kingdom of heaven. It must be so, for it arises by necessity out of the character of Christ, the King of heaven—infinite bounty and generosity; but if that bounty be despised and insulted, or still more, if it be outraged by wanton tyranny or cruelty, then—for the benefit of the rest of mankind—awful severity. So it is, and so it must be, simply because God is good. The king in the parable was very angry, as he had a right to be. Let us lay that to heart, and tremble, from the very worst of us all to the very best of us all. There is an anger in God. There is indignation in God. An awful thought, and yet a blessed thought. Under God’s anger or under God’s love we must be, whether we will or not. We cannot flee from His presence. We cannot go from His Spirit. If we are loving, and so rise up to heaven, God is there—in love. If we are cruel and wrathful, and so go down to hell, God is there also—in wrath. With the clean He will be clean; with the froward man He will be froward. On us, and us alone, it depends whether we shall live under God’s anger or live under God’s love.—C. Kingsley, M.A.
Matthew 22:11-13. Profession tried.—
I. A visit.—“When the king came.”
II. A scrutiny.—“He saw a man.”
III. An interrogation.—“How earnest thou in?”
IV. Conviction.—“He was speech less.”
V. Bondage.—“Bind him hand and foot.”
VI. Exclusion.—“Cast him into outer darkness.”
VII. Torment.—“There shall be weeping,” etc.—W. W. Whythe.
The wedding garment.—Some customs and allusions connected with the scene remain obscure to us, after all that modern research has done to illustrate them, but the lesson which our Lord intended to teach stands relieved in clearest light and sharpest outline, like distant mountain tops when the sun has newly set behind them.
1. The wedding garment was something conspicuous and distinctive.
2. It was not a necessary part of a man’s clothing, but rather a significant badge of his loyalty.
3. The want of it was, and was understood to be, a decisive mark of disloyalty. The man who came to the feast without a wedding-garment endorsed substantially the act of those who had proudly refused to comply with the king’s invitation. It was the same heart-disobedience accompanied by a hypocrisy that would fain commit the sin and yet escape the consequences.
4. The question whether a wedding garment was proferred to every guest as he entered, out of the royal store, is attended with some difficulty. The preponderance of probability seems to lie with those who think that these decorations were freely distributed in the vestibule to every entrant, in some such way as certain badges are sometimes given to every one of a wedding-party amongst ourselves in the present day. But the point is not of primary importance. From what is tacitly assumed in the narrative it may be held as demonstrated alternatively, that either the king gave every guest the necessary garment, or it was such that every guest, even the poorest, could on the shortest warning easily obtain it for himself. Two silences become the two witnesses out of whose mouths the conclusion is established—the silence of the king as to the grounds of his sentence, and the silence of the culprit when judgment was pronounced. The judge does not give any reason why sentence should be executed, and the criminal does not give any reason why it should not. On both sides it is confessed and silently assumed that the guest had not, but might have had, the wedding-garment on. If there had been any hardship in the case, the king would have vindicated his own procedure, and the condemned guest would not have remained speechless when he heard his doom.—W. Arnot, D.D.
Matthew 22:12. “I am too well dressed for that.”—At one of the Paris stations of the McAll Mission an aged woman who had learned by heart many of the hymns, and seemed to find all her delight in them, came to the meeting leaning on a crutch, and evidently very feeble. The subject of discourse that night was “Dress”—the robe of righteousness, the wedding garment. At the close she said to the preacher, “I believe this is my last visit to the hall; if I can never come again, you will know where I have gone. My infirmities increase rapidly.”—“I will come to see you,” said the preacher; “but if God called you meanwhile, have you any fear of appearing before Him?”—“Oh, no!” she replied, “I am too well dressed for that—too well dressed to dread the judgment. He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”—Quiver.
Loyalty a question of will.—It was not the inherent worth of the material, but the meaning of the symbol that bulked in the estimation of both the entertainer and his guests. It may, from analogous cases, be shown to be probable that a loyal heart could have easily extemporised the appropriate symbol out of any material that lay next at hand. Where there is a will there is a way. Italian patriots, at the crisis of their conflict with multiform oppression, and while the strong yoke of the despot was still upon their necks, contrived to display their darling tricolour by a seemingly accidental arrangement of red, white, and green among the vegetables which they exhibited in the market or carried to their homes. Nay, more, the loyalty of a loyal man may, in certain circumstances, be more emphatically expressed by a rude, extemporaneous symbol, hastily constructed of intractable materials, than by the most elaborate and leisurely products of the needle or the loom. In such cases, the will of the man is everything; the wealth of the man nothing. The meanest rag suddenly thrown across the shoulders, arranged so as unequivocally to express the wearer’s faith may be a better evidence of loyalty than the richest silks of the East.—W. Arnot, D.D.
What does the “wedding-garment” signify?—I do not attach much value to the question which has been much canvassed here, whether the wedding garment specifically signifies Faith or Charity, whether it points to what the saved get from God, or what they do in His service. To wear the garment at the feast means that the wearer takes God’s way of salvation and not his own; to want it, means that the wanter takes his own way of salvation and not God’s. This is the conclusion of the whole matter. If you suppose that the garment means evangelical obedience, you must assume that faith in Christ is the root on which obedience grows; if, on the other hand, you suppose that the garment means faith in Christ, you must assume that it is a living, not a dead faith, a faith that will work by love and overcome the world.—Ibid.
The wedding garment.—This righteousness we so appropriate by faith as to make it ours, so that it becomes, in that singularly expressive term, our habit.—Archbishop Trench.
Royal wardrobes.—Horace tells of Lucullus (Epist.,
1. vi. 40), that he had not less than five thousand mantles in his wardrobe. Chardin says of the king of Persia that he gave away an infinite number of dresses. Dr. Owen says we have abundant evidence that kings wore provided with extensive wardrobes, from which each invited guest was furnished with a suitable garment.—P. Schaff, D.D.
Matthew 22:14. The called and the chosen.—We have to do in the text not with an arbitrary call and an arbitrary choice, as if God called many in mockery, meaning to choose out of them only a few, and making His choice independently of any exertion of theirs. The picture is very different; it is a gracious call to us all to come and receive the blessing; it is a reluctant casting out the greatest part of us, because we would not render ourselves fit for it.
I. We have all been called, in a Christian sense.—We have been called to enter into Christ’s kingdom; we have been called to lead a life of holiness and happiness from this time forth even for ever.
II. Now, if this be the prize to which we are called, who are they who are also chosen to it?
1. In the first and most complete sense, no doubt, those who have entered into their rest; who are in no more danger, however slight; with whom the struggle is altogether past, the victory securely won.
2. Those who, having heard their call, have turned to obey it, and have gone on following it.
3. Those who, having found, in themselves the sin which did most easily beset them, have struggled with it, and wholly, or in a great measure, have overcome it.
III. What is the proportion between those who are chosen and those who are called only?—This I dare not answer; there is a good as well as an evil which is unseen by the world at large, unseen even by all but those who watch us most nearly and most narrowly. All we can say is, that there are too many who, we must fear, are not chosen; there are too few of whom we can feel sure that they are.—T. Arnold, D.D.
Matthew 22:15. Entangle.—Ensnare (R.V.), as a fowler ensnares a bird. The Pharisees “set a trap” for Jesus.
Matthew 22:16. Their disciples.—The old Pharisees who had challenged His authority keep in the background, that the sinister purpose of the question may not appear; but they are represented by some of their disciples, who, coming fresh upon the scene, and addressing Jesus in terms of respect and appreciation, may readily pass for guileless inquirers (Gibson). With the Herodians.—Whose divergence of view on the point made it all the more natural that they should join with Pharisees in asking the question; for it might fairly be considered that they had been disputing with one another in regard to it, and had concluded to submit the question to His decision, as to one who would be sure to know the truth and fearless to tell it (ibid.). The party thus described are known to us only through the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark; and their precise relation to the other sects or schools among the Jews are consequently matters of conjecture. The Herodians were known, first to the Romans, and then to the people, as adherents of the house of the Herods. In what sense they were adherents, and why they now joined with the Pharisees is less clear; and two distinct theories have been maintained:
1. That, as it was the general policy of all the princes of the Herodian family to court the favour of Rome, their partisans were those who held that it was lawful to “give tribute to Cæsar.” On this supposition the narrative brings before us the coalition of two parties usually opposed to each other, but united against a common foe.
2. That they were partisans of the Herods, in the sense of looking to them to restore the independence of the nation, and were therefore of one mind with the Pharisees on the tribute question, though they differed from them on most other points (Plumptre). We know that Thou art true.—Nothing could exceed the insidious hypocrisy of this attack on Jesus. His enemies approach Him as a teacher whom they trust (Carr).
Matthew 22:17. Tribute.—The word rendered “tribute” (κῆνσος) is properly the Roman word “census.” It denoted, as used by the Jews, the annual poll-tax which was levied on the people, for the treasury of the Roman emperor. The publicans collected it, and were obliged to transmit to the Roman treasury as much as accorded with the official census of the population. Hence the designation of the tax (Morison).
Matthew 22:19. A penny.—A denarius bearing probably the image of Tiberius. The Jewish coins were not impressed with the effigy of their kings. Herod Philip, alone of his family, out of flattery to the emperor, had caused his coins to be stamped with the likeness of Cæsar (Carr).
Matthew 22:20. Superscription.—Or inscription. Sir John Cheke renders the word “onwriting.”
Matthew 22:21. Render, therefore, unto Cæsar, etc.—One of the wisest, deepest, and yet simplest maxims ever uttered in human language (Morison). The Jewish doctors laid down the principle that “He is king whose coin passes current” (Carr).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 22:15-22
A political snare.—The direct attacks of the Jewish rulers on the authority of Jesus having only succeeded in shaking their own (Matthew 21:46), they next betake themselves to indirect modes of assault. The Pharisees are the first to try their hands in this line. They have seen how ready He is in instructing, how prompt in replying, how faithful in rebuking. They will turn these qualities to His ruin. They will “entangle Him in His talk” (Matthew 22:15). Most subtle and promising was the scheme of attack. Most simple and triumphant the plan of defence.
I. The scheme of attack.—The general idea of this was that of putting the Saviour into a position from which, with His known antecedents and recent utterances, it would be impossible for Him to escape. Two opposite powers were then in existence—“Cæsar” on the one side and the “multitude” on the other—both feared by them much. Here was one claiming to be a third power still. They would embroil Him with one of these two. The special question by which they hoped to do this was well adapted (seemingly) for this purpose. It was so, first, in its purport. “What thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not?” (Matthew 22:17). Only two answers seem possible to this question. If He says Yes, He will outrage the multitude. If He says No, He will have the Romans upon Him. This seems the more sure, also, because of the persons chosen to propound this question. The Pharisees on this occasion are not by themselves. They have some of the Herodians also with them. This would greatly emphasise, of course, the difficulty of the question. Whichever side He took there were some present who would denounce Him at once. Finally, being such as He was—such as He was known to be by all who knew Him at all—He could not take the third course of avoiding this question without absolute ruin. “Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any one; for Thou regardest not the person of men.” How was He to be silent when challenged to speak on grounds such as these? That would be worse even than embroiling Him with one side or the other; for it would utterly degrade Him with both. Altogether, therefore, the question seemed to involve a snare from which there was no way of escape.
II. The plan of defence.—The first step was to expose the flattery involved in this question; to show that its treachery was seen through. “Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites?” From one point of view this question itself was a sufficient answer to theirs. You are not asking for information. You are asking only to “tempt.” To “asking” of that kind I am not bound to give a reply. No answer at all is sufficient answer to so dishonest an inquiry. Why should I part with anything whatever in exchange for such counterfeit coin? The next step was to expose the fallacy of the question propounded. Asking from His questioners (what they could not refuse) a specimen of the tribute money, they hand Him a Roman penny or denarius. Asking again—what again they could not refuse to say—whose “image and superscription” it bears, they say unto Him, “Cæsar’s.” In that one fact lay the two-fold answer to the question they asked. For what was that fact but a token and evidence that God had allowed them to be under Cæsar’s yoke, and that they themselves also were practically acquiescing in it for the time? Obvious was the inference, therefore, on the one hand, that they ought to give to Cæsar what God had thus given to Cæsar for the time. And equally obvious the inference, on the other, that they ought to give to God whatever God had still reserved to Himself. Instead, in short, of there being any contradiction, as assumed by them, between these two things, both God’s appointment and their own behaviour proved that they ought to do both.
Here we learn, therefore, for ourselves:—
1. A lesson in politics.—Notwithstanding all the difficulties and differences and contentions which beset this subject, here is a rule about it in which all Christian folk may safely agree. To render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s is to render unto God the things that are God’s (cf. Romans 13:1; Romans 13:6-7). Remember also that the Saviour spake as He does here “imperante Tiberio.” St. Paul, also, not improbably, “imperante Nerone.”
2. A lesson in science.—How forcibly the contrasted examples and experience of Christ and the Pharisees in this case illustrate His own words in Matthew 6:22-23. Truth of all kinds only comes to the true. No sinister motives can help us to know. No amount of ingenuity, no depth of subtlety can help the lover of darkness to discover the light.
3. A lesson in trust.—How truly the Lord Jesus was all that these men said of Him here! (Matthew 22:16). How much more He proved Himself to be by His answer to them! How fitted, therefore, in every way to be a Leader and Guide! Who can be trusted more to know what is truth? Who can be trusted more to impart it in turn?
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES.
Matthew 22:15-21. Christ’s victory over cunning.—
I. They take counsel.—He is thoroughly armed.
II. They would entangle Him.—He seeks to deliver them out of their own snare.
III. They praise Him in order to His destruction.—He rebukes them for their awakening and salvation.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Matthew 22:16. Christ true.—This is the testimony, not of friends, but of enemies; they are the words of the Pharisees and the Herodians. But even the enemies of Christ are bound to give this testimony. Whatever the theoretical beliefs or moral characters of men may be they are bound to say, “We know Thou art true.”
1. In all Thou sayest about God. Thou hast revealed Him as a Person, a Spirit, a Father, and the sole Author of the universe; and our reason binds us to accept all this.
2. In all Thou sayest about the universe. Thou hast taught us that it had a beginning, that it originated with one Being who is eternal, etc.
3. In all Thou hast said concerning man.
1. In all that Thou hast said concerning our duty to God.
2. Concerning our duty to others.
III. Personally.—We look at Thy life and it illustrates and confirms the doctrine Thy lips declare. Thou art the true, the beautiful, and the good.—Homilist.
Matthew 22:21. Public opinion and God.—
1. The only Cæsar which we have to fear nowadays is called public opinion—the huge, anonymous idol which we ourselves help to make, and then tremble before the creation of our own cowardice; whereas, if we will but face him, in the fear of God and the faith of Christ, determined to say the thing which is true, and do the thing which is right, we shall find the modern Cæsar but a phantom of our own imagination—a tyrant, indeed, as long as he is feared, but a coward as soon as he is defied. To that Cæsar let us never bow the knee. Render to him all that he deserves—the homage of common courtesy, common respectability, common charity—not in reverence for his wisdom and strength, but in pity for his ignorance and weakness. But render always to God the things which are God’s.
II. There are three sacrifices which every man, woman, and child can offer, and should offer, however lowly, however uneducated in what the world calls education nowadays.
1. The sacrifice of repentance.—Of which it is written: “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”
2. The sacrifice of thankfulness.—Of which it is written: “I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.”
3. The sacrifice of righteousness.—Of which it is written: “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”—C. Kingsley, M.A.
Politics for Christians.—
I. The duties which we owe, as citizens, to God.—It is due to God:
1. That the claims of His everlasting kingdom should stand first in all our plans and efforts.
2. That a sense of our accountability to Him should control us in regard to our civil duties.
3. That we should practically acknowledge the supremacy of His Word as the rule of right.
II. The duties which, as citizens, we owe to the state.—Every citizen is bound:
1. To perform his part in the support and direction of the government under which he lives.
2. To cultivate friendly feelings towards all his fellow-citizens.
3. To render a peaceful submission to the exercise of lawful authority.—H. J. Van Dyke, D.D.
Duties to our earthly and our heavenly King.—
I. The wisdom of this answer, as a reply to the question proposed.
II. The importance of it, as a precept for general observance.
1. The extent of God’s requirements.
2. The harmony of them. Recommend to all:
(1) Integrity in the discharge of your duty to man.
(2) Spirituality in the discharge of your duty to God.—C. Simeon, M.A.
Matthew 22:23. The Sadducees.—The article is properly omitted in the R.V. See note on Matthew 3:7. That the Pharisees had an understanding with them also seems likely from what is said both in Matthew 22:15, which seems a general introduction to the series of questions, and in Matthew 22:34, from which it would appear that they were somewhere out of sight waiting to hear the result of this new attack. Though the alliance seems a strange one, it is not the first time that common hostility to the Christ of God has drawn together the two great rival parties (see Matthew 16:1). If we are right in supposing them to be in combination now, it is a remarkable illustration of the deep hostility of the Pharisees that they should not only combine with the Sadducees against Him, as they had done before, but that they should look with complacency on their using against Him a weapon which threatened one of their own doctrines (Gibson).
Matthew 22:24. Moses said.—See Deuteronomy 25:5-10. These were called levirate marriages, from the Latin word, levir, “a brother-in-law.” His brother shall marry his wife.—The root of the obligation here imposed upon the brother of the deceased husband lies in the primitive idea of childlessness being a great calamity, and extinction of name and family one of the greatest that could happen (Speaker’s Commentary). The law on this subject is not peculiar to the Jews, but is found amongst various Oriental nations, ancient and modern (ibid.). Raise up seed unto his brother.—This indicates that the child, which might be the issue of the second marriage, would be entered in the genealogical register as the child, not of the natural father, but of the deceased brother, and would thus become his heir (Morison).
Matthew 22:28. In the resurrection.—The puzzle of the Sadducees had no special relation to what may be involved in the resurrection of the body as contra-distinguished from what is involved in the immortality of the soul. Their objection was, generically, against the idea that men are to exist at all in the future. “The doctrine of the Sadducees” says Josephus, “is, that souls die with the bodies” (Antiq., XVIII. i. 4) (Morison). Whose wife shall she be?—Stress is laid on the childlessness of the woman in all the seven marriages, in order to guard against the possible answer that she would be counted in the resurrection as the wife of him to whom she had borne issue (Plumptre).
Matthew 22:29. Ye do err.—This is, it may be noted, the one occasion in the Gospel history in which our Lord comes into direct collision with the Sadducees. On the whole, while strictly condemning and refuting their characteristic error, the tone in which He speaks is less stern than that in which He addresses the Pharisees. They were less characterised by hypocrisy, and this was that which called down His sternest reproof (ibid.).
Matthew 22:31. Spoken unto you by God.—In Exodus 3:6. The Sadducees while recognising the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures generally, seem to have attached supreme importance to the Pentateuch. Dean Alford says, “The assertion of the resurrection comes from the very source whence their difficulty had been constructed.”
Matthew 22:32. The dead.—The word has here its lowest Sadducean import, denoting those who have ceased to be (Morison).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 22:23-33
A sceptical snare.—After the Pharisees have been disposed of, the Sadducees appear on the scene. They also have a question to ask. It is one connected with their avowed disbelief in the doctrine of the resurrection (Acts 23:8), and calculated, as they hope, to bring equal discredit both on that doctrine and on Christ. It will be well, therefore, to consider, first, the exact nature of the question propounded; and so to pass, secondly, to the exact nature of the reply it received.
I. The question propounded.—This turned, in the first place, on three separate points connected with the question of marriage. The first of these was that well-known Mosaic enactment on this subject which pronounced the marriage tie to come to an end on the death of either party concerned; and therefore fully allowed the survivor, if so disposed, to contract marriage again. The second was the injunction, in the same quarter, which commanded any man whose married brother should have died without issue to take that brother’s widow to wife. And the third was the alleged occurrence among them of a most remarkable and highly exceptional contingency of this kind; even of a case in which it came to pass that as many as seven brothers in succession, under this rule, had the same woman to wife (Matthew 22:24-27). On these three points, three inferences were, next, drawn virtually by these Sadducean inquirers. The first, that each of those seven brethren had really and truly, in his life-time, been married to that woman. The next, that each of them—in the resurrection—could therefore claim her for his. And the last was this, that, such being so, there could not possibly be a resurrection at all. That was the only way, according to them, of solving the difficulty involved (Matthew 22:28). How could a doctrine, therefore, which led to so absurd a result be a doctrine of truth? At any rate, if there was another solution, let that solution be given. They had the right to ask this from such a teacher as Jesus was now professing to be.
II. The Saviour’s answer to this subtle and insidious question was of a three fold description. In the first place, it completely disposed of the difficulty advanced. There was another and better solution than that insinuated by them. In that higher and better sphere to which their inquiry referred, there was, in reality, no room for putting such a question at all. And it was simple ignorance on their part to suppose anything else (Matthew 22:29-30). The question, therefore, “Whose wife shall she be?” was so far from being insoluble, that it was only unnecessary, and such as ought not be asked. In the next place, the Saviour’s answer fully vindicated the doctrine disputed. Taking the Sadducees on their own ground, referring only to those Books of Moses in which alone they professed to believe, and dealing only with one of the names of God ascribed to Him there, there was proof enough of its truth. What did God mean when He described Himself there as the God of certain men who were dead? (Matthew 22:32). Did He not mean that these men were still “alive” unto Him? “Still alive,” that is to say—though, for a time it may be—in a different way from before? And therefore, further, to be alive again afterwards in the same way as before? Where would be the comfort, where the value, where the sense, of meaning anything less? Why should these men have been named at all if they had ceased to exist? The “living God,” in a word, was the God of the living, and not of the dead (end of Matthew 22:32). Finally, the answer thus given fully vindicated the Teacher Himself. All who heard His answer acknowledged it by their conduct to be of a simply unanswerable description. The “multitude” were “astonished,” the “Sadducees” silenced, by such flashes of truth (Matthew 22:33-34).
This old-world battle may teach us much in these new-world times. It may show us:—
1. How great was the authority in old days of the Old Testament Scriptures!—How great especially of that portion of them which by some in these days is cavilled at most. Is it not worthy of notice that the most unbelieving of men in those days believed in this portion to the full? Also that the Saviour, in answering them, appealed to this only? Also that, before then, in dealing with a still greater adversary, He had done the same thing (Matthew 4:1-11)? Also yet, that, in this way, He silenced them all!
2. How great their fulness and depth!—See here how much is covered by one single expression! How much can be learned from it, as it were, “by the way,!” Little less, as a matter of fact, than the whole world of the unseen!
3. How equally great, therefore, the evidence given of the fulness and wisdom of Christ!—Ages of study and strife had never shown previously in these words of Moses what He sees in them at a glance. No “contradiction of sinners,” also, can help seeing it when once it is shown! Is it possible, in the way of teaching, to surpass this double Success?
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 22:25-28. Christ and the Sadducees.—
1. The conceiving of spiritual things in a fleshly manner is the ground of mistaking the truth and setting up of errors and heresies, as appeareth in these Sadducees; they apprehend the doctrine of eternal life to be this, that the course of this temporary life shall be renewed and made perpetual.
2. No man seemeth wiser in his own eyes than the blindest heretics do; they conceive that Christ Himself cannot answer their objections against the truth; and this emboldeneth these Sadducees to dispute.—David Dickson.
Matthew 22:29-30. The Sadducees confuted.—
1. If the Scriptures be not understood and believed, it cannot miss but errors will arise, for nothing else but this light can prevent or remove errors. They erred, “not knowing the Scriptures.”
2. It is necessary for quieting of our minds in the truth of God’s word that we look only to the promise of God, and to His ability to perform all He hath promised.
3. After the resurrection we shall be set free from the infirmities whereunto now we are subject; and shall neither need meat nor drink nor marriage, but shall be upholden immediately of God, without means, as angels are, and shall be employed only in the immediate service of God.—Ibid.
Christ’s reply to the Sadducees.—I. He charges them with error.—Concerning:
1. The fact of the resurrection.
2. The nature of the future state.
II. He corrects their mistake.—Implying:
1. The existence of a high order of intelligences.
2. Social elevation of humanity in the future state.
III. He convicts them out of their own Scriptures.—Showing:
1. That the highest property an intelligent being can possess is God, and this property is possessed by the good.
2. Its possession implies conscious existence.
3. The Scripture teaches that this highest property is possessed by departed men.—D. Thomas, D.D.
Matthew 22:29. Sources of unbelief.—
I. Want of Scriptural knowledge.
II. Want of spiritual experience—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Matthew 22:30. The beautiful idea of the future life.—
I. Elevated above temporal transitoriness.
II. Like the angels of God.
III. A life in heaven.—J. P. Lange, D.D.
Life in heaven.—Will there, we ask, be no continuance there of the holiest of the ties of earth? Will the husband and the wife, who have loved each other until death parted them be no more to each other than any others who are counted worthy to obtain that life? Will there be no individual recognition, no continuance of the love founded upon the memories of the past? The answer to all such questionings is found in dwelling on the “power of God.” The old relations may subsist under new conditions. Things that are incompatible here may there be found to co-exist. The saintly wife of two saintly husbands may love both with an angelic, and therefore a pure and unimpaired affection. The contrast between our Lord’s teaching and the sensual paradise of Mahomet, or Swedenborg’s dream of the marriage state perpetuated under its earthly conditions, is so obvious as hardly to call for notice.—E. H. Plumptre, D.D.
Matthew 22:31-32. Interpreting Scripture.—
1. No sufficient silencing of error can be till the contrary truth be made clear by Scripture.
2. Whatsoever is said in the Scripture should be taken as spoken unto us, and that by God.
3. Whatsoever the Scripture doth import, by good consequence is to be accounted for God’s speech. “Concerning the resurrection, have ye not read?” saith He; for the Scripture doth not stand in letters or syllables, but in the sense of the words, and in the truly inferred consequences from thence.
4. Whosoever are within the covenant of grace, whose God the Lord is by covenant, are sure to live in heaven with God after this life, and to have their bodies raised at last unto immortal life; because God is the Saviour and Redeemer not of the soul of His elect only, but also of the body. Therefore there must be a resurrection of the body, for “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”—David Dickson.
Matthew 22:32. God and Immortality.—Our Lord’s answer suggests the best way of assuring ourselves of this glorious hope. Let God be real to us, and life and immortality will be real too. If we would escape the doubts of old Sadducee and new Agnostic, we must be much with God, and strengthen more and more the ties which bind us to Him.—J. M. Gibson, D.D.
Matthew 22:35. A lawyer.—The precise distinction between the “lawyer” and the other scribes rested, probably, on technicalities that have left little or no trace behind them. The word suggests the thought of a section of the scribes who confined their attention to the law, while the others included in their studies the writings of the prophets or the traditions of the elders also (Plumptre). Tempting Him.—We are not to impute the same sinister motives as actuated those who sent him. He also was, in a certain sense, tempting Jesus, i.e. putting Him to the test, but with no sinister motive (Gibson). (See Mark 12:34).
Matthew 22:36. Which?—The original term is qualitative. It draws attention to the distinctive quality, nature, or essence of the great commandment. Of what nature is the great commandment in the law? What is the essence of the great commandment in the law? (Morison).
Matthew 22:37. Heart … soul … mind.—St. Mark and St. Luke add “strength.” In Deuteronomy 6:5, the words are heart, soul, might. “The words represent different aspects of one substantive entity” (Morison). This great commandment was written on the phylactery which the lawyer was probably wearing (Carr).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 22:34-40
A “legal” snare.—Once more we find the Pharisees laying a word-trap for the Saviour. They appear to have been stimulated to this fresh effort by hearing that the Sadducees have been silenced (Matthew 22:34). How sweet the hope of at once confounding Him and distancing them! They appear also to have learned wisdom by their previous experience. Not now about the rule of the Romans (Matthew 22:17), but about the law of God do they ask. Not this time in the doubtful company of the Herodians, but by the lips of one of themselves—and he, apparently (Mark 12:32; Mark 12:34), a man of well-deserved repute as an interpreter of that law—do they speak. Very profound, accordingly, and unusually difficult is the question they ask. Equally complete, however, for all this, the reply they receive.
I. The special difficulty of the question asked seems to have lain in more matters than one. It lay, first, in the extreme width of its scope. “Which is the great commandment in the law?” How exceedingly ample the field surveyed by that question! Who can take it all in at one time? It is like asking a man to point out off-hand the most important star in the midnight sky. If he is looking to the north, he is turning his back on the south. If he is giving special attention to this portion he is giving none at all to all others. Who but God can “count the number of the stars?” (Psalms 147:4; see also Numbers 23:10). Not less, next, is the difficulty involved in the exceeding variety of this field. “One star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Corinthians 15:41). So also do the different groups of enactments to be found in God’s law. On how many sides, and in how many ways, do they affect the duty of man? Political and ecclesiastical, ceremonial and moral, domestic and foreign, private and public, social and civil—these are only some of the aspects under which they look at our life. Who can arrange them so that they can all of them be, as it were, looked at at once? And who, without doing that, shall be sure of being able to distinguish and sever from amongst the whole manifold multitude, the very greatest of all? The bewilderment, in short, is hardly less than the magnitude of the task. Lastly, the question is difficult—most difficult of all indeed—because of the peculiar sanctity of this field. However varied these many enactments in some respects, there was one vital point in regard to which they were all exactly alike. By the pious Israelite they were all rightly regarded as having the same supreme majesty behind them. Whether greater or less in man’s fallible judgment, they were all spoken by God. “Thus saith the Lord,” “I am the Lord,” are declarations to be found repeatedly in the letter, and always in spirit, in every page of that “law.” Who, therefore, can undertake safely to point out differences between its enactments? And who, above all, shall so do this as to put his finger on that which is greatest of all? The very attempt to do it involves peril of the direst possible kind. Hence, not improbably, indeed, one principal reason of proposing it to the Saviour. With His pretensions He ought to be able to settle even such a difficulty as this.
II. The Saviour’s reply to this insidious and perilous question consisted of two principal steps. In the first of these He, practically, narrowed the field of inquiry. And did so, most wisely, by showing simply how God Himself had done so already. As the “lawyer” who had asked this question very well knew, God had put one portion of that multitudinous and manifold collection of statutes and ordinances known by the name of the law, as it were by itself. He had done so, partly, by the special place and manner of its original promulgation (Exodus 20:1-18); partly by the special care taken by Him on that occasion to restrain His utterance to that portion alone (Deuteronomy 5:22); and partly by the fact that He Himself had then written that portion alone with His own finger on two tables of stone (ibid.). This being so, the Saviour will now, as it were, follow this lead. What God Himself has thus visibly exalted above the rest of His law, He will treat as so being. And will confine Himself, therefore, to searching in it for that which is greatest of all. In the next place, the Saviour, taking up this portion alone, proceeds to explain its structure and force. Briefly, its “structure” is this: that it consists of two groups. That the first group teaches man as a creature to love his Creator; and teaches him also that he cannot do this too much. That the second group is also a commandment to “love,” and, therefore, “like” to the “first.” That it differs from it, however, in teaching man, as God’s creature, to love his brother man as being the same; and to do so, therefore, with just the same degree of love as he bears to himself. The “force” of this analysis, it will be seen, therefore, is of a two-fold description. On the one hand it shows us that one of these tables or groups of commandments does necessarily and from its very nature come before the other, both as to order and importance; and is, consequently, so far the “greater.” On the other hand, it shows us that the second of these is so essentially a sequel of, as to be almost a part of, the former; and, therefore, is, so far, not to be regarded as “less.” And so, on the whole, therefore, that in these two in combination, we have the greatest of all. And this is the true teaching, moreover—so the Saviour adds in conclusion—of all teachers who have ever been sent from God to teach on this point. Judge for yourselves if either “Moses or the prophets” have taught other or more! (Matthew 22:40).
See therefore here, in conclusion:—
1. The wisdom of Moses as a teacher.—Was there over such a summary of duty as that given through him?
2. The wisdom of Christ as a Teacher.—Was there ever any one who fathomed that summary as it was fathomed by Him?
3. The perfection of Christ as a Saviour.—“By the obedience of One many were made righteous” (Romans 5:19). See here how well that “One” understood what He undertook to obey. We may well believe, therefore, that He honoured it in practice to an equal degree. Could He, indeed, have understood it so perfectly if He had not obeyed it in full?
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 22:36. The law of love a natural force of humanity.—It will help us to understand this principle if we first distinguish it from some other principles of our nature.
I. It is to be distinguished from the principle of will, and in some regards is indeed to be opposed to it. All human lives that are following the law of will, of self, of individualism, are breaking life’s true law, and missing life’s true aim.
II. The law of love is to be distinguished from the principle of knowledge. Knowledge is not a primary fact, and can never become an ultimate law, of life. “Knowledge shall vanish away, but love never faileth.”
III. The law of love is wholly opposed to the spirit of fear. Fear is not natural to man. Fear only came to man when tempted by knowledge. He transgressed the obedience of love, and having transgressed he hid himself from the presence of God. And Adam represents us all. We hide from God because we have sinned. When we kneel at the foot of the cross, and feel that because God loves us we must love God, we learn again the law of life, the law of being: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” etc. God has made you to love Him, to have communion with Him. And in that perfect communion the law of God is not broken. And that law is, that with all your heart, with all your being, with all the powers that you have, shall you love God. Then reason shall be linked to heaven, and affection linked to heaven, and conscience linked to heaven, and idea and imagination and all the powers of mind and soul linked to heaven by the eternal principle of love.—Archdeacon Watkins.
Matthew 22:37-40. Love to God and man.—
I. These two principles from which our Lord tells us all religion flows, must be consistent with one another; otherwise they could not both be principles of the same religion.
II. Nothing is, or ought to be, esteemed religion that is not reducible to one or other of these principles.—Bishop Sherlock.
Matthew 22:37-38. The first and great commandment.—Our Lord having to do with a proud hypocrite, puffed up with a conceit of his own righteousness, doth so answer him, as He layeth out the spiritual meaning of the law, that the man might see how short he came in the obedience thereof, and so doth teach us:
1. That the commandments are not obeyed except the obedience spring from love.
2. The commandments are not satisfied except the whole man, wholly, in all things, obey with his whole mind, affections, and the strength of all the powers of soul and body.
3. To love God is the greatest commandment, because it is the fountain of the obedience of all the commands, and also because all the commands of the first table are but branches, and evidences in part of our love to God.
4. The great commandment is not fulfilled except a man in the sense of his shortcoming in love to God, seek for reconciliation with Him, enter into a covenant of grace with Him, and make use of His friendship, as of a reconciled God.
5. The commandment of loving God with all our might and adhering to Him as reconciled unto us and made ours by covenant, is first to be looked unto, as being of greatest consequence (Matthew 22:38).—David Dickson.
Why men do not love God.—There are two reasons why men do not love God. For one of them there are great excuses; for the other there is no excuse whatsoever.
I. In the first place, too many find it difficult to love God because they have not been taught that God is lovable, and worthy of their love.—They have been taught dark and hard doctrines, which have made them afraid of God. Our love must be called out by God’s love.
II. If we do not wish to do what God commands we shall never love God.—It must be so. There can be no real love of God which is not based upon the love of virtue and goodness, upon what our Lord calls a hunger and thirst after righteousness.—C. Kingsley, M.A.
Matthew 22:37. The great commandment.—
I. Who is the Christian’s God?—We must know God before we can love Him.
II. Our duty towards God.—We must not only love Him, but our love must be—
III. Why that duty is called “the first and great commandment.”—
1. It is the noblest exercise of our faculties.
2. It is the foundation of all other duties.—C. Simeon, M.A.
The mind’s love for God.—I. Is it not manifestly true that besides the love of the senses, and the love of the heart, and the love of the soul, and the love of the strength, there is also a love of the mind, without whose entrance into the completeness of the loving man’s relation to the object of his love, his love is not complete? Is your greatest friend contented with your love before you have come to love him with all your mind? Everywhere we find our assurances that the mind has its affections and enthusiasms, that the intellect is no cold-hearted monster who only thinks and judges, but that it glows with love, not merely perceiving, but delighted to perceive, the beauty of the things with which it has to do.
II. Christ bids His disciples to love God with all their minds.—“Understand Me,” He seems to cry, “I am not wholly loved by you unless your understanding is searching out after My truth, and with all your powers of thoughtfulness and study you are trying to find out all you can about My nature and My ways.”
III. There are ignorant saints who come very near to God, and live in the rich sunlight of His love, but none the less for that is their ignorance a detraction from their sainthood.—There are mystics who, seeing how God outgoes human knowledge, choose to assume that God is not a subject of human knowledge at all. Such mystics may mount to sublime heights of unreasoning contemplation, but there is an uncompleteness in their love, because they rob one part of their nature of all share in their approach to God. Love God with all your mind, because your mind, like all the rest of you, belongs to Him; and it is not right that you should give Him only a part to whom belongs the whole. Give your intelligence to God. Know all that you can about Him.—Phillips Brooks.
Love to God.—The measure of loving God is to love Him without measure.—W. Burkitt.
A comprehensive law.—When Thomas Paine resided in Bordentown, in the state of New Jersey, he was one day passing the residence of Dr. Staughton, when the latter was sitting at the door. Paine stopped, and after some remarks of a general character, observed, “Mr. Staughton, what a pity it is that a man has not some comprehensive and perfect rule for the government of his life.” The doctor replied, “Mr. Paine, there is such a rule.” “What is that?” Paine inquired. Dr. S. repeated the passage, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.” Abashed and confounded, Paine replied, “Oh, that’s in your Bible,” and immediately walked away.—Biblical Museum.
Matthew 22:38. The great and first commandment.—Love is the great and first commandment:
I. In antiquity.—Being as old as the world, and engraven in our nature.
II. In dignity.—As directly respecting God.
III. In excellence.—Being the commandment of the new covenant.
IV. In justice.—As preferring God above all things, and rendering to Him His due.
V. In sufficiency.—In making of itself man holy in this life, and blessed in that which is to come.
VI. In fruitfulness.—In being the root of all other commandments.
VII. In virtue and efficacy.
VIII. In extent.
IX. In necessity.
X. In duration.—As continuing for ever in heaven.—Quesnel.
Matthew 22:39. The second great commandment.—
1. So many as profess love to God must set themselves to love their neighbour also, at His command; for he cannot love God who will not love his neighbour.
2. It is lawful to love ourselves, yea, it is a commanded duty after our love to God, and with our love to God, and from our love to God; that is to say, so as our love to ourselves be not in the first room, which belongeth to God, so as our love of ourselves be subordinate unto the love of God, and may make us forthcoming to the honour of God, and doth not prejudge our love to God, but further the same; for the command which saith, “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” saith “Love thyself,” by a second and like command, depending on, and flowing from, the first.
3. A right ordered and measured love to ourselves is the rule and measure of our love to our neighbour; the love of God must be preferred both to ourselves and neighbour, so as we must not please ourselves or our neighbour by displeasing God; but our love to God being fixed in its own place, then, in reason, as we would have others do unto us, do we also unto them; for “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” that is, sincerely and constantly.—David Dickson.
Matthew 22:39. Love to our neighbour.—In canvassing the duty here enjoined, I shall consider:—
I. Its nature.—An attendant of regeneration. Disinterested. “As thyself.”
II. Its extent.—
1. It extends to our families, friends and countrymen.
2. To our enemies.
3. To all mankind.
4. It extends in its operations to all the good offices which we are capable of rendering to others.
(1) The love required in this precept will prevent us from voluntarily injuring others.
(2) Among the positive acts of beneficence dictated by the love of the gospel, the contribution of our property forms an interesting part.
(3) Love to our neighbour dictates also every other office of kindness which may promote his present welfare.
(4) Love to our neighbour is especially directed to the good of his soul.
1. From these observations it is evident that the second great commandment of the moral law is “like the first.”
2. Piety and morality are here shown to be inseparable.
3. The religion of the Scriptures is the true and only source of all the duties of life.—T. Dwight, LL.D.
Self love.—There is no express command in Scripture for a man to love himself, because the light of nature directs, and the law of nature binds and moves every man so to do. God has put a principle of self-love and of self-preservation into all His creatures, but especially in man.—W. Burkitt.
Matthew 22:40. What is religion?—The answers to the question are various, some of them wide enough of the mark, and others hitting it more or less nearly. Even where the answers are within sight of the truth there is a tendency to overlook the kernel of religion, and lay undue stress upon its husk. It was Christ’s function to remind a generation, blighted by formalism, where true religion lay. He pierced beneath all outward forms, laid bare the essence of religion, and sot it forth before men’s eyes in the clear light of His own Divine wisdom: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. That is an account of religion worth meditating upon.
I. How simple it is!—There is no mistaking what it means. Religion is in many ways a perplexing, complicated phenomenon. It touches us at so many points, it is so interwoven with the whole world of thought and feeling and conduct; it has so many different ways of expressing itself; it is so many-sided, and on some of its sides so profoundly mysterious, that it is natural enough to find variety and confusion and bewilderment in the conceptions men have entertained of it. Here, as elsewhere in human affairs, it is only those who have mastered a subject who can show us its simplicity. It was the genius of Newton that discovered the simplicity of the one all-pervading law of gravitation, which accounts at once for the falling of an apple and the movements of sun and planets. So the Divine insight of Christ into human life, and its relations with the life of God, has issued in the simplicity of His account of religion as love to God and love to man. Thought is a great element in human life, and belief has a large part to play in religion. Conduct, we are told, constitutes three-fourths of human life, and there can be no right religion without right conduct. Emotion is the source of much of the interest of life, and is deeply inwrought with religion. But Christ goes behind all that, behind thought and conduct and emotion, and fixes upon the moral will, expressing itself in love to God and man, as the deepest seat of religion.
II. Notice also, in Christ’s answer, how He has seized upon and emphasised the permanent element in religion.—The accidents of religion may change. But amid all changes in religious activity, or worship, or creed, there is one thing at least which is unchangeable—that on which Christ has laid the chief stress. The inner pith of religion can never be elsewhere than where He has put it—in love to God and love to man. It is a simple account of religion Christ gives; but if we are in earnest with His answer, and honestly strive to work it out in our daily life, its simplicity will seem to us to be something else than we often take it to be. Simplicity does not mean easiness. No. To love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourself, that is a demand than which none else can be harder, which penetrates into the deepest deep of our being, and embraces the widest reaches of our thought and activity. To give God the supreme devotion of our hearts, to merge our wills in His, to yield to Him the complete mastery of our life, to let the current of our affection go out towards Him—that is not easy. To love our neighbour as Christ loved, to go about the world with sympathy ready to take upon itself others’ burdens, so to identify ourselves with others that we learn to regard their welfare as one with our own, to keep down all envy and jealousy and narrow-hearted-ness, and to be willing to deny ourselves for the good of our neighbour—that is not easy.
III. Christ links the two together.—Devotion to our Heavenly Father and devotion to our fellows. They were linked together in that life of His which He lived beneath the Syrian skies, and where Christ’s religion is truly grasped they cannot be divorced. Love is a unity where it exists; it must go forth at once to God above us and to our fellows around us. Now notice that the demand is for love, not for mere awe, or zeal, or outward homage. You can test whether your relation to God is founded in love or in some less noble sentiment. You can test that by the effect it produces on your relation to your fellows. Love to God will show itself in love to man. On the other hand, you can reverse the process and test your love to man by your love to God. You cannot rightly love your brother without loving his Father and your Father. I do not say that there is no such thing as philanthropy, which is supposed to be dissociated from all reference to God—though even that kind of philanthropy is more closely linked with God than is sometimes thought. But this I say, that you have not elevated your philanthropy to a worthy enough level till you love your brother as a man who is linked with God, and destined for life in God.
IV. These words of Christ form a noble guide for the religious life.—Forget not what religion according to Christ means. Take heed lest you be so engrossed with its mere accidents that you lose sight of its substance. Strive that you may grow in love to God and man.—D. M. Ross, M.A.
Matthew 22:44. Sit thou on My right hand.—As having gloriously finished the work which was given Thee to do, and in which I rest satisfied and well pleased (Morison). As My co-regent, having power equal to Mine (Carr).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Matthew 22:41-46
A counter-attack.—Hitherto various bodies of conspirators have put their questions to Christ. Now the case is reversed. Before the discomfited Pharisees have retired—whilst they still remain gathered together—in the deep silence which follows—He puts a question, or rather, two questions, to them. In the passage before us we see:
1. The basis these questions stood on.
2. The difficulties they presented.
3. The effects they produced.
I. The basis they stood on.—This was to be found in the common convictions of both the Pharisees and the Saviour. Their convictions, on the one hand, as to the scope of those Scriptures which they held in those days in their hands. Both sides believed that these pointed unmistakably to the Messias or Christ. Some thirty years before, when these same or other scribes and Pharisees had been asked by Herod the Great to tell him where this Christ should be born, they had referred him at once to the Scriptures in question (Matthew 2:4-5). Just the same, here, tacitly, in asking like information about this Messias or Christ, the Saviour’s first question assumes. Just so here, is assumed also, in the reply of the Pharisees to it. It is taken for granted by both that that question can only be answered by a reference to the writings of the prophets. It is to them alone you must go if you want to know what to believe of the Christ. Their convictions, on the other hand, as to the correctness of the Scriptures in question. On this point, also, we find the Saviour and the Pharisees to be absolutely of one mind. Whatever those Scriptures can be shown to teach must be accepted as true. Clearly, on either side, there is no idea here of anything else. It is just as certain to both that the Scriptures are true as that they speak about Christ. No one cares to prove this because it is what no one denies. No one ever goes so far as to assert it. It is already believed.
II. Hence therefore, next, the peculiar difficulty of the second question propounded.—The authorities referred to had spoken in more places than one on the matter in hand. In some of these places they had spoken of the Christ (as already acknowledged) as the “Son of David.” In another place they are found speaking of Him in a variant way. In words which were believed by all to be those of David himself speaking under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, he speaks of Christ as his Lord. “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” (Matthew 22:44). The difficulty, therefore, is patent and great. “If David call Him Lord, how is He then his Son?” How can the same person be both at one time; both above and below; both Son and Lord; both subject and sovereign; both under another man and on a level with God? The difficulty is not to be solved by a supposed misinterpretation of either Scriptures referred to. The language of both is too plain. Neither is it to be got rid of by attributing incorrectness to either. From any supposition of that kind, as we have seen already, all are wholly debarred.
III. The effects of these questions.—Or, rather, of this latter one—were of two principal kinds. One was on the spot and immediate. The men that heard it had nothing to say. They could not suggest any explanation of the difficulty propounded. They could not think even of any pretext to offer in lieu. Practised in evasion, skilled in subterfuge, masters in concealment, they could not conceal the true state of the case. They said nothing because they had nothing to say. The other effect was subsequent and remote. The men who heard of this question were affected by it in the same manner and to the same extent as those on the spot. They also had nothing to say to it in the way of reply. Not only so, they had nothing further, so far as this Man was concerned, to propound. Taken in conjunction with the wonderful ease and success with which He had previously answered their subtlest inquiries, this insoluble question of His silenced all of them all the rest of His days (Matthew 22:46). As an “attacking” army they had ceased to exist.
So complete a reversement may teach us much as to the difficulties of Scripture. It may teach us:—
1. To expect them.—The more truly Scripture is Holy Scripture, the more likely it is, in the nature of things, to present difficulties sometimes to our minds. The more truly it is above man in its origin the more certain it is to be occasionally above man in its thoughts. How could so deep a truth as that which we know to have lain at the root of the difficulty here presented to the Pharisees, have been presented to their shallow human intelligences so as not to perplex them at first, and in part? It is impossible for an eye accustomed to the darkness of earth to see at first quite clearly in the noon-light of heaven! At first, at any rate, it is simply “blinded” with “excess of light.”
2. To endure them.—If thus things must be we must simply let them be, as reasonable inquirers. Never, in any case, must we regard any of them, as being calls to despair. Not even these Pharisees, in their imperfect faith, appear to have been tempted to this. Because they could not possibly account for what they found foretold about the Messias, they did not therefore say there was none. What we ought rather to learn here, therefore, with our fuller knowledge, is a lesson in hope. What was perplexity to those Pharisees has become confirmation to us! What was darkness to them is a pillar of light to us! Believing, as we do, in a Christ who is both perfect God and perfect man, we see easily how He could be both David’s Lord and David’s Son, and have learned to rejoice, therefore, in the juxtaposition of those very Scriptures which were such utter bewilderment in their eyes. So let us learn to hope, therefore, of other like sources of bewilderment in their turn. Time and truth will know how to transform them also into sources of light!
HOMILIES ON THE VERSES
Matthew 22:41-45. David’s Son and David’s Lord.—
1. As it is good to be zealous of the law, so it is necessary to know the Messiah, who redeemeth men from the curse of the law. So our Lord, having answered the Pharisees’ question about the law, asketh them, “What think ye of Christ?”
2. Christ is a very man, lineally descended of David, for He is David’s Son; so say even the Pharisees.
3. Christ is also very God, for He is David’s Lord, equal with the Father.
4. The Son of David and David’s Lord, distinguished from the Father, as one of the persons of the Godhead, is but one person; for David’s God and David’s Son is here spoken of as one person.
5. Christ is fellow-partner of Divine glory with the Father, for “Sit Thou at My right hand” saith the Father.
6. Christ shall not want enemies who shall oppose His kingdom.
7. Christ’s enemies shall be put under His power.
8. There is but one Divine power of the Son and Father, for as the Son reigneth in majesty over His enemies, so the Father putteth them down also; for “Sit Thou till I put them down” is “Reign Thou” till this be done.
9. None can reconcile the speeches in Scripture concerning Christ, except he who believeth and acknowledgeth Him to be God and man in one person; for if David call Him Lord, how is He then his Son? hath no answer but He is both God and man.—David Dickson.
Matthew 22:42. The Mediator, the Guarantee of religious life.—Jesus Christ is a name around which a vast accumulation of histories, ideas, beliefs have gathered. Christianity has many aspects; literary, philosophical, moral, historical, political, theological, spiritual, practical. What is the religious aspect of Christianity and of Christ? What is the aspect which exhibits our Lord’s relation to religion, considered as the bond between God and the human soul?
I. Nothing is more certain in the annals of mankind than this, that Jesus Christ lived in Palestine, and was put to death eighteen centuries and a half ago. If this be admitted, His life and death must possess for any intelligent man the highest possible degree of interest. No doubt, at the time, the Cæsar Tiberius was everywhere on the lips and in the minds of men; while the retired religious Teacher, as He seemed to be, in Palestine, was by His teaching, His acts, and the opposition which they aroused, only furnishing a little conversation and excitement to the peasantry and to the officials of a remote province. But if the importance of a life is to be measured by its results in history and to civilization, even although we should put all religious and even moral considerations aside, who would think most of the emperor? Who can deny that, at this moment, explain it how he will, Jesus Christ lives in the hearts of multitudes as the object of most cherished and devoted homage; that He governs the ideas, the aspirations, the social and political action of millions of mankind; that the most active and enterprising section of the human family, still, in various senses, places itself under the shadow of His name and patronage; and that, if He has many opponents, there is no serious probability of His being spiritually or intellectually dethroned?
II. But the question must occur, What was it in Jesus Christ which gave Him, in spite of social and political insignificance, so commanding, so unrivalled a position in history? The least answer that can be given is that His character made a profound, an ineffaceable impression upon His contemporaries; an impression so deep and abiding that it moved them, peasants and paupers as they were, to achieve the moral revolution of the civilised world. But the bearing of Jesus Christ is that of One who claims to be the First of all, the Centre of all, with entire simplicity indeed, but also with, unhesitating decision. His words are familiar to our ears; but do we dwell upon their real and awful meaning? What should we think of a religious teacher now who could permit himself to say that eternal life consisted in the knowledge of himself as well as in the knowledge of the Father, etc.? The question arises, how to account for this earnest self-assertion on the part of Jesus Christ? Is our Lord’s language imposture? The suggestion can only be mentioned to be condemned by the entire drift and atmosphere of His life. Is it the hallucination of an enthusiast? “That a Jew should fancy himself the Messiah, and at the same time should strip that character of all the attributes that fired his youthful imagination and heart; that he should start aside from all the feelings and hopes of His age, and should acquire a consciousness of being destined to a wholly new career, and one as unbounded as it was new—this is exceedingly improbable” (Channing.). Was it, then, only the natural manner of an Oriental mind; the habit of seizing truth intuitively and enunciating it authoritatively, in contrast with our western methods of demonstration and argument? But this explanation, even if on other accounts it could be admitted, does not cover the ground required. It does not justify the actual substance and contents of our Lord’s language about Himself. It does not explain the fact that His language about Himself is unlike anything which we find in the Hebrew prophets. The prophets, if you will, announce truth in the intuitive manner; but they do not make themselves the subjects and centres of the truth which they announce. The relation in which Christ claims to stand, both towards the Father and towards mankind, is utterly unanticipated by anything that can be traced in the prophetic literature of Israel. Our Lord’s language about Himself is entirely in harmony with the character of His miracles of power. Also with another phenomenon. He was sinless. The most startling moral feature in this life is that we can trace nowhere in it any, the faintest consciousness of guilt. If we bow before the general impression produced by Christ’s character, and He be taken at His word, He must be believed to be, in the absolute sense, Divine.
III. In Jesus Christ, then, we have the guarantee or bond of religion. He is the means of an actual communication between the soul of man and the Eternal God.—Canon Liddon.
Matthew 22:42. Jesus: what do we think of Him? (For children).—
I. Jesus ought not to be despised.—It is said of Handel, the great musician, that while composing the well-known oratorio of “The Messiah,” he was frequently found in tears, and that one day, while sobbing bitterly, it was found that the words which had broken down his spirit were these three words of the prophet Isaiah, “He was despised.” And yet this short saying was abundantly fulfilled when Jesus came to show us His great love. Bishop Villiers tells us the following story: “I once,” says he, “happened to be on a visit to a great castle, situate on the top of a hill. There was a steep cliff, at the bottom of which was a rapid river. Late one night there was a person anxious to get home from that castle, in the midst of a thunderstorm. The night was blackness itself. The woman was asked to wait till the storm was over, but she declined. Next they begged her to take a lantern, that she might be able to keep upon the road from the castle to her home. She said she did not require a lantern, but could do very well without one. She left. Perhaps she was frightened by the storm, but in the midst of the darkness she wandered from the path and fell over the cliff. The next day the swollen river washed to the shore the poor lifeless body of that foolish woman.” Even so there are many persons in our beautiful island home to-day who refuse the Lord Jesus Christ and perish.
II. Jesus ought not to be received with coldness or delay.—Jesus complains very much that many persons do so receive Him. Have you ever read those tender words in Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock”? Learned men tell us that it means, “I have been long standing at the door.” Jesus is kept waiting What a difference there is in the way we go to answer knocks at the door. The postman’s loud double knock makes us run, for who is not pleased to receive letters from friends? And sometimes there comes a timid knock at the back door, which nobody cares to answer. “It’s only a beggar!” some one says, and if the door is not opened, the footsteps turn sadly away. How differently we welcome those we love.
III. Jesus is worthy of our highest reverence and of our best love and obedience.—There are two words uttered by the patriarch Job a great many years ago, that we may all use in reference to Jesus Christ. The words are, “My Redeemer” (Job 19:25). Will you each say of Him just now, “Jesus is my Redeemer.” Ah! that is why I feel that I ought to love Him. “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.”—Robert Brewin.
“What think ye of Christ?”—
I. As to His origin.
1. Son of man.—The ideal of humanity.
2. Son of God.—The Divine essence.
II. As to His character.—
1. Absolutely perfect as human.—Immaculate, unique, complete.
2. The embodiment of the Divine perfections.
III. As to His offices.—
3. King.—W. W. Whythe.
Admiration of Christ.—Cyrus, in one of his wars, captured an Armenian princess, and, according to the cruel laws of ancient warfare, condemned her to death. Her husband, hearing of her peril, came at once into the camp of the conqueror, and offered to redeem her life with his own. Cyrus was so struck with the man’s magnanimity that he released them both, and declared his purpose to re-instate them, with great power and riches, in their own country. And now, while all the courtiers and captains are praising the generosity of the great king, the woman stands silent and weeping. And when the question was asked of her, “And what do you think of Cyrus?” “I was not thinking of him at all,” she replied. “Of whom were you thinking?” “I was thinking,” said she, fixing her eyes all lustrous with love, shining through her tears, upon her husband, “of the noble man who redeemed my life by offering to sacrifice his own.” Is not this the true attitude of a Christian? Amid the adulation of the world, should we not think most tearfully and tenderly of the Divine Man who redeemed our lives, not by the offer, but by the actual sacrifice of Himself?—Christian World Pulpit.
Matthew 22:46. Silenced!—The issue of this disputation is set down to teach us:
1. That all Christ’s enemies will be beaten in disputation and put to silence. The force of Divine truth prudently put forth, is irresistible.
2. The conviction of God’s enemies may be expected, but the conversion of all the convicted can hardly be expected; for they could not answer, and they durst ask no more questions; there is all; we hear of no good use they made of this.—David Dickson.