Matthew 22
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The opening of this parable reminds us of the feast of wisdom in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 9:1-5). But there is an advance beyond the Old Testament ideas. Now the interest is no longer centred in the abstraction "wisdom," but the king and his son, representing God and Jesus Christ, make the feast one of supreme importance. So much the greater, then, must be the folly of those who decline to attend.

I. THE ROYAL PREPARATIONS. Much must be done to provide so great and sumptuous a feast as shall be fit for the wedding of a king's son. But all these elaborate preparations have been completed. Much was needed to make ready the gospel and its privileges, the new Christian blessings, the festival of the marriage of the Lamb with his bride the Church. But God has made all ready; he has provided the Bread of life and all the bounties of the gospel. They have been produced at the greatest possible cost, and now they are spread out in readiness for the guests. We have not to manufacture our own highest blessings; God offers them freely to us. We have not to wait for them; they are all ready in this happy Christian era.

II. THE SHAMEFUL REFUSALS. Those first invited refuse to come. Their conduct, is scandalous, and that for several reasons.

1. The feast was important. It was for the wedding of a king's son. The king was the host, and a king's invitation is a command. Yet the guests made light of it. They who reject the gospel reject the gift of God, and insult him.

2. The guests had previously consented to come. This is plainly implied, because the message sent to them is merely a reminder that all is now ready. So was it with the Jews. So is it with those who once showed interest in Christ and have since grown cold.

3. There was no valid excuse for refusal. The men went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandise. There is no good excuse for the rejection of the gospel of Christ. Too often the most commonplace worldly interests are preferred to it.

4. The messengers were cruelly maltreated. A certain irritation arising from a consciousness of being in the wrong makes people angry with those who would lead them into the right way.

III. THE GUESTS FROM THE HIGHWAYS. The king must have his feast stocked with guests, if only with tramps and beggars. This suggests to us a desire on the part of God to find those on whom he can bestow his kindness. It is as though he were possessed with social sympathies and could not endure to be alone in his joy. Thus we see the best of all reasons for accepting his grace. There can be no doubt that he will welcome all who come, because he hungers for souls. Observe further:

1. The rejection of Christ by the Jews led to the opening of the kingdom to the Gentiles. This would have happened in any case, but the conduct of the Jews expedited and facilitated the process (e.g. see Acts 13:46).

2. It is not man's desert, but God's loving kindness, that invites to the gospel feast.

IV. THE WEDDING, GARMENT. The dramatic incident with which the parable closes gives us a shock of surprise. Here is an additional, most important lesson. All kinds of people are invited, and some are in a very unfit state to appear at the wedding feast. But the king provides a seemly garment, that the dingy dress of everyday life may not mar the beauty of the festival. God invites all sorts and conditions of men to the feast of the gospel, and even the very lowest may come at once. But God provides them a new character. If a man will not take this, if he seeks the privileges of the gospel, but will not submit to its changing influence on his character, he must be cast forth. He can come just as he is; but he must not remain just as he is, especially as God provides for him a better way of life. - W.F.A.

I. One of the commonest excuses which men make to themselves for not accepting God's salvation is THE DESIRE TO MAKE SOME KIND OF PREPARATION FOR COMING TO CHRIST, "How can I come, who have no conviction of sin, no deep repentance, no earnestness?" But uniformly in God's Word salvation is offered to men as they are. "Now is God's accepted time. And the reason is obvious. The salvation offered in Christ is the one thing that can make us any better. We have no hope of getting better feelings, more spiritual desires, a deep and genuine repentance, until we accept Christ. He is exalted to give repentance, and you cannot have it without him. This hard impenitent heart, this unconcern about God, is precisely what identifies you as the person for whom salvation is urgently needed and to whom it is offered. I came not to call the righteous," etc. God's command is on you now, and bids you accept Christ. No preparation is required. Sin is the preparation for salvation. Christ does not say, "Come with sufficient earnestness, and I will save you," but "Come, and I will give you all you need."

II. But possibly you say, "I CAN'T REPENT IN MY OWN STRENGTH; I CAN'T BELIEVE IN MY OWN STRENGTH; I AM WAITING FOR THE SPIRIT, WITHOUT WHOSE AID I CANNOT COME TO CHRIST." Certainly this is true; but are you more ready for good than the Spirit is? Is it not rather true that he has been waiting for you, working in you? He who gives the command to come gives also the strength to obey it. The man with the withered hand might with truth have said, "I cannot," when bidden to stretch out his hand; but he believed and obeyed. "The Father's commandment is life everlasting." The Father is willing you should be saved, the Son is willing, the Spirit is willing. May not Christ be justified in saying to you, as he did to others, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life"?

III. Another common excuse is that PROFESSING CHRISTIANS ARE NO BETTER THAN MANY WHO MAKE NO PROFESSION. But the presence of what is counterfeit in religion or in anything else should only make us careful that we receive the real thing and not the spurious. No man refuses his week's wage because his fellow workman has received a bad shilling. It matters not to you what other men have made of religion; each man must give account of himself to God. And those persons of whom you speak so bitterly are not more bound to set you an example than you are to set them. The fact that you make no profession saves you indeed from the faults of professing Christians, but condemns you with a special guilt, "He that believeth not is condemned already," etc. The sins of others cannot save you from this great condemnation.

IV. A man sometimes pleads that RELIGION IS A VERY SERIOUS MATTER, AND THAT HE HAS NOT TIME TO DETERMINE WHAT ATTITUDE HE SHOULD TAKE UP WITH REGARD TO IT. If this is true, it ought not to be so. Time has no right to cheat a man out of eternity. If there be any truth in what Christ says, you are spending your strength for naught and in vain. Whatever you are giving yourself to, God's judgment about man's work remains, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Until this be done, all your activity is like the hard running of a messenger who has left his message behind him; the harder he runs the further back he has to go before he can be of any use. What is the use of all your toil if you are not at one with God, if you are not obeying his commands?

V. There are those who sincerely grieve that THESE DIFFICULTIES STAND IN THEIR WAY, BUT YET THERE THEY ARE, AND WHAT CAN THEY SAY? But he who determines to have all his difficulties solved before he takes the practical step of choosing Christ as his Saviour, inverts the right order of procedure, inverts God's order; for his law is, "If any man will do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." Do you see your way to attain holiness without the Spirit and the other aids God offers? or, if you do not, how do you propose to justify yourself in living on without asking God for these aids? It may be that for some such reasons as these you may be declining to make a profession which you ought to make. But is there really any need to bring further light or even persuasion to bear on you? Are you not already convinced that the thing for you now is distinctly to close with Christ as your Lord and Saviour? There is always danger in delay; you cannot tell What influences you may shortly come under which will quite turn your mind away from serious and earnest dealing with Christ. But apart from the danger, your first question ought to be in this as in all other matters, "Is it my duty to delay? What ought I now to do?" - D.

The priests and elders having left in a rage (see Mark 12:12), Jesus continued his discourse, addressing the people. This parable brings before us the invitation of the gospel, first to the Jew, and then also to the Gentile. Consider -


1. The blessings of the gospel are presented under the similitude of a marriage feast.

(1) Under this similitude also the blessings of the everlasting covenant are presented in the prophets (see Song of Solomon 5:1; Isaiah 62:5). Marriage is the highest emblem of that union which constitutes heaven. There goodness and truth in perfection are united. Heaven must be in a man before a man can be in heaven.

(2) The feast is royal. It is made by the King, viz. of the heavens; for the kingdom of the heavens is the subject of the parable. If a royal banquet in this world is the occasion of a nation's joy, the banquet of the King of heaven is a joy to the great universe.

(3) It is the marriage feast for the King's Son. Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is the bride. The season of the banquet is the gospel day, commencing upon thin earth but ending in the heavens (see Matthew 9:15; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 19:7-9).

2. Prophets and apostles are the King's messengers.

(1) They are called his "bond servants." Bond service to God is the noblest freedom. The more absolute this service, the more glorious the freedom.

(2) They came to those who were bidden. The Jews were the people elected from among the nations to be the people of the covenant, and every way specially the favoured of the Lord. To them also the gospel came in the first instance.

(3) The old prophets made the gospel law to emanate from Jerusalem (see Isaiah 2:3; Jeremiah 31:31-34). The message of John Baptist and of the seventy disciples was to them that "the kingdom of the heavens was at hand." The commission to the apostles after the Day of Pentecost was, "Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready.

(4) They came to the bidden with entreaty. They urged the will of God, the need of man, the richness of the bounty, the quality of the guests, the blessedness inconceivable to follow.

3. But the favoured people proved themselves unworthy.

(1) For they made light" of the invitation. "Considerations which should have the mightiest power upon the spirits of men may still signify less and less, when those to whom they come continue long under the gospel and the gospel is hidden to them. 'If you cannot speak to me of something greater than heaven and hell, eternal blessedness and eternal misery, you move not me; for these things I have heard of and made light of long ago'" (Howe). The soft, idle, voluptuous people, who think only of quietly enjoying life, conveniences, riches, private pleasures, and public diversions, make light of the gospel invitation.

(2) "They went their ways, one to his own farm," equivalent to "immovable goods," viz. deluded by a false security; "another to his merchandise," equivalent to "movable goods," viz. lured by desire of gain. "His farm," equivalent to "what he has;" "his merchandise," equivalent to "what he desires to have." How many perish by misusing lawful things!

(3) "And the rest laid hold on his servants, and entreated them shamefully, and killed them." These are the openly unjust and violent, the outrageously wicked, sinners by profession.

(4) Note: Worthiness consists in accepting the gospel invitation; unworthiness, in refusing it (see Acts 13:46). He only is worthy to be a disciple who is willing to lift the cross (see Matthew 10:37, 38).

4. They are punished accordingly.

(1) The murderers were destroyed. The Romans were God's armies sent in his wrath to destroy them. The Assyrian armies were the rod of his anger against Ephraim (see Isaiah 10:5). The Medes and Persians were the armies of God's wrath against Babylon (see Isaiah 13:4, 5). The angels of famine, pestilence, and war are his armies which he sent against Israel by the Romans (cf. 1 Kings 22:19).

(2) Their city was burnt. What an anticipation of the destruction of Jerusalem is here (cf. Ezekiel 16:41; Luke 13:33, 34)!


1. The messengers are the same.

(1) The prophets anticipated the calling of the Gentiles (cf. Deuteronomy 32:21; Romans 10:19; Isaiah 65:1; Romans 10:20; Hosea 2:23; Romans 9:26).

(2) The apostles, accordingly, when the Jews refused their invitation, carried the gospel to the Gentiles (cf. Romans 11:11, 12; Ephesians 3:8). These were the people found by the King's messengers in the "partings of the highways" (ver. 9).

(3) Divine benevolence is even enlarged by human perversity. "Where sin abounded grace doth superabound."

2. But they had better success.

(1) All sorts, "bad and good," were invited, and all sorts came in. As an invitation to a king's banquet would astonish a wayfarer, so did the invitation of the gospel come as a surprise to the Gentiles (see Acts 17:19, 20; Romans 10:20).

(2) The visible Church is a mixture of hypocrites and unbelievers in amongst the genuine saints. It is the floor where the bad and good wheats are mingled (Matthew 3:12). It is the field where the bastard wheat and true grain grow together (Matthew 13:26, 27). The net which collects bad fish and good (Matthew 13:48). The house in which the wise and, foolish are found (Matthew 25:1). The fold in which are the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:33).

(3) For this imperfect state of things there is no present help. The minister's commission is to call all. The King alone can infallibly distinguish between the bad and the good.

3. A royal inspection will determine the true.

(1) The King will behold the guests. This survey will take place at the last judgment. God takes particular notice of those who profess his religion (see Song of Solomon 7:12; Revelation 2:1, 2). Those who are worthy he will then approve and welcome.

(2) He will see who has not on the festal garment. The garment which distinguishes the good is worn upon the heart. It is therefore invisible to the minister, but visible to the King. As the festal robe constituted meetness for the feast, so is the garment here spoken of the complete meetness for heaven. The "fine linen is the righteousness of the saints," so imputed and imparted; for unless imparted as well as imputed the wearers could not be "saints" or holy ones.

(3) He will search the reasons: "Friend, how camest thou in hither?" etc. (ver. 12). Why art thou willing to receive the King's bounty, but not to comply with the King's conditions? Garments are provided. Not to wear one is a mark of contempt towards the King. The filthy rags of self-righteousness cannot be tolerated in heaven.

(4) The most presumptuous will be speechless in the presence of the King. Into speechlessness must all objections to the gospel be ultimately resolved.

4. Fearful will be the punishment of the wicked.

(1) "Bind him hand and foot." Restraint will be laid upon the works and ways of sinners in perdition. Satan also will be bound with a great chain in the bottomless pit. It is punishment to the wicked to be restrained from doing mischief.

(2) "Cast him out into the outer darkness." From the brilliantly lighted banqueting hall. What a contrast from the brightness of heaven's glory to the darkness of bell's misery! Joy and pride converted into sorrow and shame.

(3) "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Useless regrets; remorse; despair.

(4) "Many are called, but few chosen." Many hear; few believe. Many are in the visible Churches, few of them at the same time in the invisible Church. You are among the many called: are you also among the few chosen? Exclusion is for neglect. - J.A.M.

And they would not come. There is nothing more to be said about it. They had no reasons. They offered no apologies, and no excuses. They were just wilful, stubborn, stupid; they had taken up with some unreasoning and unreasonable prejudice, and they "would not come." Dods points out that the "object of this parable is still the same (as of the previous parables), to set in a vivid light the guilt of the Jewish leaders in rejecting Christ, and the punishment which in consequence was to fall upon them." Our Lord had used a similar figure of a feast before, but then he represented those who declined the invitation as having more or less reasonable excuses. One was engaged over a farm, one over his oxen, and one over his marriage; and they were not disposed to put these aside in order to fulfil their engagements with their host. But here there are no excuses, only sheer wilfulness, which is ready to run even into rebellion and insult (see ver. 6).

I. THE OPPOSITION OF THE MERELY WILFUL. Every parent knows the extreme difficulty of training a stubborn child. You cannot reason with him; you cannot persuade him. It does no good to chastise him. Many a parent is at his wits' end to know what to do with a wilful child. And what could any one hope to do with those stubborn Jerusalem officials, who had made up their minds that Jesus was an impostor, and so would heed no evidences, listen to no arguments, and yield to no persuasions? They too were invited to the gospel feast. They loudly professed their readiness to respond whenever God called. The call came; Christ brought it, and then up went their backs; "they would not come." If you trouble them with any importunity, they will turn dangerous, and insult the messengers; as these officials afterwards did Stephen, Peter, James, and Paul, All Christian workers understand the hopelessness of dealing with the stubborn and wilful. No force seems to reach them. Labour is in vain. Opposition may be overcome. Unintelligent wilfulness is hopeless.

II. THE TREATMENT OF THE MERELY WILFUL. They have to be let alone, and left to suffer, and to learn by suffering. It is a hard school, and it must be a hard school, in which such persons have to learn. Our Lord even intimates that there must be a specially awakening severity of dealing with them, because that stubbornness is not mere natural disposition; it is a product of self-conceit, pride, and prejudice. It is sin, and must be punished. - R.T.

One to his farm, another to his merchandise. These men, as we have seen, were discourteous from mere wilfulness, mere bad nature; but they turned away from the king's servants to their own private affairs, in order to make a show of reasonable excuse. So while it is true that men often are absorbed in their material concerns, and these may explain their neglect of religion, it is even more frequently true that men make their material interests excuse their bad-heartedness, and are busy with temporal concerns in the hope of hiding their stubborn self-willedness. A man's material interests never need really stand in the way of his religion; but if he is resolutely set against religion, he can easily make his material interests into a stumbling block in his way. A great deal of insincere talk is made about the enticement of things seen and temporal; business and pleasure are supposed to carry away men who would be pious. The honest fact is that men usually do not want to be pious, and throw themselves into their worldly concerns as a blind.

I. MATERIAL INTERESTS REGARDED AS GENUINE TEMPTATIONS. There is, for all men, even for good-willed men, a fascination in things seen and temporal. The sense sphere is attractive. In every man there is the natural ambition to succeed, to rise in, the social scale, and to win the comfort and security of wealth. Fur men with the business faculty, trade and commerce are positively attractive. In these days the range of living is so luxurious, and trade so competitive, that a man is almost compelled to put his whole mind into his business, if he is to succeed. And every man has material claims from those dependent on him. But, held in fair limitations, our material interests are not temptations. The soul's life in God finds expression through them.

II. MATERIAL INTERESTS MADE AN EXCUSE FOR BAD-HEARTEDNESS. This may be opened, illustrated, and enforced, so as to be very searching. Men do not want to be religious; they are stubbornly resolved not to go to the gospel feast. That is the real reason for their extreme interest in their farm and their merchandise. - R.T.

There is an immediate reference to those whom our Lord addressed in this parable. He was speaking to men who prided themselves on being in the special favour of God - God's invited guests. Our Lord was bringing home to their hearts the consequences of the Jewish neglect of God's last invitation.

1. The Jews, as a nation, must be destroyed.

2. The Gentiles, as individuals, must be drawn into the Divine favour. Those Jews had conceived that the Divine favour was held in strict limitations. It belonged exclusively to those who were of Abraham's seed. And this idea had led them to presume; and in their pride they even rejected God's Son. They felt as if they might do as they pleased even with the invitation to the feast. Compare the way in which St. Paul found it necessary to turn away from the Jews, and give free offer of eternal life to the Gentiles.

I. THE GOSPEL IS OFFERED TO THOSE WHO HAVE NO NATURAL CLAIM TO IT. These folk in the highways had no claims of birth, or education, or fitness. They were just men who wanted food; and to them the offer of food was made. The gospel goes beyond all the special claims and rights that men think they have, and just deals with men as men - with men as sinful men; with men as having lost by their sin even their natural rights to the favour of God. It is not until we can give up all confidence in our own merit that we are prepared to hear the gospel message, "Whosoever will, let him come."

II. THE GOSPEL IS OFFERED TO THOSE WHO HAVE NO DISPOSITION TOWARD IT. These folk in the highway, perhaps, had not even heard of the king's marriage feast. If they had, it never entered their heads that they would like to be guests at it. It was no place for such as they were. Some of them were beggars at the wayside. All of them were in their workday clothes. A comfortable meal at home they would enjoy muck more than a grand feast at the palace. It was even needful to use forceful persuasions, and compel them to come in. Still, we are confronted by this difficulty - so many have to be made to want and welcome the gospel; to be taught their need, and to be persuaded that the fulness of Divine provision is really opened to them. The gospel is offered freely to whosoever will, but the work is committed to Christ's servants of making men will to receive the gospel. "We persuade men." - R.T.

Not having a wedding garment. The incident is a distinctly Eastern one. So motley a crowd would be very out of place in a king's palace. It was not only kindly consideration which provided an all-covering, handsome robe for guests whose own clothes were shabby; it was a sense of appropriateness which required all the guests to be suitably arrayed. In treating this parable it should be kept in mind that he who gave the feast was a king, and so sent his invitations, and made his arrangements and conditions, with an authority which all were bound to respect. As illustration of this custom, it may be mentioned that, "every guest invited to the wedding at the royal marriage of Sultan Mahmoud, had made expressly for him, at the expense of the sultan, a wedding garment. No one, however dignified his station, was permitted to enter into the presence-chamber of that sovereign without a change of raiment. This was formerly the universal custom in the East."

I. THE REASON FOR BRINGING IN THIS PARTICULAR MAN. It is an unexpected addition to the parable, and at first one does not see how its point of teaching bears on, or runs in harmony with, the things our Lord is enforcing. It seems as if it suddenly struck our Lord that what he had been saying was open to misconstruction. "The perception of the absolute, unconditioned freedom of entrance, the sense borne in on their mind that they were the objects of God's love and invitation, might possibly lead them to overlook the great moral change requisite in all who enter God's presence and propose to hold intercourse with him." It is true that salvation is freely offered, but a man must be in a certain frame of mind to receive it. One so unresponsive to the kindness and authority of the king as this man, who would not have the wedding garment, was clearly unfitted for and unable to receive the king's grace.

II. THE REASON FOR THE BEHAVIOUR OF THIS PARTICULAR MAN. Nothing explains his act but the uppishness of self-will. He was not going to be ordered about - to be made to do what somebody else wished. If the king wanted him at the feast, he must take him just as he was. See in this no sense of gratitude for the king's kindness; no sense of submissive obedience to the king's will; no lowly estimates of his own unfitness. So the man who was just upon getting a big blessing lost it altogether through his own stubborn wilfulness. - R.T.

It is easy to see the trap that the Pharisees induced the Herodians to set for our Lord. If he refused to sanction the paying of tribute to Caesar, he could be accused of sedition against the Roman government; if he consented to sanction it, he could be held up to the Jews as unpatriotic, and therefore not fit to be thought of as the Messiah. His skilful answer set the question in its true light, and also lifted it into a higher region, and added what his tormentors could not refute, although they were far from being prepared to carry out all that the words of Christ involved.

I. THE DUTY TO CAESAR IS NOT TO BE DENIED. The words and actions of Christ implied an affirmative answer to the question of the Herodians. But they went further, justifying his reply by deducing it from their conduct. The coinage of Caesar was accepted by the Jews. The image of the gloomy Tiberius was on the denarii that circulated in their metropolitan markets. This fact shows that the Jews were submitting to the Roman yoke. Then they must act accordingly.

1. We owe duties to the civil government. Religion, which makes us citizens of heaven, does not allow us to renounce our citizenship on earth. It is a duty for Christian men to take part in politics. To refuse to do so is to hand over public affairs to those who are not guided by Christian principles, i.e. to degrade the state. Those good people who are too holy to touch politics are not above profiting by the good laws and just government that other men have laboured to bring about. Under a tyranny the authorities claim tribute; in a free country the people claim self-sacrificing service.

2. Jesus Christ did not come to produce apolitical revolution. The fanatics expected this of the Messiah; the zealots tried to effect it; but Jesus always behaved as a law-abiding citizen. We cannot say that he would never sanction revolution, or the attempt of brave people to throw off the yoke of a cruel tyranny. There was no opportunity to do this in the days of Christ. Nor did our Lord come as a political agitator. He came to regenerate the state as well as the individual, but he wrought at this task from within and spiritually, by inspiring the principles on which good government must be carried on.

II. THE DUTY TO GOD IS NOT TO BE NEGLECTED. This was ignored by the Herodians in their "wickedness" (ver. 18).

1. God has claims upon us. If Caesar has his due, so - nay, much more - has God. His claim, like Caesar's, is one of rule and authority. He expects obedience. While Caesar also expects tribute, God too c]aims tribute - tribute he seeks from men; and this is nothing less than their hearts. What is due to God is the surrender of ourselves and all we have.

2. There is no collision between the secular and the religious. We can render Caesar's due while we are also rendering God's, and God's while we are rendering Caesar's. Politics do not exclude religion, any more than religion can dispense with politics. Each subject has its own function. Yet they are not coordinate, and if there were a conflict, the duty to God must prevail, as in the case of the Christian martyrs. But then Caesar required of the martyrs what was not his due.

3. Politics must not be substituted for religion. The best service rendered to Caesar will not free a man from his duty to serve God. There is a fascination in public life that threatens to absorb a man's total energy. This is a temptation that must be resisted. The great name of Caesar dominated the old world; other exacting influences go far to rule our own age. we need to be on our guard lest they crowd out the thought of God. - W.F.A.

The attempt of the Pharisees to ensnare our Lord in his talk was the result of a meeting called for the purpose of considering how they might silence a critic who was making himself too formidable. They do not see how he can answer their question without laying himself open to the accusation and hostility of one party or other in the state. But our Lord is neither blinded by their, false flattery nor staggered by their ensnaring question. Having no denarius of his own, he asks them to produce one. There in their own hands is the image of Caesar, testifying that they themselves are Caesar's subjects. But he is not contented with making them feel that they have answered their own question. He adds a single clause which takes them far out of the region of their own quibbling question, "and unto God the things that are God's." This implies that there is nothing inconsistent in the claims of these two different sovereigns. The Sadducees, if they bore less malice against our Lord, were even more frivolous. The difficulty they raised had no reality in it, because a woman who was merely handed over, under the Levitical law, to her deceased husband's brother was not in the same sense his wife as she had been the wife of her first husband. It is not a bad instance of the way in which men unconsciously become frivolous and ridiculous by harping on one objection, and that an objection which by no means penetrates to the heart of the subject. The fact that such a question could be put shows that a belief in the resurrection was so common among the Jews that disbelief in it had become the badge or watchword of a party - a state of matters which implies that in the Old Testament the material for settling the question of a future state was not so copious and so decisive as to make disbelief impossible. And the circumstance that our Lord could find in the whole Bible no text more directly bearing on the subject than the one he cites is proof that the idea of immortality was not a common one in Old Testament times. The unquestioned dimness of Old Testament revelation on this point has been explained in many ways. But the proper explanation is certainly to be found in the peculiar character of the Divine revelation which the Bible records. If the revelation were a series of oracles, of abstract utterances, it would be hard to understand why the plain discovery of a future life should have been withheld; but the entire revelation is personal and historical. The foundation of all religion, the existence of God, e.g., is never given in the Old Testament Scriptures as an abstract proposition. It is taken for granted. It is no otherwise with the light which revelation sheds on man's future life. It has come, not in abstract propositions, not in direct oracular utterances from God, but through the longings of his people for continued life in him, and through the slow-growing conviction that God's love is love forevermore. The commonest and probably the most reliable of all natural arguments for immortality is that which is based on the injustice and suffering of various kinds which men experience in this present world. In view of this, men have been compelled to think of a future state in which things shall be righted and justice done and compensation made. But this is precisely the view of matters which elicited the clearest utterances regarding immortality which are to be found in the Old Testament (see Psalm 73, and Job 19.). But the argument used by our Lord is of a finer and subtler kind. From the fact of God's calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he argues that these men still lived. It would seem a dishonour to God to remember that he had connected himself with Abraham, if he could not keep Abraham alive. The argument involves the idea that to be the God of any one implies a living relationship. One's God is he who gives him life and blessing, and to speak of being the God of a mummy or of a handful of dust is out of the question. We know that God is love. He loves very specially those to whom he specially reveals himself - those whom he calls his children; but as these persons are without ceasing passing out of this life, it follows that, if they pass out of existence altogether, God must be subjected to a continual sorrow. Such perishing friendships are unworthy of God's eternal nature. The answer of our Lord has no very positive teaching regarding our relation to one another hereafter. It certainly implies no cessation of love between those who have here found much of their happiness in one another. No rational idea of the future can be constructed at, all without including the satisfaction of our best affections and the exercise of our highest powers. No satisfactory idea of salvation can be cherished which does not include the prospect of a time when we can frame a life for ourselves according to our late acquired wisdom and our fruitless repentance here. But this emphatic assertion of immortality by our Lord is made in connection with the resurrection of the body. We are conscious that our body is one thing and we ourselves another. Still, the soul has received a great part of its character from the body it has worn, so that, even after separation from the body, the soul will retain the character the body has impressed upon it, and this again must determine the character of the new body which the soul is to receive. It is, however, of very little moment to ascertain what kind of life is in reserve beyond the grave, if we are not ourselves sure we shall attain it. Christ; puts this in our power. His Spirit, received by us now as a Spirit of holiness, will quicken our mortal bodies, and will raise us to be with him in the life to come. - D.

The Pharisees had hitherto questioned our Lord on points of ecclesiastical ethics, and were invariably worsted. Now they face round and assail him with the weapon of political ethics. "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" Behold in the scene before us -


1. It is seen in the question proposed.

(1) The issue is not whether it was lawful for an individual Jew to pay the Roman tax. That question was already practically settled. It was a maxim common among all people, and acknowledged among the Jews, that the prince who causes his image and titles to be stamped on the current coin is by those who use it acknowledged as the ruler.

(2) The issue was whether by a joint effort of the nation it was not their duty to God to throw off the Roman yoke. It involved many considerations, such as:

(a) The origin of the Roman power.

(b) The manner in which that power had been used.

(c) The degree of injustice which must be sustained before a nation can legally throw off an allegiance to which it has submitted.

(d) The definition of the theocracy in the modified form in which it then existed.

(e) Besides these, many minor considerations.

(3) In proposing a question so complicated and intricate they hoped to entangle him in his talk.

2. In the confederation proposing it.

(1) Behold the Pharisees in league with the Herodians. These persons were political enemies. The Pharisees were seditious demagogues. The Herodians, if not Sadducees, as Herod was, were partisans of Herod, who owed his elevation to the Romans. But they find a common cause against Jesus; nor was this the first time (see Mark 3:6). "Samson's foxes looked several ways, but met in one firebrand" (Henry).

(2) See them in consultation. So were the Scriptures verified (cf. Psalm 2:2; Psalm 83:3-8; Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 20:10). Contrivance and deliberation intensify the malignity of sin (see Micah 2:1). Wicked wit makes wicked will.

(3) Observe how the Pharisees put forth "their disciples." Note: The wicked have disciples. Disciples would look more like learners, less like tempters.

(4) The masters would be present to watch the issue and to seize the opportunity to enclose the Victim in the serpent's folds.

3. In the flattery in which it is conveyed.

(1) In the praise they give to Christ they speak the truth. He was indeed a Teacher true, and a true Teacher of the way of God. He was himself the Truth and the Way. He also was above all influence of injustice. He had no improper fear of Herod or of Pilate. He evermore reproved with equity (see Isaiah 11:4).

(2) But they use the truth to serve a bloody purpose. The matter may be true and the intention treacherous. They sought to "ensnare him," viz. to his destruction, as a bird in a net (cf. Mark 12:12, 13; Luke 20:20). There are those who never do good but with the purpose of promoting evil.

(3) Suspect the man that praises you to your face. "He who caresses thee more than he is wont has either deceived thee or is about to deceive thee" (Italian proverb). Praise upon the lip, malice in the heart. Joab kissed when he killed Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9). Judas betrayed when he kissed Jesus (Matthew 26:49).

4. In the presence in which it is urged.

(1) It had to be answered in presence of the people. They vainly boasted that they were Abraham's seed, and never were in bondage (see John 8:33). They as vainly professed to have no king but God. If Jesus replied that it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, the people might be easily roused against him.

(2) It had to be answered in presence of the Pharisees. They only wanted the pretext to stir up the people against him as the Enemy to the liberties of his country.

(3) It had to be answered in presence of the Herodians. If Jesus took the side of the people, and said it was not lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, then the Herodians were ready to inflame Herod against him in the interests of the Romans. This very indictment was, two or three days later, laid against him (see Luke 23:2). Behold -


1. It is seen in his exposure of his assailants hypocrisy.

(1) They could not hide their duplicity from his all-searching vision. By the exposure of their wickedness he proved them right when they called him true.

(2) This exposure was as politic as it was severe, for it discredited them before the people.

(3) Nothing could have mortified them more; for they sought the praise of men rather than the praise of God. He never gains who contends with Jesus.

2. It is seen in his avoidance of their trap.

(1) He took the wise in their craftiness (see Luke 20:23) when he made them recognize the image and superscription on the coin. With what consistency did the chief priests afterwards cry out, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15)!

(2) "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. God is the Author of spiritual order, and, through this, of civil order also. Human sagacity sees one side of duty; Divine wisdom sees all sides at once.

(3) Here was nothing that the enemy could take hold of. The answer glorified God, and Caesar could not object to it. The Herodians and Pharisees were rebuked, but so obliquely that neither could take advantage of him. And the people were edified.

3. It is seen in the assignment to Caesar of his own.

(1) It is generally that which has upon it Caesar's image and superscription. By Christ kings reign. His religion is no enemy to civil government (see Romans 13:1). Caesar is to claim nothing but what is "Caesar's." He is neither to claim, nor are we to render to him, what is "God's."

(2) Caesar may claim honour, viz. in return for the government protection afforded to life, property, and liberty.

(3) Caesar may claim obedience, viz. to the laws instituted for the restraint of evildoers, and the maintenance of order and freedom.

(4) Caesar may also claim tribute, viz. to meet the expenses of the government in the exercise of its proper functions.

4. It is seen in the assertion of the claims of God.

(1) Generally God also claims whatever has his image and superscription. The image of God stamped on the spirit of man denotes that all his faculties and powers belong to God, and should be used for his glory.

(2) Eminently to God belongs our religion - our love, worship, and obedience. Caesar has no right to meddle with this. Caesar is only to be resisted when not to do so would be to resist God.

(3) If Caesar intrude into this domain, then the Christian must suffer rather than sin.

(4) In questions of conflict between the claims of God and Caesar, the Christian man has to be guided by a conscience enlightened by great principles. Hence Christ left the question open which was put to him, but enunciated the great principles by which every man may determine for himself.


1. And when they heard it they marvelled.

(1) They marvelled at his knowledge of their hearts.

(2) They marvelled at the adroitness with which he avoided their arts.

(3) They marvelled at the wisdom of his doctrine.

(4) They marvelled at the incisiveness of his rebukes.

2. But they left him, and went their way.

(1) Their admiration should have drawn them to him with repentance.

(2) They showed no signs of repentance. Christ is marvellous to many to whom he is not precious. The lessons of wisdom are lost upon them.

(3) "They went their way," not his. His way was heavenward. Their way was to perdition. - J.A.M.

As foolish a thing as was ever attempted was trying to entangle Jesus in talk. A difficult business enough if Jesus had been only a wise prophet teacher. A hopeless business, seeing that Jesus was the Son of God, and read thoughts and hearts, and "knew what was in man." We are to understand that different parties agreed to set several traps for Jesus, hoping to catch him in one or other of them. Popular feeling was too strongly in his favour for his enemies to venture upon anything like an open arrest. "All the previous attempts had been to discredit Jesus as a religious Teacher; the present is an attempt to expose him to the hostility of the Roman government. It would suit the purpose of the Sanhedrin if they could make him say something disloyal, so that the Romans would deal with him.

I. ENTANGLEMENTS REVEALING THOSE WHO ATTEMPTED THEM. This opens an interesting character study. It brings before us the shifts to which men resort who will not yield themselves to arguments and persuasions they are determined not to admit. These men were resolved not to accept Christ as Messiah. They were resolved to discredit his claims somehow, and destroy him, if only they could get a chance. They were untrue to their better selves, and so they had to be ruled by their baser selves; and thus they were put upon all sorts of mean and miserable shifts and schemes. Yet they did not see how they were degrading themselves. Honourable men were self-deluded into acting dishonourably. These men are shown up. They were not really jealous for the honour of God: it was fear for their own place and influence that made them so mean and base. The upright man wants no shifts, and takes no advantage of his brother.

II. ENTANGLEMENTS REVEALING HIM WHO WAS TO BE ENTANGLED. Our Lord felt no sort of alarm when, with imposing authority, the deputation from the Sanhedrin made its demands. Our Lord showed no fear or anxiety when the schemers presented their subtle and malicious question. And he made no mistake; he gave the entanglers no sort of opportunity. He was proof against their wiles. His simplicity tested their guilefulness. His wisdom saw through their schemes. - R.T.

The coin produced was probably a silver denarius of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and it bore on its face the head of the emperor, and had an inscription running round it, containing his name and titles. To understand how this question was intended to entangle Christ, we must remember that the Mosaic injunction, "Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee" (Deuteronomy 17:15), was made by the rabbis to mean that they must not pay tribute to any foreign power. The Romans levied a poll tax on each individual, and this tax was particularly offensive to the patriotic party. If they could make Jesus take part with the zealots, they could accuse him to the Romans as a dangerous person and fomenter of rebellion. The answer of Jesus is very variously explained, and has even been taken as a watchword of particular religious schools. But the answer is really a refusal to answer; and in this its skilfulness is seen.

I. CHRIST'S REPROACH. "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" This must have annoyed them, and made them fear that they would do but little with him. This impressed the people, who were listening, and made them fee[sure that he was more than a match for the entanglers.

II. CHRIST'S REQUEST. "Show me a penny." As it had to be a coin that tribute to Caesar could be paid in, and not a shekel with which payments in support of God's temple were made, it had to have the head of the reigning Caesar on it. Christ evidently examined it in view of the people, who were anxiously watching; and he made his questioners say distinctly whose image was on the coin. It was not God's temple; it was Caesar.

III. CHRIST'S REPLY. "Caesar's is it? then it is nothing to me. I am the servant of God. I have nothing to say on such a matter. It is not in my province. If Caesar's head is on the coin, no doubt it belongs to him; then give it him if it is his." Jesus had no authority to urge the claims of Caesar; he came to urge the claims of God. And he meant to keep to his province. If they wanted to know anything about the Word and will of God, he was ready to explain and teach. But Caesar had better mind his own business, and he would mind his. In our time, earnest effort is being made to obliterate the distinction between the "secular" and the "sacred." The distinction is real and abiding. Our Lord set his seal upon it. They may run in harmony, but they run, and they always must run, along distinct lines. - R.T.

When Jesus had disposed of the Pharisees and Herodians, the Sadducees approached him. They were the physicists - the materialists - of their time, who did not believe in angels or spirits, and accounted as a thing incredible the resurrection of the dead. They urged a ease which they deemed conclusive against the latter, which is recorded here (vers. 23-28). We are chiefly concerned with our Lord's reply (vers. 29-32). Hence we learn -


1. Covenant relationship is expressed in the term "God of.

(1) Thus when Jehovah proclaims himself to be the God of Abraham," the meaning is that he stands in covenant relationship to that patriarch (see Genesis 17:7, 8). So of Isaac and of Jacob; but he never speaks of himself as the God of Lot, of Ishmael, or of Esau.

(2) By the Sinai covenant with the Hebrew nation he became the "God of Israel" (see Deuteronomy 29:10-13).

(3) Now, in the gospel covenant, he is "the God" of every true believer (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:10).

2. The covenant relationship implies purification from sin.

(1) The Hebrew word for "covenant" expresses the idea of purification. The plan of God's goodness and mercy is sometimes called his purification; the term is also applied to the sacrifices offered to God, and Christ himself is called the Covenant, or Purification Sacrifice, of his people.

(2) The phrase, "make a covenant," is literally, "cut off a purifier," or purification sacrifice, in allusion to the death of the sacrifices. So Messiah was to be "cut off out of the land of the living" (Isaiah 53:8)

(3) The sacrificial blood sprinkled is called the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant the effect of which was ceremonial purification (see Hebrews 9:19, 20). This of course typified the purifying efficacy of the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 9:13-15).

(4) The Shechinah passing with Abraham along the avenue between the divided pieces of the sacrifices, when God entered into covenant with that patriarch, set forth the consent of the sinner to be treated as the sacrifices were treated should he violate the Law of God, and the engagement of God to light up with his favour and friendship the way of obedience through the blood of Christ (cf. Genesis 15:10, 17; Exodus 19:18; Jeremiah 34:18-20).

3. The life of the covenant is more than existence.

(1) The God of the pure is "the God of the living" (ver. 32). Luke adds, "For all live unto him" (Luke 20:38), viz. all standing in true covenant relationship to him. The unbelieving Jews existed, but they did not "live" in Christ's sense, when he said, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life" (see John 5:39, 40).

(2) All destitute of this covenant life of purity are dead - "dead in trespasses and sins," obnoxious to be treated as the sacrifices had been (cf. Ephesians 2:12; Jeremiah 34:18, 19). Those who despise the everlasting covenant are liable to the "much sorer punishment" of being cut up by the flames of hell.


1. God's covenant remains with his disembodied saints.

(1) Abraham was dead when God said to Isaac, "I am the God of Abraham thy father" (see Genesis 26:24). Isaac also was dead when God said to Jacob, "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac" (Genesis 28:13). Jacob also was sleeping when God appeared to Moses, and said, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). This is the fact recognized in the argument of our Lord.

(2) But if God was, hundreds of years after the natural death of the patriarchs, still in covenant relation with them, they must retain a conscious existence in the disembodied state. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him" (see Luke 20:38). This living unto God is a condition of the happiest consciousness (cf. John 3:36; John 6:48-53; John 11:26).

2. The existence of the sinner is an abiding death.

(1) "God is not the God of the dead," viz. "in trespasses and sins," whether in this world or in the disembodied state. The antithesis of a life which is distinct from existence is obviously a death not involving the extinction of existence. If spiritual life survives the dissolution of the body, so may the spiritual death survive the dissolution of the body.

(2) "God is not the God of the dead." This gives no more encouragement to the universalist than it does to the annihilationist. God is nowhere in his covenant pledged to the disembodied sinner. What a terrible thing to the spiritually dead is his indestructibility!


1. He is pledged to raise the Hebrew patriarchs.

(1) The argument of the text is intended to prove more than the conscious and happy existence of the spirit of the believer after death. This undoubtedly it does conclude, as we have seen; but it means more.

(2) It is an argument also to prove the resurrection of the body (see ver. 31). And the reasoning to that conclusion was to the Sadducees unanswerable (see Luke 20:40).

(3) Its force lies in the matter of the covenant. It promised the patriarchs personal inheritance in Canaan (see Genesis 17:7, 8), which, in this mortal life, they never enjoyed (see Acts 7:5). But God still abides by his covenant, as is evident from his words to Moses at the bush. How, then, can the promise be fulfilled, unless they be raised from the dead for the purpose?

(4) In this sense the patriarchs themselves interpreted the promise. They know they should die without inheriting (see Genesis 15:13-16). How could they understand the land to be personally inherited by them as "an everlasting possession," unless in the great future? That future inheritance their faith firmly seized (see Hebrews 11:9-19).

2. The promise extends to all believers.

(1) The natural seed of Abraham as such are not the children of the promise. Else it behoved the Arabs, Midianites, and Idumaeans to have inherited. Only a portion of the seed of Jacob inherited the land in any sense. No one ever yet inherited the land according to the terms of the promise as "an everlasting possession."

(2) The true Seed of Abraham is Christ (see Galatians 3:16). He is the Depository of the promises. Yet even he never inherited the land of promise in person. But the "Scriptures cannot be broken." The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was a necessity; for he must inherit it forever.

(3) Believers in Christ, whether lineally descended from Abraham or not, are the seed of Abraham, and children of the promise. In a secondary sense the term, "seed of Abraham," is to be taken collectively (cf. Galatians 3:26-29). Believers therefore must be raised from the dead that they may inherit.

(4) Then the expression, "all the land of Canaan," purports the whole earth to its utmost limit (cf. Psalm 2:8; Psalm 72:8; Romans 4:13-18; Hebrews 11:13). The covenant also extends into the heavens. - J.A.M.

The Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection. It does not appear how their question helped the entanglement scheme. Possibly the design was to secure a statement that could be declared to oppose Moses' Law. This would discredit him with the people; and it might be made the ground of a formal condemnation by the Sanhedrin, which the temple officials would have to execute, and so Christ would be got rid of. The point before us now is, that these Sadducees are described to us in one sentence. One thing suffices to reveal them to us. One opinion told the class of opinions they held. You may know the men by this, "they say that there is no resurrection." And when you know that is their opinion, you see at once the hypocrisy of the question they came asking Christ.

I. THESE SADDUCEES WERE CRITICAL. They wanted a reason foreverything. They received nothing they could not understand. They failed in receptivity. About everything they asked questions. Whatever was presented to view, they persisted in getting to look at it on the other side. Explain that the critical temperament and faculty are Divine gifts and endowments, but they are perilous because they so easily become masterful and absorbing, destructive of some of the finer and gentler qualities and faculties. Criticism, like fire, is a good servant, but a bad master.

II. THESE SADDUCEES WERE UNSPIRITUAL. We should call them "materialists." They were not sensitive to anything that did not appeal to the five senses. They were deficient in imagination. They were, in their way, scientific. Angels they could not do with, for they had no substance. Resurrection they could not do with, for it was a dream, and had, and could have, no verification. There have always been such men. We may be sorry for them; for the unseen is the real, the Divine is the abiding, the spiritual is the true; and he only lives indeed who can respond to the environment of the spiritual, the Divine, the eternal.

III. THESE SADDUCEES WERE CONCEITED. Not in the common and familiar ways of conceit. They were intellectually conceited, and that is the most hopeless kind of conceit, and, indeed, the most offensive kind. The "superior" man, who is always wiser than everybody, and smiles supercilious smiles, is the most aggravating of mortals. - R.T.

The Sadducees rested their "denial of the resurrection on the ground that they found no mention of it in the Law, which they recognized as the only rule of faith." The mistake they made, which our Lord at once brought to view, was this - "They could not conceive of any human fellowship in the life of the resurrection, except such as reproduced the relations and conditions of this earthly life." Man's material for thought is mainly provided by the common, earthly, sensual relations and associations; but man does not become true man save as he rises above these, and, by the help of them, conceives the "unseen." It is the glory of man that he is able to create in imagination what he has never seen realized in fact. He can think of relations between beings in which no sex-elements are introduced. He can imagine a place where they neither "marry nor are given in marriage," and where the "propagation of the species" is not the dominant idea, as it is here. In the conception of such a place and condition, an all-sufficing answer was given to the subtle entanglement of these Sadducees.

I. THE RACE DEPENDS ON MARITAL RELATIONS. The law of sex is the universal earthly law, ruling the creatures as well as man. Seeding is the work of every plant; starting a new generation is the work of every living creature, and of every human being. And God has made this universally to depend on the relations of male and female. The fact that man has made misery and sin out of God's design must not blind us to the wisdom and goodness of that design.

II. CHARACTER DEPENDS ON THE MARITAL RELATIONS. Neither can man be true man, nor woman true woman, apart from marriage. This may be more impressively seen in woman, but it is equally true of man. Woman never reaches her noblest possibility save through motherhood.

1. Show what elements of character are developed, and what are refined, by the associations of marriage.

2. Show what moral good for the race comes through the influence on children exerted by those whoso characters are improved through the marital relation.

III. REDEMPTION DEPENDS ON THE MARITAL RELATIONS. Dr. Bushnell, in his very striking way, says the redemption of the world must mainly come about through the "out-populating of the Christian stock." There is a sense in which Christians will come to "possess the earth."


(1) no race to propagate;

(2) no character to be gained;

(3) no redemption to accomplish.

Established righteousness can have friendship without marriage. - R.T.

According to his wonderful custom, Jesus turns the conversation from a frivolous, unworthy course to a subject of loftiest import. The unseemly Sadducean jest (vers. 23-28) is rebuked, and a great thought is suggested in its stead. Our Lord utterly repudiates the notion that the resurrection will be a return to such a life as we now see on earth. But that there is a future life he distinctly teaches, and here he gives us a reason for expecting it. Let us examine this.

I. THE NAME OF GOD IS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PATRIARCHS. Thus we have a familiar Divine title, for God is known by his revelation to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. We worship the same God whom our fathers worshipped. All that they discovered of God remains to us as an inherited possession of knowledge. Thus we have not to feel after an unknown God if haply we may find him. History has revealed God. Not the patriarchs alone, but our own Christian ancestors have handed down to us an experience of God. They knew and loved him, and he is presented to us for love and faith as the God of our fathers. Still, it may be said, while this helps us in relation to God, it does not reveal anything concerning the present existence of the blessed dead. We think of God as he was in relation to those departed men; thus we come to a certain knowledge of God; but this rests entirely in the past. What does it tell us concerning the men whose histories are the mirrors in which it is reflected to us? We must proceed to a further inquiry.

II. GOD IS ESSENTIALLY IMMUTABLE. What he was to the patriarchs that he is to us now. This was partially confirmed - confirmed as far as the time would allow, in the days of the patriarchs. What Abraham learnt of God, Isaac found to be true, and the same was confirmed in the experience of Jacob. The three generations of the patriarchs knew one and the same God, and they all found him to be changeless.

III. THE ETERNITY OF GOD'S LOVE LEADS US TO RELIEVE IN THE CONTINUED LIFE OF HIS CHILDREN. If God is immutable, his love must be eternal. Loving once, he loves forever. It is not enough for him to transfer his affection to successive generations. It is of the nature of love to dwell without cessation on the objects beloved. But if God loves his children on earth, he will not cease to love them when they die; and if he loves them still, he will desire to see them, and will therefore desire their continued being. Thus the love of God is a great reason for believing that he will not suffer his children to perish.

IV. THE ETERNAL LIFE OF GOD IS AN ASSURANCE OF THE ETERNAL LIFE OF HIS CHILDREN. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is more than a name, and more than a passive Object of worship, for he is the Author and Sustainer of the lives of the patriarchs. He is a living God; his presence brings life; to be in him is to be in the very centre of the best life. Such a God does not content himself with moving among the tombs of the dead past. His own outflowing vitality touches and quickens all with whom he comes into contact. If he in any way associates himself with the men of a far-distant antiquity, he will be their Preserver. Their contact with the ever-living God gives them the life eternal. - W.F.A.

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Having separated the idea of marriage from the conditions of the after life, our Lord took the opportunity of showing these questioners how unspiritual they were, and how unspiritual was their reading and rendering of Holy Scripture. They could see only the surface; they could not discern meanings and suggestions. When God said he was the "God of Abraham," something was involved in the saying. For the spiritually minded man this was involved - Abraham was alive. Abraham was risen and living. God was in actual, present relations with him. And what was true of Abraham is, for the spiritual man, true of all the so called dead - they are risen, they do live. Our Lord here distinctly affirms the continued existence of the soul, which is the real man, after death. He taught the "immortality of the soul."

I. DEATH IS A PHYSICAL EVENT. The soul is immaterial, but it comes into relation with a material body, and through its senses and faculties it acts in a material sphere. Death is one of the things that bear relation to that body. It is the supreme form of disease. Disease may destroy a limb or an organ, and the soul may keep within the limited body. But when disease affects what we call vital organs, and when death corrupts the body, the soul must go away from it - it is no longer usable. The soul, the man, does not die; it is only liberated from the limitations of a particular environment. We are coming, in these days, more and more clearly to see that death is a physical affair.

II. DEATH IS A NECESSARY EVENT. Because the connection between soul and body is made for a distinct moral purpose. It is therefore made for a limited time; and the connection must cease when the issue is reached. Life in the body and the earth sphere is the soul's education time, it is its moral probation; and so it is as necessarily limited as a boy's school years. Life on earth is not the soul's real life; it is not its manhood, it is its preparation time.

III. DEATH CANNOT TOUCH THE SOULS THAT MEN ARE. This has always been the Christian belief, though we express it nowadays in somewhat new forms. See how the truth bears on the question of the Sadducees They thought of humanity as permanently divided into sexes. They had to learn that souls have no sex, so their question, so far as it applied to them, was absurd. - R.T.

Originality of mind may be as much apparent in a wise selection from what is old as in the creation of what is new. Some of the most striking teaching of our Lord is of this character. Jesus Christ did not repudiate the Old Testament, nor did he despise its truths because his own went further, but he pointed out what was most important in the ancient revelation, and rescued this from the oblivion into which it had fallen with many people in their scrupulous attention to the petty details of external observances. Thus he met the tempting question of the Pharisees by weighty words from their own Law, the very solution of which was a revelation and a rebuke of Pharisaic formalism.

I. CHRIST CALLS US BACK TO FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES. The error of the rabbis lay in a tendency to confuse the minds of their scholars and to obscure the essential truths of revelation by directing too much attention to minute questions of casuistry. A similar mistake was made by the Schoolmen in the Middle Ages, although these masters of hair splitting delighted in the discussion of less practical subjects. We are always in danger of missing the essential truths of our faith in the consideration of distracting details. But Christianity is a religion of principles. This is most characteristic of the New Testament.

1. These principles are fundamental.

2. They admit of wide and varied application.

3. They must be obeyed internally - in thought and heart.

II. THE ROOT PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IS LOVE. This was found in the old Law; it belonged to Judaism, because it is always the source of the best life. But it is most prominent and powerful in Christianity. The gospel reveals the love of God, and it instils a spirit of love in man. So essential is this that no one can be accounted a Christian who is hard-hearted and utterly selfish, however saintly he may be in other respects. Love is shown in two principal relations.

1. It seeks the welfare of those who are loved - the honour of God and the good of fellow men.

2. It delights in fellowship with those who are loved. Christian love draws us nearer to God and nearer to one another.


1. He deserves love.

(1) Because he is good and glorious in the beauty of holiness. There is no other object of affection so supremely worthy of our heart's devotion.

(2) Because he first loved us. Love is the child of love. Our love to God is a reflection of God's love to us; it is our response to his goodness and kindness.

2. He claims love. God is not indifferent to our attitude towards him. He cannot be if he loves us. In his own wonderful fatherly love he seeks the affection of his children. Therefore a cold morality, or a philanthropy that ignores God, is not sufficient.

IV. MAN IS THE SECOND OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN LOVE. In practice we cannot separate the second commandment from the first. St. John tells us that we cannot love God if we do not love our brother (1 John 4:20). In loving what is good in man we love God. Therefore neither commandment can be taken without the other. If it were possible to seek God alone, that would not please him. He does not desire us to be so absorbed in heavenly contemplation as to forget earthly duties. The Christian ritual is the ministry of brotherly charity (James 1:27). To all this it may be objected that we cannot love on command. True. But

(1) we can remove the selfish hindrances to the love of God and man.

(2) We can direct our thoughts to those considerations out of which love springs. Thus we can cultivate the affections. - W.F.A.

The Jews made many distinctions about the commandments of God, calling some "light," others "weighty," others "little," others "great." According to their estimating, therefore, some commandment must be "greatest." Some of them contended that the law of the sabbath was the greater commandment, some the law of sacrifice, some that of circumcision, and some pleaded for the wearing of phylacteries. They now referred the resolution of this vexed question to Jesus, who astonished them by giving precedence to love. The Talmud reckons the commandments at six hundred and thirteen; of which three hundred and sixty-five are negative, and two hundred and forty-eight affirmative; but our Lord's enumeration is two, for that all the Law is fulfilled in love to God and man. This is so in the nature of the case.


1. God reveals himself that he may be supremely loved.

(1) Opinion must precede affection. Love resists all attempts at coercion. It cannot be forced. It must be won. God binds us to love him by his supreme and infinite excellence. He is "the Perfection of beauty," of intelligence and truth, of goodness and love.

(2) He reveals himself in his manifold and glorious works.

(3) He reveals himself in his sacred Word. In the wonders of his Law. In the riches of his Gospel.

(4) He reveals himself in his wise and gracious providence.

2. Man is to be loved as reflecting the image of God.

(1) The God-like win the love of the godly. They are admirable and amiable as they reflect the truth and goodness of their Maker.

(2) The devil like cannot be loved with complacency by the godly. Yet with pity and compassion they may be loved. They are thus loved by God, who still sees his image, though dreadfully defaced; he sees wonderful capabilities, though frightfully demoralized.


1. So in loving God the lover is ennobled.

(1) The intense love of a holy being necessarily implies the intense love of holiness. Love to God is the vital and purifying flame of holiness. So it fulfils the law of God, by a sweet constraint compelling obedience to all his commandments.

(2) The freedom of this obedience, being that of entire choice and supreme delight, gives the noblest character to submission.

(a) As it impels to the most arduous duties for the glory of God.

(b) As it makes us willing to submit to the severest sufferings for the glory of God.

(3) Love to God feeds its own strength and the strength of every virtue by bringing us into communion with God himself. It produces the full and entire satisfaction of the soul. But without it the most punctilious obedience is but a formal idolatry.

2. The second commandment is "like unto the first.

(1) It is not equal to it; for it is the second. The claims of God are evermore superior to the claims of men. Yet how prone are men to feel indignation at a breach of the Law in its second table rather than in the first!

(2) It is, however, like unto it:"

(a) In having superiority over all except the first.

(b) As being also a precept of love, an efflux of the same principle, directed to our neighbour.

(3) It makes self-love the measure of neighbourly affection. It therefore supposes that we should love ourselves. It is not wrong to pay respect to our interests, temporal as well as spiritual. And in loving our neighbours as ourselves we shall do them no harm, but seek to do them all the good we can.


1. This it has in God.

(1) We can only bless God by acknowledging him. For he is Love itself, infinitely worthy.

(2) We acknowledge him in worship. By praise. By meditation. By prayer.

(3) We acknowledge him in service. Obeying his will. Witnessing for his glory.

2. This it seeks in our neighbour.

(1) Love makes us to rejoice in his happiness.

(a) If he is virtuous, love will not detract, but emulate.

(b) If he is honoured, love will not be envious, but pleased.

(c) If he becomes wealthy, love will not covet, but pray that he may not suffer damage by that which has proved ruin to many.

(2) Love makes us to mourn in his adversity.

(a) If he is sick and suffering, love will not be unconcerned, but will visit and comfort him.

(b) If he is disappointed, love will not exult, but encourage him.

(c) If he is disgraced, love will not chuckle and give currency to the scandal, but will help to deliver him from the snare of the devil.

(3) It will bless him by prayer to God for him, by holy exhortation, and by kindly Christian influence.

3. It will make sacrifices in this service.

(1) It will sacrifice ease in the interests of religion and philanthropy.

(2) It will sacrifice temporal profit to glorify God and to benefit a fellow man possessing a nature that is to live forever.

(3) It will sacrifice reputation for God, with whom our reputation is safe, by condescending to the low for his benefit.

(4) It will sacrifice life for God as the martyrs did, and in the cause of humanity, which is the cause of God. - J.A.M.

The often quoted question, "What think ye of Christ?" should be, "What think ye of the Christ?" Jesus was not asking the Pharisees for an opinion about himself, the speaker addressing them, as he had asked his disciples on a previous occasion (Matthew 16:13). He was referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, and without now pressing his own claim to be the Messiah, he was asking what idea the Pharisees had as to this great Hope of Israel. They had been questioning him; he now turns upon them with a penetrating inquiry.

I. THERE IS TESTIMONY TO THE CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. Jesus quotes ancient prophecy. It may be said that he would thus find an argumentum ad hominem when arguing with a Jew. But it is evident that our Lord appealed to the Old Testament as to an authority which he himself valued. Thus he gives his own authority to support the Divine message of the prophets, and he justifies us in searching these Scriptures for the testimony they bear concerning him (John 5:39). The value of the Old Testament in this respect is not that it shows how certain men were gifted with a miraculous foresight, by means of which they predicted the advent and life of Christ. This would be interesting chiefly as throwing light on the powers of the prophets, but it would not be of much practical use to us. We may see the Old Testament setting forth important truths about Christ. It foreshadows in a way to prepare the reader for understanding Christ. Thus it has its own gospel message.

II. THE OLD TESTAMENT TESTIFIES TO THE DIVINE GLORY OF THE CHRIST. Jesus selects one striking instance of this specific testimony. Psalm 110. plainly represents the Messiah as greater than David, for, while written in the name of the king, it yet makes the founder of the Jewish dynasty address his descendant as "my Lord." This argument holds good, whether we believe the psalm to have been composed by the shepherd-king, or follow the recent criticism that rejects its Davidic authorship. For even in the latter case, it is plain that the inspired writer of the psalm taught that the Messiah was to be so much greater than his famous ancestor that it would be seemly for David to address him as "my Lord." This truth, then, was in the Old Testament. Yet those who most honoured their ancient Scriptures did not perceive it. We need the Spirit of Christ to help us to understand the prophecies of Christ.

III. OUR LORD GAVE THE HIGHEST INTERPRETATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES OF THE CHRIST. This tact is important in itself, as a light on the prophecies. But it is much more weighty when we consider it in relation to Jesus himself. We know that he claimed to be the Messiah, although he did not make that claim public till the end of his life. Therefore his interpretation of prophecy must be applied to his thought about himself. He was calm, unselfish, unambitious, lowly in heart and life. Yet he argued for the very highest attributes of the Name which he knew to be his own. Was he not speaking out of the depth of his self-consciousness? If he used such words as are here before us, he could not have been satisfied with being regarded as only a man. In veiled language to the Jews, but in language that is open as the day to us, Jesus claims to be Divine, and his character, his life, and his work all agree with his unique claim. - W.F.A.

In teaching his interrogators to love God, Jesus proceeds to direct them to the God they ought to love. This question, "What think ye of Christ?" was put to a representative assembly - Herodians, Sadducees, scribes or Karaites, and especially Pharisees, beside his disciples and the people. By proposing this one question of moment, Jesus proves the folly of those who by malevolent questions would prove his wisdom. It showed them that ignorance of the prophecies was the source of their captiousness. The question is for us.


1. He is the "Son of David.

(1) The covenant, of God was established with David. This purported that Messiah should appear in his line. The promise of the saving Seed was limited to Seth in the family of Adam; then to Shem in the family of Noah; then to Abraham in the line of Shem. The covenant was carried on from Abraham through Isaac to Jacob, and from Jacob through Judah to David (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-17; Psalm 89:27-37).

(2) Thenceforward the Son of David" became a prophetic title of Messiah (see Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Jeremiah 33:15, 16). The "Son" of whom David sings in his psalms referred to Solomon only as the type of Messiah (see Psalm 72:1).

(3) "Is not this the carpenter's son?" But the "carpenter" was "of the house and lineage of David." So was Mary the poor virgin. What vicissitudes in families! How God makes grandeur to spring out of humiliation!

(4) Why are not the Jews convinced that Messiah must have appeared before the destruction of Jerusalem? For the national genealogies then perished, and nobody can now prove himself to be the son of David. But the genealogy of Jesus was proved at the enrolment for the taxation in the days of Caesar Augustus, when the records were intact, and is recited in the Gospels.

2. He is the Son of God.

(1) "Jehovah said unto Adonai. This term is properly applied to superiors, sometimes it is by courtesy given to equals, but never to inferiors. David, as an independent monarch, acknowledges no superior but God.

(2) David in the Spirit called him Lord." Note: Jesus here credits the Old Testament writers with Divine inspiration (cf. 2 Samuel 23:2; Acts 1:16; Acts 2:30). David in the Holy Spirit of prophecy called him Lord.

(3) He was David's Lord before he became his Son. What can more emphatically mark the Divinity of Christ? How else could he be David's Lord, who was not to be born for ages after him, and was certainly to exercise no secular dominion over him?

3. He is at once the Son of David and the Son of God.

(1) As the Son of David, his humanity was real. As the Lord of David, his Divinity is evident. Acknowledge here the glorious mystery of the Incarnation.

(2) This mystery Jesus more fully unfolded after his resurrection (see Revelation 22:16).

(3) So is he qualified to be the one Mediator between God and man.

(4) In his Divine humanity Jesus pledges our regeneration and transfiguration.

II. WHAT THINK YE OF HIS CHRISTSHIP? As the Sonship is a rule of nature, the Christship is a title of office.

1. As the Christ he is our Prophet.

(1) Moses calls universal attention to him in this capacity (see Deuteronomy 18:15, 19). And in this capacity he is authenticated (see ch. 17:5).

(2) In his character of Prophet or Teacher he silenced the gainsaying of Herodians, Pharisees, Karaites, and Sadducees.

(3) As the great Prophet he gives us his perfect law of liberty with the institution of the ministry to proclaim it. He also gives us with his Word his own Holy Spirit of illumination. "A wonderful fashion of teaching he hath."

2. As the Christ he is our Priest.

(1) A Priest not after the order of Aaron. For "our Lord sprang out of Judah" (see Hebrews 7:13, 14). Yet Aaron was his type.

(2) His priesthood is "after the order of Melchizedek." So we learn from the psalm here quoted (Psalm 110.). His priesthood is royal. It is made with an oath. It is a priesthood in the heavens. The ascension of Christ is referred to in every instance in which the hundred and tenth psalm is quoted in the New Testament. It is an unchangeable and an everlasting priesthood.

(3) Our great Priest offers himself in sacrifice for us. When Cyrus took the King of Armenia and his son Tigranes prisoners, with their wives and children, and upon their humble submission gave them their liberties and their lives, Tigrancs, as they were returning home, asked his wife, "What thinkest thou of Cyrus? Is he not a comely and a proper man, of a majestic presence?" "Truly," said she, "I know not what manner of man he is; I never looked upon him." "Why," said he, "where were thine eyes all the while?" "I fixed mine eyes all the while," said she, "upon him [meaning her husband] who, in my hearing, offered to Cyrus to lay down his life for my ransom."

3. As the Christ he is our King.

(1) He is the King of glory. Sitting on the right hand implies participation in the regal power. But the Lord of David is on the right hand of Jehovah.

(2) His rule is spiritual. The dominion to which David himself is subject implies a heavenly King and a heavenly kingdom.

(3) Christ subdues his enemies by the power of love. Those who comply with his terms of salvation he makes victorious over sin, death, and hell.

(4) Those who refuse the rule of love will be compelled to feel the rod of iron (see Psalm 110:5, 6). We may estimate our character by our views of Christ. Some do not think of him at all. Some think too meanly of him, Some think too hardly of him. His true bride will esteem him "the fairest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." - J.A.M.

What think ye of Christ? whose Son is he? This is what may be called a Socratic dialogue. Our Lord asks questions, and leads his hearers on until they find themselves entangled, and discover how little they had thought about the things of which they had talked so glibly. The expression, "What think ye of Christ?" has been made the text of many general sermons on the claims and Person of Christ; and it has been variously urged that our opinions about Christ decide our religious standing. We try to keep strictly to the passage, and find points in following through the precise inquiry of our Lord.

I. WHOSE SON IS MESSIAH? Our Lord uses the term "Christ," or "Messiah," here in its general sense, and from the Pharisees' point of view. He is not directly speaking of himself, or affirming that he is Messiah. He speaks to these Pharisees, and virtually says to them, "You talk about Messiah, you expect the coming Messiah, you are very learned about the Messiah. Say then, 'Whose Son is he?'" Those Pharisees could not read the mind of Jesus as he could read their minds, and they did not suspect how he meant to puzzle them; so at once they answered, "The Son of David." "The Pharisees were ready at once with the traditional answer; but they had never asked themselves whether it conveyed the whole truth, whether it could be reconciled, and, if so, how, with the language of predictions that were confessedly Messianic." Show how fully our Lord met this prophetic necessity. His mother was, and his reputed father was, "of the house and lineage of David."

II. HOW CAN MESSIAH BE DAVID'S SON AND DAVID'S LORD? This was so exceedingly easy a question, that one wonders how anybody could have been baffled by it. But perhaps these Pharisees were not baffled. They saw the answer plainly enough, but they saw also what the answer involved. This explained it all - Messiah. was to be both "Son of David and Son of God. But Jesus claimed to be Messiah, and these Pharisees dare not let the people hear them admit that the Son of David" was also "Son of God." Those people had triumphantly brought Jesus into the temple as the "Son of David;" and if the Pharisees had ventured a reply to Jesus, they must have acknowledged his claim to be "Son of God." Our Lord was the Divine-human being - of David according to the flesh; of God according to the Spirit. God was the soul of his humanity. - R.T.

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