READ: Matthew 22-23

BACKGROUND:

By Verse:

22:1-14 In this parable, Jesus is speaking of the way people will reject the truth of who He is. When Jesus speaks of those invited first, he was most likely referring to the Jews. The servants then go out to invite others, most likely speaking of Gentiles. In verse 11, there is a guest who is not wearing wedding clothes. In these times, it was customary for the King to provide the wedding clothes for the guests (since they were invited right off of the street). The King was enraged because the guest refused to participate fully in what had been offered freely to him.

14 –A proverbial summary of the meaning of the parable. God invites “many” (perhaps “all” in view of the Semitic usage of “many”) to be a part of his kingdom, but only a “few” are chosen by him. This does not mean that God chooses arbitrarily. The invitation must be accepted, followed by appropriate conduct. Proper behavior is evidence of being chosen. ( Zondervan NIV Study Bible)

15-22 The Pharisees enlisted the help of the Herodians to trap Jesus in his words. After trying to put him off guard with flattery, they sprang their question: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? If he said “No,” the Herodians would report him to the Roman governor and he would be executed for treason. If he said “Yes,” the Pharisees would denounce him to the people as disloyal to his nation. ( Zondervan NIV Study Bible)

23:5 Phylacteries were boxes with scripture in them that were worn on the head and on the arm.

23:8-10 The warning is against seeking titles of honor to foster pride. Obviously we should avoid unreasonable literalism in applying such commands. ( Zondervan NIV Study Bible)

15 – Jesus is not criticizing evangelism, but the results of the Pharisees’ evangelism – converting people to being like the Pharisees, rather than true followers of Jesus.

24 – Some Pharisees would strain their drinking water through a cloth to make sure it didn’t have any gnats in it because gnats were considered unclean.

THINK:

Love God. Love People.

You’ve seen it on billboards on 35W. You’ve heard it in sermons. You’ve read it in Through in 2 devotions before. It’s a quick catchphrase to summarize Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 22:37-40. If we use this phrase as a filter for our daily decision-making it can help us avoid becoming like the Pharisees, whose hearts were far from God.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I get some sort of a strange high while watching television shows like “Hoarders: Buried Alive” or “My Strange Addiction.” Watching these shows makes me feel so normal and organized…and proud. Unfortunately it’s easy to watch other people’s problems on the big screen and forget altogether that I too have some serious issues…they just haven’t yet been broadcast.

Sometimes I read the Bible through the same lens and think to myself “Those Pharisees had it so wrong, they didn’t have a clue what loving Jesus meant, I’m glad I’m so much better than them.” Talk about a hypocrite. I speak with complete arrogance as I condemn the arrogant.

Following the guidelines the Bible has set for us is extremely important and necessary. But when our idea of faith is built entirely on rule-following like the Pharisees and we find ourselves proud of how good we are, we have missed entirely what God intends for us. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus says, “But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.” If we wake in the morning thinking “Love God. Love people” and we consider these commands each step of our day; we will start to experience the life and love God intends for us. If you find yourself burdened by trying to follow rules, but feeling distant from God – talk to God about that. Take time to fall in love with Him again and desire Him. Use music, books, the Word to inspire your love for God to grow. Tackle your pride by loving and serving others – with no strings attached – and without broadcasting to receive recognition.

RESPOND: Write “Love God. Love People.” on a note card somewhere where you’ll see it at the start of your day. Ask God to show you how you have acted in pride like the Pharisees. Ask for forgiveness and for strength and wisdom to pursue a real relationship with Jesus. Ask God to show you specific ways you can love Him and love people.

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