from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 31

Matthew 22:1-22:  Tribute to Caesar

The Story


It was Tuesday, and the Lord was teaching in the temple courts. It is sad as we read of the Lord's teaching, to see how little the leaders of the people cared to listen to Him. They were even plotting how they could take Him, and inventing questions to entrap Him in His talk. This is still more sad when we remember that it was the last day of the Lord's public teaching.

The Lord spoke a parable about a marriage feast. It brings to mind what we learn in other places about an Eastern marriage. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) we have the picture of the bridegroom bringing the bride to the house where the feast is spread, their friends waiting to join them on the way. In the story of the marriage at Cana (John 2: 1-11) we have the picture of a marriage feast. The story of Samson (Judges 14:10-12) tells of a wedding feast that lasted seven days. As you read the parable you will not need help to see who the King is who makes the feast, and who the people are who turn away and will not come.

Notice the last verses of the parable. (Verses 11-13) The king would give wedding garments to the guests. If one of them did not have on such a garment it was because he did not wish to wear one. He was cast into outer darkness. Perhaps it means the dark night outside the lighted hall, or perhaps a dark dungeon in the king's palace. Who can be meant by this man without a wedding garment? Plainly he is one who tries to enter heaven, who is not heavenly in character. There is no place for him there. He cannot endure the light of heaven, for his state is one of darkness. Such experiences are described in A. 2132, H. 48, and other places, where it is made very plain that the Lord does not cast anyone out of heaven, but the disagreement of his own life with the life of heaven.

In reading the verses about the tribute money, you see the cunning of the Pharisees in sending some of their disciples with the Herodians to ask the question. It was a much disputed question, whether it was right to pay the Roman tax. The Pharisees said that it was not, that tribute ought not to be paid to any one but God. The Herodians were friendly to the Romans. They thought if the Lord said, Yes, He would offend the Pharisees; if He said, No, He would offend the Herodians. But He showed that both tributes are right, each in its place. We have duties to the Lord and duties to earthly rulers. A man ought to be a good citizen, faithful in paying his taxes and in voting, and doing his other duties as a citizen, and also faithful in his duty to the church and to the Lord. He ought to obey the laws of health which keep his body well, and to obey the laws of spiritual life which make his spirit strong.

1. What difference do you find between this parable of the marriage feast and the parable in Luke 14:16-24?

2. What things do you find alike between this parable and the parable of the wicked husbandmen?

3. Who is meant by the king? What is meant by the feast which he prepares?

4. Who were the Pharisees? The Herodians? Who was Caesar? What else have we learned about the penny?

5. Is the accusation true or false in Luke 23:2?

Spiritual Study


Let someone find for us other places where heaven is called a feast and explain to us why it is so called. (Isaiah 25:6; Luke 16:16; Revelation 19:9) The food and drink are the goodness and the truth, and in general all things which the Lord gives which make the life of heaven satisfying and happy.

Can we also see why heaven is called a marriage and a marriage feast? Because heaven is a union with the Lord; and in the life of every angel love and wisdom are united. (E. 252, 617)

The preparing of the feast by the king represents the Lord's Divine care to prepare for us the blessings of heavenly life. "All things are now ready." He does His part, all that He can do; it only waits for us to do our part to receive His blessings. The oxen represent external affections of the heavenly life, the fatlings interior affections. The farm and the merchandise seem to stand especially for the conceit in knowledge and intellectual power, which led the Jews and which lead us to despise the heavenly life which the Lord offers. The king's anger when the guests would not come suggests the intensity of the Lord's desire that we shall receive His gifts. The punishment of those who were bidden and would not come describes the inevitable destruction by the fire of their own evil, of those who have opportunity but willfully reject the Lord and heaven. The people brought in from the highways are those who can be led to a life that is outwardly good; but among them there are both bad and good. The king's coming in to see the guests suggests the Lord's looking into our hearts, seeing the real character of our life; also the revealing of our inner character when we die. Then if the spirit of heaven is not there, all appearance of heavenly life and heavenly wisdom is lost; there is no wedding garment. Binding hand and foot means that such a hypocrite can no longer do works that seem good, and even his evil acts must be restrained. Casting into outer darkness. means that the power to see truth is gone. The wailing is the unhappiness of evil affection; the gnashing of teeth is the conflict of false thought. (E. 195; A. 2132)

Can someone apply the lesson of tribute to Caesar and to God, to our duty as citizens of the country and members of the church? To our care for the natural body and for the soul? A well-balanced life must be outwardly in touch with the world, and inwardly in touch with God.

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