Title: Follow the [Right] Leader Part 2
Text: Matthew 22:34-40
FCF: We often struggle placing our hope in things that cannot help us.
Prop: Because Natural man needs divine intervention and Christ is divine, we must follow Jesus.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew chapter 22. Last week we began a 3 part sermon where the truths and applications will be the same from week to week. We took caution not to be bogged down in the particular teaching Christ gives, but rather, the point of His teaching which would ultimately show us the point of Matthew’s teaching… driving us to what God would have for us from these texts. Today we will linger a little longer on what Jesus actually says, because it is of great value, especially compared to teaching on the resurrection and taxes. However, after we apply that teaching, we will come up for air to see once again the primary application that the Spirit desires us to see.
So from last week, we saw that Natural man does not understand the scriptures or God’s power, nor do they want to. We also saw that Jesus possesses understanding of God and the scriptures beyond that of a natural man. Therefore, since Jesus is no mere man, we must follow Him.
All of this is building to the discourse in chapter 23, which I hope to expound with you in a couple weeks.
But for now, let’s see this second episode of 3 teaching us to follow Jesus. Look with me in verse 34 of Chapter 22. I am reading from the NET again this week, but follow along in whatever version you have. And again, if you do not have a bible don’t leave without one.
This is perhaps one of the most frequently preached passages of scripture in our day. As such there are many preachers with hot takes on this passage. Indeed it is quite easy to only skim the surface of this text to pick out some teachings. Some of it being correct, but some of it being quite incorrect. I will do my best to address those wrong teachings as we go. But I need you to do your part and listen. Not because the sermon is overly long. But rather because you may conclude that you already know what the text is taching. So did I. Then God showed me more this week. So please stay tuned in.
I.) Natural Man does not understand the scriptures or God’s power, nor do they want to, so we must follow Jesus. (34-36)
a. [Slide 2] 34 – Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees,
i. These two parties, although theologically in a cold war of sorts, have unified together against Jesus.
ii. The Sadducees being silenced by Jesus, is not a good thing for the Pharisees . They may have been genuinely thrilled that Jesus agreed with them regarding the resurrection, but such theological side battles really didn’t matter at this point.
iii. Both factions were using their age old debates to try to undo him. They figured if they couldn’t find answers to these questions… He certainly wouldn’t be able to either.
iv. Perhaps today they’d be asking Jesus whether he was a Calvinist or Arminian or whether he was premil or postmil.
v. Regardless, the endeavor was not to hear His answer, but to undo him.
vi. After all, these were unanswerable debates between theological parties. There is no way he can answer all of them… right?
b. [Slide 3] They assembled together
i. In the Greek we could render this phrase – And they assembled together for the same reason.
ii. In other words, the Greek makes it clear here that the Pharisees intent in assembling was to conspire against Jesus.
c. [Slide 4] 35 – And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him.
i. We have seen scribes before. The NET calls him an expert in religious law, which is a close rendering to how we would understand.
ii. Perhaps we’d better understand, theologian.
iii. Mark does not hint at the motives of this scribe. In fact in Mark, we see the scribe, in Jesus words, “Comes close to entering the Kingdom” with his response to Jesus answer.
iv. However in Matthew, the writer reveals the intent of this scribe in his question. He means to test or to trap Jesus. At least prior to Jesus’ answer.
d. [Slide 5] 36 – “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
i. Now on the surface perhaps this does not seem like that great of a test.
ii. The Sadducees’ test seemed much cleverer. Posing a ridiculous circumstance to undo a silly teaching.
iii. Of course Jesus handled that one masterfully.
iv. So what is the test of this question?
v. Well the Rabbis had determined that there were 613 laws in the Old Testament. One law for every letter of every word in the 10 commandments. If you remember from our introduction to Matthew’s book, 1st Century Jews were very interested in numerology or numerical harmony and symmetry in scripture. This serves to prove that point well.
vi. They also loved to analyze and categorize the law.
vii. One way of dividing that law up was between affirmative commands and negative commands. Commands that you must do something and commands that you must NOT do something. They determined that there were 248 laws that were laws of the affirmative and 365 laws were laws of the negative.
viii. Another way they divided the law was into heavy and light laws. This means that they assigned a priority on laws, determining which laws were more important to be followed, and which were less important. Not that they would see some laws as optional – but primarily to make sure that the most important laws were kept.
ix. The problem of course, is that the Rabbis and different respected teachers of the law, could not agree on which laws were heavy and which laws were light.
x. This transcended Pharisee and Sadducee and went even within their religious parties. It almost came to the point that people were writing it off as an unanswerable question.
xi. So now, this scribe, knowing that this argument is out there, tries to trap Jesus. But how?
xii. [Slide 6] He asks which law is the heaviest. Actually, from the Greek another possible translation is “what sort of commandment in the law is great” which means he could be asking, not for the single greatest command, but rather, teacher, how do we determine what kind of law should be classified heavy?
xiii. After looking at this text with fresh eyes and seeing it in the light of the whole context of scripture I would say that this second way of viewing this is more what the scribe is actually asking.
xiv. His trap becomes all the more sinister when we realize that this question doesn’t have a popular answer. Because no matter which law or rubric he would select as the way to categorize them, he would go against someone.
e. [Slide 7] Here again we see this concept that Matthew is driving home before the next discourse. Natural man does not understand the scripture or know God, nor do they want to. Even these theologians in some ways are overthinking God’s laws and in some ways are underthinking God’s laws. But in the end they are confused at best, and idolaters at worst.
f. Is it any wonder that Jesus will say in His next discourse, that they “strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel?” They dissect God’s law and classify and divide it. Yet they disobey its intent! What’s worse, is when their consciences are pricked by their disobedience they massage the wound with the belief that they are lighter laws! I wonder if we do the same thing when we sin yet assure ourselves we are not under the law but under grace.
g. Still worse for the Pharisees is at the end of the day, they are intimately acquainted with the law of God… while being far from the God of the law. Such is the natural impulse of all mankind. We either wish to be legalists to control our salvation by our performance on laws we can easily keep, or we want to be antinomians doing as we please with no law, under a lawless system somehow instigated by the cross of Christ. In either extreme, neither has any interest in what God actually wants from His people.
h. And this is the plight of all men who have ever lived. All men do not understand God or His word, and they don’t want to either. And even when they get a whiff of who He is and what His plan is, somehow they translate it to fit into their preconceived legalism or antinomianism. What they learn to be true they twist for their own selfish ends.
i. This is who we are as men. This is who all of us are naturally! And unless something divine happens and we are awoken from death, it is who we ever shall remain.
[Slide 8 (blank)]So these dead men, these natural men have posed a question for the King of Kings. So how will Jesus answer the unanswerable question? How will Jesus get out of this trap?
II.) Jesus has understanding of God and the scriptures beyond natural men, so we must follow Jesus. (37-40)
a. [Slide 9] 37 – Jesus said to him, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
i. This is taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. It is called the Shema (Shih – mah) and was recited to completion, twice a day, by every good Jew.
ii. [Slide 10] In other words it was an extremely well known phrase. What Jesus is implying is that although they knew the words well, what they did not understand is the significance of the words.
1. Listen Israel – This is EXTREMELY important
2. The Lord is our God, the Lord is one – Although this has been used as a proof text of the Unity of the trinity into 1 being (which the singular language in the text would also prove) more likely this phrase means that the Lord is unique. Meaning that He alone above all other would be gods is worthy of exclusive worship.
3. What we find in verse 5 then, is the definition of worship.
4. You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all you strength. – The meaning of this is less about loving God with individual parts of ourselves and more about Loving God with all we are. From intellect to muscle, from emotion to soul and everything in-between.
5. This sounds a lot like being a living sacrifice.
iii. So Jesus reminds the scribe of this phrase. But what does He have to say about it?
b. [Slide 11] 38 – This is the first and greatest commandment.
i. So Jews, the best of Jews, Of which the Pharisees would certainly be, would recite this phrase every day. But had no idea how important it was.
ii. Here they were debating about where to divide up the law into heavy and light …
iii. And Jesus says, This is the first great category of the 613 laws. This is the heaviest of laws. Anything that speaks to loving God with who you are, rendering a proper relationship of worship to Him, that is the heaviest of laws.
iv. And if Jesus ended here, he would actually be agreeing with some Rabbis. And perhaps if Jesus had ended here, the Pharisees trap would have succeeded, since it would have clearly aligned Jesus to a specific school of Rabbinical teaching.
v. In short, if Jesus’ answer stopped here – he would have played their game by their rules. But Jesus has a particular affinity for playing by His own rules doesn’t He?
vi. So He adds something to the argument that perhaps they did not expect.
c. [Slide 12] 39 – The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
i. “the second is like it” is deceptively simple in English but somewhat more complicated in Greek.
ii. “Like” in our language can mean a great many things based on the context, but in Greek there are different kinds of “Like”
iii. Here specifically, the like used means similar in concept or force.
iv. In other words Jesus says something like this…
v. [Slide 13] “The second category of laws that goes into the heaviest things club, is of the same importance as the first”
vi. [Slide 14] Love your neighbor as yourself is taken from Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament.
vii. [Slide 15A] This is an often misunderstood command. Modern psychology and psychiatry would contend that at the core of all mankind there is an intrinsic need for self-love, self-appreciation, and self-worth. They would say that many issues like depression, suicide, anger, violence, and the list goes on, all boil down to people not loving themselves enough. Not appreciating the goodness within them. Not recognizing their own worth. Therefore, it is incumbent upon professionals to try to get the person to love themselves. To appreciate themselves. And to make the person value themselves more highly.
viii. The problem for Christians then has always been harmonizing science with scripture. And as is often the case the ungrounded believer is tossed about by every wind of doctrine and ebb and flow with current ideologies and mindsets. As the church reinterpreted the creation of the world to accommodate evolutionary theory that is posing as fact, [Slide 15B (let it play)] so too the church has been forced to reinterpret this little phrase to accommodate Psychological pseudo-science.
ix. And so Jesus’ commands are not two but three. Jesus’ words are qualified with words He did not say.
x. [Slide 15C] What was Love your neighbor as yourself, has become love yourself so you can love your neighbor properly.
xi. Let me show you a series of quotes and see if you can pick out the odd ball?
xii. [Slide 16-21 I’ll read them from the screen]
xiii. Did you catch the one that didn’t belong? It was the third one in. Let me show you another couple quotes from this guy
xiv. [Slide 22-23 I’ll read them from the screen]
xv. [Slide 24 (blank)] Of course without even going to any other scriptures and only focusing on results, we know that pumping children full of the notion that they should love themselves, not only does not lead to them loving others more, but even more disheartening, it has not stemmed the tide of suicide and depression that is rampant among young people. Clearly the advice to love themselves is not working.
xvi. [Slide 25] Paul, in the midst of telling husbands to love their wives as they love themselves, tells them that no one has ever hated his own body. His point is not for husbands to love themselves more – which he makes plain by specifying that no natural man has ever genuinely hated himself.
xvii. Instead, going all the way back to Genesis, what we really see throughout the scriptures is that mankind loves himself an awful lot. What mankind does NOT do naturally is love his creator or his fellow man.
xviii. [Slide 26] Jesus takes it as a given that we already love ourselves quite a bit, and commands us to love others at the same level.
xix. Of course this leads to some asking “Well what would you say to a young person who is feeling like they aren’t worth anything, and that they are unappreciated in life, and are contemplating suicide?” Might I suggest that we have unwittingly stepped into the answer for these thoughts? Tell them to love their neighbor as they love themselves. All that time you are spending thinking about how much no one loves you, how much no one appreciates you, how little you are worth… Repent of that… Crucify your self-absorption which is just a different expression of pride. Instead…Seek out those who are worth less in your mind. Seek out those who are appreciated less. Seek out those whom no one loves and show them love. Stop spending every waking moment consumed with yourself and beg God to give His love to you so you can love Him back and to love others. And you may just see something change. You may just wake up and realize that in Christ you are Sons and Daughters of the King. In Christ you are doubly in His image, first by creation and second by recreation. And I will tell you something, a person who is busy about the work of the kingdom of God has no time to contemplate how many people there are in the world that do not love them. They don’t have time to count their Facebook or Snapchat friends. They don’t have time to see who hasn’t hearted or shared their post. They do not have time to see who’s unfollowed them. Why? Because they don’t love the world or the things in the world. A person busy about furthering God’s kingdom doesn’t have time to consider how no one appreciates them, because the only acceptance and appreciation they pine for is God’s. A person that is a living sacrifice, has no time to think about how worthless they feel because they know that in their flesh they ARE WORTHLESS but in Christ they have been gifted INFINITE WORTH.
xx. You see there… everything becomes about God and others… and there is no time left for me.
xxi. You want love, appreciation and worth… you can only find it by becoming NOTHING for the sake of Jesus Christ. If you seek to gain your life… you will lose it. But if you lose your life for His sake, you will gain life eternal.
xxii. We don’t need to mollycoddle those who are self-absorbed and encourage them to be more absorbed with themselves. We need to rebuke their sin and spur them to selfless love of God and others.
&nbsnbsp; xxiii. [Slide 27] Love your neighbor to the same magnitude that you already do yourselves. That is the second category that is equal in force to the first. These two comprise the heavy laws.
xxiv. But even now… Jesus is not done.
xxv. You see if He stopped here, the next question would be – can you guess? Can you guess what the scribe would have asked next?
xxvi. What about the light ones? Exactly! What about the light laws?
xxvii. But Jesus does not give them a chance to ask, because He blows up the whole conversation by saying…
d. [Slide 28] 40 – All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
i. Do you realize what He just said?
ii. You have divided the laws into two categories: those you must obey and those you don’t need to feel too bad about for disobeying.
iii. But I say to you that there are two categories and they are heavy laws that must be observed and every single word God has ever given to you hangs on these two categories.
iv. Every law written
v. Every prophet’s prophesy
vi. Every recorded word from God
vii. Every Jot
viii. Every Tittle
ix. All of it is divided into one of these two categories folks. Love God with everything you’ve got. And Love others with the same plethora of love you already do yourself.
x. There is no heavy and light… there is only heavy and it is all about love.
xi. And not just any love.
xii. The word here in the Greek in Matthew and in the Septuagint in Deuteronomy is a specific kind of love. The Hebrew word from Deuteronomy for love is also a specific kind of love.
xiii. It is loyal love. It is covenant love. It is choice love. It is unconditional and it is selfless. It is a kind of love that has nothing to do with your emotions and your heart, but everything to do with your soul and your intellect. It is a loyal choice. It is Faithful obedience.
xiv. What is Jesus saying? Love God and others the way God loves you. And every word God has spoken is put into these two categories and they both are placed in the heavy or greatest category and therefore MUST be kept.
xv. I fear as Christians we see Jesus’ summarization of the law here as a great boon to us. That somehow all the law has been made easier. But nothing could be further from the truth.
xvi. Far from meaning that the law has been reduced to only these two laws… instead Jesus is teaching that all the law is equally important and is divided into these two classifications.
xvii. Friends, if they were listening, even slightly, they would have walked away from this saying… if this is true, we are doomed. Because no one can keep the law of love. No one can keep this.
xviii. If every law is important and hangs on these two concepts of selfless and unconditional loyal love to God and others… then we are doomed! There is no hope for us. We can’t keep this law!
e. [Slide 29] So zooming back out from this, what is clear in the grander scope of what Matthew is teaching, is that Jesus has understanding of the scripture and of God Himself that is beyond any natural man. Look at the depth that He is able to reach in these two laws that these Israelites have had for hundreds of years! Thousands of years. One of which had been recited by each of them that very day. And yet – He teaches them things beyond what they could have ever dreamed.
f. What does that mean?
g. Jesus has insight and depth of the scriptures that thousands of years could not come close to achieve in the minds and hearts of these… Experts in religious law.
[Slide 30 (blank)(end)] Again, two truths here. Natural man cannot understand the scriptures or God Himself, nor do they want to, but Jesus shows Himself to be no mere human as He displays insight beyond possible by mere humans. So what does that mean for us?
These men who had devoted their entire lives to not just study the law of God, but to study commentators and rabbis about the law of God, they were just told the answer to a question that they could not answer. And what is most shocking is that Jesus basically quoted the bible to them and made two small statements of application based on that. Hundreds of years of debate, wiped away by quoting scripture and two additional explanatory sentences.
And the basic point Jesus draws is that all the law is heavy, all the law is of the same force and magnitude. All the law is great. All the law is equally binding. James makes this point when he says that when we fail the law in 1 point, we fail it all.
And all of it hangs on the concept of loyal, covenant, Godlike love given to God and to others.
For people who saw the law as a means to present themselves holy enough to be accepted by God, such a teaching would have absolutely destroyed their world… if they would listen. Their entire religion would crumble upon itself… if they would listen.
And for the antinomian who thought Jesus came to destroy the law and free people to do whatever they please, Jesus’ teaching absolutely destroys their world… if they would listen. Their entire view of the law would crumble upon itself… if they would listen.
Jesus upholds the law to the perfect degree – to the point that it is necessary to keep it all, yet no one possibly could. What a terrible place to be in. The necessity to be perfect yet the reality of that impossibly.
What is Jesus setting up? What grand point is He making?
We NEED Him.
On the negative side, we need him because we have already violated the law. We have failed it and cannot hope to fulfill it. So He is the perfect keeper of the law. He is obedient to God on our behalf. He takes our failure and has borne the wrath of God for it. And he provides to us a perfect record before the righteous judge whereby we have been placed into Christ and His perfection.
But positively, we need Jesus also because God’s law is still upon us. It is not abolished but is being fulfilled. The civic and ceremonial laws have been paused or redirected and the moral laws are still very much intact. Every command, every word God ever spoke is still very much valid as it hangs on these two categories that we could call Great. Loving God and Loving others. And God’s expectation was not to draw unto Himself a sinner to remain a sinner but be saved from judgment… but instead a sinner to be made into a new creation who lives to bring glory to God, not just in his words but in his very being.
We do not need Jesus for conversion only my friends. We need Jesus for every aspect of our lives. He and His Father and the Spirit – Three in One, not only to justify us, but to sanctify us and to one day glorify us. Why? So we might bring Him glory… Forever.
Without Jesus no man could ever be saved because no man seeks after God.
Without Jesus no man could ever conquer sin because no man seeks after God.
Without Jesus no man could ever shed his mortality to put on immortality because no man seeks after God.
What does this passage of scripture teach us?
Listen to and Obey Jesus. Follow Him. Submit to Him.
When many so called disciples left Jesus after he had said some very confusing and audacious things, Jesus turned to the twelve and asked if they too would leave.
Peter said, “To where would we go Lord? You alone have the words of life! We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”
He alone has the words of life.
And He provides a life that begins immediately … and continues eternally.
Run to Him. Always… and forever.