Matthew 22:34-46

Thursday Evening Bible Study

May 3, 2007


We are in the final week of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, with the cheers and adulation of the crowd. It was His “Triumphal Entry”, we know it as “Palm Sunday”. Jesus immediately went to the Temple where He threw out the merchants that were ripping off the worshippers. Then Jesus began a pattern He would keep throughout the week – every evening He’d walk back across the Kidron Valley up to the Mount of Olives, where He and the disciples would spend the night as Galilean pilgrims. In the morning Jesus would get up and come back across the Kidron to the Temple where He would spend the day teaching the people.

:34-40 The Greatest Commandment

:34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

silencedphimoo – to close the mouth with a muzzle

I wonder if the Pharisees weren’t a little pleased at how Jesus silenced the Sadducees.

:35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,

lawyer – some of us think of lawyers as sneaky people …


A Mexican bandit made a specialty of crossing the Rio Grande from time to time and robbing banks in Texas. Finally, a reward was offered for his capture. An enterprising Texas Ranger decided to track him down. After a lengthy search, he traced the bandit to his favorite cantina, snuck up behind him, put his trusty six-shooter to the bandit’s head, and said, “You’re under arrest. Tell me where you hid the loot or I’ll blow your brains out.” But the bandit didn’t speak English and the Ranger didn’t speak Spanish! Fortunately, a bilingual lawyer was in the saloon and translated the Ranger’s message. The terrified bandit blurted out, in Spanish, that the loot was buried under the oak tree in back of the cantina. “What did he say?” asked the Ranger. The lawyer answered, “He said, ‘Get lost, you turkey. You wouldn’t dare shoot me.’”

But the New Testament concept of lawyer was different.  This wasn’t a guy who defends you in front of Judge Judy, but a guy who was skilled in the law of Moses.  This was a religious scholar.

In fact, this guy seems to be a good guy.  Mark gives us a little flavor to this incident between Jesus and the scholar.

(Mark 12:28-34 NKJV)  Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?" {29} Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. {30} 'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. {31} "And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." {32} So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. {33} "And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." {34} Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." But after that no one dared question Him.

:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"

This is not a new question for Jesus’ day.  This was an issue the religious scholars had been debating for centuries.

The Law of Moses had a lot of commandments to choose from.

"The scribes declared that there were 248 affirmative precepts, as many as the members of the human body; and 365 negative precepts, as many as the days in the year, the total being 613, the number of letters in the Decalogue" (Vincent).

Some of the scholars had divided the law into “heavy” and “light” commandments.  Their approach was that if you just focused on the “heavy” commandments you’d be fine.

But the problem with that is that if you are going to base your relationship with God on the Law, it only takes ONE transgression to put you in conflict with God.
(James 2:10 NKJV)  For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.


A man on a camel rode through miles of the sun-drenched desert searching for some sign of life. His supplies were running low when his camel died. Now on foot, he desperately sought refuge from the heat, and, most importantly, a source for water. Suddenly, he came across a vendor in the middle of the desert. “Thank God I found you!” the man cried. “Please help me. I’m in dire need of some water.” “Well,” said the vendor, “I don’t have any water. But would you like to buy one of these fine ties.” “What am I going to do with a tie?” the man asked. “That’s what I’m selling sir. If you don’t like it, I can’t help you.” The man left the vendor and walked on for many more miles, praying each minute that he would find refuge from the scorching sun. His eyes squinted a bunch of times when he came across a restaurant in the distance. Unable to comprehend a restaurant located in the middle of the desert, he assumed the place was a mirage, but decided to check it out anyway. As he approached the door, his mouth opened in amazement, seeing that the place actually existed. The doorman stopped him before he entered. “Excuse me sir,” the doorman said, “but you can’t come in here without a tie!”

Sometimes the desert of life can get a little confusing.  Sometimes it’s hard to know just what we’re supposed to be spending our time doing?  Is it all that important that I wear a tie???

Which of the laws is the most important?

:37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'

Jesus isn’t going to choose between one of the Ten Commandments.  He’s going to quote from Deuteronomy, from the passage known as the “Shema”, the great confession of faith repeated by the Jews, summarizing their belief in God.

The word “Shema” means “to hear”, and refers to the first word in verse 4.  The prophet “Samuel” has this word in his name.  Here’s the “Shema”:

(Deu 6:4-5 NKJV)  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! {5} "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

This is not a new concept with Jesus.  This was recognized as the greatest commandment.


The best Love is a choice.

The word used here is the word used in “agape
loveagapao to love, to feel and exhibit esteem and goodwill to a person, to prize and delight in a thing.
We use the word “love” to describe lots of different things.  I love the Angels.  I love ice cream.  I love my sons.  I love a good Sherlock Holmes mystery.  I love my wife.  And when I say “love”, I have slightly different ideas each time I use that word.  I don’t love ice cream the way I love my wife.  I don’t love Sherlock Holmes the same way I love my sons.
The word “agapao” describes a love that is based in on the “will”, not on the emotions.  It’s making a choice of placing “value” on something.  It’s choosing to treasure something.

When you have a garage sale, you make choices as to how much you are going to sell things.

To have agape toward someone is to choose to place a high value on them.

(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This doesn’t mean that there are no emotions involved.  It just means that the love flows from the choice I make, not the feelings I feel. 


A complete Love

The love we are supposed to have for God is to involve our entire being, all we are.
The words “heart, soul, and mind” overlap quite a bit.  The words Jesus used are in some places a bit interchangeable.
In addition, there’s the word “strength” in the Deuteronomy and Mark versions of this passage.
But there is a point here – our love for God is not one dimensional.
For some Christians, their love for God is highly emotional.  They equate love for God with the music they sing at church, arms waving, maybe even jumping up and down, some run up and down the aisles waving banners.

Is this wrong?  Not at all, but it’s just one aspect of our love for God.

Our love for God should involve our “mind” as well.

Often times I’m asking you on Thursday to “expand your vocabulary” when it comes to giving thanks and praise to God.  I think we need to grow in our knowledge of God, of who He is, what He does, how He works, and that ought to deepen our love for God.

Our love for God also ought to involve our body as well – “strength” and “heart” are two words tied to the physical body.

Some early Christians isolated their body from their spirit in thinking that what they did with their body didn’t affect their heart or their spirit.  They could go sleep with a prostitute and then serve communion in church and they would tell themselves they had done nothing wrong.

We need to avoid the “TV Dinner” mentality.  A TV dinner has each item in a separate compartment.  Instead, we ought to work at developing the “Chicken Potpie” mentality in our relationship with the Lord.  Our love for the Lord should have everything thrown into the mix.

:38 "This is the first and great commandment.

:39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

like ithomoios – like, similar, resembling

Even this commandment, like all others, is tied to the first commandment.

If we love God, we will love His children.

John wrote,

 (1 John 4:20-21 NKJV)  If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? {21} And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
We can’t love God and hate our brother.

Over the last half a century there has been a tendency for preachers to take this verse and talk about the need to “love our selves” so we can truly love our neighbors.

I understand the concept of “low self-esteem”. But I’m not sure we really need to “love ourselves”.  I think the problem is that we already love ourselves too much.

You might think that a girl that looks into the mirror and says, “I look horrible, I look so fat” must have low self-esteem.  I think the problem is that she really loves herself too much.  If she didn’t love herself, why would she care if she looked fat?

Our society has become incredibly “narcissistic”.

There was an article in Time magazine last week about the shooter at Virginia Tech.  It’s an amazing article, considering it’s in a leading secular magazine.  Here’s a few excerpts:

It’s All About Him”, By David Von Drehle, (article in TIME Magazine, April 30, 2007)
…I’ve lost interest in the cracks, chips, holes and broken places in the lives of men like Cho Seung-Hui, the mass murderer of Virginia Tech. The pain, grievances and self-pity of mass killers are only symptoms of the real explanation. Those who do these things share one common trait. They are raging narcissists. “I died—like Jesus Christ,” Cho said in a video sent to NBC.
Psychologists from South Africa to Chicago have begun to recognize that extreme self-centeredness is the forest in these stories, and all the other things— guns, games, lyrics, pornography—are just trees. To list the traits of the narcissist is enough to prove the point: grandiosity, numbness to the needs and pain of others, emotional isolation, resentment and envy.
...Freud explained narcissism as a failure to grow up. All infants are narcissists, he pointed out, but as we grow, we ought to learn that other people have lives independent of our own. It’s not their job to please us, applaud for us or even notice us—let alone die because we’re unhappy.
…There’s a telling moment in Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, in which singer Marilyn Manson dismisses the idea that listening to his lyrics contributed to the disintegration of Harris and Klebold. What the Columbine killers needed, Manson suggests, was for someone to listen to them. This is the narcissist’s view of narcissism: everything would be fine if only he received more attention. The real problem can be found in the killer’s mirror.

I don’t think our problem is that we don’t love our selves.  Our problem is that we aren’t loving others like we love our selves.

When we’re in a conversation with others, we need to stop sometimes and pay attention to how much we’re talking about ourselves.  We need to learn to use that line, “Enough about me, how about you?”

:40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Love God.  Love your neighbor.


Love is a key to obedience

If you do these two things, you will find yourself fulfilling all the commandments.
If you love God, you won’t go after other gods, make idols, and you’ll take a day to worship God.
If you love your neighbor, you won’t kill him, steal from him, sleep with his wife, or covet his stuff.
Jesus said,
(John 14:15 NKJV)  "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Even when you sin, let it be something that drives you to Jesus to be cleansed and forgiven, and the result will be a greater love and greater obedience.
(Luke 7:36-50 NKJV)  Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. {37} And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, {38} and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. {39} Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." {40} And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." {41} "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. {42} "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" {43} Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." {44} Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. {45} "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. {46} "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. {47} "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." {48} Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." {49} And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" {50} Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

:41-46 David’s Lord

:41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

Jesus now turns the questioning back to His questioners.

:42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David."

It is a well known fact of Biblical prophecy that the Messiah, the Christ, would come from the line of David.  They are correct. Partly.

Jesus asked something similar to the disciples:

(Mat 16:15-16 NKJV)  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" {16} Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

The Pharisees only have it partly correct.  They are going to struggle with the question Jesus will ask because they only have the “human” part of the Messiah understood.  They need to realize that Jesus is also the Son of God.

:43 He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:

:44 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"'?

Jesus is quoting from a well-known Messianic Psalm:

(Psa 110:1 NKJV)  The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."

:45 "If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?"

In the passage Jesus quotes, Yahweh is speaking to David’s “Lord”, telling this person, the Messiah, that He is to sit at God’s right hand while God takes care of the Messiah’s enemies.

The odd question that Jesus raises has to do with man’s custom of giving reverence to your elders.

It’s perfectly fine for a son to call his father “Lord”.  But it is not proper for a father to call his son “Lord”.

How could the Messiah be David’s “son” if David is calling Him “Lord”.

:46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

The Pharisees were blown away by the question and didn’t know what to say.

But WE know the answer!!!

Jesus is both the Son of Man and the Son of God.
Jesus is a descendant of David through His mother Mary.  But Jesus is also the Son of God, being born of a virgin.
Jesus is no ordinary man.

Is the question Jesus asked an important question?

I’d say your salvation depends on your answer.

If Jesus is just the son of man, then His death on the cross wouldn’t pay for very much.
But because He is also the Son of God, when He laid down His life He was paying an infinite amount, enough to pay for you and me.