Ver. 1. Under these figurative modes of speech, or parables, Jesus Christ began to trace out for their reflection a true portraiture of their ingratitude, and of the divine vengeance. By this man we are to understand God the Father, whose vineyard was the house of Israel, which he guarded by angels; the place dug for the wine-vat is the law; the tower, the temple; and Moses, the prophets and the priests, whom the Jews afflicted and persecuted are the husbandmen or servants. S. Jerom.
--- This same parable was employed by Isaias, (v. 1.) where speaking of Christ, he says: My beloved had a vineyard, and he fenced it in. Tirinus.
--- He went into a far country, not by change of place, for he is every where, but by leaving the workmen the power of free-will, either to work or not to work; in the same manner as a man in a far country cannot oversee his husbandmen at home, but leaves them to themselves. Ven. Bede.
--- This parable is thus morally explained: Jesus Christ planted a Church with his own blood, surrounded it with evangelical doctrine, as with a hedge; dug a place for the wine-vat, by the abundance of spiritual graces which he has prepared for his Church; built a tower, by appointing his angels to guard each individual Christian, who are the husbandmen to whom he has let it out. Nic. de Lyra.
Ver. 2. The first servant whom the Almighty sent, was Moses; but they sent him away empty; for, says the Psalmist, they provoked him to anger in the camp. Ps. cv. The second servant sent was David, whom they used reproachfully, saying: What have we to do with David? 3 Kings xii. 16. The third was the school of the prophets; and which of the prophets did they not kill? Mat. xxiii. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 7. From this it appears, that the chief priests and lawyers were not ignorant that Christ was the Messias promised in the law and the prophets, but their knowledge was afterwards blinded by their envy: for otherwise, had they known him to be true God, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, says S. Paul. For a further explanation, see S. Mat. xxi. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 8. They cast the heir, Jesus Christ, out of the vineyard, by leading him out of Jerusalem to be crucified. Theophy.
--- They had before cast him out by calling him a Samaritan and demoniac; (S. John, C. viii.) and again by refusing to receive him, and turning him over to the Gentiles. S. Jerom.
Ver. 9. The vineyard is given to others; as it is said, they shall come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God. S. Jerom.
Ver. 10. By this question, Christ shows that they were about to fulfil this prophecy, by casting him off, planning his death, and delivering him up to the Gentiles, by which he became the corner-stone, joining the two people of the Jews and Gentiles together, and forming out of them the one city and one temple of the faithful. Ven. Bede.
--- The Church is the corner, joining together Jews and Gentiles; the head of it is Christ. By the Lord hath this been done in our days, and it is wonderful in our eyes, seeing the prodigies which God has performed through him whom men reject as an impostor. Theophy. and V.
Ver. 12. The chief priests thus shew, that what our Saviour had just said was true, by thus seeking to lay their hands on him. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 14. The disciples of the Pharisees said this in order to induce our Saviour to answer them, "that they were not to pay tribute to Cæsar, being the people of God; an answer they confidently anticipated, and which the Herodians hearing, might immediately apprehend him, and thus remove the odium from themselves to Herod. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 15. Knowing their hypocrisy.† The Latin word commonly signifies, cunning, but by the Greek is here meant their dissimulation, or hypocrisy. Wi.
[†] V. 15. Versutiam. thn upokrisin.
Ver. 17. Although Christ clearly establishes here the strict obligation of paying to Cæsar what belongs to Cæsar, to the confusion of his very enemies, we shall still find them bringing forward against him the charge of disloyalty, as if he forbade tribute to be paid to Cæsar. Luke xxiii. 2. After the example of her divine Model, the Catholic Church has uniformly taught with S. Paul, the necessity of obeying the powers in being; and this not for fear of their wrath, but for conscience sake. Render to Cæsar the money on which his image is stamped, but render yourselves cheerfully to God; for the light of thy countenance, O Lord, is stamped upon us, (Ps. iv.) and not the image of Cæsar. S. Jerom.
--- With reason were they astonished at the wisdom of this answer, which eluded all their artifices, and taught them at the same time what they owed to their prince, and what they owed to God: and whoever hopes for the favour of heaven, must conscientiously observe this double duty to God and to the magistrate.
Ver. 26. The doctrine of the resurrection from the dead is clearly given in the book of Moses, where mention is made of the burning bush, from the midst of which God appeared to Moses: have you not read, I say, what God there said to him? As God is the God of the living, you must be in an egregious error in imagining, that such as die in the eyes of the world not to return thither any more, die in the same manner in the eyes of God, to live no more. V.
Ver. 29. Literally the Lord our God is the only Lord: and this is the sense of the text in Deuteronomy vi. 4. The word in the original text, rendered by the term Lord, is the grand name JEHOVA, which signifies properly God, considered as the supreme Being, or the author of all existence.
Ver. 33. Venerable Bede gathers from this answer of the Scribes, that it had been long disputed among the Scribes and Pharisees, which was the greatest commandment in the law; some preferring the acts of faith and love, because many of the fathers, before the law was instituted, were pleasing to God on account of their faith and piety, and not on account of their sacrifices; yet none were agreeable to God who had not faith and charity. This Scribe seems to have been of the opinion of those who preferred the love of God. Ven. Bede.
--- This excellence of charity teacheth us that faith only is not sufficient. B.
Ver. 34. Being now refuted in their discourse, they no longer interrogate him, but deliver him up to the Roman power. Thus envy may be vanquished, but with great difficulty silenced. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 35. According to S. Mat. it was principally to the Pharisees that Christ proposed this question. See Mat. 22, 41.
Ver. 37. This interrogation of Jesus instructs us how to refute the adversaries of truth; for if any assert that Christ was but a simple and holy man, a mere descendant of the race of David, we will ask them, after the example of Jesus: If Christ be man only, and the Son of David, how does David, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, call him Lord? The Jews were not blamed for calling him the Son of David, but for denying him to be the Son of God. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 43. God accepts alms, if they are corresponding to each one's abilities; and the more able a man is, the more must he bestow in charities. The widow's mite was very acceptable to God, and very meritorious to herself; because though small the offering considered in itself, it was great considering her extreme indigence.
Ver. 44. But she, of her want,† or indigence, out of what she wanted to subsist by, as appeareth by the Greek. Wi.
[†] V. 44. De penuria sua, ek thV usterhsewV. See the same Greek word, 1 Cor. xvi. 17. 2 Cor. ix. 12, and C. xi. 9. &c.