James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.Matthew 22:15-23:39
WOE AND FAREWELL
Another effort to “entangle him in his talk,” and a new enemy, the Herodians. They were the politicians of the time, a low class of Jews who, for selfish reasons, favored the Roman rule represented by Herod. With flattery He is approached (Matthew 22:16), but had He answered their question negatively (Matthew 22:17), the Herodians would have accused Him before the Roman judges, while affirmatively, the Pharisees could have done so before the Sanhedrin. No true Messiah, they would have said, would teach subjection to the Gentiles. But as before, He silences them, for had they rendered unto God the things that were God’s, they would not now be obliged to render anything unto Caesar (Matthew 22:18-22). The Sadducees were the rationalists who denied the future life and all connected with it; hence their question, although founded on Deuteronomy 25:5, and the following, was combined of ignorance and sarcasm. There will be a resurrection but it does not imply marriage (Matthew 22:30). The proof of resurrection He employs (Matthew 22:32), is a proof also of the inspiration of the words of the original Scriptures. In the quotation from Exodus 3:14, the present tense of “to be” is used, and on that He bases His argument for the future life. The Pharisees fare no better with their inquiry than the other two (Matthew 22:32-40), and then our Lord asks them a question which ends attempts of this kind on their part. He quotes Psalms 110 which at once proves Him the Messiah and the very God (Matthew 22:41-46).
Now the declaration of the judgments on His enemies. The Scribes and Pharisees were the national leaders of the Jews, in which sense they sat in Moses’ seat, and it became necessary to obey them. But to observe their instruction was one thing, and to follow their example another (Matthew 23:3). As to the first, compare Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. “Phylacteries,” meaning things to observe, get their name from Exodus 13:9-16, Deuteronomy 6:9 and the following verses. A phylactery is a strip of leather attached to a small box containing a parchment copy of Deuteronomy 6:4-8. This strip is used to fasten the box around the head so that it rests in the middle of the forehead. Another is wound around the left arm. This literal interpretation of the Scriptures was for show (5-7). And they not only loved show, but to be addressed by high-sounding names, which must not be true of disciples of Christ (Matthew 23:8-12).
The eight woes of the next chapter all pronounced against various forms of hypocrisy, and with which our Lord closed His public ministry, suggest the Beatitudes with which He opened that ministry. We cannot do more than touch upon a few of the distinctions He makes. The first, that of hindering (Matthew 23:13), comes home to preachers and teachers of Christianity who are not regenerated and taught of the Spirit in the Word. The second and third, Matthew 23:14-15, need no explanation. The fourth, Matthew 23:16-22, displays the ignorance of the mere ritualist. The fifth and sixth describe the formalist (Matthew 23:23-26). The seventh is a figurative description of their religious character (Matthew 23:28), and the eighth no less so (Matthew 23:29-31). They made a show of zeal in adorning the burial places of the prophets their fathers had slain, and yet they were exhibiting the same spirit. Did our Lord ever utter a severer word than Matthew 23:33? And in that connection note the personal pronoun of authority “Behold, I send unto you prophets.” All He there predicts was soon fulfilled in the Acts.
Now the pathetic farewell (Matthew 23:37-39). Their house is left desolate. It is Tuesday of that last week, and as He leaves the temple and the city it is not to return until Thursday, the day of the last passover and the betrayal. And yet His final word is one of hope. Israel would see him again, i.e., at His second coming, and the faithful remnant would exclaim, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
1. Who were the Herodians?
2. What is the spiritual significance of the words, “Render unto Caesar”?
3. How does the quotation from Psalms 110 prove the deity of Christ?
4. Explain the reference to the phylacteries.
5. How many woes are there, and against what feature of iniquity are they directed?
6. Quote our Lord’s final words of hope.