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To God, the Things that are God's

Matthew - The King and The Kingdom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In October of 2003, a young man who would soon become a world renown superstar stepped onto an NBA basketball court for the first time.
19 years old, straight out of high school in Akron, Oh, never having played a minute of College basketball, Lebron James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He played with the Cavaliers for 8 years, when he finally went up for free agency and decided that his playoff chances would be better with another organization.
During this time, another basketball star named Kevin Garnett was asked about Lebron’s free agency, and he made a comment that was very telling of his own career. “Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can’t get youth back.”
Garnett had spent well over a decade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and while he stayed loyal to that team, he found little success there. When he said “you can’t get your youth back,” he meant it - because from a human standpoint, had he been able to apply his talents somewhere else, NBA history might have been different.
We all wrestle with these things - opportunity versus loyalty. We often make decisions based on weighing out these things. The thought process creeps into every part of our lives, sometimes more critical than others.
Just this week, I was bemoaning the fact that my Barber shop had gone up another $5 for a haircut, and Lizzy said “just go somewhere else!” To which I replied, “But I’ve been going there for 8 years - ever since we moved to Vermont.”
Yet, other times, toss out loyalty for the sake of opportunity. Or at least what we perceive to be a better opportunity. That is probably more common, especially with those of my generation and younger.
Whatever generational tendencies amount to, there is certainly a tendency among millenials and Gen Z’ers to not commit to anything. Ask someone my age to commit to something and they might say, “I’ll plan on that” or “that should work.” And what that might actually mean is, “i’ll give you a positive answer now but leave myself room for if anything better comes up.”
While Kevin Garnett and Lebron James’s experiences of loyalty hurting is sometimes the case, more often a lack of loyalty and commitment hurts everyone around, especially the individual.
In our passage today, Jesus gives a parable and a cultural example of how important true loyalty and commitment to God is.
When weighed in the balance against everything else, What God has said, done, and revealed to us is the ultimate treasure and consideration in life.
We must ask the question of ourselves this morning, what do we truly prioritize in life? What is the driving element in our decision making, in our thinking, in our planning? When it comes to our relationship with the Creator, do we take that relationship casually and pay homage to Him when it is convenient, when we don’t have a better option, or are we truly committed to Him as our Lord and King?

In creation, we are in God’s image. In Christ, we are God’s chosen possession. May we render to God the things that are God’s.

1. Jesus Teaches with a Wedding - Vs. 1-14

As the third of three parables told to the Chief Priests and Pharisees, this story about a wedding would have, again, been an incredibly familiar scene and the elements within it almost mundane, except for one thing - this grand feast put on by a king for his son was avoided by all the honored guests.
Weddings in that day, especially a royal one, would have been a multi-day event, sometimes even stretching over more than a week’s time. It was always an honor to be a guest at a wedding, and especially one of high degree like this.
However we picture this, we must understand that Jesus is holding up God’s dealings with his people in extremely high regard, and showing that rejecting God’s “invitation” in this way is not just a simple choice, but a matter of life or death.

a. Those who were invited - 1-7

Those listening to Jesus would have known this custom and process, but it was common to have multi-stage invitations to an event such as this. A lot of factors played into that, but just the practical ones like the lack of precise timekeeping, and the lack of ability to predict just how long it was going to take to prepare a major feast made it so that when an event like this was coming, an invitation would go out with a general expectation, and then a servant or messenger would come at any time and say, “the feast is ready!”
That is just what is happening in this parable.
Matthew 22:2–3 ESV
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
Notice it says the servants were calling “those who were invited.” that is, those who had already been invited.
Much like the parables before, Jesus is setting up the idea of God’s chosen people Israel honoring or dishonoring what we could call an “understanding” or “agreement.” That God had been good to His people, called them, protected them, preserved them, and when it was time, expected their obedience and fruit, especially around the coming of the Messiah, who we know to be God’s Son.
But when the announcement came, they refused to come. They “would not.”
That is the same language that was used of the first son in the first parable - he “did not will” to go into the vineyard. he “did not want to.” That is the same here.
Theses people had already been invited and, by implication, accepted the invitation, but now that it was time they “did not will” or “did not want” to come.
There are two responses they give, also. Two kinds of “rejection” that we see.
After sending more servants, and pleading with the people (see verse 4), they still would not come.
The meal was prepared, the costly animals were butchered and were ready to feast on. The patience of this King was incredible.
And this, of course, is God in His patience. Just like we saw before, that for his people pictured as a vineyard, he planted them, watered them, built a fence around them, hired servants to tend them, cared for them, built a tower to guard them - all of this.
And God had preserved his people, spoken to them, taught them, guided them, fed them, ruled them, loved them, and in Jesus he is telling them “the feast is ready!” but they would not.
And the two categories of rejection are these: apathy and hostility.
Notice first, apathy
they simply paid no attention, and went off to their normal tasks.
One to his field, one to his business. These were their everyday items.
They could not even bring themselves for one special feast to consider something more important than their own lives, their own little kingdoms. The King Himself was calling them to a grand celebration of honor and majesty, but their own little fields and businesses were more important. They couldn’t find it in themselves to make any adjustments, any arrangements, any changes.
This kind of apathy runs rampant in our world today when it comes to God’s call of the Gospel. If you talk to most people about spiritual things, you will not be attacked or berated for speaking about Jesus. They may give a cordial response and even tolerate you sharing your faith, but they simply will leave it at that. They see no glory or majesty in it, nothing worthy adjusting their lives or giving a second thought. It is this kind of apathy, though seeminlgly peaceful and harmless, that is dragging people to their doom.
The second response is hostility.
This is more rare for us, but those who are hostile against the truth, against the Son of God, are typically those who have their own agenda or message to push that Christ opposes. Traditionally, it has been other religious people. Certain religions of the world are even physically hostile to the “infidels” that would promote such things as the Gospel of Christ. Jesus here is dealing with the Judaism of his day, which, like for these chief priests and pharisees, was vehemently against Christ and would soon have him killed.
In our day, this hostility comes from those who have a social or political agenda that clearly rubs up against Christ’s high calls to righteousness and holiness and repentance in the Gospel. We should be all the more ready in days to come, because this hostility is probably going to increase.
Now, in this parable there are two things that are important to knowing the message. The setting is normal and realistic, but two elements are unusual and would have caught the ear of the listener.
One, it would have been extremely odd, even unbelievable, that all the honored guests of a wedding would ultimately refuse to come.
Two, the King’s response of utter destruction of the city where the guests lived seems a bit overboard, even if they did dishonor him and his son by rejecting.
Jesus is saying, to these men he was talking to, who themselves could be classified as “those who were invited,” that their rejection of God’s work and display and revelation through His Son is peculiar, dishonoring, uncalled for, and ultimately destructive.
Rejection of what God is doing, whether through apathy or hostility, is always detrimental.
This is why I asked, at the onset, for us to consider what we are truly commited to. What kind of view do we take to God’s call on our lives?
These leaders of Israel had given a verbal “yes” to God, but now when it comes to following His Son, they are giving a resounding“no.” And Jesus is telling them that this will be their destruction and downfall.
Do you respond to the things of God, His revelation in the Bible and His Son Jesus Christ, with a casual nod or a polite “yes,” but when it comes to following Him, you say no? You find something better?

b. Those who are now invited - 8-10

Well, the king moves on from his original invitees, and He has this grand feast and his son ready to be wed and nobody to celebrate.
He says those invited were “not worthy.” Why were they not worthy? That they were unworthy was made evident in that they rejected the invitation. They “did not want to” come to the feast. Their worthiness was not wrapped up in their stature or status, but simply in their relationship to the good offer of the King.
So this idea of “worthiness” takes on a shape here in this parable, because the offer now goes out into the streets for anyone and everyone, and those gathered were “both good and bad.”
Good and bad? What about worthiness? Well, again, the worthiness was not measured on the relative status of the individual, the social class or means. The invitation goes out to all. The King’s desire is that his feast be filled. The worthy ones are the ones who actually come.
In the same way, God desires for his glory and the glory of His Son to be spread and enjoyed and fill the earth, and the celebration of His Kingdom is no longer reserved just for those who kept up the religion, but his offer goes out. To the poor and needy, to the people of the earth.
To the tax collectors and prostitutes, like in the first parable. To Jew and Gentile. God’s offer of invitation to his Kingdom is far and wide, and worthiness is not the question.
If the first were “worthy” it was not because of anything in themselves except for the fact that they were called and invited.
Are you worthy? You might hear that question and consider yourselves unworthy based on past failures or even current vices and struggles. But know that the invitation goes out to “bad and good.” There is but one requirement.

c. Those who attend - 11-14

Jesus could have ended the parable with the hall being filled and the king being happy, but he tacks on this one element that is very important.
The hall was filled, there were many people of all kinds celebrating and feasting, but one stuck out.
A man who had no wedding garment. Now, culturally, a wedding garment was expected and it would have been a fool’s folly to show up to a feast like this in work clothes or common clothes.
And, we can assume that the availability of wedding garments was not the problem, because everyone else had one on. All kinds of people were there, and they were all robed in the right attire. Except this man.
What is this wedding garment?
Well, I think it pictures a couple things.
1, this man came to the wedding but wanted to come on his own terms. He didn’t want to go with the expectations and requirements, he went with his own way of thinking.
Like Cain and Abel. Cain appeared to be righteous on the outside, because he was offering a sacrifice to God - but it was not the sacrifice God required.
So this man, appeared to accept the invitation and tried to show up, but it became clear that he was only in it for himself, he wasn’t there to honor the King and his son.
2, this man’s speechlessness pictures the fact that he knew he had no excuse. He could have come up with something - “I was on my way here and my wedding garment was soiled. I had no other choice.” “I’m too poor for a wedding garment but I was still invited, so I was hoping one could be provided.”
No, he was speechless. Without excuse.
In the same way, when we stand before God, we are without excuse.
Romans 1:20–21 ESV
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
That is the tale of this man with no wedding garment. He was without excuse.
Something else this reminds us of, and though it is not explicitly mentioned in this, the garment that we must have to come before the King is the garment of righteousness.
Isaiah 61:10 ESV
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
To be covered in this way is both to be given something, that is “imputed righteousness,” a righteousness that is not our own as Paul speaks of in Philippians 3:9
Philippians 3:9 ESV
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
It is that imputed or “given” righteousness, and then it is a practical righteousness. That is, we are robed in righteousness of Christ, but not only does our appearance change, we also change day by day.
We cannot see God without righteousness, first given and then as we grow in it. We cannot come before Him on our own terms and expect to be accepted for who we are. No, we are accepted by God, not for who we are, but in spite of who we are. We are changed and being changed.
And the stakes are high - coming before God without this righteous robe does not end well. This man in the parable was cast out, into the darkness, where there is torment.
And Jesus closes with this statement - “many are called, but few are chosen.”
This is the truth. The genuine call of God, his genuine invitation goes out, but few are chosen. Few accept it. Few find the righteous robe of God’s gift in the Gospel and see it as beautiful and worthy. It’s difficult to even reason why, humanly speaking.
Of course, we know as in all things, God is sovereign. If we are at his feast, it is because he has chosen us to be at his feast. And that is the amazing part of this story. The guests at God’s wedding feast are not worthy by their own worthiness. They are not worthy by their pedigree. They are worthy because God has declared them worthy.
And the call goes out today, many hear it. Many know it. All are without excuse, but few are chosen. We may ponder this and wonder why, but the examination we must undertake is not of others - but of ourselves.
Do you hear the King’s voice of invitation today? I don’t mean, do you hear me talking about it right now. But within, do you feel the pull of the Spirit of God telling you that you must not decline this invitation? Do you genuinely see that the stakes are so high, and though many are called, few are chosen? Would you not delay and would you not refuse anymore?
And beloved, if you have heard that call, do you see the amazing glorious truth that you are God’s chosen and beloved guests. You were nobody’s and nothings, out on the highways and street corners. But God has chosen you, brought you in by His Grace.
And remembering where we came from, we must not become proud, or boastful, or complacent at God’s gracious choice. Romans 11 reminds us of this, I encourage you to read it when you have a moment. We are God’s chosen, beloved, and called - but may we never become arrogant. Just like these Chief Priests and Pharisees who followed in thousands of years of tradition of religion, yet they themselves rejected, so we must not assume that just because we are in some traditional sense “christians” that we have an automatic entry. We must come at God’s calling, and we must come robed in His Righteousness.

2. Jesus Teaches with Taxes - 15-22

a. A question to trap Jesus - 15-17

Back in Matthew 17, we saw a similar situation where Peter was faced with this question - “Does your rabbi not pay the temple tax?” The temple tax was a two-drachma tax that all Jewish men were expected to pay.
In that case, Jesus highlighted that while he was free from paying the tax toward His own Father’s temple, he would pay it indeed in order to not cause those around Him to stumble. He showed his humility and mercy in doing that, and he shows that righteous way to us as well.
In this situation, there is a tax also, and the question asked is not genuine but a question in order to trap.
Matthew 22:15–17 ESV
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
Now here is the classic speed trap - the pharisees coming up with this plot must have thought they would have Jesus in an outright pickle.
There is a lot here, but notice first the idea that this whole scene was arranged, not out of good will or genuine interest in knowing the truth, but in order to divide and draw a line in the sand.
The pharisees intention was to set a snare, literally. This is always evil. Is is a trap and plan of the devil. But Jesus not only avoided the snare, he used it as an opportunity to teach in the midst of the attack.
Later on, Paul would write to young timothy and tell him to act in this way also.
2 Timothy 2:24–26 ESV
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
This is what Jesus was doing. Not quarreling, but patiently correcting his opponents. His chief opponent being the Devil himself, but these Pharisees being used as servants of him, Jesus shows us a better way.
It is not the pharisees who come, but the disciples of the pharisees and the herodians.
They send the young guys in - those who would be jealous for their positions and eager to be proven right.
The pharisees disciples were just that - young pharisees in training, you could say. The herodians, however, were still Jews, but they were part of a smaller group that was intently loyal to Herod’s house and family.
The reason for these two groups would have been their two positions on taxes - the pharisees thought taxes to Caesar were an abomination, while the herodians thought taxes to Caesar were a good and necessary part of a functioning society. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
They butter him up a bit with their words, don’t they? Trying to play to flattery and emotion.
“We know that whatever you tell us is the final answer on this! Don’t you see how important it is to come down one one side or another here? We know you don’t care about our opinions! We just wan’t the truth!”

b. An answer that “traps” us - 18-22

We must watch out for this attitude, using Jesus or the scriptures in order to weasel our way out of things, or in order to cause division or draw an unnecessary line where there is no line.
Jesus response to their question meant to trap him, actually traps them, and traps us - not in the sense of a snare or tripwire, but in the sense of turning our evil intentions right back around and showing us our ill.
Matthew 22:18–19 ESV
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.
Now, behind this question was an attitude that many strict Jews held, that it was unlawful to pay taxes to a gentile ruler.
Deuteronomy 17:15 ESV
you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.
Now that was true, that was the law of God. But here was the problem.
These men did not place this gentile king over themselves. They did not choose him. They were overtaken.
In fact, in reality, God placed this gentile ruler over them. We know that God sets up kings and authorities, sometimes for the good of a nation, and sometime for the chastisement of a nation.
For Israel, they were coming off 400 years of silence from God, a sort of period of drought and curse, and the Roman overruling of them was part of that. So, yes, it would have been unlawful for them to choose this Gentile ruler, Caesar and all his underrullers, but in this case, it was God who set Him up over them.
Matthew 22:20–21 ESV
And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
The question and answer are simple - whose image is on the coin? Caesar’s...
Well then, pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but to God the things that are God’s.
We are in our own tax season here in the united states, and many of you would probably like to ask the same question - is it lawful to pay taxes to our government? Don’t you know, Lord, how wicked our rulers are?
Yes, he might say, I do know. I raised them up for this time and season.
And what Jesus is saying here is this - we are not complicit in the evil of our nation by paying our taxes. And you might say, but our taxes go to fund abortion and unrighteous policies and wasteful spending and unnecessary wars!
Well, don’t you know that the government and society of Rome was no more righteous than ours? In fact, it was probably much worse in many ways! Yet Jesus says, pay to caesar the things that are his.
Pay your taxes, it does not make you guilty for the government’s sins. We are to, as much as possible, live at peace in the places God has placed us.
Later on, Paul would say this.
Romans 13:1 ESV
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
But we don’t even need to go to Paul to get that - Jesus is saying that here. Now, of course. If the government asks us to outright sin and disobey God, then we cannot. But submission to its rules and taxes, in general, is not sin. It is part of living in the world we live in. And besides, there is something much greater to think about.
“Give to God the things that are God’s.”
Now, we could keep this as simple as dollar for dollar, money for money - because God does ask us to be generous and give to our church and to those in need. But it is much more than that.
Here is the principle. Caesar, or Joe Biden, can require our money, he can even require our time, and he even has the authority to take life. But is that all there is?
Do you remember what Jesus said back in Matthew 10 when he sent his disciples out to teach?
Matthew 10:28 ESV
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
The coin was in Caesar’s image - but whose image are we in?
Yes, we are in God’s image. Created to reflect and resemble him in limited but still very real ways. And more than that, this is true because we are God’s creation.
And take it a step further. As we saw in the wedding parable, we as believers are God’s chosen ones - we are his possession and his new creation.
Caesar may ask for our money, but God is over all. All things are his.
What does this tell us? It tells us that we can pay our taxes and still honor God.
It tells us that we can be good citizens and be followers of Christ.
But more than that, it tells us that taxes and things of society and government are so miniscule in comparison to the things of God’s Kingdom.
Doing God’s will, obeying him, serving him, living joyfully in His ways, is so much more valuable than whatever your CPA tells you that you owe the IRS this year.
Do you see how Jesus, metaphorically, holds up that coin with caesar’s image in such a loose way? Oh this money? This earthly measure of value? Sure, give it to Caesar. It’s nothing.
But give to God what is God’s - and that is yourself.
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Yes, Lebron James and Kevin Garnett may have been upset about their loyalty to their NBA teams, and what it cost them. But dear one, you will never regret true and fervent devotion to the King of Kings.
If you are a follower of Christ, you are God’s chosen possession. Give all to Him.
And if not, then hear the parable of the wedding feast - the invitation of Jesus has gone out to the highways. Will you come? He will clothe you in a righteous wedding garment and bring you in.
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