Dispatch One Hundred Seven

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Twenty-Seventh Bundle
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

MATTHEW 22:34-46

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 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.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Pharisees and Sadducees were two Judaic parties that comprised the Jewish high court called the Sanhedrin. Pharisees came out of the middle class and were devoted advocates of Mosaic Law. Sadducees were upper-class leaders very similar to the evangelical Republicans of our day, seeking to keep the privileges of wealth, conservative morals, and state protections of religion (their own) at the forefront of the court’s concern. The two parties thus represented two different belief systems, and each looked for opportunities to undermine or throw negative light on the other.

Both parties were also suspicious of Jesus and his kingdom movement, and for characteristically different reasons. The Sadducees regarded Jesus and his band as a potentially dangerous uprising of lower-class sentiment. It often happened that rebels (many also from Galilee) would organize themselves against Roman control and instigate protests or more violent attempts at revolution. If Jesus was one of them, his activity in and around Jerusalem could attract unwelcome Roman attention and interfere with the Sadducean agenda of maintaining the status quo.

The Pharisees were disturbed by the fact that Jesus seemed unconcerned about following the letter of the Law. He frequently opposed them outright and publicly, accusing the Pharisees of being more concerned with maintaining moral righteousness and ritual purity than with liberating the human spirit. If Jesus was willing to overlook or dismiss just one of the Mosaic commandments, they would have grounds to falsify the entire body of his teaching and ruin his reputation in the process.

So they asked him a trick question: What’s the greatest commandment in the law? Choosing one would mean discarding all others, and refusing to answer would expose Jesus as an incompetent teacher. Which is it – Stay clean? Rest on the Sabbath? Keep your distance from sinners?

And what did Jesus say in reply? Love God with all that you are, and love others as if they were you.

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