The Preparation of the King Matthew 21:1-23:39, cont’d.
Matthew 22:23-33-A group of Sadducees questioned Jesus concerning the resurrection. They didn’t believe in the resurrection and they were trying to trick him by using a question that has a false premise. Someone has jokingly said that they were called “Sadducees”, because they didn’t believe in the resurrection…so, they’re “sad…you…see”. It may be corny, but I’ll bet that the next time you hear the word Sadducee you will remember that they didn’t believe in the resurrection. The marriage law that they refer to is called “levirate marriage” (Deut. 25:5; from the Latin meaning “husband’s brother”). Its purpose was prevent the extinction of the family name and lineage of the dead brother…thus keeping the inheritance and property within the family. The Sadducees had concocted a fanciful story of a man who marries a woman, and then he dies. Following the direction of this law…each successive brother then marries her and dies, as well. Finally, she dies. Their question then is: Which brother will she be married to in Heaven? Remember, they don’t believe in Heaven…and yet, they try to use the reality of the resurrection as a trick question. Jesus quickly corrects them on two points. First, there is no marriage in Heaven. So, it is not even a valid question. And second, He corrects their misunderstanding about the reality of the resurrection. To do so Jesus quotes an Old Testament passage (Exod. 3:6). In this passage God is speaking to Moses and telling him of His eternal nature. He would then tell Moses that His very name was a reminder of that fact. Moses would ask God what His name is and God replied, “I AM WHO I AM”. This is our English translation of the Hebrew word “YHWH”. Initially, there were no vowels in written Hebrew. Later, vowels were added to the Hebrew text of the Bible to clarify the meaning of words.
For an explanation of why, how, and when these vowels were added see:
In this case, “YHWH” became “Yahweh”. Later again, the name “Yahweh” was transliterated into English as “Jehovah”. “The inner meaning of Yahweh—“I am the One who is”—emphasizes God’s dynamic and active self-existence.” (Ryrie). It speaks of His eternal nature. When Jesus quotes this passage He isn’t saying that God was the God of Abraham, then Abraham died…and later, He was the God of Isaac, then Isaac died…then later, He was the God of Jacob. Instead, He was telling them that even after they died, He continued to be their God…because death does not mean eradication, or obliteration. Death is not an end to existence. The spirit continues to live after the death of the body and one day the body itself will be raised (resurrection). Jesus was not saying that God was their God consecutively, successively…one after the other. But, He was their God concurrently…all at the same time (with the understanding of course that this occurred only after Jacob was alive…the spirit is not pre-existent). His point is that this would not be possible…if there was no resurrection. “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Matthew 22:34-40-The Pharisees believed in the resurrection…but they had hoped that the Sadducees would do their dirty work for them. When they were not successful, they tried to trick Jesus. Their strategy was to ask Him which was the greatest commandment. If Jesus had named any one of the 10 Commandments as being greater, having precedence over the others…then they would have accused Him of heresy for not holding to the authority of the others. As if by elevating one, He was degrading the rest. Jesus recognized their ploy and didn’t quote any of the 10 Commandments. Instead, He combined two Old Testament passages that together summarized all of the Commandments. Not only did they summarize all that the Law concerns, but they also summarized all that the Prophets had spoken of (from the need for holiness, to the responsibility for social concerns). The first passage, Deut. 6:5, was part of the Shema, which was quoted by all Jews in their daily prayer. The second part was from Lev. 19:18. Deut. 6:5 establishes how we are to relate to God. Lev. 19:18 is the natural result and extension of this relationship in regards to how we are to relate to other people.
Matthew 22:41-46-We can imagine that for just a moment there was a stunned silence. Jesus had masterfully dismissed their attempt to trick Him, and at the same time had given an absolutely perfect and wonderful summation of the Law. So, while they are standing there in bewilderment…Jesus goes on the offense and uses the Pharisees themselves to establish a theological foundation for the eternal existence of the Christ (the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”). Imagine, He turns to the Pharisees and says, “Listen guys, we’re all friends here, right? As long as we’re having this little discussion, I have a question for you.” He then asks the Pharisees whose “son” the Messiah was…in other words, whose ancestral lineage would the Messiah come through. The correct answer, of course, was David…the Pharisees got that right. They look around…pleased with themselves. Little do they know, but Jesus is using the Pharisees to prove His point…even though they don’t realize it. Whether they like the Pharisees, or not, the people recognize that they are the experts in Jewish theology. Now, Jesus is asking them a theological question…and the people expect to receive an official, sanctioned answer. What the Pharisees say will be in keeping with what is the correct teaching. The crowd now listens with a sense of anticipation. Jesus continues, “That presents something of a dilemma. If the Messiah was a descendant of David (born after him), how could David, being led by the Spirit, refer to Him as his “Lord”?” The point, is that in order for David to call the Messiah, Lord, then the Messiah would have to have existed at the same time as David. The Scripture passage that Jesus is referring to is Psalm 110:1. They did not understand it at the time…but the Pharisees had just been used as a pawn by Jesus to teach something concerning Himself as the Messiah. He was establishing the ancestral lineage of the Messiah as being through David…and such, was Jesus. But He was also establishing the fact that the Messiah existed at the time as David…meaning that He was eternal. There is only One Who is eternal…God. This logical conclusion that would later dawn on them was that Jesus was not only making claim to being the Messiah (by virtue of His ancestral lineage); but, that as such, He was also claiming to be God…eternal God, the one and only God (by virtue of the Messiah’s eternal existence). They were dumfounded. They, themselves, had just verified a doctrinal truth that they, themselves, would have immediately denied and attacked if Jesus had said the same thing. The logic was too much for them to argue with. They had learned a valuable lesson…you don’t debate with Jesus! You’re going to lose, every time (:46).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the promise of the resurrection…that one day we will live in Your presence in Heaven for all of eternity. Please help me to live now in light of Heaven. To live as if I was already there. Help me to live in a manner that is in keeping with the great commandment.