“WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CHRIST?” Matthew 22


Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?”

They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did any one dare to ask him any more questions.

Matthew 22:41‭-‬46 RSV

Christ in that question pinpointed the precise truth the Pharisees had missed concerning him, that he was (and is) God in man. “What think ye of Christ?” is the most important question ever asked.

All depends on the answer. No man can be saved who fails this test.

To recognize and hail Christ as God come in the flesh, this is the beginning of eternal life.

Without that perception, man must forever remain guilt-ridden, soul-blinded, and condemned forever.

By propounding that question, it would seem that Christ, even at that late hour, was trying to relieve the sad condition of those evil men.

He would even then have removed the scales from their eyes and directed their attention to the precise problem where their error lay, and which gave rise to the most important reason for their failure to recognize him.

The reason the Pharisees did not recognize Christ (though some did) was that not all the Messianic prophecies were received by them.

In the very nature of God’s revelation to humanity of the coming of that Holy One who is both God and man at once, there were necessarily SEEMING contradictions.

Thus, Isaiah hailed the Coming One as “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” etc., while at the same time portraying him as a man or sorrows, acquainted with grief, with no form nor comeliness, a root out of dry ground, bruised, chastised, and suffering death.

That was too much for the unspiritual Pharisee to understand. They did the natural, human thing: they believed the more agreeable prophecies and rejected the others.

One outstanding example of such duality in the prophecies was singled out by Christ and made the subject of the question here.

The Old Testament passage Christ stressed in this confrontation of the Pharisees is Psalms 110:1.

Of course, they had access to that information and could have known that Christ was both David’s son and David’s Lord; but they could not explain it, thus being liable, as were the Sadducees, to a charge of ignorance.

Their ignorance, however, was not so much their sin as was their pride and egotism that prevented their learning from him who alone is “the Truth”!

Thus in that profound question of Jesus, the Pharisees no longer had a case of knowing the answer, and through self-interest avoiding a reply.

They WERE ignorant of the riddle Jesus propounded, but they would not accept the truth from him. But their day of grace was almost over.

The plot was laid. Before the week expired they would kill him. Never again would they ask him any questions. They confessed themselves unable to stand before his searching words.

Intellectually, morally, and spiritually, they were vanquished by the Lord; and, like a wounded serpent that sinks its fangs again and again into its own flesh, those unfortunate men would kill their own head and Redeemer, involving themselves and their whole nation in irreparable ruin.

What a commentary on religious bigotry is that!

Some commentators attribute his characterization of the Pharisees to a kind of prejudice on Matthew’s part, but that is not true.

As a former tax collector, he had indeed enjoyed a peculiarly advantageous position from which to learn the true character of the Pharisees, but it must not be thought that Matthew colored or perverted that picture in any way.

On the contrary, his emphasis on their conduct was NECESSARY; and, as God always chooses his instruments, Matthew was ideally suited to the task of presenting those enemies of Jesus in their true light.

Reasons for the need to expose those men rise from the fact that, as the official representatives of Judaism, their failure to recognize and accept their Messiah would ever afterwards be used by Satan as an argument against the validity of Christ’s claim upon all mankind as the true Messiah.

If there had been, therefore, the least vestige of anything honorable or upright in the Pharisees et al., there could have continued through history some suspicion that since “good men,” as they were supposed to be, rejected the Messiah, there must have been some reason for their doing it.

Matthew successfully broke that crutch of infidelity. His analytical, yet fair and generous, treatment of those bigots in their hatred of Christ forever removes any suspicion or even the outside possibility of any doubt that their actions were otherwise motivated than through blind, fanatical, and selfish hatred of the truth.

Their every argument, invented through despair, maliciously urged, and distorted to appear plausible; their every connivance with even their worst enemies to find some pretext against him; their reliance at last upon suborned and lying witnesses, perversion of Sacred Scriptures, malevolent torture of truth itself, and, withal, their prejudice against him, not desiring to accommodate with him but only striving for a means of his murder – all these things are so faithfully detailed in Matthew’s gospel that, two thousand years after the facts, any fair-minded person can easily understand WHY SUCH MEN rejected the Christ.

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