Tag Archives: Matthew 22

Matthew 22: 34-46 The Heart of Scripture

By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, 00.159.143_PS2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10195994

Matthew 22: 34-46

Parallel Mark 12:28-37; Luke 10:25-28, 20:41-44

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 “What do you think of the Messiah?Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spiritcalls him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ‘? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Many of Jesus’ conflicts with religious leaders throughout Matthew’s gospel rotate around the interpretation of the law and prophets and Jesus’ identity. This final challenge from a religious teacher followed by Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees and sets the stage for Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees in the following chapter. Although Jesus’ declaration of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 being the central commandments of the law is not unique among Jewish readers of scripture, this passage forms a final lens which clarifies Jesus’ teaching and way of understanding scripture. This is one of the reasons I believe many readers misread the Sermon on the Mount, because they fail to read it through the lens of loving neighbor and instead understand it as an impossible burden of moralistic perfectionism. This way of reading scripture centered on loving God and neighbor allows us to read back through Matthew’s gospel and see how love and mercy become central to Jesus’ teaching and allows the disciple to hold the call to be complete in their living out of the law and the forgiveness of sinners together.

The translation of the questioner as a ‘lawyer’ (Greek nomikos) in our culture places us in the judicial sphere with a professional nuance that is not present at this time in history. Instead this is a person coming from a religious group with a particular way of reading scripture and this expert in the law is a scholar of the Torah (the first five books of the bible). (Sigal 2007, 21) The question, which in Matthew is asked as a test or temptation rather than Mark’s more positive portrayal, asks Jesus for clarification on how he reads scripture. In Luke’s gospel Jesus turns the question back to the questioner, but in Matthew and Mark it is Jesus who gives us this central way of understanding the law and the prophets. The addressing of Jesus as ‘teacher’ combined with Matthew’s statement that the question is ‘to test him’ and the lawyer’s association with the Pharisees prepare us to expect that the questioner will not respond to the answer in the openness of faith. Yet, like the previous conflict with the Sadducees, the answer will silence this questioning ‘lawyer.’

The question of how to interpret scripture rightly is an important one in any generation, and Matthew’s gospel has slowly been opening the law and the prophets to the attentive reader throughout. Central to Jesus’ ministry has been a merciful reading of scripture where Hoses 6:6, ”I desire mercy and not sacrifice” has been used multiple times (9:13, 12:7) to point to a different way of understanding scripture than Jesus’ opponents use. Now this double love commandment that, in Jesus view, form the foundation that all the law and prophets are built upon also highlights why this particular verse from Hosea can demonstrate Jesus’ merciful and prophetic way of reading scripture.

The Pharisees, as they are portrayed in Matthew, are operating from a different way of reading scripture, and although Jesus’ answer may not be something that they could dispute they still are not in harmony with Jesus’ way. Yet now Jesus turns to them and asks how they read scripture and how they understand the Christ (Messiah). Matthew has used the Son of David title for Jesus throughout, most recently in the entry to Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple (Matthew 21), but Matthew is not content to use this or any other title on its own to describe Jesus. Son of David may be a part of Jesus’ identity, but something greater than David is before these Pharisees. Psalm 110, for early followers of Christ, is frequently used to provide language to help explain who Jesus is[1]. Jesus reads these words as David speaking prophetically, which would not be an unusual way of thinking about the psalms, where the LORD the God of Israel speaks to ‘my lord’ and Jesus argues that one who David calls lord must be greater than David. These parables and conflicts in Matthew all occur in a day that begins with the chief priests and the elders questioning Jesus’ authority (21:23) and although Jesus’ has continually alluded to the answer, once more Jesus links the title of Christ/Messiah to one greater than the Son of David. Now that the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the rest of the religious teachers are silenced for the moment, Jesus is about to proclaim judgement on both the religious leaders and the temple.

[1] For example, the book of Hebrew picks up on Psalm 110:6 in Hebrews 5-7 referring to Jesus as a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Matthew 22: 23-33 One Bride for Seven Brothers

By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, 00.159.143_PS2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10195994

Matthew 22: 23-33

Parallels Mark 12: 18-27, Luke 20: 27-40

23 The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection;and they asked him a question, saying, 24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. 26 The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman herself died. 28 In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”

29 Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angelsin heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.

The second conflict story in this pattern of three shifts opponents to the Sadducees. This is the second time in Matthew the Sadducees are mentioned as challenging Jesus, previously they were mentioned with the Pharisees in Matthew 16:1-4, but now in Jerusalem they act on their own. Their question uses the practice of Levirate marriage and a story of one bride for seven brothers to mock the idea that both Jesus and the Pharisees apparently preached of the resurrection. Even though this is the only time the Sadducees are explicitly mentioned in the final week in Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders were probably composed mainly of Sadducees, and the silencing of the Sadducees before the crowds contributes to their desire to end the words of Jesus.

Just as the Pharisees and the Herodians can work together for mutually beneficial purposes, the Sadducees have maintained their power in the temple through their relationship with Rome. There is an old Christian saying that Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so they were sad-you-see, and while this is a catchy play on words it misses the point of who the Sadducees are. The Sadducees, like much of the Hebrew Scriptures, do not have a concept of the resurrection and their belief that God’s blessings are a part of their experience in the world is probably confirmed in their minds by the more affluent priestly positions they occupied. Their faith centers on the first five books of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and particularly their actions as the cultic leaders for the temple.

The story that the Sadducees use focuses on the practice of Levirate marriage (the term comes from the Latin levir meaning husband’s brother, not Leviticus) which is outlined in Deuteronomy 25:5-10

When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out in Israel. Deuteronomy 25: 5-6

This practice is active in both the stories of Tamar (Genesis 38, Matthew 1:3) and Ruth (Ruth 4, Matthew 1:5) and was to ensure security for the widow by providing her both with a household and children (who will take care of her in old age), The story of seven brothers and one bride takes the practice to a ridiculous end, which is intentional, as the Sadducees attack the belief in a resurrection which they found contrary to their reading of scripture.

Jesus claims they have been led astray (Greek planao) in both their knowledge of scripture and their understanding of God’s power. Jesus answers first from God’s power to transform humanity in the resurrection where the values of securing one’s future through familial ties and reproduction are no longer important. In challenging the Sadducees’ reading of Moses, Jesus returns to God’s initial call of Moses where God refers to Godself as: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3: 6) Even though the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died millennia earlier, Jesus refers to this ancient self-titling of God to point to both an ongoing relationship between God and these patriarchs and that the promises God made to them have not been broken by death. As Richard B. Hays, following J. Gerald Janzen, can state:

ust as God delivered and saved the patriarchs, so he will do for his people in their plight in Egypt. Furthermore, if God acted to deliver his people from the “death” of slavery in Egypt, surely he will do so again in the future—not precisely in the same way, but in ways that are recognizably analogous. Consequently, Jesus’ use of Exodus 3:6 in support of the resurrection—that claim that God will finally save his beloved people from death—is nothing other than a metaphorical extension of the Exodus theophany claim. (Hays 2020, 59)

Jesus’ claim and repurposing of the title God claims as the God of Moses’ father, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob places the resurrection of the dead alongside God’s work to fulfill God’s promises to God’s people. The language of raising up seed (NRSV childless, the Greek is sperma where we get the English sperm) which is used frequently in the Hebrew scriptures in the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The failure of the seven brothers to ‘raise up seed’ for the first one corresponds to the misunderstanding of the scriptures and the power of God that the Sadducees have in their inability to believe God will raise the dead. In a manner, Jesus points to a sterility in their claims which matches the sterility in their story. Only a God who can raise up children for ones as good as dead and who can raise the dead can open their eyes where they have been led astray. In Matthew, Jesus comes out the victor in the eyes of the crowd and the Sadducees are silenced. Yet, the conflict between Jesus and those in religious authority will continue until his death.

Matthew 22:15-22 Rendering to Caesar and God

Roman Denarius Depicting Caesar Augustus

Matthew 22: 15-22

Parallels Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Three parables are followed by three challenges of Jesus’ authority as the Pharisees and Sadducees attempt to respond to Jesus in this charged situation. The Pharisees, which have been in conflict with Jesus from early in his ministry, now reemerge as those challenging his authority and putting him to the test. Jesus’ response to their question, which is often lifted out of its context and used with a couple other texts, particularly Romans 13:1-7, by many conservative Christians as a basis for a church/state theology where being a Christian means being serving those in political power, but for those who listen to Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ message should understand that something much greater lies underneath these words and the way Jesus skillfully answers the question that is designed to either alienate Jesus from the crowds or to give the religious leaders a way to paint Jesus as an insurrectionist to the Romans.

Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of heaven presents an alternative to the bloody peace of the pax Romana, and yet throughout Matthew, Jesus often subverts the way of Rome from within. Jesus’ presence has resulted in reaction from those with political power since his birth, and yet Jesus has not sought out direct conflict with those in power but has instead modeled a way of peacemaking that is an alternative to the ways of the empire. This is the second time Jesus has been asked about taxes in Matthew and, as in 17:24-27, Jesus finds a way to grant to temple or Caesar what they claim without impinging on God’s claims. It is also important to remember the audacious claim of Israel’s faith: that their God is not merely the God of Israel, but the God of all the nations and God can use the nations, whether they are aware of it or not, to be forces of judgment and blessing for Israel. In the revised common lectionary this text is paired with Isaiah 45:1-7 where God anoints Cyrus the Great for God’s mysterious purposes. The prophet Jeremiah dealt with people who withheld tribute from Babylon, an unforgivable move from not only Babylon’s perspective but also in Jeremiah’s understanding, of God’s. As Rabbi Binyamin Lau can state:

Jeremiah keeps returning to his most deeply held principles: God controls geopolitics, and He has chosen Nebuchadnezzar to rule the world at this time. The decision cannot be revoked, and anyone who rebels against it is in fact rebelling against God. (Lau 2010, 141)

In the parable which precedes this question, it is probable that Matthew understands Rome’s destruction of the temple and the city in 70 CE as God’s working through Rome in judgment of the leaders refusal to accept the invitation to meet the bridegroom (22:1-14) or present the harvest as in the second parable of the series (21:33-46).

I’m writing this at the end of a contentious election cycle in the United States, and while many Christians may tacitly acknowledge that God is the ruler of all the nations, there is an amazing propensity to try to turn that God into a tribal god who is primarily concerned for one group or nation and to align religious and political power in unhealthy ways. We know that in Jesus’ time there was significant political unrest in Galilee and Jerusalem with the Roman rule and occupation, but there was also coordination between political and religious authorities for mutually beneficial purposes. IAlthough very little is known about the Pharisees as a group in Jesus’ time, and the two primary sources we have: the gospels (where the Pharisees are continually in conflict with Jesus and his disciples) and Josephus, who writes in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, must be read closely and at the same time critically. I have attempted to limit the Pharisees, as they are portrayed in the gospel, to a group Jesus was in conflict with and allow the story to illustrate the nature of that conflict. What we can point to is the Pharisees, as portrayed in Matthew coordinate with the Herodians, presumably those allied with Herod Antipas who is ruling in Galilee, and with the Pharisees’ presence in conflict with Jesus in Galilee it is reasonable to assume that Matthew sees some alignment between the Pharisees and Herod Antipas’ desire to assume the mantle of his father, Herod the Great. Narratively it would make sense that the Pharisees alignment with power in the person of Herod and the Sadducees alignment with Pilate would be a continuation of their struggle for power among Israel. I have also suggested that John the Baptists’ and Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees may be linked to the accommodation they’ve made with these powers.

Any question of what is permissible is bound to be contentious, and this has been a frequent part of the challenges Jesus has encountered from the Pharisees (12:2,4,10; 19:3), it was how John the Baptist challenged Herod Antipas’ relationship with Herodias (14:4) and how Jesus, in a parable, challenges those unhappy with the ‘housemaster’ paying each worker the same. (20:15) The question is framed to entrap Jesus as either in rebellion against Roman authority or being viewed by the crowd as sympathetic to Rome. Jesus’ answer, which uses the imagery and inscription of Roman coinage, coinage which would not be accepted in the temple because of the image and the claims made by the inscription about Caesar being a ‘son of a god’, both accepts and qualifies Roman authority. Rome may demand the coinage they mint, and yet God’s claim on the disciples is far greater. There may be times where to resist authority is to resist God who is in control of geopolitics, but even when the empire doesn’t know the God of Israel its authority is contingent upon God’s sometimes mysterious work in the world and the nations.

Christians of every time have had to navigate between when they can accommodate the practices of the empire and when they must prophetically resist. When it comes to taxes to the temple (17:24-27) or Rome, Jesus points to a way to render to Rome and temple what belongs to them without losing one’s primary allegiance to God. Much of the New Testament involves the early Christian church navigating their citizenship of the kingdom of heaven within the world of the Roman empire. Two thousand years later, Christians still have to navigate their primary allegiance to God and the often bellicose demands of nation, culture and one’s political tribe. As St. Paul would say in Romans, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) while at the same time insisting that followers of Christ are not to be “conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of you minds, so that you may discern the will of God.” (12:2) Just as Jesus reframed the question of the Pharisees, so modern Christians will often have to reframe the questions the culture asks them based on their understanding of the will of God.  

Matthew 22: 1-14 The Call of the King

By Bernardo Strozzi – Own work, Daderot, 2013-09-25 11:42:46, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33266293

Matthew 22: 1-14

Parallel Luke 14: 15-24

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This final parable continues to be challenging for many modern readers of Matthew who struggle with the wrathful king’s judgment on both those who reject their calling and on the improperly attired guest. Many scholars who view the versions of this parable in Matthew and Luke coming from a common source argue that Luke’s easier to reconcile version is closer to the parable that Jesus originally told as a way of distancing themselves from the portions of the parable which make them uncomfortable. Yet, Matthew’s version uses several prophetic motifs which are probably unfamiliar to many modern readers of the New Testament which are worth slowing down to engage and hear. Perhaps Matthew has something to teach our communities about the way we attempt to eliminate God’s judgment because it is uncomfortable for people living in peaceful, affluent communities very different from either Jesus or Matthew’s time.

Matthew groups parables together in a way that they build upon one another in a group of three. In hearing this parable, it is important to place it alongside the previous two vineyard parables (two sons and wicked stewards) as Jesus uses a new image, that of a wedding banquet. While there are images in Israel of people being invited to a great feast prepared by God for people, perhaps the best known coming in Isaiah 25: 6

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged-wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged-wines strained clear.

Yet, the idea that this feast is a wedding celebration is unique to Matthew and there is not an echo of God throwing a wedding banquet that I am aware of in either the Hebrew Scriptures or the Apocrypha. Yet, Matthew has used this image previously in 9:15 with Jesus referring to his disciples’ conduct during his presence among them:

And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will mourn.”

This image of a wedding celebration will also link this parable to the first parable in the next and final set of parables in 25: 1-13. The parable links both images of the feast of rich foods prepared by God for all people and with the identity of Jesus as the bridegroom and son of the king in Matthew.

Yet, the story turns upon the rejection of the call of those who are called. The Greek work kaleo (to call) occurs frequently throughout this narrative as the king sends his slaves to call the ones ‘having been called.’ In our culture we think of invitations as optional, but these who have been called to appear by the king and snub that call by extension reject the authority of the king to summon them. As Warren Carter notes, “Refusing the king’s invitation is tantamount to rebellion.” (Carter 2001, 434)  This is heightened by the action of those who seize, mistreat, and kill the slaves sent[1] who like the vineyard workers in the previous parable invite, and in the answer of the hearers of the previous parable require the ‘housemaster’ and now the king to “put those wretches to a miserable death.” (21:41)

The wrath[2] of the king is perhaps difficult to many modern readers who are used to thinking about God as unemotional or immovable, but these modern conceptions of God are based more on Greek philosophical ideals rather than the God of the scriptures. A God who sends his loyal slaves over and over with the hope of a harvest or the invitation to the celebration of the wedding of his Son, only to see these slaves mistreated and killed is compelled to act on behalf of the slaves. If, as most interpreters assume, Matthew is using this parable as an explanation of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Rome in 70 CE (destroyed those murders and burned their city) they seem unable to reconcile this God who invites with the God who destroys. Yet, perhaps this says more about our unwillingness to stand under God’s judgment or our desire to take judgment into our own hands. That God’s troops would include the Roman legions which destroyed Jerusalem, who like Babylon and Persia previously had served God’s purposes without knowing it, should not surprise, nor should the experience of  God’s people receiving judgment for being unwilling to respond to God’s continued call.

I am not a fire and brimstone preacher, as a Lutheran pastor I’d rather focus on the grace of God, but I’ve also come to understand that the wrath of God or anger of God is not the opposite of God’s grace. God is angry because God care: God cares about the slave sent to carry the message, God cares about the wedding banquet which they have been invited to, and, although it may seem strange to modern ears, God does care about the called ones. The God of Israel may be patient and slow to anger, but this God will not be taken for granted. God continues to desire repentance and is willing to continue to send those precious to God to seek a change, but eventually God’s patience becomes too costly for those who carry God’s message, and like the saints under the altar in Revelation 6: 9-11 they cry out,“Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth.

That Jesus, and Matthew, understand God at work in the movement of the nations is a part of the bold claim of the faith of Israel that their God is not only their God, but the creator of the world and the Lord over all nations. This may be challenging for modern believers who have separated the spiritual world from the political world and who may be slightly embarrassed to suggest that God can be at work in the world in strange and mysterious ways, but that also highlights the way culture has changed our faith. The early followers of Jesus could trust that God’s kingdom would come into the world, that God’s will would be done on earth just as they assumed it was done in heaven. This is faith was an openness to perceive the ways that God was at work in the world, an awareness of the time they found themselves within with the bridegroom, and a trust that while God will is ultimately good for them, for the people of God and for all the nations, God the creator of the world should neither be tamed or domesticated into a household god that served the desires of those who called upon the name of the Lord.

There is a common strand with this parable and wisdom literature where the character of wisdom is not heeded:

Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you ignored my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and you calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me, but will not find me. Proverbs 1: 24-28 (see also Proverbs 8:35-36 and Jeremiah 6:16-17)

There is an call from their God (or from Wisdom on behalf of God) which is refused, and although the call is extended with the hope that the called ones will finally turn (or repent) the continued reality of rejection is not met with indifference by God. Yet, this rejection can also be used in strange ways to extend the invitation to others. In the parable now the slaves are sent to the crossroads or the roads leading out of town to gather everyone to the banquet, both good and bad, filling the wedding celebration with guests. Just as the tax collectors and prostitutes heard John the Baptist’s message and turned even though the Pharisees and Sadducees did not (21:31) now those on the streets find themselves in the wedding hall.

The final scene of this parable, unique to Matthew, with the guest not wearing the proper attire has also caused distress for many readers for the same reason as the earlier judgment, and again many scholars want to view this as an addition to the original parable of Jesus, but before we pass judgment on it, perhaps we should hear it out. Just as the rejection by the ones called to the banquet was tantamount to rebellion, so is being present in a way that is disrespectful to the host. We often assume referring to someone as ‘friend’ assumes intimacy, but in Matthew’s gospel, and in ancient cultures, it can imply a power differential or distance between the speaker and hearer. (20:13, 26:50) The fact that one is invited later does not give one permission not to heed counsel or ignore reproof, and as Matthew’s gospel has focused on building a community of Christ where the actions of the individuals in the community matter, just as the original invitees can find themselves encountering their king’s wrath, so can the newly invited.

One final word, Matthew’s gospel paradoxically is viewed both as the most Jewish and the most hostile to the Jewish people, since these parables and many other things we will encounter in these final chapters have often been read in a supersessionist way by Christians.  I will continue to address this as we move through these final chapters, but it is important to note that in this parable those invited are still a part of the king’s original people, not from new nations, and throughout these parables what are sought are more responsive sons, tenants, and subjects, not a new people. Much of Jesus’ conflicts will be with the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the Sadducees and the Pharisees and not with the people as a whole, and Jesus’ life from the beginning of Matthew is to, “save his people from their sins.” (1:21) That Jesus, like the prophets (or in the parables slaves), who went before him challenges the leaders of the people is a part of the reason the people are able to see him as a prophet, and like the prophets his calls often fall upon ears that cannot hear. Yet, I think Matthew would echo Paul when he says to Gentile Christians who came to be a part of the community of Christ:

But if some branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Romans 11: 17-21

[1] The word for sent is the verb apostello where we get our English apostle (sent ones).

[2] This is the Greek orgizo, which is the verbal form of orge, which often is used to refer to the wrath of God in judgment against God’s people (for example in Exodus) or upon those in continued rebellion in Revelation.

Death and Taxes


The only two certainties are the things we dread
For the notion of control gets stuck in our head
How can death take the life we try so hard to live
Or a government tell us how much income we have to give
For it is all about control of our lives and our share
Yet death and taxes are a burden we all bear
Is it lawful to render to Caesar we complain
Please tell us it’s our to hold and sustain
Don’t tell us to render to God the things God is due
We’d rather bicker and argue to fight to sue
Tell us somehow that by growing our bottom line
That our place in the kingdom will be just fine
Not to sell our possessions of give them away
Or to render to Caesar our portion to pay
Yet if we put our treasure where our heart should be
We would give more away and hold on less tightly
For in a world of death and taxes we scrimp and pinch
We dread each penny lost and charge for each inch
But perhaps in a world death no longer holds sway
And taxes aren’t needed to fund things anyway
In a dream of a kingdom, this strange peculiar dream
Where the people of the king don’t hold onto anything
When someone is in need they simply give things away
And all can eat and drink at the feast where no one has to pay
A dream that is so foreign to you and to me
Where death and taxes are not certainty
Neil White, 2014
A little rhyming fun with Matthew 22:21