In Christ’s first parable (Matt. 21:28-32), He told of two sons. The father of the two told both of them to go work in his field. The first said, “I will not.” But later, he went. The second son said “I will sir.” But he did not go. Jesus likened the chief priests and elders (21:23) to the second son. As the second son failed to obey his father, the chief priests and elders failed to do the will of God. They failed to heed God’s warnings by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:7-12). They failed to “Behold the Lamb of God” John preached (John 1:29). Jesus drew the conclusion from the parable. He said tax collectors and harlots will enter heaven before these men. His parable reproved them for their willful unbelief and warned that while they remained hardened in their hearts against Him, they would perish in their sins. But His parable was full of grace to sinners. Those who appeared best to men were the worst of all; but those who appeared the worst to themselves and others, received grace in spite of their evident avarice and immorality!
In the second parable (Matt. 21:33-46) Jesus told of a powerful and wealthy landowner who set aside some of his land for a vineyard. He planted it and prepared all that was necessary to receive the fruit from it in due season. He then rented it out to caretakers (husbandmen), whom he charged to bring the fruits to him in due season. But the caretakers refused to give the landowner his due. They not only refused to give him the fruit from his vineyard, they treated all of his servants he sent to them with mockery and violence, even killing some of them. At last the landowner sent his son. But they killed his only son, his only heir. Jesus compared the chief priests and Pharisees those murderous husbandmen in the parable (21:45). God gave His oracles, OT scripture, to the Jews (Rom. 3:2). But they did not see Christ in them (John 5:39-40). Their pride kept them from seeing their need of Christ and His salvation. They therefore did not preach Christ and Him crucified to the people. They preached themselves instead to take glory to themselves (2 Cor. 4:5). By failing to believe and preach Christ to God’s sheep, they failed to bring to God the fruit of His vineyard. When Jesus came, they envied Him, steeled their hearts against Him and hated Him without any cause found in Him (John 15:25). They were blind in their unbelief. Like the first parable, this second parable was a reproof and dire warning to these men and all like them, who fail to give God His due by believing Christ and preaching Christ to His sheep (21:41). For their failure, the Gospel was taken from the nation of Israel and given to the nation chosen by God in Christ. That nation is the Church, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a holy nation, the Body of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 12:24-26; Gal. 6:16). Again, this second parable foretold coming judgment on these men. Yet even in His pronouncement of God’s judgment against them for their evil, God’s mercy shines forth to His people (Hab. 3:2). The wicked hands that took and killed the Son of God fulfilled God’s eternal will (Acts 2:23). They meant it for evil, but God decreed it for the salvation of His people (Acts 4:27-28). Though they failed to preach Christ, salvation came to the Gentiles by their fall (Rom. 11:11, 33)!
In the third parable, Jesus addressed the Pharisees again, and all, who like them, stubbornly hold to their self-righteous, damning pride. In the third parable, a king made a marriage for his son. He called those who had been called before to the wedding feast. They refused to come. He sent his servants to call them again. One man went to his farm. That man preferred his own works and the fruit of his work to the King, to His Son, to the Son’s Bride, to their marriage, and to the King's fully prepared wedding feast! A second man went to his merchandise. He loved and trusted his riches over the abundance graciously provided in the wedding feast! He too despised the King, His Son and His Son’s wedding. Others called by the King became violently enraged. They took and killed the King’s servants. In this parable, the Pharisees correspond to those who refused to come. When Christ came into the world, when He took the body God prepared for Him (Heb. 10:5-7), when He came to do the will of God, when He finished that work, all was then prepared. The Gospel corresponds to the wedding feast. God commands all to believe the Gospel (Rom. 16:25-26). In it, God has fully prepared all that He requires for chosen sinners (Isa. 55:1-3; John 6:35-57; 4:10; 7:37-38; Rev. 22:17). But these men refused to come in faith and feast on Christ to the glory of God. They failed to give God the glory due His name. They despised God’s offering of His Son: which the slain oxen and fatlings pointed to in the parable. They despised His Son’s marriage: the glorious salvation of chosen sinners in Christ and their eternal union to Him.
On the same day that Jesus gave these three parables, the Pharisees joined in league with the Herodians to entrap Him (Matt. 22:15-22). They ignored the three warnings of judgment Christ pronounced on them. Rather than seeking counsel from Him how they might be turned from their wickedness (2 Tim. 2:25; Acts 3:25-26), they took counsel together against Him how they might take and kill Him (22:15). In the first attack, they attempted to entrap Christ. They asked Him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. The Pharisees opposed taxes. They thought if Jesus answered “Yes,” He would alienate the people from Himself, pushing God’s sheep into their devilish arms. The Herodians were those who joined politics to religion. They approved of taxes because Herod benefited from Roman rule. They thought if Jesus answered “No,” they could arrest Him for rebellion and sedition. On the other hand, if He refused to answer, both groups could accuse Him of deceitfully avoiding a direct question, or at the very least, of ignorance. In any case they thought they had Him. But Jesus answered with the wisdom of God, because He is the Wisdom of God (John 1:1-3; 1 Cor. 1:24). He held up a coin. He asked them whose image was on the coin. They said, “Caesar’s.” He said, “Render (give) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). In His answer, Jesus builds on the three parables He had just given. There are several lessons we can learn from this encounter.
First, The Pharisees failed to give God His due. They raised a question about something that was not an issue. They loved to keep things on a superficial level. They ignored heart matters. They thought to catch Christ in their trap, but He exposed their wickedness. What wickedness did He expose? That they failed to give to God what belonged to God. We can summarize all of their failures from the three parables as this: they failed to submit to Jesus Christ. They failed to believe His word against themselves. They failed to believe His word about Himself. They failed to turn from their proud, willful self-righteousness and submit to His righteousness and His rule (Rom. 9:33-10:4,9). In them we see the greatest evil in the heart of man. It is the evil of self-righteous pride (Prov. 8:13; 26:12; 27:22). They refused to believe Christ. May God deliver us from this great evil (Luke 18:13)!
Second, in the three attacks recorded in Matt. 22, for that matter in all of the attacks on the Lord Jesus Christ, He gloriously triumphed over His enemies! His wisdom astounded even His enemies (22:22), just as every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Php. 2:6-11). They were taken in their own trap. He takes the wise in their own craftiness (Job 5:13). They surrounded Him like bees, but in the name of the LORD, He destroyed them (Ps. 118:11-12). Their attacks became His victory for His people. With every attack, we see His wisdom and understand His grace in the Gospel of our salvation. Though they would eventually take and kill Him, in that most heinous act, Christ gloriously triumphed to the eternal salvation of His people and the glory of God. His heel was bruised, but He bruised satan’s head. “He spoiled principalities and powers, making a show of them openly” (Col. 2:14-15). Sin was put to death (Rom. 5:21; 6:11; 1 Cor. 15:55-57). He overcame the world (John 16:33; Gal. 1:4). He saved His people with an eternal salvation (Isa. 45:17; Heb. 5:9; 9:12). And out of this He will destroy death and the grave (Hosea 13:14). This lesson is the main lesson taught throughout the Gospels. No enemy can stand before Christ. His victory and triumph is the victory and triumph of His people. He appears more glorious in every conflict to the adoring wonder and awe of His people. His victory is the defeat of our every enemy (Isa. 54:17; Micah 7:18-20; Rom. 8:35-37; 1 Cor. 15:56-57; Rom. 6:14,17; 7:4; Gal. 1:4; 3:13; Titus 2:14; Heb. 10:14-19)!
Third, the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified answers every question (Rom. 8:34). In Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees in Matt. 22:21, He condemned their failure. They failed to obey God just as the second son failed to do his father’s will. They failed to see Christ. They failed to preach Christ crucified for the faith and the salvation of God’s people, just as the murderous husbandmen failed to give the landowner the fruit of his vineyard in the second parable. And they failed to honor the great King of heaven by believing the Gospel of God’s free grace to the honor of God’s dear and most glorious Son. They are reprobate (Rom. 9:22). They only grew worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13). Just as all who stubbornly hold to their self-righteousness, they were deceived and they deceived others. Christ exposed their evil. But His answer was also full of grace. “Give to God what is God’s.” How is this answer full of grace? Because, the Gospel alone reveals how man can give God what belongs to Him!
“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chr. 16:29; Ps. 29:2).
We must give God the glory due His name. But all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)! We have failed to give glory to God! How then can a sinner give God the glory due His name? Though every man has failed to give God His due, Christ did not fail! He said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth. I have finished the work Thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). Christ alone, in His life and by His death, glorified His Father. Yet He did not live for Himself. He did not die for Himself. He lived a representative life and died a substitutionary death for His people by the will of God (Heb. 10:5-18).
According to 1 Chr. 16:29, we must also bring an offering. But what shall that offering be? “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul” (Micah 6:7)? No! Christ offered Himself (Heb. 7:27; 9:14,26)! “He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2)! In all of these and more, we see that of all that we must give to God, all that is His due, all that He requires of His people, He must give Himself! What God requires, God must provide. He gave His Son. Abraham said it: “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb” (Gen. 22:8; 1 John 4:9-10)! What God required, He has received from Christ. The Gospel declares it! All things are now ready! Come to the feast (John 7:37-38; Rev. 22:17)! Whatever God provides, God accepts with great delight! He is well-pleased with Christ (Matt. 17:5; Eph. 5:2; Isa. 53:10; 49:5). This is the Gospel in a nutshell. All that is due to God, God has provided for His people in the Lord Jesus Christ and received from Him to His great delight (Col. 2:9-10; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 5:2)! What He provided in Christ, He has received from Christ. All is now done (John 19:30)! How can we give to God the things that are God’s? How can we worship Him in the beauty of holiness? “This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). We worship God if we worship Him by faith in Christ, for salvation is in Christ (John 4:22-24)! “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD” (Ps. 1116:12-13)!
In the second attack on Jesus in Matt. 22, the Sadducees try to disprove the resurrection. By their attack, we see the greatest victory of all. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead! He is crowned, victorious! He reigns over all to save His people and give them the spoils of His victory (Isa. 53:12; Rom. 8:17). Oh wonderful God-wrought task! For me, what God’s Son hath earned! Though in all that I am I failed to do one thing of all that He requires, yet He has accomplished all for me in His Son (John 3:21; Isa. 26:12)!