3-Week Series: Double Blessing

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Summary: Here is a discourse that Christ had with a Pharisee-lawyer, about the great commandment found in the Law (that is, the laws given by God to His people Israel). In this passage, our Lord gives us what is known as “The Great Commandment."

-Tuesday-

Jerusalem

Pharisees Question Commandments

Matthew 22:34-40 (focal passage), Mark 12:28-34

Matthew 22:34-40

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

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

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

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.’

38 This is the first and great commandment.

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

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

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

Paraphrase: When the Pharisees heard the report that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, who were the common enemies of their religion, they came together to decide how they might put it to their advantage.

Here is a discourse that Christ had with a Pharisee-lawyer, about the great commandment found in the Law (that is, the laws given by God to His people Israel through His prophet Moses). In this passage, our Lord gives us what is known as “The Great Commandment.”

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced their antagonists’ the Sadducees, they have a huddle where they plan a strategy. They send a clever lawyer, who was an expert in the Mosaic Law, to pose a question to Jesus, which was intend to prove that they were better than the Sadducees were by doing what they could not do, which was to discredit the Lord before the people. They should have thanked Him for successfully declaring and confirming the truth of the Resurrection in contradiction of the Sadducees, the common enemies of their religion, but instead they hoped to get the reputation of being able to baffle Jesus who had baffled the Sadducees. However, they were more irritated that Christ was honored, than pleased that the Sadducees were silenced; being more concerned for their own authority and traditions, which Christ opposed, than for the doctrine of the resurrection and a future state, which the Sadducees opposed. Note, it is a case of Pharisaical envy and meanness, to be displeased at the upholding of an acknowledge truth, when it is done by those we do not like, and to sacrifice a public good to private interests and prejudices. The apostle Paul always put Christ first—“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).

35 Then one of them, a ¹lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,

Paraphrase: One of the Pharisees, who was a lawyer and their representative, asked Him a question he believed would draw Jesus into an argument concerning the Pharisees’ extensive interpretations of over six hundred laws.

The lawyers were students in, and teachers of, the Law of Moses, the same as the scribes were. They were equivalent to a Doctor of Theology today. However, some think that they differed from the scribes in that they dealt more in practical questions than the scribes did. This lawyer had been quickly sent by his colleagues, because he was an expert in the Law. He asked Jesus a question, testing Him. He wanted to see what Jesus would say, and to draw Him into a conversation that might satisfy His own and His friends’ curiosity. It appears from Mark’s account of the story, that this was the one to whom Christ said, “Thou are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk. 12:3).

¹Lawyer One who knew and practiced law. Lawyers are mentioned only in the New Testament. By Jesus’ day the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament, had been expanded by the Jewish leaders. Their intent was to give the people an adequate interpretation and application of divine law to every situation of life. Added to the Law was a vast body of explanation, commentary, and application that was held to be just as binding as the actual writings of Moses.

New Testament lawyers were experts in this large body of material. They spent their time studying, interpreting, and expounding this law and acting as court judges. Also referred to as “teachers of the law” or “scribes,” Jewish lawyers generally opposed both John the Baptist (Luke 7:30) and Jesus (Luke 14:3) and tried to discredit Jesus (Matt. 22:34–40).

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Paraphrase: Tell me Master, which of the Mosaic laws should be the most highly esteemed for their importance.

God had given the people of Israel ten commandments, and laws concerning diet, land ownership, leprosy, the Sabbath, and so forth. To this was added a whole bundle of laws, called Fence Laws, which were aimed at preventing a person from even coming close to breaking one of the Commandments. The law in Jesus day had become a huge, massive thing containing 613 commandments. 365 were negative and 248 were positive. There were so many laws that it was impossible to keep from breaking at least one of them. It was necessary, therefore, that Jewish Law be reduced and simplified. Thus, the question was asked of Jesus, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” It was a needless question, since all the things of God’s law are great things—“I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing” (Hos. 8:12), and the wisdom from above is without partiality in the law—“Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base Before all the people, Because you have not kept My ways But have shown partiality in the law” (Mal. 2:9). We are to have respect for them all. Yet it is true, there are some commands that are the principles of the oracles of God, and therefore are more extensive and inclusive than others are. Our Savior speaks of the “weightier matters of the law, (Matt 23:23).

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