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Another Day, Another Entrapment

This week’s text is Matthew 22:34-46.  This is yet another attempt by the Pharisees to trap Jesus and put Him in a difficult position.  They ask Jesus what commandment is the greatest in the law.  He states clearly that it is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”.  This Jesus claims is the greatest and first commandment.  Then Jesus adds a second that is like it; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.  Jesus claims that upon these two commandments all the law and the prophets hang.  This makes sense if you think about the Ten Commandments.  The first three have to do with our relationship with God and the next seven have to do with our relationship with each other.

We should not overlook how radical the second part of Jesus’s statement is, because He had previously radically expanded the notion of neighbor.  In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus expanded the idea of neighbor and love to include one’s enemies.  He has moved the standard beyond simple tribal or national affinity to a broadly universal human concern.  This befits an all-loving God.  There is notably no further discussion of this point in this text, as there is no need for one.

Jesus Returns a Question

The second part of this passage sees Jesus turn around and ask a question.  It is a similar question to the one He asked the disciples at Caesarea (Matthew 16).  Jesus asks the Pharisees whose son is the Messiah.  They answer, “The son of David”.  This makes sense since it is from the Old Testament that the Messiah would be descended from the line of David.

Jesus then follows up with another question.  “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ” (This is from Psalm 110, ascribed to David).  The conundrum as Jesus points out is that how can David be his son if He calls him Lord?  That is, David writes in Psalm 110 that the Lord said to the Messiah, “Sit at my right hand until I put my enemies beneath my feet”.  This indicated that God, the Father says to God, the Son to sit at the Father’s side until all His enemies were subdued.  The point Jesus seems to be making is that David called the Messiah Lord before the Messiah had become David’s son.  Sounds like a time travel movie plot point.

The only way this resolves is that Jesus is making an eschatological point.  He is not merely a man.  The Christ (Messiah) existed before David, or any other humans, as John points out in the 1st. chapter of that Gospel.  Yet, the Christ (Messiah) on earth was also a direct descendent of David.  So Jesus is claiming (He more directly does this in John 8:58) that He is both God and man.  He existed before the world and is here on earth, both human and divine.

It is this claim that we trust is true.  Since we trust that this is true, we believe Jesus when He explains the law.  It is the second part of this passage that gives the first its punch.  Similarly it is our faith in Jesus as God’s risen Son that brings us to scripture to learn from the master in the first place.  That is, it is our belief that makes us want to obey.

Praise Be to God

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