Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Jesus answered, and spoke to them again in parables, and concludes his discourse with again describing, 1st. the reprobation of the Jews; 2d. the calling of the Gentiles to the true faith; and 3d. the final judgment of both the one and the other. In this parable of the marriage feast, says St. Chrysostom, our Saviour again declares to the Jews their reprobation, and the vocation of the Gentiles, their great ingratitude, and his tender solicitude for them. For he did not send them a single invitation only; he repeatedly invited them. Say, says he, to the invited; and afterwards, call the invited; thus evincing the greatness of their obstinacy, in resisting all the calls and pressing invitations of the Almighty. (Hom. lxx.) — This parable is certainly not the same as that mentioned in St. Luke xiv. 16, as every one that will be at the pains to examine and compare all the circumstances of each, will easily discover, though they are very much alike. (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Is like to a man being a king, &c. This parable seems different from that of Luke xiv. 16. See St. Augustine, lib. ii. de Cons. Evang. chap. lxx. The main design in this parable, is to shew the Jews that they were all invited to believe in Christ; though so few of them believed. The king is God; his son is Jesus Christ; the spouse is the Church; the marriage is Christ’s incarnation; the feast, the grace of God in this life, and his glory in the next. His servants were the prophets; and lastly his precursor, St. John the Baptist. — My fatlings, which I have prepared, and made fat for the feast: but this is but an ornament of the parable. (Witham) — The same takes place in the kingdom of heaven, as when a king makes a marriage feast for his son. Jesus Christ seems to have had two things in view in this parable: 1st. that many are called to the kingdom of heaven, i.e. his Church, and that few come, as he concludes, ver. 14, many are called, &c; 2d. that not all that come when called will be saved, i.e. will be reputed worthy of the celestial feast; because some have not on the wedding-garment, as he shews, ver. 11. (Menochius) — Thus the conduct of God in the formation of his Church, and in the vocation of men to glory which himself has prepared for them in the kingdom of heaven, is like to that of a king, wishing to celebrate the marriage of his son. (Bible de Vence) — Marriage is here mentioned, says St. Chrysostom to shew there is nothing sorrowful in the kingdom of God, but all full of the greatest spiritual joy. St. John the Baptist likewise calls our Saviour the spouse; and St. Paul says, I have espoused thee to one man, 2 Corinthians xi. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxx.) See also Ephesians v. 25. and Apocalypse xxi. 2. and 9. The nuptials in this place do not signify the union of marriage, or the incarnation of Jesus Christ, by which the Church is made his spouse; but the marriage feast, to which men are said to be invited. This is no other than the doctrines, the sacraments and graces, with which God feeds and nourishes our souls, united to him by faith in this life, and by eternal joy and glory in the next. (Jansenius) — This union is begun here on earth by faith, is cemented by charity in all such as are united to Christ in the profession of the one true faith he came down to establish, and will be consummated and made perpetual hereafter by the eternal enjoyment of Christ in his heavenly kingdom.
Ver. 3. His servants. John the Baptist and Christ himself, who took the form of a servant, to call such as had been formerly invited to the nuptials that were to be celebrated in his time. The Jews were invited by Moses and the prophets, and were instructed to believe that the Messias would celebrate this happy feast. On the predetermined day, they were again called by his servants, saying: Do penance; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand: come to the feast, i.e. become members of his Church, by believing in Christ. (Jansenius) — In the same manner, St. Chrysostom says that the Jews had been invited by the voice of the prophets, and afterwards by the Baptist, who declared to all, that Christ should increase, but that he himself should decrease. At length, they were invited by the Son in person, crying aloud to them: come to me all you that labour, and are heavily laden, and I will refresh you. (Matthew xi. 28.) And again: if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. (St. John vii. 37.) — and not by his words only, but by his actions also did he call them; and after his resurrection, by the ministry of Peter and the rest of the apostles (hom. lxx,) he informed the invited Jews that the banquet was ready; because the Christian religion being now established, the way to eternal happiness was laid open to mankind.
Ver. 5. One to his farm. After they had put to death the Son of God, still did the Almighty invite them to the marriage-feast; but they with futile excuses declined and slighted the proffered favour, wholly taken up with their temporal concerns and sensual enjoyments, their oxen, lands and wives. From the punishment inflicted on these, we learn, that no consideration, how specious soever it may appear, can prove a legitimate excuse for neglecting our spiritual duties. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxx.) — Such as refuse to be reconciled to the holy Catholic Church, allege vain pretexts and impediments; but all these originating in pride, indolence, or human respects, will not serve at the day of general retribution and strict scrutiny.
Ver. 6. Put them to death. Thus the Jews had many times treated the prophets. (Witham) — These were by far the most impious and the most ungrateful; tenuerunt Servos ejus, as is related in the Acts, with regard to the death of James, and Stephen, and Paul. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. Sending his armies. Here our Redeemer predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, by the armies of Vespasian and Titus, sent against them by the Almighty, in punishment of their incredulity and impiety. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxx.) — Thus the king destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city; for sooner or later God is observed to exert his vengeance on all such as despise his word, or persecute his ministers. See the miseries to which the Jews were reduced in Josephus, book the 6th, chap. ix, Hist. of the Jewish war; who declares, that in the last siege of Jerusalem 1,100,000 persons perished, and that the city was completely destroyed. Other interpreters suppose that the evil spirits are here meant, by whom God punishes man, according to Psalm lxxvii, ver. 49. (Menochius and Maldonatus).
Ver. 8. Were not worthy. The Almighty knew full well that they were not worthy; he still sent them these frequently repeated invitations, that they might be left without any excuse. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxx.) — More is signified here than the bare letter conveys; they were not only less worthy of the nuptials, but by their very great obstinacy, ingratitude and impiety, quite unworthy. Not so the Gentiles. (Jansenius) — Hence Christ says:
Ver. 9. Go ye therefore into the highways. The apostles first kept themselves within the precincts of Judea, but the Jews continually sought their destruction. Therefore St. Paul said to them, (Acts xiii. 46.) to you it behoved us first to speak the word of God, but seeing you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles. (St. Chrysostom, hom lxx.)
Ver. 10. Both bad and good. Christ had before told the Jews that harlots and publicans should, in preference to them, inherit the kingdom of heaven, and that the first should be last, and the last first, which preference of the Gentiles, tormented the Jews more than even the destruction of their city. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxx.) — Good and bad, persons of every tribe, tongue, people, nation, sex and profession, without any exception of persons or conditions. Hence it is evident that the Church of God doth not consist of the elect only; and, that faith alone, without the habit of charity and good works, will not suffice to save us. (Bristow)
Ver. 11. Wedding garment, which Calvin erroneously understands of faith, for he came by faith to the nuptials. St. Augustine says it is the honour and glory of the spouse, which each one should seek, and not his own; and he shews this, in a sermon on the marriage feast, to be charity. This is the sentiment of the ancients, of St. Gregory, St. Ambrose, and others. What St. Chrysostom expounds it, viz. an immaculate life, or a life shining with virtues, and free from the filth of sin, is nearly the same; for charity cannot exist without a good life, nor the purity of a good life, without charity. In his 70th homily on St. Matthew, he says that the garment of life is our works; and this is here mentioned, that none might presume, (like Calvin and his followers) that faith alone was sufficient for salvation. When, therefore we are called by the grace of God, we are clothed with a white garment, to preserve which from every stain, from every grievous sin, depends upon the diligence (the watching and praying) of every individual. (St. John Chrysostom) — It was the custom then, as it still is in every civilized nation, not to appear at a marriage feast, or at a dinner of ceremony, except in the very best attire. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 12. Not having a wedding garment. By this one person, are represented all sinner void of the grace of God. (Witham) — To enter with unclean garments, is to depart out of this life in the guilt of sin. For those are no less guilty of manifesting a contempt for the Deity, who presume to sit down in the filth of an unclean conscience, than those who neglected to answer the invitations of the Almighty. He is said to be silent, because having nothing to advance in his own defence, he remains self-condemned, and is hurried away to torments; the horrors of which words can never express. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxx)
Ver. 15. This is the third conference which Jesus Christ had with the Jews. It relates to the civil conduct of mankind, as directed and influenced by religion.
Ver. 16. The Herodians. That is, some that belonged to Herod, and that joined with him in standing up for the necessity of paying tribute to Cęsar; that is, to the Roman emperor. Some are of opinion that there was a sect among the Jews called Herodians, from their maintaining that Herod was the Messias. (Challoner) — These soldiers had come to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, which was to take place in a very few days. The Pharisees sent their disciples with these soldiers, that immediately as the former ensnared him in his discourse, the latter might apprehend him. It is worthy of remark, that these blood-thirsty miscreants sought to ensnare him in his words, not able to discover a fault in any action of his whole life. (Nicholas of Lyra. and St. Chrysostom) — Master, we know. The Pharisees had instructed their disciples and the Herodians to speak in this seemingly friendly manner to our Saviour, that they might put him off his guard, and thereby ensnare him; thinking that Jesus, like other men, could be led away by flattery. Thus do all hypocrites act. They first praise those they want to destroy; and thus by their deceitful words, lead them aside from the true path, into all kinds of evils and miseries. Thus St. Chrysostom, Tostatus, &c.
Ver. 17. Is it lawful, reasonable and just, to give tribute to Cęsar? It was at that time a question much agitated among the Jews, whether they, being the peculiar people of God, ought to be subject and pay taxes to Cęsar, or to any prince whatsoever, or be exempt from them. (Witham) — Judas Galilęus, about the time of Christ’s birth, stirred up the people to a revolt, which though suppressed by violent measures, and himself slain by the Romans, yet the doctrine he broached did not expire with him. Some even among the Pharisees were of opinion, that it was unlawful for the people of God to serve strangers and idolaters, as we learn from Josephus. The question, therefore, proposed to our Saviour was insidious in the extreme, and not easy to be answered, without incurring the displeasure of one or other of the parties. For, if he answered that it was lawful, he would expose himself to the hatred of the Jews, who were aggrieved with what generally thought an unjust extortion, and a mark of servitude injurious to God; if he denied the legality of this hated capitation-tax, he would incur the displeasure of the Herodians, and be denounced to Cęsar. This latter appears to have been their wish; as, in that case, it would have been very easy to persuade Pilate, that Christ and his disciples coming from Galilee, were favourers of that sect, who, from the name of their founder, Judas Galilęus, were called Galilęans; and some of whom, as we read in St. Luke (chap. xiii. 1,) Pilate put to death, whose blood he mingled with their sacrifices. Indeed so determined were the enemies of Christ to injure him with Pilate on this subject, that notwithstanding his answer was plainly in favour of the tribute, yet they blushed not a few days after to accuse him to Pilate of teaching it to be unlawful to pay tribute; we have found him, say they, forbidding tribute to be paid to Cęsar. (Tirinus and Denis the Carthusian)
Ver. 18. Ye hypocrites? Our divine Saviour knowing their malice, and that it was their wish in proposing this question, to render him odious to the people, or a suspicious character to the prince, answers them in these severe words. … Another motive was, to let them see that the secrets of their inmost heart were open to him, and thus induce them to be converted from their wickedness; for, certainly, if they perceived that he could read their hearts, they must thence concluded that he was something more than human. This severe reprehension, according to St. Chrysostom, shews, that it is better for man that God should chastise him here in this life, than spare him here to chastise him hereafter. (Tostatus)
Ver. 21. Render therefore to Cęsar the things that are Cęsar’s. He neither directly decided the question, nor offended the Herodians. They admired his wisdom, were quite disappointed, and retired with confusion. (Witham) — The reasoning of Christ appears to be this: As you are the subjects of Cęsar, which you plainly acknowledge by admitting his coin, upon which he inscribes himself lord of Asia, Syria, and Judęa, &c. it is but just you pay him the tribute due from subjects to their sovereign; nor have you any reason to object on the plea of religion, since he demands of you for the exigencies of the public service only temporal things, and such as are in some respects already his own, by being stamped with his own image and superscription. But spiritual things, which belong to God alone, as your souls, stamped with his image, divine worship, religious homage, &c. God, not Cęsar, demands of you. “Give therefore to Cęsar what belongeth to Cęsar, and to God what belongeth to God.” (Tirinus) — What our Saviour here commands us to give to God, is nothing else but our heart and affections. Here our divine Lord likewise shews us, how we are to steer the middle course between the two extremes, into which some persons fall. Some say that all must be given to God, and nothing to Cęsar, i.e. all our time must be given to the care of our soul, and none to the care of the body; but Christ teaches that some must be given to the one, and part to the other. (Origen) — Although Christ clearly establishes here the strict obligation of paying to Cęsar what belongs to Cęsar, yet he is afterwards accused, as we have mentioned above, (see note on ver. 17) as if he forbade tribute to be paid to Cęsar. In like manner, in spite of the most explicit declarations of the Catholic Church, respecting her loyalty and subjection to temporal powers, her enemies fail not to calumniate her doctrine as inimical to the state, and subversive of due subordination. But let our opponents attend to the following authority and public declaration of Pope Clement XIV. addressed to all Catholic bishops in the Christian world. “Be careful,” says he, “that those whose instruction in the law of the gospel is committed to your charge, be made sensible from their very infancy of their sacred obligation of loyalty to their kings, of respect to their authority, and of submission to their laws, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake.” — But princes should not exact, and subjects should not affect to give them ecclesiastical jurisdiction. St. Athanasius quotes the following strong words from an epistle of the famous confessor Hosius, to Constantius, the Arian emperor: “Cease, I beseech thee, and remember that thou art mortal. Fear the day of judgment, and meddle not with ecclesiastical matters; neither do thou command us in this kind, but rather learn them of us. To thee God hath committed the empire; to us he hath committed what belongs to the Church. And as he who, with a malicious eye, hath designs upon thine empire, opposeth the ordinance of God; so do thou also beware lest, by an improper interference in ecclesiastical matters, thou be made guilty of a great crime. For it is written, Give to Cęsar, &c. Therefore, neither is it lawful for us on earth to hold the empire, neither hast thou, O emperor, power over incense and sacred things.” (St. Athansius, ep. ad solit. vitam agentes.) — And St. Ambrose to Valentinian, the emperor, (who by the ill counsel of his mother Justina, an Arian, required of St. Ambrose to have one church in Milan made over to the Arian heretics) saith: “We pay that which is Cęsar’s to Cęsar, and that which is God’s to God. Tribute is Cęsar’s; it is not denied. The Church is God’s; it cannot verily be yielded to Cęsar; because the temple of God cannot be Cęsar’s right. Be it said, as all must allow to the honour of the emperor, for what is more honourable than that the emperor be said to be the son of the Church? A good emperor is within the Church, but not above the Church.” (St. Ambrose, lib. v. epist. Orat. de Basil, trad.)
Ver. 24. Raise up issue to his brother, to be heirs of his name and of his effects, as we read in Ruth, chap. iv, ver. 10: suscitare nomen defuncti, &c. to raise up the name of the deceased in his inheritance, lest his name be cut off from among his family, and his brethren, and his people. (Haydock)
Ver. 29. You err. The Sadducees erred in supposing that there would be no resurrection, or if there was, that the future state would be like the present. Unable to conceive any thing else, they thought themselves justified in concluding that the soul would not survive the body. Had they known the Scriptures, they would not have fallen into this error; since therein are found abundant testimonies of a resurrection, as Job xiv and xix, Isaias xxvi, Ezechiel xxxvii, Daniel xii. The power of God also, had they paid sufficient attention to that consideration, would have taught them the same truth. It cannot be difficult for that power, which created and formed all things from nothing, to raise the body again after it has been reduced to ashes: nor impossible to prepare in a future state, rewards and enjoyments superior to and widely different from any thing that is seen in our present stage of existence. (Jansenius)
Ver. 30. As the angels. Not in every respect, for the body shall be likewise raised with the soul, whilst the angels are pure spirits: but in this we shall be like unto angels, we shall be endowed with immortality, and impassibility; and our joys, like those of the angels, shall be wholly spiritual. (Jansenius) — If not to marry, nor to be married, be like unto angels, the state of religious persons, and of priests, is justly styled by the Fathers an angelic life. (St. Cyprian, lib. ii. de discip. et hab. Virg. sub finem.) (Bristow)
Ver. 32. He is not the God of the dead. Jesus Christ here proves the resurrection of the body by the immortality of the soul; because in effect these two tenets are inseparable. The soul being immortal, ought necessarily to be one day reunited to the body, to receive therein the recompense or punishment which it has merited in this same body, when it was clothed with it. — By this text St. Jerome refutes the heretic Vigilantius, and in him many of modern date, who to diminish the honour Catholics pay to the saints, call them designedly dead men. But the Almighty is not the God of the dead; of consequence these patriarchs, dead as they are in our eyes as to their bodies, are still alive in the eyes of God as to their souls, which he has created immortal, and which he will undoubtedly have the power of reuniting to their bodies. — The Sadducees were a profane sect, who denied the resurrection of the body, and the existence of angels and spirits, and any future state in another world: (see Acts xxiii. 8.) nor did they receive any books but the five books of Moses. Christ therefore, from a passage Exodus iii. 15, shewed them that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had still a being; because God, 200 years after the death of the last, said thus to Moses, I am the God of Abraham, &c. He did not say, (as St. Chrysostom takes notice) I was the God of Abraham, &c. Therefore these souls had a being: for the Lord would not call himself the God of those who were not at all: no one calling himself lord or king of those who are no more. (Witham)
Ver. 34. The Pharisees heard that he had silenced their adversaries, the Sadducees, &c. Some of them, says St. Luke, (xx. 39.) applauded him, saying, Master, thou hast said well. (Witham) — The Pharisees assembled themselves together, that they might confound him by their numbers, whom they could not by their arguments. Wherefore they said one to another: let one speak for all, and all speak by one, that if one be reduced to silence, he alone may appear to be refuted; and, if he is victorious, we may all appear conquerors. Hence it is said, And one of them, a doctor of the law, (St. Chrysostom) asked him, tempting him, if he were really possessed of that wisdom and that knowledge which people so much admired in him. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 40. On these two, &c. Whereby it is evident that all dependeth not upon faith only, though faith be the first, but much more upon charity, which is the love of God and of our neighbour, and which is the sum of all the law and the prophets; because he that hath this double charity, expressed here by these two principal commandments, fulfilleth all that is commanded in the law and the prophets. (Bristow)
Ver. 45. If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? It was allowed of as a certain truth, that the Messias was to be the son of David. Christ shews them by David’s own words, that he was the Lord as well as the son of David: and this is what they could not answer to. (Witham) — Jesus Christ here inculcates to the Pharisees, that two natures must be admitted in the Messias; in one of which, viz. in his human nature, he is the son of David, and as such inferior to him; and in the other, viz. in his divine nature, he is the son of God, and consequently superior to David; whence this latter, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, justly calls him Lord. (Tirinus) — Jesus Christ does not wish them to think that the Messias is not the son of David, but only wished to rectify their opinion concerning him. When therefore he asks how he is the son, he teaches them that he is not after the manner they understand it, the mere Son, but what is much more, the Lord also, of David. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxxii.)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The parable of the marriage feast: Christ orders tribute to be paid to Cęsar: he confutes the Sadducees: shews which is the first commandment in the law: and puzzles the Pharisees.
1 And *Jesus answering, spoke to them again in parables, saying:
2 *The kingdom of heaven is like to a man being a king, who made a marriage for his son.
3 And he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage; and they would not come.
4 Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited: Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come ye to the wedding.
5 But they neglected, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise.
6 And the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.
7 But when the king heard of it, he was angry, and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.
8 Then he saith to his servants: The wedding indeed is ready; but they that were invited, were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, invite to the wedding.
10 And his servants going out into the highways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests.
11 And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding-garment.
12 And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment? But he was silent.
13 Then the king said to the waiters: *Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
15 *Then the Pharisees going away, consulted among themselves how to ensnare him in his speech.
16 And they send to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou dost not regard the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore what dost thou think? is it lawful to give tribute to Cęsar, or not?
18 But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: Why do you tempt me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the coin of the tribute. And they offered him a penny.
20 And Jesus saith to them: Whose image and inscription is this?
21 They say to him: Cęsar’s. Then he saith to them: *Render therefore to Cęsar the things that are Cęsar’s: and to God, the things that are God’s.
22 And hearing this, they wondered, and leaving him went their way.
23 The same day the Sadducees came to him, who say *there is no resurrection: and asked him,
24 Saying: Master, Moses said: *If a man die having no son, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up issue to his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first having married a wife, died: and not having issue, left his wife to his brother.
26 In like manner the second, and the third, and so on to the seventh.
27 And last of all the woman died also.
28 At the resurrection therefore whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
29 And Jesus answering, said to them: You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they shall neither marry, nor be given in marriage: but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you:
32 *I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And the multitudes hearing this, were in admiration at his doctrine.
34 And the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:
35 *And one of them, a doctor of the law, asked him, tempting him:
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said to him: *Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.
38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
39 And the second is like to this: *Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.
41 And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them,
42 Saying: What think you of Christ? whose son is he? They say to him: David’s.
43 He saith to them: *How then doth David in spirit call him Lord: Saying:
44 *The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool?
45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
46 And no man was able to answer him a word: neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
1: about the year A.D. 33.
2: Luke xiv. 16.; Apocalypse xix. 9.
13: Matthew viii. 12. and xxv. 30.
15: Mark xii. 13.; Luke xx. 20.
21: Romans xiii. 7.
23: Acts xxiii. 6.
24: Deuteronomy xxv. 5.; Mark xii. 19.; Luke xx. 28.
32: Exodus iii. 6.
35: Mark xii. 28.; Luke x. 25.
37: Deuteronomy vi. 5.
39: Leviticus xix. 18.; Mark xii. 31.
43: Luke xx. 41.
44: Psalm cix. 1.