New Testament in 6 months – day 18

19 Apr

Matthew 22:23-23:22
That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”

I love these verses. They show Jesus intellectually towering over those who think themselves clever enough to trap Him with their questions, not only answering them but then going further and silencing them either with more teaching or with a question.
First the Sadducees come and try to trap Jesus about the resurrection, only to find that Jesus both answers the question they pose AND answers the question behind the one they pose. And Jesus’ answer is such that they are unable to come back at Him because to do so would mean they would be denying the basic truths of their faith.
Then come the Pharisees, who ask a very simple question (I say simple because Jesus has been asked it at least once before by a teacher of he law and answered it brilliantly). Once Jesus answers it He then asks the Pharisees a question and then completely dismantles their answer by pointing out the context in which they describe The Christ was incomplete. And after He has done so, they are too scared to ask Jesus any more questions because they know they are in the presence of someone who knows the scriptures impeccably and who can use them to answer anything and then point out their own intellectual shortcomings.
This is a key thing for us to learn, for we live in a world that, now more than ever, is obsessed with asking questions, particularly of the Christian faith. We must prepare ourselves to answer these questions, for these questions will be asked of us at some point, not just to help others understand, but so that we will not find ourselves doubting our faith in the face of them.

We then see Jesus laying in to the Pharisees and teachers of the law for being hypocrites. He declares that they do everything for show and that they do not practice what they tell others to do. He talks about their clothes, how they make sure that they stand out as being the most “holy” in appearance. He talks about how they love to be seen as important by where they are seen and how they are referred to by others. But when it comes to living according to the law they fall down. They make it impossible for people to truly understand God because they are bent on throwing a thousand-and-one laws at them that get in the way. And then, when people follow these laws, they tell them that they have done it wrong!
Jesus tells them that by being like this they do not lead anyone to God, but to Hell. And this is a huge point for us to learn. If we add on to the teachings of God then we do not help anyone. Indeed, we make ourselves out to be bigger and better than God because we are telling others that God is not enough. And this is the whole point of Jesus coming, because Jesus made the way to the Father simple. He declared that those who come to the Son come to the Father, that those who seek forgiveness from God for their sins will receive it. And this is what I think Jesus meant in Matthew 11 where He says “Take my yoke upon you”, which He follows with “for my yoke is easy” which it certainly is by comparison to the hoops that the Pharisees would have people jumping through. We must remember to keep Jesus and His teachings simple, for that is what they are. Sure, some things can be difficult to understand. But the basics are very simple to talk about and, at the end of the day, people only need the basics for salvation!

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Archbishop Cranmer

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