Simplifying the complicated {Day 11 of 40 Days of Lent}

But, wait. What happened to days 2 through 10?
As tends to happen with me and any series I start, too much life intervened and I didn’t have time to post. My new goal is to post every day in March using the same plan. The original plan skipped Sundays, but I’ll be including them to make up for lost ground.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And 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 great and first commandment.

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in 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 then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
(Matthew 22:34-46 ESV)

There’s always something more to the story when the Pharisees asked Jesus a question. Often, it was a trap or a challenge meant to turn a crowd against the One with whom they were so enthralled.

So it is in the last week of Jesus’ life when the Pharisees ask what seems to be a simple question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

But it was a deceptively simple question designed to catch Jesus. The Pharisees and teachers of the law debated the Law of Moses. They argued about which law was the most important and which were of less value. Some thought sacrifices were the most important. Others thought laws about the Sabbath were vital.

If Jesus followed their line of thinking, he would be in a no-win situation. If he said the Sabbath was the most important, he would be criticized by all who thought it to be a lesser law. If he cast his opinion toward sacrifices, those who held them as less important would be indignant.

But Jesus doesn’t think like men.

He answered with the Shema – a declaration from Deuteronomy recited by Jews twice a day that declared the supremacy of God and a devotion to him that encompasses the whole of human existence. Such devotion leads to the willing obedience to the law.

He then carried it a step further. He told them the second greatest commandment was like it – to love your neighbor as yourself.

Love God. Love people.

That, Jesus said, summed up the entirety of the law and the prophets. There was nothing to argue about. No rule that was greater than another.

Just love.

But Jesus wasn’t finished with them. Now it was his turn to ask a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

The Pharisees must have thought this was as simple a question as the one they posed to Jesus earlier. They quickly answered that the Messiah was the Son of David. After all, different passages in the law and the prophets indicated the Messiah would be a descendent of David.

But Jesus took their simple understanding a step further.

The Pharisees were looking for a human descendent of David – a leader who would arise to deliver the Jews from the oppressive rule of the Jews. Jesus, however, pointed out that Psalm 110:1 indicates the Messiah would not be a mere human descendent, but he also would be greater than David in that David called him Lord.

This left the Pharisees speechless.

What they may not have understood then, we understand now on the other side of the cross and the resurrection.

As to his human nature, Jesus was David’s son. But Jesus was also God, so as to his divine nature, he was David’s Lord.

Taken together, these two questions show us two things:

  1. The Pharisees turned the simple truth of God’s law into a complicated burden and source of endless debate. Jesus made it simple. Love God. Love people.
  2. The Pharisees refused to think deeply on the Messianic implications of Psalm 110. They answered simply while Jesus pushed them to think deeply.

How do you read Scripture? Do you delve deep into some passages and not deeply enough on others? What can you do to deepen your understanding of God’s Word? 

These (hopefully) daily devotions for Lent have turned into daily devotions for March, which is technically not Lent but is the month leading up to Easter. They are based on the 40 Days of Lent reading plan available at YouVersion. The plan was graciously provided to YouVersion by Journey Church.

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