34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Matthew 22:34-46 (NIV)
(Note: This text selection follows daily lectionary for year B)
William Arthur Ward once said that we have “three enemies of personal peace: regret over yesterday’s mistakes, anxiety over tomorrow’s problems, and ingratitude for today’s blessings.” We lose our peace, because we fail, time and again, to “let go and let God” over things beyond our control and also because we fail to recognize thankfully God’s blessings among us. The Pharisees and the Sadducees did not regard Jesus as a godsend, not to mention as God, and lost their peace and felt threatened when Jesus taught and acted differently and with authority (Matthew 21:23). So they attempted to regain their control, asking Jesus difficult questions. But they turned out to do what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls “a chasing after wind” (9 times!, NRSV) or, as Paul puts it, to “fight like a boxer beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26, NIV). Jesus bested his opponents, responding to their daring questions with amazing and astounding answers.
And now Jesus turns the tables on them, asking them a very disquieting question about who their waited-for Messiah is. Their tightly controlled idea of Messiah was, most of all, “the son of David.” Matthew, starting with its genealogy, obviously follows their train of thought with regard to this subject. David, not Abraham (cf. Matthew 1:1), ought to be their reference point. Behind this Davidic orientation (or even concentration) lay their religio-political aspirations well expressed by the people’s hosannas: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9, NRSV) People were waiting for a new king who would liberate them from the Roman Empire and bring back the glory of King David’s reign. Jesus seemed to be capable for the job. And he was qualified, for he was the son of David. That was at least what those who welcomed Jesus thought and yet Jesus’ opponents did not concur with them.
Both religious leaders and people were regretful over the past and anxious over the future and not content with what they had in Jesus the Blessed Son of David. They did not want to follow Jesus as they lost sight of what their tradition took to be the base line of all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:40): the “double love of God and of neighbor” (Augustine). Jesus put this double love into practice and invited them to do so. And they knew what they had to do but did not want to do it. They only wanted to justify themselves. The sad reality is that we do the same and raise the same self-justifying question as they did: “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) And the answer of Jesus is still the same: the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), an anonymous son of Abraham who was sent by God to help an anonymous robbed Jew.
A Prayer for the Ninth Day of Advent
God of all, grant us wisdom to welcome unfamiliar godsends into our lives and help us to practice the double love together with them. Amen.
Dr. Sung Hee Chang
Assistant Professor of Christian Education & Director of Supervised Ministry