Ver. 1. In one of the days. This happened on the last week (on the Tuesday) two or three days before Christ suffered. See the contents of this chapter, Matt. xxi. and xxii. and Mark xi. and xii. Wi.
Ver. 2. Authority? By what authority do you make yourself a teacher of the people, a censor of the priests, a reformer of the laws and customs? If Jesus Christ had not publicly given undeniable proofs of his mission, by his miracles, the Pharisees would have had a right to demand an answer to this question; but, after what had been done in their own sight, it was no longer excusable to oppose the preaching of the Son of God. Calmet.
--- Our Saviour himself teaches, that if he had not proved the divinity of his mission by his doctrine and works, it had been no sin to disbelieve or reject him. John v. 31. and 36. and also x. 25, 37, and xv. 22, 24.
Ver. 4. Jesus does not gratify them by a direct answer; they did not deserve it, because they only interrogated him through captious and improper motives. He only replies by casting on them the very difficulties with which they sought to entangle him. Calmet.
--- Our divine Redeemer proposes to the chief priests a question concerning S. John the Baptist, to shew them how inconsistent was their uniform opposition to the ways of God. Because, though they believed in what was preached by S. John, (at least outwardly, through fear of the Jews) yet they would not believe him, or his doctrines, to whom S. John had given testimony, "That he was the Lamb of God, that had come to take away the sins of the world." Theophylactus.
Ver. 9. A long time. Not that God (who is here represented by the man that planted a vineyard) confines himself to any particular place, either distant or near; but he only seems to absent himself in order that when he comes to receive the fruit of the vineyard, he may punish the negligent more severely, and reward the diligent with greater liberality. Likewise God is more intimately present with the good, by continually showering down upon them his special graces; and less so with the wicked, by refusing them, on account of their indispositions, any of his favours. S. Ambrose.
Ver. 15. As this whole parable may be applied exactly to the Jews, to the prophets and Christ; so may this last part, with no less accuracy, be applied to our Saviour. The husbandmen, before they killed the lord's beloved son, first cast him out of the vineyard. So the Jews did not kill the Son of God immediately themselves: they first cast him out from themselves, into the hands of Pilate, a Gentile, and then procured his death. Theophylactus.
--- Thus sinners likewise act, by casting Christ out of their hearts, and crucifying him by sin. Ven. Bede.
--- To reconcile S. Matt. and S. Luke, we must observe, says S. Austin, that this parable was not only spoken to those who questioned his authority, but to the people themselves; as S. Luke tells us.
Ver. 18. Fall upon. That is, whosoever sins against God, yet believes, will be spared by God for a short time to repent, though he kills his own soul by mortal sin: but, upon whomsoever it shall fall, that is, he who denies Christ, and continues on hardened in his sin, upon him the fury of God shall fall, and he shall be utterly destroyed. It will grind him to powder, like the dust which the wind driveth from the face of the earth. Psal. i. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 19. Lay hands on him. Thus they themselves proved him to be the Lord's beloved Son, as he had just described himself in the preceding parable. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 20. Of the governor, &c. Of the governor, Pilate, who in the name of the Romans, exercised absolute authority in the country: for the Jews had lost the power of life and death, which was put into the hands of their presidents. Calmet.
Ver. 22. If our divine Saviour had returned them for answer, that they ought to give tribute to Cæsar, they would have accused him of being an enemy to the law; but if, on the contrary, he said it was not lawful, they would have accused him to Pilate as an enemy to the state. Theophylactus.
--- For there was then a great misunderstanding among the Jews: some, who wished to keep peace with the Romans, said that it was lawful; but the Pharisees denied it, and said: "The people of God ought to be exempt from such a tax. They were bound by the law to give tithes and first-fruits to God; therefore they ought not to be bound by human laws to give likewise tax to men who were heathens." S. Jerom.
Ver. 26. We may here be astonished at the incredulity of the chiefs of the Jews, who, though they ought to have admired his wisdom, as something divine, and believed in him, are only surprised that he should have escaped their duplicity and snares. Ven. Bede.
--- Their pride must have been a good deal hurt, to have been thus publicly refuted and confused by the wisdom of our Saviour's answer. Theophylactus.
Ver. 36. The children of resurrection; i.e. of the just, who shall rise to a happy resurrection: not but that the wicked shall also rise, but to their condemnation and greater misery. Wi.
--- Jesus Christ begins with stating the wide difference between the state of things in this mortal life and in that which is to come: that marriage necessary here, will be unnecessary hereafter. For, in this life, they are children of men, subject to death, and therefore under the necessity of continuing their race by generation; but in the next life, they shall be children of resurrection, living for eternity, never to die, and consequently sons of God, and immortal. Resurrection is a kind of regeneration to immortality. Hence S. Paul explains to our Saviour's rising again, these words of the 2nd Psalm: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Calmet.
Ver. 39. The Scribes, seeing the Sadducees thus silenced, seemed to side entirely with our Saviour saying: Master, thou hast said well. And, apprehensive of being exposed to a similar disgrace and discomfiture themselves, they were afraid to ask him any more questions. But this was only an apparent and false conformity; for they afterwards procured him to be put to death by the Romans. Thus mortal hatred or envy may indeed be smothered for a time, but can hardly ever be extinguished. Theophylactus.
Ver. 44. Christ indeed is both the Lord and Servant of David. He is Servant, according to the flesh, being a descendant of David; and he is Lord, according to the spirit, being Lord of all. S. Chrys.
--- We hear in our times of a new sect of Pharisees, who neither believe that Christ is the true Son of God, nor that he is God born of a pure virgin. To such we object this question: How is he the Son of David, and his Lord? Not by human, but by divine dominion. S. Cyril.
--- He has two natures: the nature of man, according to which, David was his father; and the nature of God, according to which, he was Son of God, and Lord of David. Thus is the difficulty solved.
Ver. 45. How forcible are our divine Redeemer's reasonings, when he uses any text out of the prophets. When he performs the most stupendous miracles, his enemies generally have something to reply; when he cites a text of Scripture, they have nothing to say. All are silent. S. Chrys.
Ver. 46. The reproach he makes the Scribes in this place, is similar to what he had objected against the Pharisees. S. Matt. xxiii. 5. Both these sects were filled with the same spirit of pride and vanity, which shewed itself in their dress, in their exterior, and in every part of their conduct. If our Saviour here attacks them upon their long trains, or other affected forms of their dress, he does not pronounce an absolute condemnation of things, which in themselves are indifferent, but of their abuse of them, making them serve only the purpose of vanity and affectation. Calmet.
Ver. 47. These shall receive a greater condemnation, because they not only commit ordinary evil actions, but also make their prayers, and virtue itself, a cloak to their hypocrisy and vanity, and the cause of their greater depravity, famishing the widows whom themselves ought to compassionate and relieve. Theophylactus.
--- Or, the greater honours and rewards they received for their wickedness, the greater punishment must they endure to expiate it. Ven. Bede.
--- Jesus Christ seems in this place to allude to the avaricious practice of the Jews, draining the purses of widows by their stipulated long prayers for their departed husbands, (see Matt. xxiii. 14. Mark xii. 40.) and thus abusing so holy a thing as prayer, merely to gratify their avarice. . . .