The parable of the marriage feast is a very good example of how Jesus takes stories already familiar to his hearers and uses them in a unique way.
In this parable, Jesus reveals the true character of Israel’s religious leaders. He demonstrates their refusal to take the path of obedience.
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God of all who wander in the wilderness,
you go before us as beacon and guide.
Lead us through all danger,
sustain us through all desolation,
and bring us home to the land
you have prepared for us. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 22: 15-22
Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Lord God, friend of those in need,
your Son Jesus has untied our burdens
and healed our spirits.
We lift up the prayers of our hearts for those still burdened,
those seeking healing,
those in need within the church and the world.
Prayers of the People:
Hear our prayers
that we may love you with our whole being
and willingly share the concerns of our neighbors. Amen.
The Sermon: The Parable of the Marriage Feast & Taxes
The Pharisees and Herodians
The Pharisees, religious scribes who prided themselves on their strict laws and watchful eye, had been disturbed by Jesus’ teaching. They tried to entangle Him in a series of questions that they would use to trap Him and discredit him.
The Herodians were another Jewish group who were generally at odds with the Pharisees, but they were willing to work together against the Lord Jesus Christ. They were Jewish leaders who were sympathetic to the Roman government, through King Herod (see Matthew 23:1-2; Luke 20:19-22).
The Pharisees had a number of spies sent to Jesus to ask Him a question that they would later use against Him. This question was a clever attempt to trap Jesus in an answer that would cause him to neglect one command of the law and promote another.
The Parable of the Marriage Supper
In Matthew 22: 1–14, The parable of the wedding feast is a parable about universalism. Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God is open to everyone, not only Jews. This parable is told using the familiar setting of a wedding feast, however there are a few surprising events included.
Jesus uses the image of a wedding banquet to compare heaven with earth. He tells the story of a king who had prepared a wedding feast for his son, but refused to allow many people to attend.
The king sent servants to go out into the streets and invite those who were willing to come to the dinner. These people were both good and bad.
When the king saw that one of the invited guests had not dressed in a wedding garment, he was upset with him.
This is a clear reference to the hypocrites, who refuse to worship God and do not obey His law. These hypocrites are to be cut away from the kingdom and the wedding feast, like branches that wither from the tree.
The Rendering to Caesar
In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees and Herodians put Jesus on the spot with a very clever question. They wanted to trap Him into saying something that could get him killed by the Roman Empire or cause him to lose the support of the crowds.
They challenged Him to answer the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (ESV). Using this trick, they knew that they would either make Jesus say yes or they could charge him with treason against Rome and get him killed.
Nevertheless, they were not successful in their attempt to trap Jesus with this either/or framing. Instead, Jesus answered the question, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.”
In this passage, Jesus teaches us about the limits of human authority. He tells us that we must respect the authorities of this world while also teaching that we should not give in to them when they try to control us or impose their own laws on us.
The Rendering to God
When Jesus tells the Pharisees and Herodians to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s, he is referring to two distinct responsibilities. The first is the responsibility to be a good citizen and to live as a person who is made in God’s image.
The second is the responsibility to seek the will of God and His glory above all else. That includes giving your life to Him through faith in His Son Jesus.
When a person makes the choice to follow Jesus, they are making an allegiance to Him that changes their purpose in life. It begins with repentance, turning away from sin and towards forgiveness through Jesus. It continues through faithful obedience and grateful worship. It’s a lifelong commitment to Christ that should be encouraged and taught in churches today. It’s a message kids will benefit from hearing in Sunday school, and it should be reinforced in everyday worship and prayer time.
your Son has shown us how to love one another.
May our love for you
overflow into joyous service
and be a healing witness to our neighbors
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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