Brand New Starting Point
What we find in today’s reading is nothing new – at first. Some religious rulers of His day were once again trying to trick Jesus. Now we know that the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the “experts” on religion, were not very fond of each other. Many of their major beliefs were completely opposite, and they made no bones about “discussing” those differences every chance they got. In this chapter however, the Pharisees and the Sadducees seemed to almost join forces. They were displaying a kind of tag-team effort – each one eagerly taking their turn at attempting to stump the Savior. And again, it was the Pharisees’ turn.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees with His reply, they thought up a fresh question of their own to ask Him. Matthew 22:34
Can’t you just see the huddle of bearded heads, hear the flapping of religious robes. Jesus seemed to daily be on their “hot seat” and they were sure that sooner or later, He would fall flat on His face trying to get out (I guess for these guys, disappointment was an everyday part of life).
Finally, the Pharisees, after much discussion, sent in one of their best – a lawyer who was actually an expert on the Law of Moses. Have a look at his seemingly “innocent” question of Jesus…
Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Matthew 22:36
Scholars tell us that this question was quite clever. For even though every bit of the Law was considered equally important, different groups of people held different requirements as higher than others. And they were quite vocal with their opinions. Some would say the commandment of the Sabbath was the greatest, while others saw the law regarding sacrifices as the most important. So you see the cunning of this question. Whichever directive Jesus chose, He was sure to be in hot water with someone. Unless, of course, He didn’t choose any of them.
Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus cut through all of their outward requirements to their inward foundation. He was saying that if you can’t live these two commands to the fullest, all the others will come up empty. And knowing human nature as well as these priests did, Jesus’ answer swiftly put an end to this round of sparring.
To truly love God with all of me – with all of my heart, soul and mind, or as another translation put it, with my will, my sensitivity, my intellect? And that’s not all. I am then to care about other people as much as I do myself. Who of us can do that? On our own, that is.
And that’s just where Jesus steps in. Whether these “experts” realized it or not, the Person of Jesus, God-in-flesh, was the answer to all of their questions. He was the fulfillment of the Law itself. Jesus hand-delivered what every frustrated Pharisee, every saddened Sadducee, so desperately needed: God’s grace. His personal gift to us of Himself. Jesus cut through all of the red tape of doing to please God, to the real issue of being who God always intended us to be. And this can only be accomplished through relationship… a relationship provided through the Person of Jesus. It’s an incredible connection, really, where the ultimate result is an inward change.
And it’s from this brand new starting point that all of our outward actions flow.
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