Updated: Jan 28
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.
This is the Gospel reading from the Episcopal Lectionary that is scheduled for public reading on Proper 25, Year A. It will next be read aloud by a priest on Sunday, October 25, 2020. In the numbering of the Ordinary selections, this reading will take place on the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost. It was last read aloud in church on Sunday, October 29, 2017.
I offered an opinion on this reading, which I published here on October 10, 2017. I stand behind those observations and welcome all to read that article. What I want to do now is connect what Jesus told the Pharisees, in this inspection for blemishes (as the sacrificial lamb on display), with the Old Testament readings. I have just recently published my views on Leviticus 19 (the Track 2 reading option), but the reading from Deuteronomy 34 (the death of Moses) also supports this Gospel selection well.
This means one must begin discerning Matthew 22:34-46 by understanding both of those readings. For the Leviticus 19 reading (which, as a Track 2 offering, might never be chosen to read), one must firmly grasp how God told Moses to tell His people, “You must be holy, because I am holy.” The only way to be holy is to be one with God, as was Moses and as was Jesus (and others like them). Then, one must realize that God showed Moses all the land the Israelites would settle in (from east of Jericho), where the only way to see the whole nation of Israel [before it was a nation] was to be one with God. From that understanding, to read that Joshua “was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him,” that was the ‘tag, you’re it’ passing on of God’s Holy Spirit, so Joshua was also one with God.
This has to be firmly grasped – AT ALL TIMES – because Christianity has fallen into the malaise of thinking it is not proper to think anyone other than Jesus can be the Christ, so everyone squats and laments all the evils in the world, while doing nothing but wait for Jesus to return. Had God let Moses die and not allow him to pass the torch onto Joshua, then the Israelites would have stormed into Canaan demanding their land, only to be outright slaughtered for being idiots. Likewise, if God had let Jesus die and not have allowed him to prepare the disciples to carry on his torch, nobody would be reading this article now or caring about anything divine as Christianity would have never been.
So, with that understood, let’s look at what Matthew 22:34-46 says.
This reading begins by stating, “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees.” Over the past few Sundays, Matthew 22 has been read and probably preached, beginning with the parable of the wedding banquet (1-14), followed by the tax to Caesar (15-22), to now this encounter with the Pharisees (34-46); but nothing has been said about the confrontation with the Sadducees. Here’s why:
From the Episcopal Lectionary Reverse Lectionary search of Matthew.
The Episcopal Lectionary does not ever address this confrontation, as told by Matthew. It is, however, addressed from Luke’s perspective (Luke 20:27-38), during the Ordinary after Pentecost season in Year C (Proper 27). That means it should at least be mentioned here, so one does not start off lost, dazed and confused about what happened between Jesus and the Sadducees.
The Sadducees presented Jesus with a wild scenario about a woman who was married to seven Jewish men (one at a time), all brothers [a legal thing], with none ever having sired a male heir. They wanted Jesus to fall into a trap about the afterlife (which they did not believe existed), asking him which man would be the husband of the wife in heaven. Jesus sent them away whimpering, tails between their legs, by his saying, “God rules over the living, not the dead.” Besides that being a question about heavenly marriage, it is important to know the zinger about God and truly being alive. Knowing that helps when looking at this reading for Proper 25A.
So, when we see the Pharisees coming to Jesus to ask him what the most important law is he knew they also were up to no good. Thus, when they asked their question, God spoke through Jesus, saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That is not a law of Moses, but a reminder from God that states one’s expected way of life. It says, “Let God tell you what is most important.” (If you are living!)
Think about that for a moment, knowing the Sadducees had just muttered themselves back into their Temple lair after having asked some male-dominated question about who gets to claim a wife in heaven. Imagine them asking Jesus, “Do wives even get to go to heaven, if they do nothing I tell them to do, the way I tell them to do it, here on earth?” The audacity of thinking women must possess souls that will never go on ego trips and power quests!
In the same way Jesus told them how God is the God of the living, not of the dead, those idiots could not even feel the cold wet slap of reality hit them in the faces that said, “You are dead to God. Wake up and live while you still have that chance!” Waking up demands all the Jews (Sadducees and Pharisees especially) marry God. It is best to marry one you love with all your heart, all your soul, and all you mind!
Marrying God, like the concept of marriage the Jews had, meant making all the necessary sacrifices of a bride. To be God’s wives, they would have to accept they were as worthless as Jewish men saw women in ancient Jerusalem [a mindset that still prevails everywhere today]. Back then, a daughter had no say in who her father gave her to. Love was never a factor in the process of engagement. Marriage was the reality of commitment, with a wife committed to serving her husband (and vice versa); offspring were a natural expectation. However, marrying God was such a foreign concept to the leaders of the Jews back then, the Pharisees were still planning on ruling heaven as they ruled Jerusalem.
If they wanted to get to heaven, they needed to accept the invitation to the wedding banquet, where they would marry God. Their earthbound egos would give their souls away, where they would become the new daughter of God the Father.
The debt their souls owed was to God, not some emperor. To return a soul to God meant to marry Him and become His wife. Marriage to God then meant being alive with the Holy Spirit, not dead (like was a soul sinning in a body of flesh).
All of that meant the most important thing Jews had to do was stop thinking they were gods (that male-dominated ego speaking) and start realizing they were totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things. To reach that point of awareness, the Jews had to “love God with all their hearts, minds, and souls.”
Now, when the reading states “the Pharisees were gathered together,” this has to be seen like some sporting match – a contest of strengths and skills, a battle of the big brains – where the last play failed miserably and it was time to regroup. Like in a football game, they all huddled together to draw up another play in the dirt.
That becomes a statement that yells, “Stop thinking!” Just like you cannot know what the greatest commandment is, because as soon as you say one, you realize, “No! Wait! Try this one!” your Big Brain is smaller than a mustard seed, when compared to God’s omniscience. Stop trying to outsmart God! Gain access to the Godhead through marrying God’s Holy Spirit.
God then had Jesus ask those great brains of Jerusalem, “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They immediately fell into his trap, simply because they thought they were so smart and Jesus was just a dumb rube from Nazareth. They forgot all the times before their mouse trap plans failed, with them instead being snapped tight. With a thud they fell into God’s snare, when they answered, “The son of David.”
They immediately gave that answer because they did not worship God. They worshiped human power. They had just showed Jesus a denarius with Julius Caesar’s image engraved on it, so they could have said, “The son of Caesar” and more honestly expressed their wish. He was the ruler du jour; but they wanted to name a king that would give them the right to claim to be heirs of a kingdom. In their pea-brains, they imagined the Kingdom of Judaism to be grander than the kingdom of heaven. However, Jesus pointed out how flawed that idea was.
When Jesus asked them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord?” The key term there is the capitalized word (in Greek) “Pneumati,” which is a statement of importance beyond normal “breath” or the “spirit” of kingly power (like a form of energy). The capitalization says Matthew knew Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit being in David when he wrote psalms. As such, Jesus said David was one with God, when he addressed God as “Lord.”
The element of “Lord” must be realized from the Hebrew of Psalm 110, verse 1, which Jesus quoted. After introducing a new song written by David (in the “Spirit”), he wrote “Yahweh ladonai,” which personalizes “LORD of lords” [Yahweh adonai] to say “LORD of my lords.” The point Jesus was making (as God speaking through him) was, “If the Messiah is expected to be the descendant of David, then why did David refer to Yahweh as LORD, and not Father?” After all, David was the son of Jesse (not a king) and Solomon was the son of David’s sins, who reigned as his somewhat illegitimate heir (after Absalom was basically murdered by David’s general’s order). That family tree had been reduced to a stump of rulers by the Babylonians.
Jesus [a descendant of David, by the way] then pointed out that for a son of David to be the expected Messiah, then David would himself have to be a son of God. That totally befuddled the Pharisees, which proved their big brains were really just the brains of simpletons. They walked away tight-lipped.
What is totally missed here is there is an answer to give. When Jesus asked, “If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” the answer is: “If David sacrificed his self-ego, giving up his title and position as king to serve God, as his Father, then he would be a son of God.” The Pharisees never could fathom anyone ever doing that. What would be the point of ruling the world, if you could not become worldly rich in that process – even have great domineering powers, as men, over all women? So, they walked away muttering like the Sadducees before them, looking for their place in darkness to hide.
The answer to Jesus’ question is found in the Deuteronomy reading, after Moses died. We read that Joshua was the son of Nun. That statement as to Joshua’s father is the only place in the Holy Bible where the name Nun is mentioned. The name means “Fish” [“I will make you Nunneries of men?”]. That father named his son a name that means “Yahweh Is Salvation” (Joshua). The name Jesus means “Yahweh Will Save.” Still, Joshua being named as a son that was not Moses says God is the Father of all who will be the Messiah that brings Salvation to the people.
The Deuteronomy reading states, “Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.” That says the Christ (Messiah) would never be the son of a human being, but the Son of God, which happens when someone with God within him or her touches another so the hands of God are laid upon him or her too. That Messiah (Christ) is then (like Jesus) God incarnate in the flesh. David was the son of God, when Israel regularly battled the evil presence surrounding them; but David failed God as a son when he let his power overtake his soul. The nation then reflected both the times of righteousness and the times of sins shown by David and all their subsequent kings [and prior judges].
Of course, we Christians all know that Jesus asked that question knowing he was the Christ of God. We giggle as the Pharisee walked away silent [flash back to the one not wearing a wedding gown being silent when the king asked him how he got in the banquet]; but Christians end this reading with silence, just like the Pharisees. Christians are equally befuddled, because they all think the son of God can only be Jesus, forgetting all about Joshua being filled with God’s Holy Spirit, in the same way Moses was filled with it AND in the same way Jesus was filled with it AND in the same way ALL the Apostles were filled with it AND in the same way ALL true Saints recognized by Christianity have been filled with it.
Moses was reborn as Jesus Christ before God made holy flesh named Jesus. Moses passed Jesus Christ onto Joshua. David was the resurrection of Jesus Christ when he was a boy shepherd. Jesus is the model for ALL flesh that is living, made so by marriage to God. The Christ is the Mind of God leading anyone who bows down before God totally – submitting heart, brain and soul completely to Him, through love.
God cannot be limited. Big Brains cannot tell God how many times Jesus Christ can be resurrected in another body of flesh that has married its soul to God. The Pharisees and Sadducees were so narrowminded they thought God worked for them, kind of like the lazy workers that showed up to the pick grapes of the landowner, but then laid in the shade all day long, still expecting to be paid wages for doing nothing.
The ones who walk away from Jesus silently just cannot fathom the entire world can be sons of God, if God so chooses. It all depends on God finding the recipients of His Holy Spirit and His Christ Mind as worthy brides to marry (like all the above named people – Moses, Joshua, David, Jesus – plus many more unnamed). The question asked by Jesus goes to ALL Christians today: How can anyone be the son of God, if one calls God his or her Lord?
Come out of the darkness of your lairs. You know the answer. The answer is SACRIFICE OF SELF-EGO.
The answer is ACCEPT GOD’S INVITATION TO MARRY HIM.
The answer is STOP THINKING YOU KNOW MORE THAN GOD AND LET GOD LEAD YOU THROUGH LIFE.
Be the wife of God (regardless of human gender). Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Be submissive to the Will of your most holy Husband. Give birth to His Son in your flesh, becoming the Son of God resurrected. Call your Lord and Master by His relationship title – Father. Touch others with your holiness, a righteous state that can only come from God.
As far as short memory spans go, it was just two Sundays prior that Jesus ended a parable by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Those conditions fit the ancient scenario of Jerusalem, just as well as they fit the scenario today of a religion calling itself in the name of Christ, when there are so few of true Christians around. Everybody is too busy taking care of self to let their egos give their flesh over to God in marriage; but that simply means they are dead of soul. So, God is not their God. He’s only the God of the living.
R. T. Tippett