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.
It’s interesting to look at (compare & contrast) the responses of the action’s / reactions between Jesus, the disciples, and the Pharisees. I’d say that by this time many of the Pharisees are getting a little fed up with Jesus. So they decide that they are going to respond to Him by testing Him. They ask Jesus for a sign that He is who He says He is. Of course you know that Jesus is not going to just make things easy for them. He already knows what’s in their hearts, so He criticizes them for not seeing (or ignoring) the signs that are there right in front of them.
So Jesus, understanding the Pharisees, turns around later and tells His disciples to beware of the leaven (teachings) of the Pharisees. They don’t get it at first, but after some prompting, they catch on. So Jesus finally comes to them and asks them about their response to who He is. Peter is the only one who seems to give a real and solid response. He tells Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus response is high praise of Peter.
So now, because of the response He is given, Christ begins to put a little more depth / meat into His teachings. He foretells His death and explains the cost of following Him. Of course we know how the (hi)story goes, but they didn’t at that time.
I wanted to touch on Peter’s “good’ confession here as it has some very interesting facets. I love the play on words that Jesus does here. Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Christ (Kristos) the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds that this is not something that Peter discovered, but rather something that was revealed to him by the Father. It’s what Jesus says that is so interesting: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” The name Peter is the Greek word “petros”. It means a small stone. The picture that i get here is of a rock that you would use to skip on a pond. The word “rock” in this verse is “Petra” which means a very large rock, a bedrock, or a foundational stone. So we have Jesus telling Peter, “You are a small stone, and on this huge froundational stone I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will on overtake it.
So if the foundational stone is not Peter, then what is it? It is this truth; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is such an amazing picture, because out of the small stone, the pebble if you will, comes the bedrock of truth. The pebble speaks forth the mountain. Isn’t that an amazing picture?! The pebble is not the foundation / mountain, but out of the small stone / pebble comes that which is the foundation / mountain. It is an amazing picture!
Well now, things just keep getting worse and worse for Pharaoh. We have gone from blood to frogs and gnats and insects. God is showing Pharaoh that not only is He the one true God and that he can create life and take it away, but he can also have creatures distinguish between Egyptian and Israelite lands. Pharaoh’s magicians have gotten to the point where even they acknowledge that these things can only be done by God, and that’s saying something!
Pharaoh’s heart is beginning to change. He’s trying to compromise with God. Unfortunately what he’s finding is that God does not accept compromise. It’s a tough lesson for Pharaoh to learn, and he’s not learning it very well. Then again, do we? So Pharaoh’s trying to save face in the face of watching his land be devastated. He is beginning to understand that this is not such as small matter. So while he is starting to soften in his view, he has made the choice to harden his heart and ignore the truth.
That is such a tough thing to do. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. It’s a tough thing to do for a short time, but when you are trying to wrestle against YHWH for an extended period of time, that will wear you down really quickly. The older i have gotten, the lazier i have gotten, and i have come to the conclusion that that is just too much work. It is so much easier to just say, “OK God. You win. What do you want me to do?”
The nice thing about letting God win is that it is worth it. Life is so much easier, more joyful, and more fulfilling when i step out of the way and just let God. It means going from slave to servant, but the difference between the two is amazing.
Rev. John Camiolo
Some chapters i have to read and read and read the same thing over and over again before i can get it down on paper accurately. I just have a hard time keeping it all together in my mind long enough for it to get put on paper accurately. Other times, like today, i start copying the verses down and it all flows so smoothly.
This has to be my favorite part of this story. He just can’t take it anymore. Joseph breaks down and lets it all out. He reveals the truth in the presence of his brothers. All the work and testing that he has done, has led up to this purpose. He can now tell them not only who he is, but that this has all been a part of God’s plan. That they have nothing to fear and that God is blessing them abundantly above all things.
Wow, what it must have been like? To have all of this happen to you, to look back and know that God was directing and leading it all, and that you now have such a huge part to play in the process. Then to be able to come back, reconcile with those who “did you harm” and be able to tell them, “Do not fear. God meant for all of this to happen, and His plan is amazing!” What must it have been like for the brothers? Their dark and dirty secret out in the open, but for the good. All the guilt, pain, and agony that they had buried finally revealed with the ability to let it go. They still had to deal with the consequences and the backlash. But, the truth has been revealed, and they can finally be free.
Are their things in our lives that we have hidden that we wish would and could be revealed? I know that plenty of times in my life this has been the case. What Jesus told the Pharisees was that if they chose God and became His disciples, they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free. (John 8:32) They had enslaved themselves to the law and their own rules. They needed to be released from those chains. This was their chance and opportunity. One day, all will be revealed, until then; we may know / reveal the truth, and the truth will set us free.