Summary: The Greatest Commandment – Matthew chapter 22 verses 36-40 - sermon by Gordon Curley PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:

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(1). A Controlling Opponent (vs 34).

(2). A Calculated Snare (vs 35).

(3). A Cunning Question (vs 36).

(4). A Comprehensive Answer (vs 37-40):

(5). A Challenging Application (vs 37).



• I guess you’ve seen their adverts on the TV.

• ‘Claims Direct’ type legal firms, you know the patter…

• “If you’ve been injured in an accident and need legal advice then call…”

• If like me you feel like shouting at the telly;

• “If you’ve been injured in an accident and need legal advice then call…”


• Now if the accident is sincere and someone is genuinely at fault;

• Then it is only right and proper that compensation is paid.

• But sadly so many false claims are now being made;

• And it has become a money-making industry.

• False claims, abusing the system is nothing new;


• A hundred years ago there was a very clever lawyer called F. E. Smith;

• He was a shrewd brief with a quick wit;

• Who served as the British attorney general from 1915 until 1919.

• On one occasion in court he cross-examined a young man who was claiming damages;

• For an arm injury caused by the negligence of a bus driver.

• F. E. Smith was cross-examining the claimant (who wasn’t the brightest)

• And he asked him:

• “Since you accident how high you can lift up your arm?”

• The young man cautiously raised his arm to shoulder level, his face distorted with pain.

• “Thank you,” said F.E. Smith.

• He then asked him:

• “And now, could you show us how high you could lift it before the accident?”

• Without engaging brain the young man eagerly shot his arm up above his head;

• And said “this high!”

• You will not be surprised to know that the young man lost the case!

• TRANSITION: No-one likes to be tricked, or conned or set up fall a fall!

• But that is the context, the situation surrounding our passage today.

• A group of religious leaders called Pharisees

• Descend on Jesus and try to trick him into giving a wrong answer.

(1). A Controlling opponent (vs 34).

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together”

In the gospels you will often come across those two groups of people mentioned:

• The Sadducees and Pharisees,

• Jesus was in constant conflict with them.


• The Sadducees were aristocrats, the upper class of society.

• They tended to be wealthy and held powerful positions,

• Including that of chief priests and high priest,

• And they also held the majority of the 70 seats;

• Of the Jewish ruling council called the Sanhedrin.

• So they were people of wealth and power.

• They worked hard to keep the peace by agreeing with the decisions of their Roman occupiers.

• And they seemed to be more concerned with politics than religion.

• Because the Sadducees were more concerned with politics than religion,

• They were unconcerned with Jesus until they became afraid;

• He might bring unwanted Roman attention.

• The Sadducees considered only the written Word to be from God.

• Especially the books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy).

• One of the key doctrines that the Sadducees denied was any resurrection of the dead;

• The also denied They denied any afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death,

• (that’s maybe why they were sad-you-see!)


• The Pharisees were mostly middle-class businessmen,

• They were the religious fundamentalists – the guardians of the faith!

• Who prided themselves on strict observance of the Jewish laws, ceremonies & traditions.

• At the time of Jesus there were around 6,000 Pharisees;

• They were not priests more like politicians,

• Many Pharisees were leaders in their local synagogue.

• And it was the Pharisees who held the power over the people.

• (quote: there was a name for anyone who crossed them – victim!)

• Religiously, they accepted the written Word as inspired by God.

• This would have been what is now our Old Testament.

• But they also gave equal authority to oral (spoken) tradition;

• And attempted to defend this position by saying it went all the way back to Moses.

• The Gospels abound with examples of the Pharisees treating these traditions;

• As equal to God's Word

• (Matthew 9:14; 15:1-9; 23:5; 23:16, 23, Mark 7:1-23; Luke 11:42).

Note: verse 34:

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together”

• Having silenced the Sadducees in a religious argument;

• The Pharisees now come along and try to discredit Jesus!

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