Matthew 22:34-36 (The Greatest Commandment 1: The Lawyer’s Question)

Recall that it is Tuesday of Passion week and Jesus has returned to Jerusalem from spending the night outside of the city (Mar 11:19).  Upon entering the temple He was confronted by a delegation from the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews.  This council of the elders of Israel was composed mostly of Pharisees and Sadducees who feared that His teaching which was directed against them and appealed to the masses would instigate a rebellion against the worldly rule of the Romans of which they were a part; thus they were seeking some cause to arrest Him.  After answering the main delegation with a series of parables that confirmed Him even more to the people as a prophet from God, he was confronted by a group of Pharisees seeking to trap Him, and then by a group of Sadducees, both of which failed in their endeavor.  What does Matthew record happens next?  See Mat 22:34.  What does this illustrate about the degree to which the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus and the extent to which they were attempting to try and silence Him?  In what way might a picture of vultures circling a victim in a remote desert aptly describe them?  Although they were seeking to silence Jesus, what does Matthew say Jesus did to the Sadducees, and how is this an illustration of what must inevitably happen to all who would oppose God’s kingdom?  See Mat 22:34,12, Rom 3:19 and cf. 1Sa 2:9, Job 9:2-3, Psa 107:42.  Consider too these who like vultures or wild beasts were drawn by the scent of blood, watching and waiting for the most appropriate but inevitable occasion to seize Him, or the many others like them throughout history who have preyed upon the righteous: what does Scripture say is the just recompense that in the end shall befall such?  See Isa 46:9-11, Jer 7:32-33, 12:7-9, 15:3, 34:20, Eze 29:5, 39:4,17-20, Luk 17:33-37, Rev 19:17-18,21.

Having gathered themselves together, who from among the Pharisees does Matthew say asked Jesus a question?  See Mat 22:35.  What is meant by a lawyer, and what synonymous term does Mark use to describe him?  See NAS text note, and Mar 12:28.  What does Matthew say was the lawyer’s intent in asking the question?  See Mat 22:35.  What additional information does Mark record about the lawyer, and how does his description of this event temper our perceptions of him?  See Mar 12:28,32-34.  Are these differing descriptions necessarily mutually exclusive?  Rather, what do their descriptions illustrate about the enigma the person of Jesus was to many people who were somewhat genuine in their beliefs but were also mired in the worldly or religious traditions that surrounded them?  Are there people like that today?  Is it possible that we are like that?

What question did the lawyer ask Jesus?  See Mat 22:36.  Of what interest would such a question be to a scribe?  Note: the scribes had carefully enumerated the commands of scripture and said 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, quoted in Robertson’s Word Pictures).  What does this illustrate about how fastidious they were in regard to the word of God?  If we believe that “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psa 19:7), should we necessarily consider such scrupulousness to be a bad thing?  What does the context in which it was asked illustrate about when it is a bad thing, and the importance of the scribe’s question and Jesus’ answer?  See also Mat 5:20 and think: is it enough to know all mysteries and knowledge about the word of God or even give all we possess to the poor if we are lacking that weightier provision of the law that makes these real and meaningful?  Cf. 1Co 13:1-3.

Was this the first time that Jesus had had a discussion with a lawyer about these greatest of God’s commandments?  See Luk 10:25-28.  What makes it clear that these were two separate incidents and not a single episode that the different authors adapted to their own purpose as is commonly asserted by liberal scholars?  See Luk 10:29, Mar 12:28-34, noticing the different time each occurred in Jesus’ ministry and the contexts of different circumstances; notice also who actually spoke the two great commandments in each episode.

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