Love is what it's all about
Jesus answering the Pharisees.
Text study for Matthew 22:34-46
Lectionary text for Oct. 23, 2011
By Matthew Ollikainen
Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem. He started teaching and the questions began. The chief priests and the elders approached Jesus, asking, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Then it was the Pharisees, asking, "Tell us, then, what do you think, is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" Then the Sadducees added a question about marriage in heaven.
Each time Jesus’ adversaries tried to trap him with a question, Jesus turned the tables on them with his answers. To the crowd gathered around this spectacle it must have been like watching a cat play with a mouse.
In this week’s text we see the last exchange of this verbal sparring in the temple. The Pharisees take one more crack at Jesus, asking, "Teacher what commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus’ reply is, "You shall love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind."
The great commandment
"This is the great commandment and the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'." Jesus doesn’t ask a question in return. He tells no parables. Jesus gets to the point. And Jesus’ pointed answer reveals that the questioners never got to the heart of things: love.
We have our questions for Jesus, too. Maybe we ask our questions when the world changing around us causes fear.
Maybe we ask when we realize the truth about ourselves and it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we ask when we are forced to wrestle with what we don’t understand or when we experience great disappointments.
All too often, we try to finagle our way with Jesus with our fancy reasoning and focus on the details.
But in the reality of the grace of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter where we try to take the conversation. Christ brings it back to what matters most: love.
Jesus clearly points us to the heart of the matter with a straight-forward reminder to re-center our lives and priorities around love of God and neighbor. We are reminded of God’s love for us and the love we receive from those around us.
• What questions distract you from the central components of faith in Jesus Christ: love of God and neighbor?
• When we begin faith conversations with God’s love and love of neighbor, what becomes less important? How does it challenge our common debates of faith?
• How does Christ’s command reassure you and challenge you as you live out your faith every day?
Matthew Ollikainen is pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Barto, Pa.
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