It is Fig Monday, and Jesus is being tested. He started teaching and healing people in the temple. A group of Pharisees tried to question His authority. After they failed, they sent their students with the Herodians to entrap Jesus—to prove He was no real teacher. Instead, they departed marveling because of Jesus’s teaching. The Sadducees then tested this man who is causing everyone to marvel, and Jesus showed them the reality of the resurrection from Torah—showing that He was better at interpreting Torah than they. In our day, we have a similar philosophical joust. After considering every major worldview present, the worldview given by Jesus still wins the day. Now some Pharisees return to test Jesus’s use of Torah concerning its explicit claims. Has Jesus been interpreting Torah or appropriating it? An appropriate question for anyone who claims to be a teacher.
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34 Οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἀκούσαντες ὅτι ἐφίμωσεν τοὺς Σαδδουκαίους συνήχθησαν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό. 35 καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν εἷς ἐξ αὐτῶν νομικὸς πειράζων αὐτόν· 36 Διδάσκαλε, ποία ἐντολὴ μεγάλη ἐν τῷ νόμῳ; 37 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ· Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου· 38 αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή. 39 Δευτέρα δὲ ὁμοία αὐτῇ· Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. 40 ἐν ταύταις ταῖς δυσὶν ἐντολαῖς ὅλος ὁ νόμος κρέμαται καὶ οἱ προφῆται.
41 Συνηγμένων δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς 42 λέγων· Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ περὶ τοῦ χριστοῦ; τίνος υἱός ἐστιν; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· Τοῦ Δαυίδ. 43 λέγει αὐτοῖς· Πῶς οὖν Δαυὶδ ἐν πνεύματι καλεῖ αὐτὸν κύριον λέγων· 44 Εἶπεν κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου· Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν σου; 45 εἰ οὖν Δαυὶδ καλεῖ αὐτὸν κύριον, πῶς υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἐστιν; 46 καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο ἀποκριθῆναι αὐτῷ λόγον, οὐδὲ ἐτόλμησέν τις ἀπʼ ἐκείνης τῆς ἡμέρας ἐπερωτῆσαι αὐτὸν οὐκέτι.
The Pharisees’ test (v. 34-40)
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
A lawyer, one who has a trained hermeneutic, tests Jesus. Why would a Pharisee lawyer test Jesus? The Sadducees asked a question that demanded philosophical theology, a definition of inexplicit doctrine. The Pharisees care little for philosophical theology. They are stricter fundamental biblicists. They want the exposited Torah. For everything not explicit in Torah, they have the oral talmudic teachings. So, they ask Jesus a question that requires an explicit answers instead of the theological gymnastics that were witnessed in Jesus’s conversation with the Sadducees. What is the greatest commandment? Such a question would reveal whether or not Jesus knew the Scriptures as well as He portrayed. This question cannot be known simply by memorizing the Ten Commandments. For, the ten are equal. In fact, if Jesus’s does not know Torah, He will be unable to answer because He would not want to choose one commandment over another. They all came from God, after all.
There are many people who presume to be mature in their knowledge. They try to sound wise and think highly of their knowledge. When cross-examined, their worldview falls because they have not grown deep roots. With their cross-examination, he Pharisees will either show that Jesus is shallow or legitimize what seems to them a rogue operation.
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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus quotes Shema, Deuteronomy 6:5. In Deuteronomy 6:2, we see that loving the Lord God means keeping all of His statutes. This one command requires them all equally from national Israel. Jesus knows His Torah. He adds to it. The second is like the first. Jesus quotes Leviticus 19:18, “…love your neighbor,” which explicitly meant not taking vengeance or bearing a grudge against other Israelites—thus pointing out that the Pharisees were not keeping the greatest command because they bore grudges against the non-elite. They already tried to take vengeance against Jesus because He bested their wit (cf. v. 15).
Jesus’s teaches that all the Torah and Prophets hang on these two commands. Explicitly, Deuteronomy 6:5 demands adherence to the whole Torah. Torah is the standard of righteousness. Christ affirms the canon that the Pharisees affirm, and shows us the relationship between the rest of the Old Testament and Torah. The Prophets hang on Torah. Torah is the foundational text. The Prophets are the walls. From our perspective, the New Testament is the roof. We read and interpret from the bottom up. If our interpretation of later Scripture disagrees with Torah, we have interpreted it wrongly or it is not Scripture. Thus, Jesus affirms the Pharisees’ canon as binding, foundational, and relevant. Such is Jesus’s view of what we now call the Old Testament.
Jesus’s test (v. 41-46)
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.”
Jesus affirmed Torah as the standard for righteousness and revealed that even the Pharisees fell short of God’s glory. Their only hope is the Messiah prophesied in Deuteronomy 31-32. At the end of Deuteronomy, God revealed through Moses that Israel would not be able to keep the Law. None of us can. We show ourselves unrighteous and inglorious because the standard is unachievable by depraved men and women. So, Christ asks, “Whose son is Messiah?” “Christ” is the Greek designation for the Hebrew “Messiah.”
The Pharisees answer correctly. The Messiah foretold in torah who will deliver His people from their sin is a descendant of David because only David’s throne is an everlasting throne and dynasty an everlasting dynasty (cf. 2 Samuel 7:16). There is a problem. Deuteronomy insists that God Himself will be Israel’s only deliverer. Yet, only a descendant of David can reign over Israel and the whole world.
He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet” ’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.
Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1, showing that the Messiah was David’s lord and coexisted with the Father—The Lord said to my Lord. The Father would put David’s Lord under David’s feet. The Pharisees know that the Messiah must be David’s son. They do not know how it is possible for Messiah to both be David’s son and the preincarnate Lord established by Yahweh. How can Messiah both predate David and be His son? The Pharisees are so perturbed, and probably embarrassed that Jesus knows the Scriptures better than they, that they never ask another question to test Jesus. Jesus has endured the test and proven Himself as a Rabbi.
The only one who can deliver the unrighteous Law breakers from their sin is the Messiah who predated David and is David’s descendant, which is only explainable by the incarnation of Christ—who was, is, and is to come. Further, since Deuteronomy clarifies that only God can deliver His people from their unrighteousness, which is revealed by sin, Messiah must be one with God. Since God, Yahweh, spoke to Him as reported by David’s psalm, He must coexist with Him. One essence, different persons—coequal and coeternal. What a profound mystery since none of us are one essence with anything or anyone else.
There is a worldview war. There can only be one truth. I pray we are seeking the truth instead of merely defending our own presuppositions. There is much weirdness out there, even weirdness that masquerades as somehow biblical. The Bible’s actual claims are the most reasonable. For instance, it is honest about the depravity and wretchedness of people and vanity of life. If there is a God, He must not depend on people and must therefore seek His own glory. If people are going to be saved from their wretchedness and the vanity of life, God must do it all. The Bible provides such a gospel, an no deviating philosophy or worldview even comes close. Salvation is in Christ alone. No other gospel is even coherent enough to measure up.