begin the final public discourses of Jesus of Nazareth. It starts with a
relatively unknown group, the Sadducees, testing him with a standard trick
Mat 22:23-33 NIV
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with
a question. (24) "Teacher," they
said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his
brother must marry the widow and have children for him. (25) Now there were seven brothers among us. The
first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to
his brother. (26) The same thing happened to
the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. (27) Finally, the woman died. (28) Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will
she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?" (29) Jesus replied, "You are in error because
you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. (30)
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they
will be like the angels in heaven. (31) But
about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you, (32) 'I am the God of Abraham, 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.
are these Sadducees, anyway? Well, after what just happened to the Pharisees,
we can conclude that they were smugly satisfied with being the “intellectuals”
of their day, certain that their approach was right.
did not believe in angels, spirits, or the immortality of the soul. They
accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament, the rest being
ignored. It was their claim that they were the intellectual descendants of
Zadok, a priest of David’s time.
a very real sense they are parallel to the humanists of today. You die, that’s
it – you entirely cease to exist. You are nothing but matter and energy – a
higher form of a dog, so to speak. Sound familiar?
important to remember that Christ is arguing with the intellectuals of his
society. His answer leaves out some steps in his argument, and for modern Christians
with no training in formal logic, it seems impossible that anyone would be
persuaded by Christ’s words. But look at it this way:
the Sadducees are right, then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are gone. They
have ceased to exist. They are now “nothing.”
God told Moses, “I am the God of Abraham…” Certainly the three were long
dead by this time. But yet God recognizes them.
can God be the God of non-existent things? How could any god be the god
of things that don’t exist?
argument is new to them – and all Christ’s listeners see how it hits the
I believe in the resurrection to come
point is sufficiently important that it needs review, so that we might
understand how central this resurrection is to the teaching of Christ. There
are three principle reasons that I believe it:
first is the character of God. God is just; the resurrection will be the
time when He dispenses justice. God is love; he will (as Job said) “long
for the work of his hands.”
is the witness of the Scriptures. Implicitly and explicitly, in the Old
Testament and New Testament, the Scriptures over and over again prophesy
the resurrection of the dead.
there is within me the Holy Spirit. His results can be seen in my life;
He therefore is real within me. He is the deposit, the down payment, the
guarantee of the resurrection. His reality guarantees the resurrection.
testing of Christ continues; there is one rabbi left standing.
Mar 12:28-34 NIV
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that
Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the
commandments, which is the most important?" (29)
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O
Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
(30) Love the Lord your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your
strength.' (31) The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as
yourself.'There is no commandment
greater than these." (32) "Well
said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is
one and there is no other but him. (33) To
love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your
strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all
burnt offerings and sacrifices." (34)
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not
far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any
reader will note that in various parallel accounts in our earlier studies this
section usually comprises a complete lesson.)
Pharisees were shut up; the Sadducees were silenced; now one rabbi comes
forward with a question. Is he testing Jesus? Yes, but I think he does so in
honesty. I picture him as being from some small town, in Jerusalem for the
Passover. He’s heard of this Jesus, and wants to find out whether or not he is
really so clever. Instead of the trick question, he comes with the honest
question – the mark of the honest man.
reply is still important today.
Matthews account omits “all your strength.” The passage Christ quotes, from
the Septuagint, parallels this account. Matthew gives us the Hebrew version.)
are given four pillars of this love:
- With all your heart. The word in the Greek can be
used to refer to the organ, but its metaphoric use is to refer to the will
– not the emotions. A Greek speaker would assume that if your will is
trained, your emotions have been trained to your will. This is a
conscious decision, not the spur of the moment outburst.
- With all your soul. With your very essence, as
Aquinas might have put it. Whatever it is that makes you, you, God wants
- With all your mind. This is assumed to be a
typographical error in current evangelical circles.
Somehow we have the idea that faith and reason are incompatible (or
worse.) But here Christ tells us that your mind, too, must love God.
- With all your strength. None of the above are half-way
measures. Love God is the command; not “Love God feebly.”
am I to love my neighbor? As I love myself. But how do I love myself? Quite
easily and liberally, in my case. I’m the life of the party, always
interesting in conversation, personally pious to the point of sainthood – and
God’s reaction to that is to say, apply the same standard to everyone else. If
you can be this lenient with yourself, do the same to them.
see the point. It’s a matter of weights and measures, really. It doesn’t
matter whether you use English or metric units, as long as your yardstick is
honest. So when I meet my neighbor I am to apply the same standard to him as I
it’s not just how I treat others; it’s also whether or not I’m willing to
sacrifice for others. It’s a practical point; do you feed the hungry, visit
the sick and so on? A theoretical love of your neighbor is like having a
theoretical life boat in a raging sea.
will find no more staunch advocate of attending the worship service than this
author. It is something you should do, and do weekly. But let’s not kid
ourselves. If this is not accompanied by the imitation of Christ, the worship
is for you pointless and worthless. It’s not an either/or, it’s both.
a life of the imitation of Christ brings you closer to God. Indeed, it’s hard
to see how it could not have that effect. If you complain that God seems dark
and distant, perhaps it’s something missing in your life of service.
the honest man finds out that this brings you close to God. If you work on it
enough, you may develop the only known instrument by which man can actually see
God: the pure heart.
Mat 22:41-46 NIV
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, (42) "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"
"The son of David," they replied. (43)
He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls
him 'Lord'? For he says, (44) " 'The
Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet." ' (45) If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be
his son?" (46) No one could say a word
in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
difficult to see the problem here unless you get a little background:
is considered the greatest king Israel and Judah ever had. He is the
founder of the dynasty from which the Messiah would come. Moreover, in
this culture a father is honored more than a son. So David would be seen
as greater than Solomon, who would be greater than… You get the idea.
that thought, David should be superior to the Christ. But yet here
David calls him “Lord.” How can this be?
is only one resolution to this. The Christ must be the physical
descendant of David, to be sure (and thus wholly human). But he must also
be God (wholly divine), as David would call God, “Lord.” It is this
challenge he presents to the thinkers of his day. Just who is this Jesus
may briefly conclude:
disciple of Christ lives in the hope of the resurrection of the dead. By
this he conquers those whose hope is in having no hope.
disciple is known to the world by the love he shows. So it is that we tie
the rather vague idea of the resurrection (we don’t have a lot of details,
really) with the crisp, positive life of good works. Thus the world may
see that they go together.
a life can only be lived within the power of Christ. He is Lord, and
therefore all will turn out well – for those who love him.