Matthew 22 is a direct extension of Matthew 21. In my Bible i have actually crossed out the chapter number for 22 to de-emphasize the separation. Overall, the day that these chapters represent would have been a day to sell tickets to, pop some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show! Things are starting to get interesting!
Jesus begins the discussion with a parable. A kings son is getting married and he invites the important people to the wedding feast, but no one is willing to go. Rather they abuse and kill his messengers. So he destroys them, and he invites strangers from the street… anyone willing to come. The Pharisees know that this parable is directed towards them, so they fire a couple of volleys back. They try to trap Jesus between the law of the land and the sentiment of the people. Jesus walks through that trap pretty easily. Next the Sadducees (who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead) test Him. Jesus not only clears that trap, but He also answers to and clarifies the truth / theology to respond to their confused beliefs. So instead they send in a legal expert to test Him. The legal expert questions Jesus, and of course He answers beautifully. Finally, Jesus asks them a tough question about the Messiah and how the Messiah does not fit their viewpoint / expectations.
All of this silences the pharisees… “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.” He wins the debate. He wins the day, and many of His enemies are now solidified against Him. Ultimately though, it’s all part of the plan, and He prevails.
Things are starting to come together. The end is nigh and the countdown is beginning. This chapter begins with the triumphal entry. Jesus enters Jerusalem for His / the final passover. The disciples find the colt as He predicts. He rides the colt into Jerusalem with the bystanders worshiping YHWH and giving Him adoration calling for Him to fulfill His mission as Messiah to save them and desiring Him to free them from Roman tyranny. However, as is the case quite often, our expectations of what YHWH should do, and what He does, are two different things. Even when we have the same message / prediction.
Christ comes in and begins the process of redemption and rescue from tyranny… He drives the money changers and the seats of those who were selling in the temple. Those who were turning His Father’s house into a den of thieves.
The next morning he was hungry and came upon a barren fig tree. It should have had fruit, but it didn’t. He cursed it, and it began to wither and die. This is a great analogy of the pharisees. They too are not bearing fruit to righteousness. As a result, they begin to wither and die as Christ sacrifices Himself to build the church.
The rest of this chapter is focused on this dynamic action – reaction of Jesus and the Pharisees. They challenge His authority wanting to know what right He has to teach preach, and do these things. Christ in turn He puts their actions and those of sinners into perspective. He shows that knowing the law and being sinless are two very different things, and He criticizes them for it.
Jesus continues with another parable about a landowner who builds a vineyard, rents it out to vine-dressers, and sends his servants out to collect the fruits of the vineyard. The vine-dressers instead beat the representatives and eventually kill the owner’s son. This is the final truth of their relationship. The pharisees will kill the landowner’s son, but the landowner will destroy the vine-dressers and redeem His people.
The relationship between Jesus and the pharisees is such a contrast. Jesus cares for the fruit of the vine, while most of the Pharisees care more about what they can get from the fruit than they do about caring for the fruit. They are killing the vineyard from the inside out, and they just didn’t seem to care. This dynamic seems to define and explain all that follows. It is the reason and purpose for all that follows.
This is a key turning point in Jesus ministry and the pharisees focus when it comes to Jesus.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
There was a young man who grew up in a simple, small town. He left the small town, got his degree in engineering, and became famous for his simple, yet extremely effective designs. Time and time again this man would take a complex situation and find a simple, elegant solution. He went out to third world countries and helped the people find easy ways to find and build wells, design stable structures in earthquake prone countries that could withstand decades of major tremors, contracted with NASA to help design the next stages of the international space station. His work was amazing, revolutionary, and had won him the Nobel Peace Prize.
One year his hometown, which was in a valley, was hit by really heavy rainfall and was in danger of being crushed by massive mudslides. This young man came home and brought a plan to the town of how to simply, effectively, and inexpensively redirect the mudslides away from the town in into an area that had been unsuitable for farming due to the nature of it’s ground and (lack of) soil. This would have effectively rescued the town and produced all new usable land putting life and industry where there had been none.
The response from the leadership of the town and of the community was one of awe, but ultimately of rejection. The plan wasn’t a bad plan. It was a great one, but they wanted to rely on their own ways of doing it. The town had been threatened numerous times by mudslides. One year part of the town had even been buried, but they would be alright. They had always gotten through just fine.
Three months later, while he was doing some work in South America he got a message. His hometown had been buried in a record breaking mudslide. The entire town had been swept away with only a handful of survivors.
Do we fail to live out the message because we have heard it so many times we have just stopped listening? “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” Those of us born and raised in the church, we have been born, bred, and raised on the Word of God. Are we bearing fruit, or have we become too hard for God / YHWH to plant a new seed in? Will we be consumed when the day of destruction comes, because we were of His household?