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22. Parables and Teachings

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

15Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

23The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, 24Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 25Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: 26Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. 27And last of all the woman died also. 28Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. 29Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. 31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, 32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. 33And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

34But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22:1. And Jesus answering. Though Matthew relates this parable among other discourses which were delivered by Christ about the time of the last Passover, yet as he does not specify any particular time, and as Luke expressly affirms that Christ delivered this discourse while he sat at table in the house of a Pharisee, I have thought it better to follow this order. The design which Matthew had in view was, to point out the reasons why the scribes were excited to the highest pitch of fury; and therefore he properly placed it in the midst of those discourses which were hateful to them, and interwove it with those discourses, without attending to the order of time. But we must attend to Luke’s narrative, who says that, when one of those who sat at table with him said, Blessed is he that eateth bread in the kingdom of God, Christ took occasion from it to upbraid the Jews with ingratitude. It is by no means probable, that the guest and friend of a Pharisee broke out into this exclamation from any sincere feeling of piety. Still, I do not look upon it as having been spoken in derision; but, as persons who have a moderate knowledge of the faith, and are not openly wicked, are in the habit of indulging, amidst their cups, in idle talk about eternal life, I think that this man threw out a remark about future blessedness, in order to draw out some observation in return from Christ. And his words make it manifest, that he had nothing in view beyond what was gross and earthly; for he did not employ the phrase, eat bread, as a metaphor for enjoy eternal life, but appears to have dreamed of I know not what state, filled with prosperity and abundance of all things. The meaning is, Blessed shall they be who shall eat the bread of God, 291291     “Qui seront nourris de Dieu;”— “who shall be fed by God.” after that he has collected his children into his kingdom.

2. The kingdom of heaven is like a human king As it was long ago said by a Spartan, that the Athenians knew what was right, but did not choose to practice it; so Christ now brings it as a reproach against the Jews, that they gave utterance to beautiful expressions about the kingdom of God, but, when God kindly and gently invited them, they rejected his grace with disdain. There is no room to doubt that the discourse is expressly levelled against the Jews, as will more plainly appear a little afterwards.

Matthew and Luke differ in this respect, that Matthew details many circumstances, while Luke states the matter summarily, and in a general manner. Thus, Matthew says that a king made a marriage for his son: Luke only mentions a great supper The former speaks of many servants, while the latter refers to no more than one servant; the former describes many messages, the latter mentions one only; the former says that some of the servants were abused or slain, the latter speaks only of their being treated with contempt. Lastly, the former relates that a man was cast out, who had gone in to the marriage without a wedding garment, of which Luke makes no mention. But we have formerly pointed out a similar distinction, that Matthew, in explaining the same thing, is more copious, and enters into fuller details. There is a remarkable agreement between them on the main points of the parable.

God bestowed on the Jews distinguished honor, by providing for them, as it were, a hospitable table; but they despised the honor which had been conferred upon them. The marriage of the king’s son is explained by many commentators to mean, that Christ is the end of the Law, (Romans 10:4.) and that God had no other design in his covenant, than to make him the Governor of his people, and to unite the Church to him by the sacred bond of a spiritual marriage. I have no objection to that view. But when he says, that the servants were sent to call those who were invited, these words are intended to point out a double favor which the Jews had received from God; first, in being preferred to other nations; and, secondly, in having their adoption made known to them by the prophets. The allusion is to a practice customary among men, that those who intended to make a marriage drew up a list of the persons whom they intended to have as guests, and afterwards sent invitations to them by their servants. In like manner, God elected the Jews in preference to others, as if they had been his familiar friends, and afterwards called them by the prophets to partake of the promised redemption, which was, as it were, to feast at a marriage It is true that those who were first invited did not live till the coming of Christ; but we know that all received an offer of the same salvation, of which they were deprived by their ingratitude and malice; for from the commencement, God’s invitation was impiously despised by that people. 292292     “Ce peuple-la a vileinement et meschamment mesprise l’honneur auquel Dieu le convioit;” — “that people basely and wickedly despised the honor to which God invited them.”

4. Again he sent other servants. He speaks as if it had been the same persons who were invited, for it was one body of the people. The meaning is, that when the happy and joyful day of redemption drew near, they were warned to be ready; for they had been long ago informed as to the time. But now Christ told them that, at the very hour, fresh messengers were sent to entreat them to come with haste; for the first invitation which he mentions includes all the former prophecies, down to the publication of the Gospel. For a long period, they exercised cruelty on the prophets; but their fury grew as the time advanced, and at length spent all its force on Christ and the apostles. For this reason, he charges the ancient people with nothing more than contempt and pride, but says, that the servants who had been last sent, and who arrived at the hour of supper, were abused or slain. That people arrived at the highest pitch of their crimes, when their haughty rejection of his grace was followed by the madness of cruelty. And yet he does not charge all of them equally with crime; for even at the latest call, which was given by the Gospel, the grace of God was in part ridiculed by careless despisers, and in part was furiously rejected by hypocrites. And thus it usually happens, that ungodly men break out into fiercer rage against God, in proportion to the earnestness with which he invites them to salvation.

We must now consider that part of doctrine which is conveyed both by Matthew and by Luke. One went to his field, and another to his merchandise; or, as Luke expresses it, one pleaded that he had married a wife; another that he had purchased a field; and another that he had bought five yoke of oxen. By these words Christ pronounces the Jews to have been so entirely devoted to the world and to earthly things, that no man found leisure to approach to God; for the cares of this world, when we become entangled by them, are so many impediments in our way to keep us back from the kingdom of God. It is truly base and shameful, that men who were created for a heavenly life, should be under the influence of such brutish stupidity, as to be entirely carried away after transitory things. But this disease is universally prevalent; so that hardly one person in a hundred can be found, who prefers the kingdom of God to fading riches, or to any other kind of advantages. Though all are not infected with the same disease, every man is led away by his desires; in consequence of which, all are wandering in various directions.

Besides, it deserves our attention, that ungodly men hold out fair pretences for rejecting the grace of God; as if their indolence might be excused, because they are entirely occupied with the affairs of the present life, and care little about a heavenly inheritance. But we see how Christ takes from us all such excuses, that no man may imagine it to be of any advantage for him to plead that he is detained by engagements of an earthly nature. On the contrary, men commit a double fault, when they allow themselves to be retarded by those things which are in themselves lawful, and which ought rather to have aided their progress. For why does God allow us the conveniences of the present life, but in order to draw us to himself? And yet so far is it from being true, that all have earnest desires towards heaven, in proportion as they are assisted by acts of the Divine kindness, that even holy marriage, and fields, and other riches, are so many snares to bind every man more closely to the earth.

7. But when the king heard it. This punishment is mentioned by Matthew alone; for Luke makes no mention of any outrage committed on the servants. Both concur in stating, that those who did not come at the appointed time were shut out, and deprived of the honor of being present at the banquet. But this doctrine applies equally to us; for the same destruction which Christ denounces against the Jews awaits all the ungodly, who violently oppose the ministers of the Gospel. Those who are so entirely occupied with earthly cares, as to set no value on the divine invitation, will at length perish miserably in famine and want; and therefore, whenever God calls us, let us be prepared and ready to follow.

9. Go therefore to the highways. Having shown that they are unworthy of the grace of God who disdainfully reject it when offered to them, he now says that their place is supplied by others, by the mean and despised common people. And here is described the calling of the Gentiles, which is to excite the Jews to jealousy, as we have it in the Song of Moses;

They have provoked me by those who are not gods, and I will provoke them by that which is not a people, and by a foolish nation will I enrage them,
(Deuteronomy 32:21.)

Having been first elected, they imagined that the grace of God was bound to them, as if God could not want them; and how haughtily they despised all others is well known. Thus by way of admission, he compares the Gentiles to the poor, the blind, and the lame. He says that they are called from the cross-roads, and from the streets, as strangers and unknown persons; but yet declares that they will occupy that place which friends and domestics had treated with indifference. What the prophets had obscurely foretold about creating a new church is now plainly expressed. This dishonor was the completion of the divine vengeance on the Jews, when God

cut them off, and ingrafted wild branches into
the stock of the olive-tree, (Romans 11:17;)

when he threw them off, and received the polluted and filthy Gentiles into his house. But if at that time he spared not the natural branches, (Romans 11:21,) the same punishment will this day be inflicted on us, if we do not answer to his call. The supper which had been prepared for us will not be lost, but God will invite other guests.

Matthew 22:11. And the king, having come in to see the guests. Here Christ does not reproach the Jews with having wickedly despised the grace and calling of God; but gives early warning to those who would be placed in their room, not to pollute with their filth the holy marriage, when God shall bestow upon them admission to his table. Hitherto he has taught that the Jews, on account of their ungodly and disdainful conduct, would be deprived of the peculiar honor and privilege which they had enjoyed; and that from among the irreligious and abhorred Gentiles would men be called to occupy their place. But now he threatens that, out of this very number, those who bring reproach upon the Church will be expelled; for God invites all indiscriminately by the Gospel, and thus many unholy and abominable persons creep in, who, though for a time they are admitted along with others, yet, when God reviews the guests, will be thrown out and dragged to punishment. The general truth conveyed is, that not all who have once entered the Church will become partakers of everlasting life, but only those who are found to wear the dress which befits the heavenly palace.

As to the wedding garment, is it faith, or is it a holy life? This is a useless controversy; for faith cannot be separated from good works, nor do good works proceed from any other source than from faith. But Christ intended only to state, that the Lord calls us on the express condition of our being renewed by the Spirit after his image; and that, in order to our remaining permanently in his house, we must put off the old man with his pollutions, (Colossians 3:9; Ephesians 4:22,) and lead a new life, that the garment may correspond to so honorable a calling. But a question arises, how comes it that a beggar is punished so severely for not bringing a wedding garment; as if it were unusual to see the wretched people, who beg their bread on the public roads, wearing tattered and ugly clothes? I reply, the question is not as to the manner in which the garment is to be procured; for whomsoever the Lord invites he at the same time supplies with clothing, and in all of us is fulfilled what Ezekiel says, (16:6-14,) that God finds nothing in us but wretchedness, and nakedness, and abominable filth, but adorns us with magnificent attire. We know also, that there is no other way in which we are formed anew after the image of God, but by putting on Christ, (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27.) It is not, therefore, the declaration of Christ, that the sentence of casting them into outer darkness will be executed on wretched men who did not bring a costly garment taken from their own wardrobe, but on those who shall be found in their pollution, when God shall come to make a scrutiny of his guests.

14. For many are called, but few are chosen. The object of the parable is pointed out by the conclusion, that few are chosen, though many are called; from which we infer, that we ought not to attempt an ingenious explanation of every minute clause. But lately, Christ did not threaten that the greater part would be thrown out, but mentioned one man only; and now we learn from him, that out of a large number few will be retained. And certainly, though in the present day a more numerous body of men is collected into the Church by the Gospel than was formerly collected by the Law, it is but a small portion of them whose faith is evinced by newness of life. Let us not flatter ourselves with the empty title of faith, but let every man seriously examine himself, that at the final review he may be pronounced to be one of the lawful guests; for, as Paul reminds us, that the vessels in the Lord’s house are not all of the same kind, so

let every one that calleth on the name of the Lord
depart from iniquity, (2 Timothy 2:19,20.)

I enter no farther, at present, into the question about the eternal election of God; for the words of Christ mean nothing more than this, that the external profession of faith is not a sufficient proof that God will acknowledge as his people all who appear to have accepted of his invitation. 293293     “Tous ceux qui semblent s’estre rangez sous son enseigne;” — “all those who appear to have ranked themselves under his banner.”

Matthew 22:15. That they might entrap him in his words. The Pharisees, perceiving that all their other attempts against Christ had been fruitless, at length concluded that the best and most expeditious method of destroying him was, to deliver him to the governor, as a seditious person and a disturber of the peace. There was at that time, as we have seen under another passage, 5959     Harmony, vol. 2, p. 368 a great disputing among the Jews about the tribute-money; for, since the Romans had claimed for themselves the tribute-money, which God commanded to be paid to Himself under the Law of Moses, (Exodus 30:13,) the Jews everywhere complained that it was a shameful and intolerable crime for profane men to lay claim, in this manner, to a divine prerogative; besides that, as this payment of tribute, which was enjoined on them by the Law, was a testimony of their adoption, they looked upon themselves as deprived of an honor to which they had a just claim. Now the deeper any man’s poverty was, 6060     “Selon qu’un chacun estoit plus poure, et n’avoit rien à perdre;” — “according as any man was poorer, and had nothing to lose.” Harmony, vol. 2. the bolder did it render him to raise sedition.

This trick of taking Christ by surprise is therefore continued by the Pharisees, that, in whatever way he reply as to the tribute money, they may lay snares for him. If he affirm that they ought not to pay, he will be convicted of sedition. If, on the contrary, he acknowledge it to be justly due, he will be held to be an enemy of his nation, and a betrayer of the liberty of his country. Their principal object is, to lead the people to dislike him. This is the entrapping to which the Evangelists refer; for they suppose that Christ is surrounded on all sides by nets, so that he can no longer escape. Having avowed themselves to be his enemies, and knowing that they would, on that account, be suspected, they put forward — as Matthew statessome of their disciples. Luke, again, calls them spies, who pretended to be righteous men; that is, persons who deceitfully professed an honest and proper desire to learn: for the pretense of righteousness is not here used in a general sense, but is limited to the present occasion, because they would not have been received, had they not made a pretense of docility and of genuine zeal.

With the Herodians. They take along with them the Herodians, because they were more favorable to the Roman government, and therefore would be more disposed to raise an accusation. It is worthy of attention that, though those sects had fierce contentions with each other, so bitter was their hatred against Christ, that they conspired to destroy him. What the sect of the Herodions was, we have formerly explained 6161     Harmony, vol 2, p. 282. for, Herod being only half a Jew, or a spurious and corrupt professor of the Law, those who desired that the Law should be kept with exactness and in every part, condemned him and his impure worship; but he had his flatterers, who gave plausible excuses for his false doctrine. In addition to the other sects, therefore, there sprung up at that time a religion of the Court.

16. Master, we know that thou art true. This is the righteousness which they counterfeit, when they offer humble subjection to Christ, as if they were desirous to learn, and as if they not only had some relish for piety, but also were fully convinced of his doctrine; for if what they said had been from the heart, this would have been true uprightness. And therefore from their words we may obtain a definition of a good and faithful teacher, such as they pretended to believe Christ to be. They say that he is true, and teaches the way of God; that is, he is a faithful interpreter of God, and that he teaches it in truth; that is, without any corruption. The way of God is contrasted with the inventions of men, and with all foreign doctrines; and truth is contrasted with ambition, covetousness, and other wicked dispositions, which usually corrupt the purity of instruction. So then he ought to be reckoned a true teacher, who does not introduce the contrivances of men, or depart from the pure word of God, but gives out, as it were, with his hands what he has learned from the mouth of God, and who, from a sincere desire of edification, accommodates his doctrine to the advantage and salvation of the people, and does not debase it by any disguise. As to this latter clause, when Paul asserts that he

does not make merchandise of the word of God,
(2 Corinthians 2:17,)

he means that there are some persons who use dexterity, and do not openly overturn sound doctrine, or incur the disgrace of holding wicked opinions, but who disguise and corrupt the purity of doctrine, because they are ambitious, or covetous, or easily turned in various directions according to their earnest desire. He therefore compares them to jockeys, (κυπηλλεύοντες,) because they deprave the pure use of the word of God.

For thou regardest not the person of men. It is also worthy of attention, that those hypocrites likewise add, that Christ teaches rightly, because he has no regard for the person of men. Nothing has a more powerful tendency to withdraw teachers from a faithful and upright dispensation of the word than to pay respect to men; for it is impossible that any one who

desires to please men (Galatians 1:10)

should truly devote himself to God. Some attention, no doubt, is due to men, but not so as to obtain their favor by flattery. In short, in order to walk uprightly, we must necessarily put away respect of persons, which obscures the light and perverts right judgment, as God frequently inculcates in the Law, (Deuteronomy 1:16; 16:19,) and as experience also points out. Thus Christ (John 7:24) contrasts acceptance of persons (προσωποληψίαν) and sound judgment as things totally different.

18. Knowing their malice. They had opened the conversation in such a manner that they did not appear to differ at all from excellent scholars. Whence then had Christ this knowledge, but because his Spirit was a discerner of hearts? It was not by human conjecture that he perceived their cunning, but because he was God he penetrated into their hearts, and therefore they gained nothing by attempting the concealment of flattery and of pretended righteousness Accordingly, before giving a reply, he exhibited a proof of his Divinity by laying open their concealed malice. Now since wicked men every day employ snares of the same kind, while their inward malice is concealed from us, we ought to pray to Christ to bestow upon us the spirit of discernment, and that what he had by nature and by his own right he may grant to us by a free gift. How much we need this prudence, is evident from the consideration that, if we do not guard against the snares of the wicked, we shall constantly expose the doctrine of God to their calumnies.

19. Show me the tribute-money. When Christ orders them to bring forward a coin, though at first sight it appears to be of no great importance, yet it is sufficient for breaking their snares. In this way they had already made an acknowledgment of subjection, so that Christ did not find it necessary to enjoin upon them any thing new. The coin was stamped with Caesar’s likeness; and thus the authority of the Roman government had been approved and admitted by the general practice. Hence it was evident that the Jews themselves had voluntarily come under obligation to pay tribute for they had given up to the Romans the power of the sword; 6262     “Pource qu’ils avoyent laissé usurper aux Romains la souveraine puissance;” — “because they had allowed the Romans to usurp the supreme power.” and there was no propriety in making a separate dispute about the tribute-money, for that question depended on the general arrangements of the government.

21. Render therefore to Caesar those things which are Caesar’s. Christ reminds them that, as the subjection of their nation was attested by the coin, there ought to be no debate on that subject; as if he had said, “If you think it strange to pay tribute, be not subjects of the Roman Empire. But the money (which men employ as the pledge of mutual exchanges) attests that Caesar rules over you; so that, by your own silent consent, the liberty to which you lay claim is lost and gone.” Christ’s reply does not leave the matter open, but contains full instruction on the question which had been proposed. It lays down a clear distinction between spiritual and civil government, in order to inform us that outward subjection does not prevent us from having within us a conscience free in the sight of God. For Christ intended to refute the error of those who did not think that they would be the people of God, unless they were free from every yoke of human authority. In like manner, Paul earnestly insists on this point, that they ought not the less to look upon themselves as serving God alone, if they obey human laws, if they pay tribute, and bend the neck to bear other burdens, (Romans 13:7.) In short, Christ declares that it is no violation of the authority of God, or any injury done to his service, if, in respect of outward government, the Jews obey the Romans.

He appears also to glance at their hypocrisy, because, while they carelessly permitted the service of God to be corrupted in many respects, and even wickedly deprived God of his authority, they displayed such ardent zeal about a matter of no importance; as if he had said, “You are exceedingly afraid, lest, if tribute be paid to the Romans, the honor of God may be infringed; but you ought rather to take care to yield to God that service which he demands from you, and, at the same the to render to men what is their due.” We might be apt to think, no doubt, that the distinction does not apply; for, strictly speaking, when we perform our duty towards men, we thereby render obedience to God. But Christ, accommodating his discourse to the common people, reckoned it enough to draw a distinction between the spiritual kingdom of God, on the one hand, and political order and the condition of the present life, on the other. We must therefore attend to this distinction, that, while the Lord wishes to be the only Lawgiver for governing souls, the rule for worshipping Him must not be sought from any other source than from His own word, and that we ought to abide by the only and pure worship which is there enjoined; but that the power of the sword, the laws, and the decisions of tribunals, do not hinder the worship of God from remaining entire amongst us.

But this doctrine extends still farther, that every man, according to his calling, ought to perform the duty which he owes to men; that children ought willingly to submit to their parents, and servants to their masters; that they ought to be courteous and obliging towards each other, according to the law of charity, provided that God always retain the highest authority, to which every thing that can be due to men is, as we say, subordinate. 6363     “Est subalterne, comme on dit; c’est à dire, en depend;” — “is subordinate, as we say; that is, depends upon it.” The amount of it therefore is, that those who destroy political order are rebellious against God, and therefore, that obedience to princes and magistrates is always joined to the worship and fear of God; but that, on the other hand, if princes claim any part of the authority of God, we ought not to obey them any farther than can be done without offending God.

22 They wondered at him. Here, too, it appears how God turns to a different purpose the wicked attempts of His enemies, and not only disappoints their expectation, but even drives them back with disgrace. It will sometimes happen, no doubt, that wicked men, though vanquished, do not cease to growl; but, though their insolence be not subdued, however numerous may be their assaults on the Word of God, there is an equal number of victories which God has in his hand, to triumph over them and Satan their head. But in this reply, Christ intended to give a peculiar display of his glory, by compelling those men to depart crowned with shame.


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