Sunday 29 October 2017

Bible Book:

], a lawyer, asked him a question to test hm. ‘Teacher, which commandment is the greatest?’” (vv. 35-36)

Matthew 22:34-46 Sunday 29 October 2017

Psalm: Psalm 1


New Testament society tended to be combative. When peopledisagreed they did so energetically and often publicly, and todefeat an opponent in public debate was a significantachievement.

Here, we meet Jesus throwing himself into verbal combat. Earlierin the chapter (Matthew 22:15-22), the Pharisees had "plottedto entrap him" (v. 15) with the well-known question about payingtaxes, where both 'yes' and 'no' would have landed Jesus in troublewith different groups. Then the Sadducees had their turn with acomplex question about the resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33), and once again Jesus turnstheir attack back on them. Finally, the Pharisees try again, with aquestion designed to "test" (v. 35) Jesus (the word is the same oneused in the Lord's Prayer: 'do not put us to the test').

The Jewish historian Josephus describes Pharisees and Sadduceesas two of the main first-century Jewish sects. The Pharisees soughtto adapt the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) tomake it more accessible to urban dwellers of their day. TheSadducees were conservative traditionalists, who refused to acceptbeliefs (such as the resurrection) which were not found in theHebrew Bible. Their disagreements, with each other (see Acts23:6-10) and with anyone whose views differed from theirs,could be passionate.

The Pharisees' question recorded here fits into a widercontemporary Jewish debate about whether it is possible tosummarise the five books of the Law. Talmud, a massive collectionof Jewish learning, tells the story of a Gentile who approachedRabbi Hillel asking how he could learn Torah while standing on oneleg. Hillel replied, "What is hateful to you, do not do to yourneighbour: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; goand learn it."

Jesus' answer draws on the Old Testament. First, hecites Deuteronomy 6:5, the familiar words of theShema, which Jews still pray every morning and evening. Then, headds Leviticus 19:18, which carried a particularsting for these Pharisees, for the words Jesus quotes follow theteaching "you shall not bear a grudge against any of yourpeople".

Finally, Jesus takes the opportunity to challenge the Pharisees'thinking about Messiah, citing Psalm110 (in verse 44). His unchallenged victory secures hisposition as teacher and debater, the one who can really make hishearers think about their priorities.

To Ponder

  • What would you most like to ask Jesus?
  • How does Jesus' reply to the Pharisees (verses 37-40) challengeyou to change your lifestyle?
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