Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily Bread for Oct 11, Mat 22-23

Today's readings are Mt 22-23

The parable of the wedding feast (Mat 22:1-14) is a blow to the Jews. The people in the town who refuse to come to the feast symbolize the Jews. They end up being destroyed for their arrogance and disrespect. The people on the roads are non-Jewish (Gentile) travelers who no-self-respecting Jew would ever invite to a wedding feast. Bad and good people alike are invited solely by invitation of the king, not on their merit or worthiness. Even at that, proper clothing is required to attend the feast. The necessary clothing is a symbol of the righteousness of Christ that adorns all believers. Without it, one cannot come to the wedding feast of the Son of God. From where does this righteous clothing come? God provides it (Is 61:10).

We see in Mt 22:14 the tension between human responsibility and sovereign election. "Many are called" may refer to the Jews who, as a group, were called God's people. They enjoyed God's protection and blessing. They were all called to repent, but some refused and were doomed. The many who were called can also represent the human race who has been called to repent and have also been the recipient of God's overall blessing. This is sometimes called "common grace." Yet few are chosen. Those who are called are held responsible for not responding. Those who are chosen enter into the kingdom. The parable of the banquet lays this out succinctly. Many were called to the banquet. Only those provided with appropriate wedding apparel are chosen to partake.

In the teaching of paying taxes (Mt 22:15-22), we find a lesson on working within the world system. The Jews who challenge Jesus are apparently part of the system. This is evidenced by the fact that they have, in their pockets and purses, the currency of the realm and live within the Roman economic system. As they try to manipulate Jesus into either showing allegiance to Rome by supporting the Roman taxes (a move that would alienate the Jews) or to show allegiance to Jerusalem by teaching not to pay the taxes (a move that would alienate the Romans) -- Jesus tells them they must do both, honor God and honor Rome. They honor God in their worship and their faith. But they honor the world system that they live and benefit from insofar as they can while maintaining their commitment to godly living.

Jesus, debating with a group of Sadducees, shatters some preconceptions about heaven (Mt 22:23-33). The Sadducees try to make Jesus look foolish by mocking the resurrection and the complications they see in believing in an after-life. Their hypothetical woman, widowed multiple times, has a dilemma if there is a resurrection. According to Mosaic law, she would be married to all her former husbands. They aim to point out the absurdity of the resurrection, assuming the resurrection functions the same as the earthly realm and is subject to earthly laws.

Jesus rebukes them for not believing their Scripture which teaches a resurrection (Is 26:9; Dan 12:2; Job 19:25-27). Their mistake is in thinking that God's coming kingdom will be just like their earthly kingdom. Jesus tells them things will change. There will be no need for marriage. God's children will have glorified bodies like the angels (the Sadducees also denied the existence of angels). All those who are saved will exist in total unity and harmony with each other and with God. There will be no pairing off, no need for companionship, no loneliness, no tension, no heartbreak. The body will be perfectly united and in the presence of God.

Jesus sums up the Law in Mt 22:34-40. Notice, He does not abrogate it or proclaim it to be null and void. He affirms it but boils it down to the two primary principals that are encompassed by the Ten Commandments: love God (Ex 20:1-8) and love each other (Ex 20:9-17). Jesus began His ministry with the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. In the Beatitudes, He expanded upon the Law, making it apply to the heart rather than the behavior. Now, at the end of His ministry, He makes the Law even more prominent in the life of a believer by boiling it down to two simple principles. Jesus has just bookended His ministry with two authoritative teachings on the Law.

The core of the religious rulers' struggle with Jesus is found in Mt 22:41-45. They can't figure out who Jesus claims to be. Is He the King of the Jews, descended from David? Is He the Son of God? Jesus quotes from Psalm 110, a Psalm believed by the Jews to be Messianic. Jesus answers, "Yes!" to both questions. He is the King of the Jews, descended from David, and He is the Son of God, the Messiah. Jesus transcends their limited ideas of who He is.

In Mat 23:2, the scribes and Pharisees "sit on Moses' seat." This indicates that they do what Moses did, speak the word of God. If they are speaking the word of God, the people are to do what the word says. But, Jesus cautions them not to do what the scribes and Pharisees do. The leaders’ lack of holy living is not an excuse for the people to be disobedient to the word. The leaders’ hypocrisy leads to seven woes.
  • They are responsible for their teaching and the souls of those they teach (Mat 23:13)
  • They are distorting God’s word and misleading people (Mat 23:15)
  • They have shifted their focus from heavenly things to earthly things (Mat 23:16-22).
  • They have followed the letter of the Law but not the intent (Mat 23:23-24).
  • They look good but their hearts are evil (Mat 23:25-26).
  • They practice a false piety and live a lie (Mat 23:27-28).
  • They wrongly believe themselves to be more righteous than those who preceded them. Instead, they are far more depraved and murderous (Mat 23:29-35).
Incidentally, In Mt 23:23, the scribes and Pharisees are told they should be living holy lives while they are tithing, a harsh truth for those who believe tithing is not sanctioned in the New Testament. 

As a metaphor for what will become of those who are subject to the woes, Jesus laments the desolation of Jerusalem (Mat 23:37-39). In less than 40 years, Jerusalem will be ravished and nearly destroyed by the Romans.

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