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Matthew

The Core

Matthew 22:23-46

Lesson audio

Each of the three discourses in this lesson is capable of being amplified into a lesson itself. I have chosen, however, to present the three together, as together they cover the core of the faith – the Resurrection, the love of God and man and the Lordship of Christ.

The Resurrection

Mat 22:23-33 NASB On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, (24) asking, "Teacher, Moses said, 'IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.' (25) "Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; (26) so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. (27) "Last of all, the woman died. (28) "In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her." (29) But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. (30) "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (31) "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: (32) 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (33) When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

The Sadducees

We need a little background first. If the Pharisees could be called right wing, the Sadducees are left wing. They accept only the first five books of the Bible; they do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, nor angels. They are the “modern thinkers” of their day. Like the left wing of the American church, they decide what the right religion is, and go out to invent it.

As you would expect, they go about with a certain air of superiority. They see no need to challenge this Jesus – until He gets the better of the Pharisees. This seems to them to be a golden opportunity to put the hick from Galilee in his place and at the same time triumph over the Pharisees (“We shut him up, you couldn’t.”) Christ also points out their two main failings:

  • They do not know the Scriptures. The word in the Greek is not the usual one for knowledge; it is often translated “to see.” They don’t see the Scriptures; in essence, they have not done their homework.
  • They do not know the power of God. The pattern remains the same today; those who once had the fire of Christ in the power of God have denied its power – and lost the fire.

The argument used by Jesus seems a bit strange to modern ears, but it would have easily persuaded the people of that time. They understood what God meant when He introduced Himself as, “I Am.” He is the one upon whom all existence of any kind is based. He is God of all that exists, of all that “is.” Things which do not exist in any way are not connected to Him; things which do exist have Him as God. If He says He is the God of Abraham, then Abraham must exist. Thus dead is not the same as non-existent. Abraham lives yet in the care of God. At His return He will bring the patriarch with Him.

Central to the faith

This matter is central to the faith. If there is no resurrection, then there is no resurrection of Christ – and our faith is utter foolishness.[1] It is the central fact of Christianity. If it is not true, we are a collection of fluent liars.

Worse, it means that we are off on the wrong religion – and therefore are missing whatever the right one might be. Thus we are fools, liars and condemned – if Christ is not raised from the dead. The church that denies the Resurrection, dies.

But how?

If this is so important, then surely we would have a great deal of detail on the coming resurrection of the dead, right? Wrong. We have very little information, and much of what we do have (based upon the appearances of Christ after the Resurrection) is puzzlesome. But there are a few things we do know:

  • We know that we will be “like the angels” – at least as concerns the matter of sex. Interestingly, some of the ancient scholars felt that this meant that women would not be in the resurrection! The view never received much support, as Christ’s words here (marry and given in marriage) seem to apply to both sexes. We have a new body, in which there is no need for reproduction.
  • That new body comes at Christ’s return, and it will be His perfect work. So it is that those of us who are terminal klutzes can ask to be able to dance like Fred Astaire.
  • It will be a spiritual body – like Christ’s body after the Resurrection. He walked through doors – and also ate breakfast with them. More than this is not given to us to know – yet.

Because of this, the multitudes were astonished. The Sadducees simply went away. This seems to have encouraged the Pharisees to return.

The Commandments

Mat 22:34-40 NASB But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. (35) One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, (36) "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (37) 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.' (38) "This is the great and foremost commandment. (39) "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' (40) "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

You’d think these people would learn. Having just watch the Sadducees leave with their tails between their legs, you’d think they’d be a little more cautious. There is some debate about what’s actually happening here; Mark records a more pleasant ending.[2] Perhaps they were hoping for some strange answer; perhaps they just wanted to show off their learning. But the man asking the question refers to Him as “master,” so perhaps there is something more going on here.

Love the Lord your God

It is the entire man who must love the all-filling God. Christ breaks this down (following the Septuagint) into three categories:

  • The heart. In contemporary terms this would be our will – not our emotions.[3] In other words, loving God is a decision which we must stick to. That’s one reason why there is a ceremony of baptism – it announces your decision to love God, and calls on the church around you to help keep that vow.
  • The soul. One ancient scholar defined it this way: “To believe that all good is God, and without Him there is no good thing.” It is to commit your spirit into the care of the Holy Spirit, so that the essence of who you are is bound up inseparably with who He is. Whatever it is that makes you, you, should be defined by being His.
  • The mind. The intellectual faculties must be committed to God as well. It is surprising how many Christians think that faith is a suspension of reality – an intellectual form of pretending. It is not; it is to bring every faculty of mind to understand who He is. Sometimes we see this as wisdom studied; sometimes it is prayer without ceasing.
The neighbor

The parable of the Good Samaritan[4] is the great example of this statement. But may I suggest some additional thoughts?

  • One reason to love our neighbor is that he, too, is intended to be a child of God. If you love the Father, love His children as well.
  • Indeed, man is made in God’s image. If you cannot love the image you can see, how can you love the God you cannot?

Indeed, the Scripture sometimes uses the love of others as the whole of the matter[5], and the love of God at other times.[6] It is clear, then, that these two commandments are inseparable.

The Lordship of Christ

Mat 22:41-46 NASB Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: (42) "What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?" They *said to Him, "The son of David." (43) He *said to them, "Then how does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying, (44) 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET"'? (45) "If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his son?" (46) No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.

One thing must be stated as background first. The ancients would have taken it as a matter of course that ones ancestors were (at least by position) greater than self. David, by this logic, is the greatest king of Israel. Therefore anyone descended from him would be lesser than David. It seems strange to our time when we worship youth, but perhaps that is our difficulty, not their’s.

A question in return

Christ never gives up; He is still willing to break pride’s hold on the Pharisees if they will but listen. See what He does here:

  • He shows them that they are ignorant of the meaning of the prophecies of the Messiah. They knew the text; they did not draw the proper conclusions from it.
  • In so doing, He tries to humble them – for the enemy is pride, and pride has a fearful grip.
  • It is not sufficient to point out their errors – he also points them to the truth.
Implications – human

The passage has some wonderful implications in it:

  • It implies that the Messiah, as a descendant of David, is entirely human. Thus we know that He can sympathize with our weaknesses and temptations – He’s “been there.”
  • It also implies that the Messiah is greater than any other human – for the king, David, acknowledges Him as Lord.
  • And as David is king over Israel – all twelve tribes – it implies that the Messiah will be King over all Israel as well.
Implications – divine

There are implications of the divine nature of Christ as well:

  • It implies that the Messiah is equal with God – for to sit in the presence of royalty implies that you are of equal rank.
  • It implies that no one else is of higher rank – for He sits at the right hand of God. (We still speak of a “right hand man.”)
  • It clearly implies that God the Father will subdue the Messiah’s enemies until the whole world will be at His feet. We see here the second coming.

Summary

Please leave this lesson with these three truths:

  • The Christ is both fully human, of the highest rank, and fully divine, equal to God.
  • This same Christ commands you to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind – and your neighbor as yourself.
  • This same Christ is coming again, bringing with Him resurrection from the grave – whether to reward or eternal punishment.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

[2] Mark 12:28ff

[3] The emotions were held to be in the liver.

[4] Luke 10:29-37

[5] Galatians 5:15 for example

[6] Romans 8:28 for example.

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