December 30 – Matthew 22:34-40
In Matthew 22 we find Jesus teaching in the temple of Jerusalem. This is just two days after the triumphal entry (Matt. 21:1-11), and since then Jesus has cleared the temple with a whip (Matt. 21:12-13) and returned daily to teach the people and confront the Pharisees. If you read back over chapters 21 and 22 you’ll see Jesus challenged multiple times by the Pharisees, who had “plotted how to entangle him in his words.”(Matt.22:15) They were specifically looking for a way to accuse him of blasphemy so they could put him to death. If you read ahead you’ll see this exchange about the great commandments is just three days before they successfully have Jesus tortured and killed.
That makes Jesus’ words here so much more costly. He’s arguing with the very people who are about to have him killed. It also makes his words so much more challenging for the Pharisees, because he’s telling them to love God and to love their neighbor, i.e. don’t kill your neighbor on trumped up charges, especially if he’s God’s Son. And yet they refuse to listen. They agree with their mouths but reject him with their hearts.
So as we read these words from Jesus we should seriously investigate if they’re just going in one ear and out the other. When Jesus tells us to love God with the totality of our being, both with affection and with obedience, are we ready to devote ourselves completely? When he adds that we should also love our neighbor as if their needs are our needs, their body our body, their gain our gain, are we prepared to respond? It would be helpful to reflect on the ways that we lean away from these commandments and doubt that our obedience to them will yield any good in our lives. In fact, we may even believe that obeying them will somehow detract from the lives we currently live. Consider how laying this resistance aside can help your “manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”(Phil. 1:27)
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read Matthew 22:34-40 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• Why do you think Jesus explains to these Pharisees that they should love God and love their neighbor?
• Based on Jesus’ response, it seems like loving your neighbor starts with loving God. Why do you think that is?
• In what ways do you think you’re prone to resisting these two commandments? Why do you think you do this?
• How do you think obeying these two commandments could help you delight in Jesus more fully?