Love Your Rivals (21st Pentecost, Proper 25A)

October 29, 2017

 

 

Matthew 22:34-46

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 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 greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

 

 

“Love Your Rivals”

By Fr. Guillermo A. Arboleda

21st Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 25A)

 

We missed a story in which the Sadducees test Jesus with a question about marriage and resurrection

  • Background on the different “denominations” of Judaism in Jesus’ time

    • Sadducees - Wealthy, Priestly class; Torah/Law only; no resurrection; wealthy ruling elites; tied to Temple establishment and Sanhedrin; compromise with Romans in exchange for religio-political influence;

    • Pharisees - “Holiness movement” led mostly by lay rabbis/teachers, not priests; followed Law pretty strictly, and traditions of the elders; accepted Law and Prophets as Scripture; held people to unreasonably high standards of holiness

 

Pharisees and Sadducees are rivals. They are vying for public influence and for more followers.

  • They both tried to entrap Jesus and knock him down in the public opinion because he is so popular. (Pharisees with taxes; Sadducees with resurrection).

  • Pharisees see that Jesus made the Sadducees look bad so they try to make themselves look better by beating the team that beat their rival.

    • “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’”

  • As in earlier stories, this conversation was not genuine. The Pharisees weren’t really interested in listening to Jesus’ perspective or learning from him. They just wanted to be right. They wanted to embarrass him and embarrass the Sadducees.

    • The whole premise for the conversation was rivalry.

 

So Jesus answers their disingenuous question with a genuine answer.

  • 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 greatest and first commandment.

  • The first answer about loving the Lord your God is Deuteronomy 6:5, from a very important passage in the Law of Moses. It’s from a prayer that almost every Jew would have memorized, whether they were extremely pious or simply casual observers of the faith.

    • 4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

  • This passage from Deuteronomy (called the Shema prayer) is something like the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father prayer in Christianity. Everybody is at least familiar with it, even if they don’t go to church very often.

    • The Pharisees ask about the greatest commandment, and Jesus answers with the Shema. It’s a traditional answer and one that would have made people listening nod their heads in approval. Everyone should love God. Pharisees love their piety after all.

 

But then Jesus continues: And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

  • Here Jesus turns to a less famous part of the Law. He quotes Leviticus 19:18, from a section of the Torah often called the Holiness Code. While it may not have had popular appeal, you can bet that the Pharisees of all people would have been familiar with the ethical regulations in this part of the Bible. So it may be useful to hear the expanded quotation, .

    • 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

  • Loving neighbors is explicitly about avoiding grudges and vengeance. In order to love your neighbor, you need to be willing and able to forgive and to learn to reconcile differences.

    • Jesus concludes that these two commands are intricately tied together. You cannot love God without loving your neighbor as yourself. So when we fail to set aside our rivalries, our love for God suffers. “On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.”

 

Jesus is calling out the Pharisees (and the Sadducees) for their hateful relationship with one another. They are concerned about obeying all the commandments and being super-pious, but they can’t seem to show basic decency and charity toward their brothers and sisters across the aisle.

    • Sure, they had their political and religious disagreements. They were at least as divided as Democrats are from Republicans, or Episcopalians are from any number of other Christian denominations.

      • Just this week, I was at an ecumenical gathering and the church leader who invited the group together was teasing clergy from other denominations who he didn’t know for being of that denomination. I think it was intended to be good-natured ribbing, but it came off to me as a little too close to the real wounds in the Body of Christ.

  • And so the word Jesus offers isn’t simply to the Pharisee but to you and to me as well. We live in a world where it has become normal for adults in positions of public influence and trust to mock and bully their opponents. We’re all watching as grown people embarrass themselves in public and, like it or not, it’s easy to pick up those bad habits.

  • In an age of deep political, social, racial, and religious divisions, Jesus calls us to something different. Jesus, our Prince of Peace, reminds us that the way we treat each other reveals our love for God. We cannot dismiss or disparage other beloved children of God because we don’t like what they think or say.

    • 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

  • The Jesus Movement is a call beyond rivalry and division. It’s a call to love.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Cosby, Michael R. Portraits of Jesus: An Inductive Approach to the Gospels. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Jewish_Groups.htm

http://girardianlectionary.net/reflections/year-a/proper25a/

http://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com/2017/1

 

Tags:

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

Walking the Way of the Cross (13th Pentecost, Proper 18C)

September 8, 2019

1/10
Please reload

Recent Posts
Please reload

Archive