The last encounter is between Jesus and a lone Pharisee. This guy is listening to Jesus and the other religious leaders go at it. He’s a Pharisee and as a Pharisee, he’s probably competitive with the Sadducees because they represent a divergent theological view and Jesus had just silenced them. And that’s why they are “sad, you see?” Sadd-u-cee, get it? Bad joke.
34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
The greatest commandment is two-fold and we’ve talk about this extensively here at the Hill–on one side, the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. And on the other side, you have the second greatest commandment–love your neighbor as yourself. Everything from the OT hangs on, flows from these 2 commandments. Which are all about love. Love for God and love for others.
I want you to notice each of the reactions to what Jesus said in these encounters. We’ll skip over the parable of the wedding banquet for now. In the encounter with the Pharisees regarding taxation, Jesus responds to their political question and we see the reaction in v22–
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.
Their reaction was amazement. Likewise, in the next encounter with the sad guys, the Sadducees, Jesus responds to their theological question and we see the reaction in v33–
33 And when the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
We’re not quite sure how the Sadducees took what Jesus said, but at least the crowds were astonished. So amazement then astonishment.
In the final encounter, Jesus encounters a lone Pharisee who has an ethical question and Jesus responds and there was no audible reaction. The Pharisee was silent.
Amazement, astonishment and perhaps a stunned silence. Those are the responses to Jesus’ teachings on politics, theology and ethics.
Now let’s bring it down to our level. I wonder how many times God speaks and there is a stirring in our hearts, but we stop with amazement, astonishment and silence. We are touched by the Spirit of God, our hearts are moved, our emotions are engaged, we are amazed or astonished but it ends there. We are silent.
If they were amazed, shouldn’t they have asked–Jesus, what does it mean to give God what is God’s? If they were astonished, shouldn’t they have wondered, could there be an afterlife? Instead of silence, shouldn’t the Pharisee have asked, what does it mean to love God and love neighbor? I go to the temple, I tithe, I am religious, what else is there?
We cannot stop at being amazed. We can’t end with astonishment. If God moves you, don’t remain silent. Say something. Have an ongoing dialogue with Jesus. Build a relationship with him. If you are stuck spiritually, ask one of the brothers or sisters here for help. Pray with someone.
Encounters #2-4 reinforce the point of the first encounter between the chief priests and Pharisees and Jesus in the parable of the wedding banquet.
Before we read from Matthew, let’s start by reading the parallel account in Luke 14:15-24 because it brings a different emphasis and tone compared to Matthew’s version.
15 When one of those who reclined at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “The one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God is blessed!” 16 Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his slave to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ 18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’ 20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’ 21 “So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’ 22 “‘Master,’ the slave said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’ 23 “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’”
Invitations went out for a great banquet. In fact, there were two sets of invitations that went out. This was customary in Jesus’ day. When you were invited to a wedding, for example, a preliminary invitation was sent out, giving the recipient advance notice of the event. Then, right before the event, another invitation would be sent to confirm your attendance.
In Luke, the first set of invitations were met by a string of some pretty lame excuses. The first excuse was, I just bought a field and I must go see it. Did he really have to see it right this moment? If he goes a few hours later or tomorrow, will the field go anywhere? Will it look any different tomorrow? This is a lame excuse. What about the next excuse? I just bought five oxen and I need to go try them out? Why did he have to try the oxen out right this moment? Are the oxen about to die? Another lame excuse. The final excuse was, I just got married. This one is a little better. At least you are dealing with a person, not a field or an animal. But still, if the person invited really wanted to go to the banquet, couldn’t they have gone with their spouse?
Because this first round of invitations were not accepted by the recipients, a second round of invitations went out. This time, the response was much better. People came and the banquet hall was filled. Of course, these two rounds of invitations mirror what happened in salvation history. God started with the nation of Israel. They received the first round of invitations. But because they rejected the invitation, a second round of invitations went out to the rest of the nations, the Gentiles. And unlike Israel, the Gentiles actually showed up at the banquet.
Now we are ready to take a look at Matthew’s version of this banquet in Matt 22:1. And you’ll notice this is not any banquet, it’s actually a WEDDING banquet.
1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come. 4 Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them. 7 The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city. 8 “Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’ 10 So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests.
As you reach your mid-twenties and thirties, you start getting a bunch of wedding invitations. Because your friends are getting married. If it’s your best friend or sibling and you are in the wedding party as a bridesmaid or a groomsman, then you couldn’t be happier. You’d drop everything to be there to support them. Because you’re close to the person getting married. But if it’s a tier 2 friend, maybe you are buddy buddy over facebook, you’re great virtual friends, but you are not really close in real life. You haven’t seen this person in a few years face to face and you get an invitation to their wedding, then what do you do? Honestly, you don’t really want to go, but when the person calls you to invite you, you say, yeah, great, I’ll be there. You want to be polite. Then the invitation comes in the mail and you don’t RSVP. And at the very last minute, a week before the wedding, you conveniently send your friend an email, hey, man, sorry, something came up. My dog is really sick. I can’t make it.
Come on, you’ve all done that, right? Again, if it’s a family member or a close friend and they invite you to their wedding, of course, you’d be there. It’s not even a question. But if you receive a wedding invitation from a six-degrees-of-separation, tier 2 facebook friend, you don’t really want to go. It depends on the level of relationship you have with the person.
Simple principle. We attend things we value. And we attend things hosted by people we value. If President Obama invites you to the White House to congratulate you on some achievement, I don’t think you would turn down the event. Because it would be such an honor to meet him. If you love the Lakers and Kobe Bryant invites you to his home because he picked you at random out of millions of fans to have dinner, I doubt you would turn down the invitation. Because you love basketball and Kobe is your idol. If you are Brother Andre up in the balcony and one of his heroes of mathematics invited him to a private tutoring session, I think Andre would faint from disbelief.
When I was at the Desiring God conference a week before my ordination 2 years ago and I was standing in front of Pastor John Piper, I suddenly forgot how to speak. We were in line because we wanted to take a picture with him and then ask for prayers. And instead of saying, Pastor John, do you mind taking a picture with us, I said, Mister John, not Pastor John, but Mr. John, do you mind taking a piper with us? I was so embarrassed. It’s because I was in the presence of a godly man whom I admire.