Good morning! As much as I try to avoid it as a native Minnesotan, I’m afraid that conflict is the main theme in today’s passage, Matthew 22-23. Having entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus now engages in a series of questions and parables with the other religious leaders. These sayings end up in different places according to various gospels, so it may be wise to consult a “parallel” Bible which shows where a given story ends up in each of the four gospels.
Jesus continues the polemic parables we discussed yesterday with the parable of the wedding banquet at the start of Matthew 22. Here again, the message is that the Hebrew religious leaders have “missed the boat” of salvation despite repeated attempts by God to earn their attention. When those who were first approached repeatedly disregard the invitation, so those you’d least expect (“both good and bad”) are ushered through to the wedding banquet instead. I’ve always struggled with the second part of this parable. What does it mean that the one not wearing a wedding robe is cast out? Some scholars suggest that this could be a fragment from another parable, which got attached here at some point in the manuscript transmission. The chapter continues with a series of questions about paying taxes to the emperor, resurrection, the greatest commandment, and King David’s understanding of scripture. All serve to emphasize the growing divide between Jesus and the scribes, Sadducees, Herodians and Pharisees.
Criticism against the scribes and Pharisees only grows sharper in Matthew 23. Jesus essentially tells those listening to him to do what the religious leaders say, but not what they do. He extends a harsh diatribe against those who use their position for self-aggrandizement (in keeping with priorities established earlier in the gospel). Most of the chapter contains a series of “woe”s against the scribes and Pharisees, also called “blind guides”. Jesus accuses them of splitting hairs with doctrine, and choosing whichever interpretations better suit their desires for money, power and prestige. Jesus does not have anything nice to say about the scribes and Pharisees here at all! It helps to remember that some of the heat in these exchanges comes from bad blood between Jews and the Jewish followers of Christ in Matthew’s own time of 70 CE. Matthew, wanting to defend the fledgling Christian movement, had reason to only say bad things about Jewish leadership at the time. We’ll see where this conflict ultimately goes in the remaining chapters of Matthew. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Matthew 24-25. Thanks for reading!