Others in Matthew, class 11: Matthew 21:28-22:14
This lesson covers three parables of Jesus. In these parables we meet tax collectors and prostitutes, the rejected, the uninvited. Surprisingly, we find these same also are those who are ultimately accepted as those who “did the will of the father,” (21:31), “a people producing…fruit” (21:43), and the “worthy” (22:8).
There are three contexts which are important in the interpretation of these parables. One is the large context of the Jews being rejected and replaced by Gentiles as those who populate the Lord’s kingdom. The narrower biblical context (see 21:23-27) is the response of the chief priests and elders who refused John’s baptism having the kingdom removed from them and given to the class of sinners who did repent and receive John’s baptism. The third and current context we must consider is our own, in which the self-righteous receive judgment while the poor in spirit receive God’s blessing.
The Parable of the Two Sons: Mt. 21:28-32
First Son Second
Called to the vineyard by the father Called to the vineyard by the father
Initially expressed refusal Initially expressed obedience
Changed his mind and went Did not go
Tax Collectors and Harlots Chief Priests and Elders
Received call to the kingdom Received call to the kingdom
Repented and entered Refused to repent
The Parable of the Tenants: Mt. 21:33-45
Like the preceding parable, it is a story of a vineyard and its workers. In this case, the workers turned against the master of the house, refusing to supply the fruit of the vineyard to the owner. He sent servants and finally his son to gain their compliance. They persecuted the servants and killed the son. In judgment, the master put to death the vineyard tenants and then gave it to a new set of tenants who would produce and supply fruit.
In both of these parables, the unrepentant self-righteous who had rejected the preaching of Jesus and John pronounced a self-indictment (21:31, 41).
Mt. 21:42-45: Also note that Jesus himself experienced the emotion of the rejected “other”. As prophesied (Ps. 118:22-23) in the rejected stone-cornerstone scripture, Jesus is the rejected messenger of God who is the Messiah.
Mt. 22:1-14: The Parable of the Wedding Feast
Same story, new scenario. A king invites his friends
to a wedding feast. Not only those initially invited make excuses and reject
the call, but they also abuse the king’s messengers. The king acts in judgment
upon those who reject his call, proving themselves unworthy. The king then
invites the previously uninvited masses. In them, he finds a positive response
to the call to celebrate his son and the bride. Once more, as with the previous
two parables, we think in terms of the Jew/Gentile biblical story arc, the
chief priests/elders contrasted to the tax/collectors harlots and the response
to John’s call to repentance and baptism, and to any current circumstance in
which those considered worthy and most likely to respond remain in their
unrepentant self-righteousness while unworthy sinners unexpectedly embrace
This parable introduces the complication of the respondent who does not come properly clothed. Given that all of this dialogue began with the elders/chief priests rejected and refused the baptism of John, that the wedding garment is to be understood as a repentance/baptismal reference is likely. However, a more general sense of the clothing of righteousness might be intended. Cf. Rev. 19:6-10.
Jesus provided his own summary for all of these parables; “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mt. 22:14). In the reality of the preaching of John the Baptist and of Jesus, and in the parables of Jesus, many are called; the chief priests, the elders, the tax collectors, the harlots, the elder sons, the younger sons, the old tenants, the new tenants, the kings friends, the kings street subjects, the good, the bad, and the unadorned. All receive the call; the obedient, the fruitful, the accepting are chosen. These are not always who we think they will be.