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The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:23-40
The Events of
A clear and tidy summation of the events of Holy Week is not readily available. There is some clarity to be sure, but the exact chronology is difficult to discern. The graphic below may be helpful. But the various graphics and outlines do not line up perfectly. That’s not a problem with the Bible, nor anything that should make us doubt the veracity of Scripture. It seems none of the writers tried to nail down what happened on each day, as much as they simply wanted to give witness to Jesus’ actions, words, and to some extent his thoughts on the days leading up to the crucifixion.
The two examples above give us a picture of Jesus’ dealings with two of his critics. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. When they try to put Jesus in a corner over that teaching, he sets aside their trap, saying that they had the whole premise wrong. The resurrection is a real hope and promise. It is good to keep this in mind during this week. That truth will no doubt sustain Jesus in his final hours.
Not to be dissuaded, the Pharisees then challenge Jesus about the Law. They ask, “Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Danger! All the Laws of God are good. There should certainly be no favorites. Unless you’re the Son of God. Then you can determine if there is one that rises above the rest.
And there is. Love the Lord God first and most of all. And that first and greatest commandment has a near twin. Love your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” says Jesus. This is the axis on which turns the whole of God’s Law, his desire for his people, and the life to which we who claim Jesus as Lord and called to live.
There will be parables about how that is lived out. There will be further confrontations. But Jesus is fully engaged with friends, disciples, and enemies. The only difference is how he engages with them.
A colleague reminded me a few years ago of what I had learned at the seminary about preaching. He said we are to “Discomfort the comfortable, and comfort the anxious.” That’s what Jesus does. He will do all he can to challenge the self-righteous religious leaders as he heals, comforts, forgives, and teaches those who recognize their need for God’s grace.
We may wish to join the disciples in marveling at the withered fig tree. We can certainly delight in seeing Jesus answer the criticisms of his detractors. We should hear in our hearts Jesus’ teaching in the parables. But we must keep in mind these two commandments:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus is in the process of living them out. May we follow him in that spirit of love for God and our neighbor.