The Parable of the Wedding Banquet, 1-14

22:1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 22:3 He sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come. 22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look! The feast I have prepared for you is ready. My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.” ’ 22:5 But they were indifferent and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. 22:6 The rest seized his slaves, insolently mistreated them, and killed them. 22:7 The king was furious! He sent his soldiers, and they put those murderers to death and set their city on fire. 22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but the ones who had been invited were not worthy. 22:9 So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 22:10 And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 22:11 But when the king came in to see the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 22:12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he had nothing to say. 22:13 Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’

A wedding banquet ‘was usually held at the house of the groom (Mt 22:1-10 Jn 2:9) and often at night. (Mt 22:13 25:6) Many relatives and friends attended; so the wine might well run out. (Jn 2:3) A steward or friend supervised the feast. (Jn 2:9-10) To refuse an invitation to the wedding feast was an insult. (Mt 22:7) The guests were expected to wear festive clothes. (Mt 22:11-12) In special circumstances the feast could be held in the bride’s home (Gn. 29:22; Tobit 8:19) The glorious gathering of Christ and his saints in heaven is figuratively called ‘the marriage supper of the Lamb’.’ (Rev 19:9) (NBD)

Mt 22:2–14 = Lk 14:16–24

v5 ‘There are thousands of hearers of the Gospel who derive from it no benefit whatever. They listen to it Sunday after Sunday, and year after year, and do not believe to the saving of the soul. They feel no special need of the Gospel. They see no special beauty in it. They do not perhaps hate it, or oppose it, or scoff at it, but they do not receive it into their hearts. They like other things far better. Their money, their lands–their business, or their pleasures, are all far more interesting subjects to them than their souls. It is an dreadful state of mind to be in, but awfully common. Let us search our own hearts, and take heed that it is not our own. Open sin may kill its thousands; but indifference and neglect of the Gospel kill their tens of thousands. Multitudes will find themselves in hell, not so much because they openly broke the ten commandments, as because they made light of the gospel. Christ died for them on the cross, but they neglected Him.’ (Ryle)

22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

“Many” – Hagner thinks that this probably is ‘a universalising Semitism’, meaning ‘everyone’.  The invitation is open to all, as in v9.

“Few” – This, Hagner suggests, is also a Semitism, meaning, ‘not all’.

Rev 17:14

'Many are called, but few are chosen'

Matthew 22:14 – “Many are called, but few are chosen”

Two (not necessarily contradictory) aspects of this saying – the numerical and the theological – warrant consideration.

1. Numerical

For Enoch Powell, Jesus’ words ‘few are chosen’ mean ‘that his salvation will not be for all, not even for the majority,’ insisting that ‘ignorance, incapacity, perversity, the sheer human propensity to error are sufficient to ensure a high failure rate.’  But, as the contributor to Hard Sayings of the Bible (presumably F.F. Bruce) wryly remarks:

‘They are sufficient, indeed, to ensure a 100-percent failure rate, but for the grace of God. But when divine grace begins to operate, the situation is transformed.’

The proverbial nature of the saying forbids us from using it to estimate to proportions of those who are finally lost and saved.

On another occasion, our Lord refused to speculate on the fewness (or otherwise) of the saved but urged his hearers rather to ‘enter through the narrow gate’ (Lk 13:23).

Shedd, (Dogmatic Theology, Vol II, 712) writes:

‘Some have represented the number of the reprobated as greater than that of the elect, or equal to it. They found this upon the word of Christ, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” But this describes the situation at the time when our Lord spake, and not the final result of his redemptive work. But when Christ shall have “seen of the travail of his soul” and been “satisfied” with what he has seen; when the whole course of the Gospel shall be complete, and shall be surveyed from beginning to end, it will be found that God’s elect, or church, is “a great multitude which no man can number, our of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues,” and that their voice is as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Rev 7:9 19:6.’

F.F. Bruce suggests that this is a proverbial saying.  It crops up, in similar form, in the writings of Plato, for example, and in the gnostic Gospel of Thomas.  In Pauline language something similar is expressed in Rom 2:13 – ‘It is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified’ (RSV), and it is those who live ‘according to the Spirit’ in whom ‘the just requirement of the law’ is fulfilled.  James, too, urges his readers to ‘be doers of the word, and not hearers only’ (Jas 1:22 RSV).

Bruce adds that, in uttering this saying, Jesus may have been thinking more particularly of the situation regarding his ministry at the time.  There was, of course, a vast increase in the numbers of his followers after his death and resurrection.  Paul can speak of the saved as ‘the many’ in Rom 5:15,19, and, as Calvin pointed out, his words cannot scarcely mean a minority.  Calvin wrotes:

‘if Adam’s fall had the effect of producing the ruin of many, the grace of God is much more efficacious in benefiting many, since admittedly Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.’

Gundry (Commentary on the New Testament) is careful to observe the linkage between this saying and the parable to which it is attached:

‘“Many” describes as numerous “all whom they [the king’s slaves] found, both evil people and good people” (22:10). That is, the “many” represent the massive mixture of false and true disciples in the church. By the same token, the “few” represent the minority in that mixture who manifest genuineness of discipleship with deeds of righteousness. Since only one wedding guest is thrown into the darkness of night, whereas the rest of the guests remain in the lighted wedding hall, the proportions seem topsy-turvy. But Jesus could hardly have emptied the wedding hall of most of the king’s guests without ruining the festivities. So turning the proportions upside down with “few [are] selected” goes to show the pervasiveness of false profession in the church and the strength of Jesus’ concern over that problem.’

The Faithlife Study Bible also places this saying in its context.  It

‘summarizes the theme of the preceding parables (21:28–22:14). God invites many people into His kingdom, as seen in the parable Jesus has just told (vv. 1–13). However, as the man thrown out of the wedding feast illustrates (vv. 11–13), not all who consider themselves part of God’s kingdom are genuine members of it (compare 7:13–14, 21–23). Those who hear and respond favorably to God’s invitation are able to join him in celebration (compare 25:31–46).’

Hagner (WBC) thinks that both quantitative elements (‘many’ and ‘few’) are semitisms, meaning ‘all’ and ‘not all’ respectively.  As in v9, the invitation is open to all.

Blomberg concurs:

‘In light of the imagery of the parable itself and in view of common Semitic usage, “many” here may well mean all. “Few” may thus imply nothing about how many are saved except that the number is noticeably less than all.’

So also Osborne:

‘“Many” (πολλοί) and “few” (ὀλίγοι) should be interpreted in Semitic fashion as equivalent to “all/not all,” meaning all Israel was called by God but only some (including the Gentiles) were actually chosen for the messianic banquet.’

This leads us to consider:

2. Theological

Hendriksen, while reading too much into the numerical comparison between the ‘many’ and the ‘few’, rightly  stresses God’s sovereign choice:

‘The gospel call goes forth far and wide. It reaches ever so many. Most of them are like the man in the parable: they hear but do not heed. In comparison with those many that are lost there are but few that are saved, that is, few that are chosen from eternity to inherit life everlasting. Salvation, then, in the final analysis, is not a human accomplishment but the gift of God’s sovereign grace. Cf. Luke 12:32; John 6:39, 44; Eph. 1:4.’

Calvin (Institutes) understands this saying as teaching that

‘there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts.’

For Bruce Milne (Know the Truth), this saying reflects a clear distinction between God’s general call (cf. Mt 9:13) and his effectual call (cf. Rom. 1:6; 8:28, 30; 1 Pet. 1:15).

The contributor to the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (art. ‘Elect, Election’) also interprets this saying in terms of the relationship between the divine call and the human response:

‘Although God calls many through the gospel, only some of those respond to the call and become his elect people. The text sheds no light on the mystery of why only some become God’s people. Certainly, when a person does respond to God’s call, it is because the gospel comes to him or her “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thes 1:4, 5). When men and women refuse the gospel, it is because they have become hardened as a result of sin and their trust in their own works. Scripture does not go beyond that point in explanation, and neither should Christians.’

The interpreter should take care not to assume that the significance of ‘call’ is the same in all parts of the New Testament.  In Paul’s usage, God’s ‘call’ is an effectual call.  In the Synoptics, however, the same word is used to mean ‘invitation’.  Carson, (Exegetical Fallacies, p63) points out that it is a fallacy to assume

‘that one New Testament’s writer’s prodominant usage of any word is roughly that of all other New Testament writers; very often that is not the case.’

According to the Grace New Testament Commentary, then,

‘this verse is not about election to salvation, but about responding to Christ’s call as believers to live in obedience to Him so that believers will be chosen to rule and reign with Him in the kingdom.’

F.F. Bruce (in his commentary):

‘The moral of 22:14 is not to be understood in the sense of “effectual calling” (cf. Romans 8:28–30); it simply means that not all to whom the invitation is extended enjoy the banquet (the blessings of the kingdom).’

Gundry (Commentary on the New Testament) notes the many incongruous features of this parable:

  1. the unwillingness to come of those who’d previously accepted an invitation;
  2. their pleading no excuse and not even asking to be excused;
  3. the concert of their refusal to come;
  4. the repetition of the invitation even after such a refusal;
  5. the refusers’ manhandling and murdering the slaves who brought a gracious re-invitation;
  6. the king’s sending his armies to his own city;
  7. the king’s sending them to torch his own city;
  8. the carrying out of this military expedition on the afternoon of the very day of the wedding banquet;
  9. the delay of the banquet only till evening;
  10. the holding of the banquet in the burned-out city;
  11. the bringing in of guests formerly deemed unsuitable;
  12. a man’s getting in without a wedding garment; and
  13. the others’ having wedding garments without any indication of how they could have gotten them so quickly.

But, Gundry adds:

  1. ‘all these unrealisms highlight the points of the parable:
  2. the Jewish authorities’ damnable rejection of God’s invitation to the banquet of salvation;
  3. the judgment coming on them for that rejection;
  4. the successful shifting of evangelistic effort to all nations; and
  5. the frightful fate of false disciples who have come into the church as a result of that effort.’

Paying Taxes to Caesar, 15-22

22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words. 22:16 They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality. 22:17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Mt 22:15–22 = Mk 12:13–17; Lk 20:20–26

“Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” – ‘In order to make him lose favour with the people or incur the suspicion of the Romans they raised a question about the polltax imposed on the Jews by the Romans. It had been introduced amid fierce resentment and opposition (cf 2:2), and it continued to be unpopular. Would Jesus oppose it – and perhaps be arrested as a rebel? Or would he uphold it – and perhaps lose the support of the people?’ (NBC)

22:18 But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Hypocrites! Why are you testing me? 22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought him a denarius. 22:20 Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” 22:21 They replied, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22:22 Now when they heard this they were stunned, and they left him and went away.

As usual, Jesus refuses to be pushed into a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.

“Show me the coin used for the tax” – ‘Jesus asked his questioners for a coin, not because he did not possess one, but so as to demonstrate that they themselves used Caesar’s money. The silver denarius, which bore Caesar’s head on one side and on the other the goddess of peace, was inscribed: ‘Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, chief priest.’ If the people used Caesar’s coinage, they were under obligation to pay back what was owing to him.’ (NBC)

See Rom 13:6-7

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” – Christ hereby teaches that his followers have a dual citizenship. To be sure, our heavenly citizenship takes precedence, but we have responsibilities to both. We have civic as well as spiritual duties. Remember that Daniel was Prime Minster in no less than five totalitarian regimes.

”Trapped by the Pharisees and Herodians, who had diametrically opposite views of whether or not Jews should pay taxes to Rome, Jesus evaded the trap by making concessions to both parties: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”’ (Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of the New Testament)

‘A double rebuke is implied: of the Zealots, who would not render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and of the Herodians, who would not render to God what is God’s.’ (Gerstner, ISBE, art. Law in the NT)

‘Jesus’ response is not some witty way of getting out of a predicament; rather, it shows his full awareness of a major development in redemption history. Jesus does not side with the Zealots or with any who expected his messiahship to bring instant political independence from Rome. The messianic community he determines to build (Mt 16:18) must render to whatever Caesar is in power whatever belongs to him, while never turning from its obligations to God. The lesson was learned by both Paul and Peter (Rom 13:1–7; 1 Pet 2:13–17). Of course, Jesus’ reply is not a legal statute resolving every issue. Where Caesar claims what is God’s, the claims of God have priority (Ac 4:19; 5:29). Still, Jesus’ pithy words not only answer his enemies but also lay down the basis for the proper relationship of his people to government. The profundity of his reply is amazing (v.22).’ (Carson)

‘Governmental authority is instituted by God and must be respected. (Pr 8:15 Dan 2:21,37-38 Rom 13 1 Pet 2:11-17) Yes, our citizenship is in heaven, (Php 3:20) and we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, but that does not mean we should ignore our earthly responsibilities. Human government is essential to a safe and orderly society, for man is a sinner and must be kept under control. Jesus was not suggesting that we divide our loyalties between God and government. Since the powers that be are ordained of God, (Rom 13:1) we live as good citizens when we obey the authorities for the Lords sake. When obedience to God conflicts with obedience to man, then we must put God first, (Ac 4:19-20 5:29) but we must do it in a manner that is honorable and loving. Even if we cannot respect the people in office, we must respect the office. The counsel that Jeremiah gave to the Jewish exiles in Babylon is a good one for Gods strangers and pilgrims to follow today: (Jer 29:4-7) Seek the peace of the city! Caesars image and name were on the coins, so it was basically his currency. To pay the poll tax meant simply to give Caesar back that which belonged to him. Gods image is stamped on us; therefore, he has the right to command our lives as citizens in his kingdom. We should seek to be such good citizens that God will be glorified and the unsaved will be attracted to the Gospel and want to become Christians. (1 Pet 2:9-12 3:8-17) It is unfortunate that some Christians have the mistaken idea that the more obnoxious they are as citizens, the more they please God and witness for Christ. We must never violate our conscience, but we should seek to be peacemakers and not troublemakers. Daniel is an example to follow (Dan. 1).’ (Wiersbe)

Anti-imperial theme?
Tom Wright insists that the gospel (according to Jesus himself) must be seen not only as a message of fulfilment of Jewish expectations but also as a message of subversion of the imperial (Roman) authorities:- ‘The message was carved in stone, on monuments and in inscriptions, around the known world: “Good news! We have an Emperor! Justice, Peace, Security, and Prosperity are ours forever! The Son of God has become King of the World!… ‘Augustus Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus.’ On the reverse is a picture of Tiberius dressed as a priest, with the title pontifex maximus. It was a coin like this one that they showed to Jesus of Nazareth, a day or two after he had ridden into Jerusalem… After all, as the propaganda insisted, the rule of Caesar, the Roman ‘son of god,’ was the ‘good news’ that had brought blessings and benefits to the whole world.’ (Simply Jesus, p30)

Scott McKnight, on the other hand, can find little evidence to support this idea: ‘No matter how much I’m personally inclined to want this set of ideas to be true, I’m not convinced the anti-imperial theme was as conscious to the apostles as some are suggesting. I would prefer to see the apostles just come out and say it… to proclaim the gospel entails that Caesar – in whatever guise such an autocrat presents himself – is not. But to claim the gospel was intentionally subversive stretches the evidence.’ (The King Jesus Gospel, p144).

Christ and culture

This saying ‘sums up the biblical theme that the institutions of society are part of God’s design of human living and as such are worthy of their legitimate allegiance. But at the heart of Christianity is the conviction that “the things of God” have a higher claim than the things of Caesar. Culture is always a secondary good.’ (NDCEPT)

Not a zealot

‘It should be noted that Jesus nowhere denounces the Romans or explicitly says anything politically subversive (cf. his masterly – and ambiguous – reply to the question over the tribute). He never calls for military or political action, and he flees to the hills when the crowd, excited by a feeding miracle, seeks to take him by force to make him king. (Jn 6:15) In the Sermon on the Mount he preaches non-violence and love of one’s enemies. At his arrest he rebukes the disciple who takes up his sword (Mt 26:52; cf. Jn 18:11). The conjecture sometimes put forward that Jesus was a zealot or military revolutionary cannot be maintained without doing violence to all this evidence.’ (DJG)

Marriage and the Resurrection, 23-33

22:23 The same day Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to him and asked him, 22:24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and father children for his brother.’ 22:25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children he left his wife to his brother. 22:26 The second did the same, and the third, down to the seventh. 22:27 Last of all, the woman died. 22:28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”
Mt 22:23–33 = Mk 12:18–27; Lk 20:27–40
22:29 Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God.

“You don’t know the scriptures” – Even though they had quoted the scriptures to him, their misunderstanding of them amounted to ignorance.

‘Had they known the Scriptures, they would have known that there is nothing in Deut 25:5-6 that makes in applicable to the life hereafter, and they would also have known that the Old Testament in various passages teaches the resurrection of the body.’ (William Hendriksen)

Charles Bridges: “All fundamental errors and heresies in the Church may be traced to this source – ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures’. (Mt 22:29) They are mostly based on partial or disjointed statements of truth. Truth separated from truth becomes error. Never has apostasy from the faith been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the word of God.”

Derek Flood thinks that ‘the key difference between Jesus and the Pharisees described in the Gospel accounts is in which narratives they chose to embrace.’  (Disarming Scripture, p52).  Jesus embraced the ‘right’ ones, whereas the Pharisees embraced the ‘wrong’ ones.  This opinion flies in the face of the evidence.  Jesus did not ever criticise the Pharisees for ’embracing the wrong biblical texts’ but rather for their hypocritical twisting of the texts to suit themselves.

22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

“People will neither marry nor be given in marriage” – ‘This would suggest that angels do not have the kind of family relationships that exist among human beings.’ (Grudem, Systematic theology)

Jesus does not say that there will be no marriage in heaven.  He says that people will neither marry nor be given in marriage.  The truth is that there will be marriage in heaven – the one marriage between Christ and his church.

‘Apparently the exclusive and intimate marriage relationship is a thing to be enjoyed in this age only. The pleasure and fulfilment it affords will be transcended by the intensity of our union with God himself and the fulfilment of our relationships with one another. God’s gift of sexual union will thus be no longer necessary either for reproduction (since like the angels we shall not reproduce, the earth already being filled with God’s redeemed family) or for personal fulfilment.’ (David Lawrence, Heaven – It’s Not The End Of The World, 104f). Stephen Travis says, ‘The exclusive sexual aspect of marriage…will be a thing of the past in God’s new world of deeply satisfying relationships amongst all God’s people.’

It is men who ‘marry’, and women who are ‘given in marriage’.  The two sexes will remain differentiated in heaven, although they will not marry each other.

Summarising the teaching of Augustine and Jerome on this matter, Martin Davie writes:

  1. ‘Jesus’ argument requires the existence of both men and women in heaven because, if there were not, then the issue of marriage would simply not arise.
  2. ‘The very concept of the resurrection of the dead involves the resurrection of the body. This must mean that people will be resurrected as men or women, since the bodies that God will raise up are either male bodies or female bodies.’

Does gender identity continue in the life to come?  ‘He did not respond by saying the question was completely irrelevant because marriage would be impossible, but only that present practices will cease. “You are in error,” he said, because “at the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” They will, in that regard, “be like the angels in heaven” (vv. 29–30). Indeed, the form of response given by Jesus should be understood as confirming the ongoing existence of human sexual identity per se.’ (Daniel R. Heimbach, in Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood)

Augustine pointed out that Jesus ‘affirmed that the [female] sex should exist [after the resurrection] by saying, “They shall not be given in marriage,” which can only apply to females; “Neither shall they marry,” which applies only to males. There shall therefore be those who are in this world accustomed to marry and be given in marriage, only they shall there make no such marriages.’

Like the angels in heaven – Jesus is having another dig at the Sadducees, because they did not believe in the reality of the spirit world, Acts 23:8.

Like them in that they do not marry.  But not like them in some other respects: for example, angels are spirits (Heb 1:14), whereas we shall still have bodies (John 5:28–29; Luke 24:39).

The Sadducees disbelieved in angels as well as in resurrection. Jesus goes out of his way to side with the angels as well as to side with the resurrection.

22:31 Now as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living!”

The quotation is from Ex 3:6.  Jesus’ point is that these three patriarchs had all died, and yet God is still (present tense) their God.

This saying ‘has often been used in support of man’s immortality. Staunch conservatives have noted, however, that Jesus uses the quotation to prove, not immortality, but the resurrection. The Lukan parallel (Luke 20:37–38) says that “to him all are alive,” but both the context and the argument point to the resurrection of those who belong to God, not the immortality of every person.’  (Fudge, Edward William. The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition (p. 26). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

22:33 When the crowds heard this, they were amazed at his teaching.

The Greatest Commandment, 34-40

22:34 Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. 22:35 And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: 22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 22:37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 22:39 The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 22:40 All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Mt 22:34–40 = Mk 12:28–31

Jesus had silenced the Sadducees – On the silencing of Christ’s enemies, see v46, and also Rom 3:19.

The question was a test, as in Mt 16:1; 19:3; 22:15-18.

“Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” – According to the scribes, the OT law contained 613 commands.

For other answers to this question, see Isa 33:15; Am 5:4; Mic 6:8; Hab 2:4. See also Mt 7:12.

The question was intended to trap Jesus, for he could easily have answered in such a way as to repudiate some of the commandments, and therefore of ‘annulling the law’ (on which see 5:17).

What question would Jesus’ enemies pose today, if they could?

Jesus quotes from the Shema, Deut 6:5. All Jews used this in their daily prayers. In the second part of his answer, Jesus quotes from Le 19:18. The combination of these two OT passages to provide a summary of law occurs again in Lk 10:25-28, but as a lawyer’s reply to Jesus’ question. Here it is the other way round. This should not surprise us. The passages are sufficiently different to demonstrate that the same episode has not been reported in two conflicting ways. And in any case, the two OT texts were frequently used in in Jewish ethical discussions, although there is no precedent for combining them in the form found in Matthew and Luke.

‘This teaching of the primacy of love is taken up by Paul in his statement that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8-10; cf. Gal 5:14 Jas 2:8), and has remained at the centre of Christian ethics ever since.’ (France)

“Heart…soul…mind” – These do not indicate separate parts of the human makeup, but are collectively refer to the totality of being. We are to love God deeply, not superficially; completely, not in part.

‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ –  Quoting Lev 19:18. In that passage, the neighbour was one’s fellow-Israelite, but in Mt 5:43-47 Jesus extends it to include even one’s enemy.

The second commandment is like the first: they stand together on their own level; they are interdependent.

The command to love others as yourself assumes self-love, but does not encourage it, much less demand it.

'Love your neighbour as yourself'

Baroness Thatcher was a ‘devout Christian’, according to Dr Eliza Filby, author of God and Mrs Thatcher.  She regularly attended the parish church at Chequers, regarded the life of Jesus as exemplary, and drew on the Bible to support her political values.

I will not call into question the sincerity of Baroness Thatcher’s faith.  But I will, however, comment on one rather glaring (mis)understanding of the teaching of Scripture.

As reported in Christianity magazine (June 2013), Filby says says that in the early 1980s the text “Love thy neighbour” was often appealed to in support of the welfare state.  Thatcher’s response was, “No, it’s not ‘love thy neighbour’, it’s ‘love thy neighbour as thyself”.”  Her point was that self-regard is the basis of concern for others; we have to take care of ourselves before we can fulfill our obligations to others.  The practical implication of this was to put the brakes on the welfare state.

Whatever might be the merits of this as politics, as an understanding of the Bible text itself it’s not very good.  It is rather surprising, then, to find so eminent a biblical scholar as Scott McKnight repeating the same idea, with reference to Jesus’ ethical teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:-

Love of neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 is rooted in proper love of self: “love your neighbor as yourself. ” The Golden Rule, the other great reduction of the Torah by Jesus (Matt 7:12), also rings the bell of self-love: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” There is then…a threefold dimension to the essence of Jesus’ moral vision: love of God, love of self, love of others. If Jesus explicitly reduces the Torah to loving God and loving others as oneself, then every ethical statement of Jesus somehow needs to be connected to the double commandment of love.

(The Story of God Bible Commentary, on The Sermon on the Mount)

As James Edwards (in his commentary on Romans 13:9) says, this doctrine of self-love ‘owes more to self-help psychology than to biblical theology.’  There are numerous commands in Scripture to love God and our neighbour, but none to love ourselves.

The command to “Love your neighbour as yourself” is found in Leviticus 19:18, and repeated (or, at least, referred to) in Mt 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mk 12:31,33; Lk 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; James 2:8 (some of these are parallels).  In none of these instances is any elaboration given of the expression ‘as yourself’.  All we can say is that self-love is assumed.  We cannot say that it is encouraged, still less demanded.  Moreover, Lev 19:18 ends with the statement, “For I am the Lord”, which directs attention away from ourselves and towards God.

‘The command “love your neighbor as yourself” is not a command to love both my neighbor and myself, but a command to love my neighbor as much as, in fact, I love myself. That is, self-love is not a virtue that Scripture commends, but one of the facts of our humanity that it recognizes and tells us to use as a standard. The best commentary is the Golden Rule: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12 NIV). We know instinctively in every situation how we would like to be treated; so let this knowledge determine our treatment of others.’ (Christ the Cornerstone: Collected Essays of John Stott)

What the command is saying, then, is that we are to love our neighbour in the same way that we do, in fact, love ourselves.  Given that we habitually love ourselves by putting ourselves and our wants and needs first, we could say that this commandment is urging us to put our neighbour (and her wants and needs) first.  That isn’t to say that we should cultivate self-loathing.  But it is to say that Margaret Thatcher got her biblical interpretation wrong on this occasion.  She’s not alone in that, of course.  But in her case it did have rather serious consequences.

All the other commandments depend on and flow from the two great commandments. For Jesus to have dispensed with the other commands would indeed be to have given a dangerous answer to the question that was intended to trap him.

For some, ‘the logical conclusion would seem to be that love makes commandments superfluous.’ (DJG, art. ‘The Kingdom of God’)

The Messiah: David’s Son and Lord, 41-46

22:41 While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them a question: 22:42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said, “The son of David.” 22:43 He said to them, “How then does David by the Spirit call him ‘Lord,’ saying,
22:44 ‘The Lord said to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ’?
22:45 If David then calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 22:46 No one was able to answer him a word, and from that day on no one dared to question him any longer.
Mt 22:41–46 = Mk 12:35–37; Lk 20:41–44

While the Pharisees were gathered together – Cf. v34; but we are not told that this was the same group of Pharisees or the same occasion. Still, the connection is obvious. Mk 12:35 tells us that the present confrontation took place in the temple. They were ‘in conference’, plotting against Jesus. There may be an echo of Ps 2:2.

What question would Jesus ask his enemies today?

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” – At first sight, this question seems an academic one, of the type that the scribes might have tested Jesus with. It is true to say that Jesus meets people ‘where they are’; but he does not leave them there, but rather leads them on by their own logic and arguments. But his motivation is not entrapment, but enlightenment, moving from the known to the unknown. And whereas their questions to him had been about the law, his question to them is about a person. ‘He did not hereby design to ensnare them, as they did him, but to instruct them in a truth they were loth to believe that the expected Messiah is God.’ (MHC)

Note that Jesus refers to the Christ in the third person. He focuses their attention not directly on himself (for they have already made up their minds about him), but on what the Scriptures say about him, in order that they might see the logic of the argument and the error of their thinking.

Since Jesus has regularly and recently be hailed as ‘the son of David’, he is clearly making his own status the issue. Nevertheless, he refused to reveal himself as Messiah until he had taught what the true meaning of Messiahship was. And his hearers needed to do a great deal of radical re-thinking.

“The son of David” – They could have cited scriptures such as 2 Sam 7:12-13; Ps 78:68-72; 89:3-4,20,24,28,34-37; Am 9:11; and Mic 5:2 in favour of this reply. Jesus has recently been acclaimed as ‘Son of David’ by the crowds (Mt 21:9,15), and the title has recurred at varying points in his ministry (Mt 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31). Although Jesus had never applied this title to himself, he had not denied the attribution either. The Jewish messianic expectation included the idea that the Christ would be descended from David and would sit on David’s throne. But, of course, the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry was not a throne but a cross.

Jesus is not about to deny that the Messiah is the son of David. The common understanding was not wrong, only inadequate. The identification is clearly made in Matthew’s Gospel, Mt 1:1,17; 9:27. It would continue to be made in the apostolic church, Rom 1:3. But Jesus is about to affirm that the title, especially as currently understood, was inadequate. The Christ is not merely David’s successor; he is David’s Lord. And his kingdom is as different as his authority is higher than that of David. How many conceptions of Christ are around today that are true, but not adequate?

‘Jesus was warning people against judging his mission in traditional terms. Far from being enthroned in Jerusalem as a king like David, he would soon be rejected by his people. But even then, on the cross, he would be recognized at last not as a son of David (the title does not occur again), but as Son of God (Mt 27:54).’ (NBC)

“David, speaking by the Spirit” – Literally, ‘David, in the Spirit’, an emphatic assertion of divine inspiration. It cannot be claimed that Jesus is using an ad hominem argument; that he is simply exploiting what was currently believed about the authorship of this psalm. Cf. 2 Pet 1:21. ‘The argument depends on Jesus’ explicit view that the Psalm was written by David, and that it refers to the Messiah, neither of which is endorsed by most modern critical scholarship, but both of which were apparently universally accepted among Jesus’ contemporaries.’ (France)

‘The method of argument is one familiar in Rabbinic debate, to set up two scriptural themes which are apparently in conflict (an “antimony”) and to seek for a resolution. The Gospels record only the antinomy of David’s son/David’s Lord), not the resolution, but we may fairly assume that it lies in the recognition of two levels of Messiahship, much as in Romans 1:3f Jesus is declared “descended from David according to the flesh” but also “Son of God in power…”…So Jesus is David’s son, but he is far more. And the political connotations which “Son of David” carried made it, on its own, a potentially misleading title, which Jesus never claimed for himself, though he defended the right of others to apply it to him (21:14-16).’ (France)

v24 The quotation is from Ps 110:1, where a literal translation would be, ‘Jehovah’ said unto my ‘Adonai…’

“‘The Lord said to my Lord'” – David’s son is also David’s Lord; the Messiah is both David’s human descendant and also divine Lord.

It was commonly accepted among the Rabbis that this passage referred to the Messiah.

“Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet” – Jehovah says to ‘David’s Master’, ‘Sit here, in the place of authority, honour and victory, until I place all your enemies in subjection to you.’ ‘His sitting denotes both rest and rule; his sitting at Gods right hand denotes superlative honour and sovereign power.’ (MHC) Cf. Eph 1:20 Php 2:9 Heb 8:1, and also Mt 28:18. And, of course, Jesus was quoting this to his very own enemies!

He sits at God’s right hand,
till all his foes submit,
and bow to his command,
and fall beneath his feet.

(Charles Wesley)

v45 Jesus does not give or receive an answer to his question. He has made his point. Those who are willing to have their eyes opened will go away and reflect and follow the logic through to its conclusion.

‘The clear result of the argument is that it is not adequate to call the Messiah Son of David. He is more than David’s son; he is also David’s Lord. When Jesus healed the blind men, they called him Son of David. (Mt 20:30) When he entered Jerusalem the crowds hailed him as Son of David. (Mt 21:9) Jesus is here saying, “It is not enough to call the Messiah Son of David. It is not enough to think of him as a Prince of David’s line and an earthly conqueror. You must go beyond that, for the Messiah is David’s Lord.”‘ (DSB)

v46 Thus ends this, the last of Jesus’ public confrontations with the Jewish rulers. And ‘thus the whole sequence of debate which began in 21:23 leaves Jesus in possession of the field.’ (France)

‘In this, the last of the controversial judgements in these two chapters, Jesus really puts his opponents on the spot. How could they possibly answer him? His claim to be both David’s son and David’s Lord is clear. The grounds on which that claim has been put forward are equally clear: the Gospel has been tabulating them since chapter 4. Why do they not believe him when the testimony of his words and works is so powerful? The answer is that they have chosen to believe a lie. They have blinded their eyes to the truth. They have wilfully turned away from the one who came to reconcile them with God. Woe has come to the leaders of Israel, and that is the subject of chapter 23.’ (Green)

‘What those Rabbis could not then answer, blessed be God, the plainest Christian that is led into the understanding of the gospel of Christ, can now account for; that Christ, as God, was David’s Lord; and Christ, as Man, was Davids son. This he did not now himself explain, but reserved it till the proof of it was completed by his resurrection; but we have it fully explained by him in his glory; (Rev 22:16) I am the root and the offspring of David. Christ, as God, was Davids Root; Christ, as Man, was Davids Offspring. If we hold not fast this truth, that Jesus Christ is over all God blessed for ever, we run ourselves into inextricable difficulties. And well might David, his remote ancestor, call him Lord, when Mary, his immediate mother, after she had conceived him, called him, Lord and God, her Saviour, Lk 1:46,47.’ (MHC)

‘Note, God will glorify himself in the silencing of many whom he will not glorify himself in the salvation of. Many are convinced, that are not converted, by the word. Had these been converted, they would have asked him more questions, especially that great question, What must we do to be saved? But since they could not gain their point, they would have no more to do with him. But, thus all that strive with their Master shall be convinced, as these Pharisees and lawyers here were, of the inequality of the match.’ (MHC)