Matthew 22 – Let Him Who Thinks He Stands

Matthew 22 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds

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Today’s PassageMatthew 22

We’ve seen the sorts of parables Jesus tells to the general populace and to his disciples. But what sorts of parables does he tell to the Pharisees? Apparently, he tells parables about people who disrespect the servants of those in power and who, as a result, face the master’s wrath when he learns of their misdeeds.

Yesterday’s chapter ended with just such a parable, in which a landowner returns from a journey to find that the vine-growers he hired 1) have seized his vineyard, 2) attack any servants he sends to claim his due, including his son, and 3) are totally a metaphor for the Pharisees. Today’s chapter opens with a similar parable, but this time a king is throwing a wedding feast, not hiring laborers. But even when the people in the parable are obligated not to work, but to party down, they still disdain the king. Some ignore the messengers, while others attack or kill them. The king’s response? Jesus tells us: “The king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire” (7). Having decimated all the previous invitees, he instead sends out invitations to every Joe on the street, literally. Evil and good alike fill the wedding hall.

Jesus spends only a few brief words explaining the vineyard parable, and he doesn’t elaborate at all on the one about the wedding, but it’s pretty obvious that the servants and messengers in each parable are the prophets. The landowner/king is God, and in each case he has a son, whose identity is pretty obvious in retrospect. And the rude vine-growers/guests who get what’s coming to them? The Pharisees know it’s them, as we can tell when they immediately start conspiring to discredit Jesus through sophistry.

You may recall the ensuing religious judo match from our trip through Luke, where we played the tape back of the round between Jesus and the Sadducees and analyzed it blow-by-blow. But something struck me as I rewatched the match through Matthew’s camera. The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought they were on God’s side. They would have disagreed with the entire premise of Jesus’ parables: they were being good stewards and were eager to attend the wedding, they were not sending away God’s messengers beaten and broken, and it was the pagan oppressors who would receive God’s wrath in the age to come. The Sadducees thought they were combating erroneous and heretical ideas when they presented their multiple-marriage scenario to show the absurdity of a resurrected afterlife. The scribes and Pharisees thought Jesus was leading the nation astray and had to be stopped. They believed themselves adequately dressed for the wedding, but as it turned out, they would end up with the blood of the Son of God staining their clothes after all.

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