What does Matthew chapter 22 mean?Jesus' back-and-forth engagement in the temple with some of Israel's religious leaders (Matthew 21:23) continues in this chapter. It begins with a third devastating parable about them. Then Jesus easily handles questions intended to trip Him up. Finally, He asks them a hard question of His own.
Jesus' third parable goes beyond merely exposing the religious leaders to revealing God's grace for others. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king throwing a wedding feast for his son. None of the citizens he invites will attend, however, resisting to the point of killing the king's messengers. After destroying the murderers, the king invites as many as can be found on the public roads, and the hall is filled. The king has one guest thrown out, however, when he arrives without a wedding garment. This passage is a close parallel to His parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:12–24) but features a few important distinctions. Christ's words here not only speak to Israel's rejection of the Messiah, they also establish concepts related to salvation by grace (Matthew 22:1–14).
After hearing three parables in which they are pictured as rebelling against God, the Pharisees are ready to be done with Jesus. They hatch a plan to force Jesus to say something that might get Him arrested for rebellion against Rome. Some of the Pharisees' disciples, along with Herodians, begin by flattering Jesus, then asking if paying taxes to Caesar—meaning to the Roman empire—is right according to the Old Testament law. Jesus knows exactly what they are trying to do and calls them hypocrites. He then holds a Roman denarius and asks whose image is on it. He tells the people to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. This remark establishes the idea that we, as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:27), ought to give all of ourselves to Him (Matthew 22:15–22).
Next, some from the group known as the Sadducees approach Jesus. This was a more politically connected, aristocratic, and less spiritual sect. Sadducees did not believe in angels, a spiritual world, or an afterlife. They rejected the idea that God's people will be raised from the dead and live eternally. To show why such an idea is absurd to them, they imagine a scenario in which one woman ends up married to each of seven brothers in turn. Each of them dies, one by one, passing her on to be married to the next. Finally, she dies (Matthew 22:23–27).
The Sadducees ask Jesus who the woman will be married to in the resurrection. Jesus rebukes them for misinterpreting Scripture and underestimating God's power. He corrects their misguided question by pointing out that there is no marriage in heaven. This answer also establishes that both angels and the afterlife are real. He then asks them why God would claim to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob if He is the God of the living and not the dead? Using their own tactic, and their own Scriptures, He has shown a core belief of the Sadducees to be false. Again, the crowd is greatly impressed by Jesus' teaching (Matthew 22:28–33).
Next Jesus is approached by one of the Pharisees. This man is a "lawyer," meaning he is an expert in the Old Testament and its traditional interpretations. He tests Jesus by asking a simple question debated among the religious leaders: Which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus answers Him directly: that to love God with everything is the primary commandment. The second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Everything we think, believe, or do with respect to God is grounded in this fundamental idea (Matthew 22:34–40).
Finally, Jesus asks the Pharisees a challenging question of His own: Whose son is the Christ? They answer rightly that the Christ, the Messiah, is the son of David. Jesus asks how that can be since David called the Christ "my Lord," quoting from Psalm 110:1. This perspective touches on the idea of Messiah's divine nature. None of them can answer, and Jesus silences His opponents yet again (Matthew 22:41–46).
At this point, Jesus will deliver a devastating critique of the Pharisees, leading to His heartfelt mourning over Israel's rejection of God (Matthew 23).