Monday, September 24, 2012

The Teachings of Jesus (VI), Week 39: Jesus' authority challenged - Challenge on the Greatest Law (Matt 22:34-40)

"But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadduccees, they gathered together." (Matt 22:34)

Let no one say that Jesus does not unite people: here we see the Sadduccees and Pharisees, long mortal enemies, working together! Unfortunately it is true that when religious enemies unite because of Jesus, it is all too often against Him, rather than for Him.

"And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'" (Matt 22:35-36)/i>

Again we note that this is not an honest question that Jesus is receiving. This is a test, intended to ensnare or embarrass Him before the crowds, so that He could be discredited as a prophet.

The Pharisees had over 600 individual laws which had been identified. Their goal here apparently was to convince Jesus to choose one. No doubt they had planned a rebuttal in which they would point out how He neglected this law or that, depending upon His answer. By forcing Him to choose one, they would say that His interpretation was too narrow and He neglected other important areas.

"And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.' "(Matt 22:37-40)/i>

Jesus' answer is (of course) brilliant. Rather than try to pin down, say, one of the Ten Commandments as greatest and get into an endless debate, He picks two laws which are the foundation to everything in the Old Covenant. And what is particularly brilliant is that these two support everything He has been teaching over the past three years: that all the other 600+ laws are nothing more than telling us HOW to love God or love our neighbor. By trying to follow the letter of this huge and wieldly Law, the Pharisees have actually forgotten its spirit--love. Ultimately, Jesus says, that is all that the entire Law was about: love God and love your neighbor. If you do that, everything else would take care of itself.