Matthew 22:1-14 Part 1


It’s still Tuesday; and we’re still in the temple; and Jesus is still delivering this thundering malediction to the elders and priests of Israel.  As Psalm two prophesies, they were gathered together against God and against His King – to throw off the fetters which connected them to their Creator.

In their heinous and profane and corrupted religion, they were all in union together and connected to one another in hatred of God and His King.  They all were the same blood, the same society, the same body; and they all had the same head, so they were all covenantally connected in their conspiracy to eliminate God’s King and His rule!

It’s always the same – always has been, always will be – the goal of every one of them is to throw off whatever connects them to Christ.  The hatred is palpable; the craftiness is ingenious.  They’re all interrelated in one brotherhood, all with that one thing in mind.

The intense concentration is upon Christ and anything or anyone who purports to belong to Him.  Anything that reminds them of Christ and His rule is the subject of attack.  This is because He is King!  There is no concentrated, interrelated, covenantal hatred of anything or anyone else, because nothing or no one else is King and ruler of all!  It stands to reason that the real Anointed One of God would be the target of concentrated hatred!  And it stands to reason that those who belong to Him would be too!

In fact, if there is such a thing in all of history as an international, multi-generational conspiracy, then it would have to be the covenantal connectedness of all of those who would wish to throw off the bonds and fetters which connect them to the King and His Kingdom!

God said, there in Psalm two, that it’s all foolishness; to gather together against Him and His established King is just foolishness!  He laughs and has them in derision; but they continue anyway – even today – just as they were here in our text, in the temple of God, in the city of God, in the nation of God!  They hate God.  And they know it.  They’ve placed themselves under the yoke of sin and condemnation and misery; and then they blame Christ and His people for their misery!  And it’s a very heavy yoke; a yoke that enslaves and produces great anguish – a yoke that blinds and darkens and atrophies; one that removes all freedom – forever.

But Jesus Christ the King said that His yoke was easy.  In comparison to the yoke of sin and the curse, His yoke is light.  It’s not burdensome at all!  In fact, upon putting on His yoke the enslaved are made free indeed!  The brokenhearted are made joyful; the downcast are made glad!  The persecuted are rewarded from heaven!  The Lord Christ even loves the deaths of those who belong to Him!  It is a love that is greater than our sin, and it transcends even our birthright from our father Adam!

But they will have none of that freedom; they will have none of that love; they will not be under that yoke!  And God hates them; and they know it!  And that burden is heavy!

They would remove prayer and the Commandments of God from schools and public places; they would see to it that there are no symbols of Christ in public – such as Bibles, crosses, manger scenes, printed quotes and the like.  They would eliminate all conversation about Christ in public – calling it religious harassment – all because they hate to be reminded of their guilt.  They would redefine all perversions in human behavior as evolutionary aberrations and illness!  They would call evil good and good evil; and kill the baby and release the criminal.

They would stand in front of the temple, as these elders and priests of Israel, proclaiming religion but hating Christ.  It’s still exactly the same hatred.  It’s not at all different.  The leaders of Israel (the builders) would not sorrow and turn when the prophets spoke.  They would not sorrow and turn when they saw the prostitutes and tax collectors repent and follow Christ.  They became angry and violent when the crowds sang Hosanna (save) from Psalm one hundred eighteen.  And they became humiliated and enraged when shown by Jesus that they were the evil tenant farmers whom the housemaster would judge when he returned.

And, as Psalm two prophesies, it is they who had already gathered together in conspiracy to kill God’s Anointed King.  It is hatred of Christ, and, by extension, hatred of anyone who belongs to Him.  And, by further extension, hatred of any order or thought or value which seems to proceed from Him or His people.  So, anything which even sounds like Christ, or what He or His people might think or do; or even what is assumed to be associated with Christianity – all of it is detestable.

Now.  Knowing all those things, as we come to chapter twenty-two together, as verse one indicates, there seems to be some kind of a pause in the parabolic denunciation that is going on here in the temple.  As Matthew says, “and Jesus began again speaking to them in parables….”

Apparently the elders and priests have collaborated and decided not to seize Jesus (out of fear of the crowds); and now Jesus has begun again to speak to them.  And it is easy for us, since we’ve just read the text, to see that there is at least one thing about this parable that stands out as different from the ones that come before.  And that is that Jesus has stopped requiring them to give an answer!

The only logical explanation for that, if one is needed, is the fact that they’ve already been exposed before all these people as hypocrites (to their great humiliation), and they’ve already pronounced judgment on themselves two or three times as Jesus asks them questions concerning the Kingdom, and concerning the Scriptures.

And now there’s no more need to do that, so Jesus just continues, or proceeds, to condemn them, Himself, with great wisdom and authority.  And with this parabolic saying there are different aspects, or different reasons, of that condemnation brought out; and there are further revelations here of the work of God the Father and God the Son.  This all serves, of course, to heap up burning coals and enflame an already existent murderous intent!

In verse two Jesus begins the parable with “the Kingdom of the Heavens is likened to….” Or, “likened is the Kingdom the Heavens to….”  Either one is correct, although “likened” is in a very emphatic position in the sentence.  It’s first.  So if there would be a preferred order, it would be “likened is the Kingdom of the Heavens to….”

As we’ve seen before, Jesus begins with the Kingdom, doesn’t He?  He doesn’t begin with the illustration!  The Kingdom is the pattern from which the illustration proceeds!  It is the Archetype.

Since we’ve been over this before, we won’t spend too much time on it again; but we’re all familiar – too familiar, I’m afraid – with preaching from illustrations or stories or incidents or from personal experience, rather than from the pattern itself – the Truth.  The Scriptures.  But Jesus doesn’t begin with an illustration, He begins with the Kingdom!  “Likened is the Kingdom to….”

And the Kingdom is His Father’s, and He is inheriting it.  So He knows what the Kingdom is!  “Likened is the Kingdom to…” something else!  He begins with the archetype, or the pattern, or the reality; and He then proceeds to “liken” that to … what follows.

Now the Kingdom is the fact of God’s creation of, and His rule over, all things and all events – which includes time, doesn’t it?... and all of history within time.  This is what Christ is inheriting, and He is to bring it all to pass according to the will of His Father – for His Father’s glory.

That’s the Kingdom of the Heavens.  And Jesus “likens” the Kingdom to something else.  The text does not say “as”… it says, “likened”!  If Jesus had said “as”, then the parable would be the same as the Kingdom.  But He says “likened”; so the Kingdom which He is inheriting is not the same as what follows.  But it is “likened to” what follows.  In other words the Kingdom, the pattern, the reality, is lent (passive voice), in some similarities, to the metaphor to come!  At least some aspect of, the Kingdom is lent to the metaphor.  The metaphor (parable) doesn’t explain the Kingdom – the Kingdom is lent to the parable (at least some aspect of itself).

Now, a quick read of the parable itself lets us know that it is unquestionably Messianic, doesn’t it?  So the Kingdom of the Heavens (God’s sovereign rule over all things and events) has reached a point in time and history for Messianic preparations.  That’s what this parable is about – Messianic preparations!  God’s rule over all things and events (History) had reached a point of readiness for Messiah!  The preparations have been made – they’re ready!

And the Scriptures of Old described those preparations for Messiah in numbers of ways.  There are all kinds of Scripture language – historical narrative, wisdom literature and the language of prophecy, to name a few.  And the language of prophecy itself includes types and similes, and analogies and metaphors – parables – all set in the language of God into a peculiar historic setting!

And there is a foreordained point in history when God’s elect One was to come to fulfill all prophecy and inherit the Kingdom.  And the point here is that there is all kinds of language in the Scriptures which describe, in so many different ways, the kinds and many aspects of the preparations for His coming!  The coming of God’s elect One.

And one of the ways that God used to describe some of the aspects of Christ’s work is by way of marriage and the coming of the “Bridegroom” analogy.  I don’t think I’ll go into all of that right now – there are better places to do it coming up soon.  But Jesus’ salvation of humanity from sin and the curse – by giving us a new, one-flesh humanity in Him – certainly provides great “Kingdom” meaning to marriage, doesn’t it?

Our Lord Christ freeing us from our Adamic bodies and incorporating us into His new body is “likened” to a man taking a wife to himself and they becoming one flesh – the Lord’s salvation of His people being the archetype/pattern/reality for marriage!  Paul uses this so very well in his letter to the Ephesians.  Marriage not illustrating salvation – but salvation being the pattern reality from which marriage takes its meaning!

But like I say I don’t want to get too far afield with that, because, although this parable is, indeed, Messianic, the Bridegroom is not featured here!  Jesus’ parable, instead, has to do with the preparations for that foreordained time in history in which Messiah was to come!  Kingdom preparations!  This is not a marriage metaphor; it is not a Kingdom parable about the coming of the “Bridegroom”.

As we’ve seen in our study of Matthew to date, the prophet/servants of God were sent to Israel to require their repentance, and to announce the coming Messiah!  But Israel did not repent; and the prophets of God were ignored and abused and murdered!

And Jesus then sent His disciples out into all the towns and villages of Israel to find the lost sheep/remnant of the house of God.  And as they were found, the awful effects of the hypocritical, demonic leadership of Israel were reversed by His mighty Power.  And the remnant of Israel believed He was a prophet from God; and they turned in sorrow and followed Him.  And in our text they are with Him in the temple as He confronts the elders of Israel.

These are some of the preparatory events leading up to the great saving work of Christ on the cross and in His resurrection.  And the parable which He now speaks to the elders and priests of Israel has to do with those preparations – events for which the elders are full of hatred and revulsion!  For they did ignore and abuse and murder the prophets; and they did loathe the fact that huge numbers of people had been gathered around Jesus; and they did hate the low-class dregs of society who sorrowed and turned to follow Jesus (the prostitutes and tax collectors); and they did abhor the healings that Jesus performed that had so endeared him to the hearts of these “low-lifes”.  And they were so incensed and irritated when, upon questioning him, Jesus turned the Scriptures back on them and humiliated them!

And remarkably in this parable, all these are events of preparation which are couched in the analogy of the foreordained, planned marriage festivities!  There’s no mention of the betrothal or the marriage; and there’s also no mention of the “Bridegroom” – although, as verse two states, it is clear that the festivities are for the King’s son, and the King has made all the preparations; and its time for the feasting and revelry to begin.

Now, for us to get the full meaning of all the parabolic language concerning the preparations, we have to learn a little more about marriage festivities as they were celebrated in Jewish families at the time of Christ.  Remember, Jesus’ parable has to do with the preparations and the guests for the festivities.

As we have all heard, young people in Israel were not left to themselves to enter into matrimonial arrangements.  An engagement, or betrothal, was a very serious issue; and the finding of suitable parties was a family undertaking.  Many times trusted friends got involved.

But once an engagement was entered into, all of the obligations of marriage came with it except cohabitation.  They were then bound to one another by oath, and faithlessness was treated as adultery.

On the day of formal betrothal, oaths were exchanged as in a ceremony, and gifts were given to the bride-to-be and her friends and family; and there were lengthy festive celebrations!  And then the bride-to-be would return to her father’s house and live under his authority until the day of the marriage, which had been set appropriately in the future.  In the meantime all transactions between the two betrothed people were carried on by the bridegroom’s friend (the groomsman).

When the day of the marriage arrived, the groom would put on a special wedding garment and proceed with his friend and many other attendants to the house of the bride, who had prepared herself appropriately – especially with the ornamental girdle which no bride would be without.  (according to Jeremiah chapter two)

Then that evening the groom and his entourage and the bride and her entourage would all proceed to the groom’s house accompanied with lights and lanterns and music and dancing.  This is what began the marriage festivities, for during the next days there was to be singing and dancing and games and other festive activities – and many feasts!  Large numbers of relatives and friends and neighbors would be invited by the host – usually the groom’s father – and everybody would indulge themselves in food and drink and joyful merrymaking!

As you can see, a man could run out of wine and other things very easily, according to the numbers of people that showed up day after day; and his herd could also suffer!  All of these people had to be fed and entertained – all in honor of marriage!  But note that the marriage ceremony was composed of the groom going to get his bride and bringing her home.  That’s it!  All the oaths and gifts and formalities were done at the betrothal!  The marriage was the groom taking his bride home to himself.  And all the lengthy festivities seemed to celebrate that.  The consummation – the marriage.  The one-flesh union!  That’s what the festivities were all about.

The Kingdom (God’s rule over all things and events) has progressed in history to the foreordained and prophesied work of Messiah – the Son of God.  The betrothal having already occurred – the oaths and ceremonies having already taken place – that time that God had ruled to be the time of Messiah had arrived.  All the preparations had been made, and it was time now for the attendees to arrive!  It was time for the festivities to begin!

All the preparations had been done – all the Kingdom preparations for the arrival of Messiah had been done!  That’s what’s likened to wedding festivities!  God had sent prophet after prophet after prophet to Israel to prepare it for the great festivities associated with the arrival of the King!

The prophets’ words are “likened” to a wedding invitation to Israel to prepare for the festivities of a wedding!  There would be great joy and dancing and eating and drinking and great elation at the arrival of God’s King!  “Likening” it to wedding festivities!

All Israel was to have observed all the Kingdom preparations and prepared for great revelry – dancing in the streets and food and drink and joy and consummation – as God’s King was presented to them (likened to a wedding).  The prophets were sent to them with words directly from God to make preparations for His King!

But as we’ll see next Lord’s Day – nobody came.  What we have here then, rather than being likened to a wedding consummation, it’s actually the consummation of apostasy.

For 1500 years the judaists didn’t heed God’s preparations for the coming of His Messiah/King.  And they killed God’s prophets when they brought Word from Him to the necessity for their sorrow and repentance.  They hated Him.  As Psalm two says, they wished to break all the bonds connecting them to God and His King – Jesus Christ.

The result was the death penalty for adultery.  God had “betrothed” Israel to Himself, but Israel wished to be disconnected from that betrothal.  And it was divorced and put to death – the death penalty being carried out in 70 AD.

But the King has come.  And through sorrow and repentance and faith, you may join in the festivities!  The Gospel is the power of God into salvation!  Hear!  And repent in grief to sorrow over your rebellion against God’s King.

Turn!  And faith in Him as Savior of the world.  His yoke is easy; and His burden is light.