Matthew 22 opens with a parable titled “The Parable of the Wedding Feast”. This concludes a series of 3 parables that Jesus taught in order to answer the question “Who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven?” Each of these parables reveal that entering the kingdom of God requires responding in faith to the message of repentance, recognizing Jesus as the one who brings God’s kingdom, and living a life consistent with this message.
What we see from this parable is that the religious leaders believed and taught that the few, the select, or the elite were the only ones who would enter God’s kingdom. But the truth of these parables, is that entrance into the kingdom of heaven is available to all who respond to Jesus in faith and repentance.
The Pharisees were outraged at Jesus’ teaching, so in verse 15 we see that they went and plotted how they could trap Jesus into saying something He could be arrested for. This begins a back and forth between the Pharisees and the Sadducees trying to trick Jesus.
The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by asking Him about paying taxes to Caesar. They asked, “is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” To the modern reader, this seems like a weird question to ask, but this was a “heads I win, tails you lose” type of question for Jesus. If He would’ve said to not pay taxes to Caesar, then He would be deemed an enemy of the Roman government and could be put to death. But if He only said yes, then the Pharisees would have accused Him of being a traitor for robbing God of money for the Temple. So how did Jesus respond? In verse 21, Jesus says to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. The Pharisees were amazed at His answer and left Him.
But just when you think Jesus is in the clear – here come the Sadducees. The Sadducees are another religious group, similar to the Pharisees, but known for one big difference in their beliefs. They didn’t believe in an afterlife, or a spiritual life after the physical life. They believed that the soul would die with the body when we physically died. The Sadducees had a question of their own they used to try and trap Jesus. They ask Jesus a question about the afterlife, hoping to trick Him into saying something to arrest Him. Jesus responds by saying, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” What a warning, not only for the Sadducees, but for us today! Again, the scriptures say that the crowds heard Jesus and were amazed by His teaching and response to the question.
After Jesus had answered the Sadducees, the Pharisees came back to him with another question. This time, a layer among the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?” Maybe you’ve asked this question yourself. You think, I can’t possibly follow all the commandments, so which one is the most important? Which one do I need to get right? Jesus responds to the Pharisee’s question by saying this in verses 37-40, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these commandments.”
Now if you’re like me, you’re probably guilty of skipping over this statement that Jesus makes because you’ve heard it all your life. But Jesus isn’t just listing three different areas of our life we’re supposed to love God. He’s actually quoting an Old Testament scripture found in Deuteronomy 6:5 where Moses is speaking to the Israelites in the chapter immediately following where we are given the 10 commandments. But Jesus doesn’t just answer the Pharisee’s question of "What’s the greatest commandment?" He goes above and beyond and says that a second is equally important. We are supposed to "love your neighbor as yourself." This was another scripture that Jesus was quoting from Leviticus 19:18.
You see, Jesus was quoting scriptures that the Pharisees would’ve had memorized and been able to quote themselves. So why does He do this? Jesus understood the Pharisees knew the scripture, but they missed the application of it. The Pharisees had become so focused on outwardly loving God for all to see, that they missed the internal heart transformation that leads to loving others as ourselves.
Today, we all know that we are supposed to love the Lord with all our heart, our soul, and our mind, but many of us miss the practical application. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves. As we get ready to close today, I want to leave you with a quote to remember when it comes to loving your neighbor. Tommy Barnett is famously quoted for saying, “Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.”
You and I aren’t called to just know the love of God like the Pharisees did. We’re called to show the love of God to the people around us in everyday life. We do that by finding the needs in our community and filling them and finding the hurts in people around us and healing them through a relationship with God.