Springboarding off of the Apostle Paul’s life focus, clearly expressed in 1 Corinthians 2:2, Pastor Greg launched an “open-ended” message series on January 12th, 2020 – focusing on “Just Jesus.” He is walking us through the entire New Testament, pulling passages from the Old Testament for context, and keeping us focused throughout the year on “Just Jesus.”
This is Just Jesus, Week 74, Matthew, Part 72. This week Pastor G covers Matthew 22:34 through Matthew 23:22. Jesus establishes His definitive answer on what the greatest commandment is. It all boils down to this: Love God and Love People. Then, Jesus launches into seven (or some manuscripts show eight) judgments of woe, rebukes on the Pharisees. Greg covers the first four woes this week.
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:34-40
This idea of finding the greatest commandment was a favorite theological debate in ancient Israel. The rabbis loved to make aphorisms summing up the heart of religion. Some rabbi’s would teach, Moses gave 613 commandments, with ten being the most famous and all-encompassing.
In Psalm 15 David names eleven. O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the Lord; He swears to his own hurt and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. ~ Psalm 15:1-5
Isaiah names six in Isaiah 33:15 He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, He who rejects unjust gain And shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; He who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed And shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; ~ Isaiah 33:15
Micah names three in Micah 6:8 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8
Jesus gives two, a primary and a secondary commandment. The primary comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5
The secondary comes from Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. ~ Leviticus 19:18
Jesus says the entirety of Scripture boils down to love God and love people. If we are truly loving God and if we are truly loving other people, we will, by default, keep all of the law and the prophets in the process.
LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE!
Luke talks about a conversation Jesus has with a lawyer long before the passion week. The lawyer asked Jesus how he could inherit eternal life and Jesus put the question back on him asking what is written in the law, how does it read to you. The lawyer responds:
… “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” ~ Luke 10:27-28
Mark on the other hand, which Matthew drew heavily on for his account, adds the extra detail in the passion week that the lawyer posed the question to Jesus and then praised Jesus for His answer. Jesus, in turn, affirmed the teacher’s insights and told him “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” ~ Matthew 22:41-42
The word Christ comes from the Greek Christos, but it all points back to the Hebrew Mashiaḥ, or in English we would say Messiah. We’ve talked about this title “Son of David” many times in this series. It is a messianic title. It’s a kingly title. The Messiah must be the rightful king of Israel and that means He must be a descendent of King David.
Jesus refers to David’s words in Psalm 110:1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” ~ Psalm 110:1
Listen to Jesus’ point about the Messiah and whose Son the Messiah must be.
He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” ~ Matthew 22:43-45
In Hebrew, David says Yahweh said to my Adonai … Or, God the Father, said to my Lord, my God, my Messiah, sit at my right hand. So whose Son is the Messiah? Jesus is indicating that the Messiah is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh.
No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. ~ Matthew 22:46
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. ~ Matthew 23:1-3
Moses’ seat was the name given to the chair in the synagogues where the authoritative teacher of the Law would sit. When they are truly teaching the Law Jesus wants people to follow their teaching. Just don’t follow them in their false teachings or hypocritical lifestyles.
They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. ~ Matthew 23:4-5
Phylacteries were leather boxes containing specific passages of the Law. Jewish men wore them on their foreheads and arms, They were meant as a reminder to keep the Law. The forehead box contained four passages each on their own separate sheet of paper. Exodus 13:1-10, Exodus 13:11-16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21) The arm version contained one long scroll with all four verses listed in order. This practice was a tradition based on Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 11:18
You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. ~ Deuteronomy 11:18
Jesus doesn’t have a problem with them doing this. He is pointing out that these hypocrites made their boxes larger than they needed to be, with the intent to draw attention to themselves, to show people how holy and pious they were. To get the praise and adoration of men.
The tassles were commanded by God in Numbers 15:37-40
The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. ~ Numbers 15:37-40
Again, Jesus is not opposed to keeping the Law in this way and wearing these tassels and phylacteries as reminders to keep God at the forefront of our minds and lives. His quarrel is that the hypocritical leaders made them larger and longer than necessary as super holy status symbols. Drawing attention and praise to themselves instead of directing it to God.
They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. ~ Matthew 23:6-10
Jesus is saying don’t put yourself in the place of God. Don’t claim to be the end-all, be-all expert on everything. Don’t jockey for positions of honor. Seek to give God honor and glory. Be humbled and honored when someone offers you a place of distinction. Serving God is about humility, a servant’s heart, selflessness.
The “respectful greetings” in the market places: Religious leaders were addressed as “My Great One” or “My Lord.” Because of their positions in society, they expected and demanded this honor be shown to them.
Jesus is not forbidding terms of affection like Rabbi, Father, Teacher, Leader, Pastor, etc. These are not forbidden from being used in relationships. He is scolding the prideful, self-serving use of these terms to authoritatively place your status or value above others. Making others feel small to make yourself feel big is the problem.
But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. ~ Matthew 23:11-12
Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted. ~ Proverbs 3:34
… God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” ~ James 4:6b
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. ~ Matthew 23:13
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense, you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. ~ Matthew 23:13-14
Verse 14 doesn’t appear in the oldest manuscript copies we have so it was added later by another copyist. It is not the original writing of Matthew. Still, the words contained in verse 14 match what Jesus has taught previously about praying loud, prideful prayers in public and again, puffing themselves up with pride and taking advantage of others, like widows.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. ~ Matthew 23:15
Much like Christianity is today, in the first century, Judaism was a missionary religion. Some scribes and Pharisees traveled abroad and made converts. They were baptized, circumcised, and made an offering in the temple. They then had all the rights and privileges of a native Jew. Jesus’ point is that, because they are insincere and prideful teachers, their converts are taught to be insincere and prideful as well.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?~ Matthew 23:16-19
Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. ~ Matthew 23:20-22
Jesus makes it clear that all oaths were binding, no matter what people swore by, and God, as the supreme judge would hold them responsible for every promise they have made. Plus, we already know how Jesus feels about all this oath swearing, especially conditional oaths with loopholes built-in. He shared with us all the way back in Matthew 5 — Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. ~ Matthew 5:33-37
Ouai (GREEK) / Oy (HEBREW)
Iimpassioned expressions of grief and despair. They mean Alas! or Woe!
Jesus used this repeated term “woe” against the scribes and Pharisees not as an exclamation but as a declaration, a divine pronouncement of judgment from God. Still, as I shared last week, it was not His desire that they be condemned to hell. Instead, as He hoped for all people, Jesus hoped this rebuke would convict them and ultimately lead them to repent of their sins and come to salvation. That’s His desire for all of us as well. Become aware of our sins. Confess them. Agree that they are sins. Be convicted of our guilt, repent of our behavior, live righteous lives, lives that honor and glory God.