Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I want to explain something about our text for today, Matthew 22;34-46. It speaks of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Who were they? Let me explain something about the factions of the Jews in the time of Jesus.
Today, many people think ill of the factions, or sects among us Christians. On one side are the Catholics, Baptists on the other hand, and over here are the Pentecostals. Why there are many parties or sects? It is human nature to argue and deviate from the pure doctrine. There is only one truth, but there are many types of errors. This is not something new. At the time of Jesus there were divisions among the Jews, the people of Israel. The New Testament mentions two, but we know there were four from other historical sources. The four parties of the Jews were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots.
The two the New Testament does not mention: the Essenes and Zealots. The Essenes were a group that had this idea, the world is too sinful and corrupt, we will retreat within our own communities in the desert. They avoided contact, and therefore, conflicts with the world outside. We know little about the Essenes, but they have historical importance in this respect. There is a well-known story, how in the 1940s there was a boy throwing stones next to the Dead Sea (which is known as the Dead Sea because the salt level is too high for any kind of fish to survive). Suddenly, the boy heard the sound of broken pottery, went to investigate and discovered a cave filled with scrolls in ceramic vessels. Scholars believe this cave was a storehouse for a library of the Essenes which included copies of several books of the Old Testament and more. Known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, these have great historical value.
Well, the Essenes anticipated a trend in the history of the church in the centuries to come, for example, the monastic movement in the Middle Ages. To retreat from the unsaved world and only have contact with other believers. What is the problem with this? The Great Commission of our Lord to His church was to go to all nations and make disciples of unbelievers. We are to live among unbelievers, not to share their sinful lives, but to change their lives.
The Zealots were revolutionaries. All Jews thought of the Romans as foreigners who had no right to govern their country. However, the Zealots sought to raise an arnt to defeat the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel. And, after the Ascension of Christ, and they raised an arnt against the Romans. This resulted in the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in the year 70, an event that Christ prophesied, and the expulsion of the Jews from their own country for nearly 2000 years.
One of the twelve apostles was called Simon the Zealot. But it is not clear what this surname means. "The Zealot" could mean a personal characteristic, a zealous man. At any rate, there is no more evidence of a link between Simon the Zealot or the other apostles and the Zealot party.
This is the true meaning of the word "revolution." It means a civil war, violence. And the kingdom of God will not be established by violence.
The parties mentioned in the New Testament are the Pharisees and Sadducees. What was the difference between them?
The Sadducees were of the upper class among the Jews. Many of them were priests in the temple, and were of the most educated people of that time. They were very involved in the rites of the Temple, but did not believe in miracles, angels, life after earthly life or the resurrection of the flesh. Today there are people like the Sadducees. They rely on their traditions and human reason, and only in the parts of Scripture that conform to their reason, like the Sadducees believed in the first five books of the Old Testament and nothing more.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, had the support of ordinary people, and were not from the upper class. They believed in the resurrection of the dead, that on the last day God would raise the dead to be judged. Also they believed in the Old Testament. Good things, right?
However, the focus of the Pharisees were their good works outside the Temple. The Sadducees were focused on the rituals of the Temple, but the Pharisees on the piety of daily life.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had their problems with Jesus Christ because to the Sadducees Christ proclaimed the resurrection and final judgment against their human reason and the Pharisees, the vanity of their good deeds and the need for faith in the promised Saviour . The Pharisees said they believed the Scriptures and in the promise of the Savior, but in truth their faith was in their good works.
We have the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and revolutionaries among us in other forms. Many evangelicals say, like the Pharisees, we believe in the Scriptures, believe in Jesus Christ, but their focus is on good works, on a way of life.
Well, at that time, both the Pharisees and the Sadducees always sought to trick Jesus, to use His words against him. So in our text for today, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus, What is the greatest commandment? What is most important among the commandments? Because they wanted to say, if Jesus said it is more important not to steal, or not to kill, He despised the other commandments. Therefore, they despised the eighth commandment not to bear false witness against your neighbor.
However, Jesus told them, look, the two principles of the law of God are: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. "
We can not separate one from another, because if we love God, we will love our neighbor. If the love of God in our hearts, we love those around us.
This also means that no one can keep the law perfectly, because no one always loves God with all their heart, all their mind and all their strength. Only with the support of the Holy Spirit can we love God and our neighbor, but even a Christian in this life can only partially fulfill the Law. We all need a Savior.
There's more to this story, because Jesus had a question for them. "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he? They told him of David. " The Messiah, the promised Savior, had to be a descendant of King David. And so was Jesus Christ, through the lineage of his mother, the Virgin Mary, also from the heritage of his earthly stepfather, Joseph.
And Jesus said to them, "How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? "
David spoke in psalm of the Messiah, who should be the Son of David, as his Lord. The Messiah was not only the Son of David, but the Son of God also. Jesus was a descendant of David, born in Bethlehem, according to the Messianic prophecy, also at that time was, and still is, the Son of God.
So he said to the Pharisees, love the Lord your God, the Son of God as your Lord and Savior. Because we can not keep the Law by works, but by faith in the Son of God who died on the cross for us. Jesus fulfilled the Law and died on the cross in our place. He rose on the third day and by faith in Him, we will rise one day too.
The Savior was true man as the Son of David, and true God as the Son of God. The Savior had to be true man to be tempted like us and true God to fulfill the will of God perfectly.
This was revealed throughout the Old Testament, so, neither the Pharisees nor the Sadducees could answer Jesus. Now we have the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament as well, so, we must pray for wisdom and knowledge, like Solomon, to understand God's Word and stay in the faith, we do not trust our traditions, our human reason or works. We have the promise of eternal life by faith alone in Christ, so we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
Send Pastor David Ernst an email.