None of us like to be criticized. The next couple readings are going to focus on Jesus’ criticism of the religious leaders he is encountering. It would be easy to lump all Pharisees into one pot and assume they are all corrupt or misled. That would be devastating to Judaism and to the Jewish people. So when we read Jesus’ words, we need to remember he is calling out what he sees. Also, this is Matthew’s account, his remembrance of Jesus’ words.
How do you handle criticism? It can hurt. In most cases it’s helpful to consider the source. Do you have a level of trust already built up with the person pointing out your faults? We all have “haters”, too. You know those people who are never happy, who want to project their own failures onto you. Who like to dwell in the negative. Even still, it can sting a little to hear that you aren’t appreciated, or that something you’ve done or said is flat out wrong.
Pharisees have been peppering Jesus with all sorts of questions. Now it’s time
for Jesus to have a turn. What do you think about Jesus’ question? Talk about
trying to “trick” or “trap” them. I don’t know if it was that as much as it was
he wanted them to think. He wanted them to step outside their comfort zones and
stop just “going through the motions.”
What was the
Pharisee’s response to the question of whose son is the Christ? “The son of
David.” That would be an easy enough answer based on the prophecies found in
Scripture. But then Jesus challenges them with David’s words of Psalm 110, “The
Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your
feet.” How can it be that David would call him Lord if it was his son? I’m a
bit perplexed, and so, too, were the Pharisees. They didn’t have anything to
The attempts to trap Jesus continue. I’m not sure what the Pharisees expected Jesus to say here to their grilling about the law of Moses. Did they think Jesus wouldn’t know? After all, according to some Biblical scholars there were 613 laws, and it would be common for the rabbis to quarrel among themselves about which was most important.
Jesus didn’t skip a beat. The most important commandment is to love God, and second to that, to love your neighbor as yourself. Well, there’s two of the 613. Jesus explained that when you get those two right, the rest just fall into place.
Why do we test boundaries? I think in particular of a willful toddler trying to get their way. Or a little closer to home, we’ve got a little dog who while very spoiled will still push the limit. Depending on who she is schmoozing, she may just get her way. Even as adults we are guilty. Driving the speed limit is one example where we may test the boundaries. I don’t think I’m the only lead foot in the world.
The religious leaders were testing Jesus here, and their plotting was not working. Jesus smelled a rat and called them out on their ploy. As you might imagine, Jesus’s response was brilliant. The people were amazed! I love his words, “Give to God what is God’s.”
We’re pretty excited because we have a wedding in our family coming up next Spring. The “Save the Date” notices have gone out. That’s an old tradition that has been catching on again in recent years. I’m guessing that’s what was happening in today’s reading. The wedding feast day had arrived, and those who had received the “save the date” notices had decided other things were more important. Life happens and sometimes gets in the way of our plans. Their decision to ignore the invitation resulted in their not being worthy or deserving of the honor any longer.
Because Jesus is using this as an illustration of the Kingdom of God, we should take note to understand. Especially if we want to have an invitation to that wedding feast ourselves. Are we going to respond with indifference figuring our attendance doesn’t really make any difference, or are we going to be ready to drop everything at the last minute and dress up in our finest clothes and be ready?