When the Pharisees heard that he 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.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” This was one of two tests the Pharisees gave to Jesus through a lawyer in this encounter. The answer was simple and straight-forward. Jesus quotes the Sh’ma out of Deuteronomy, which says you must love God with all your being, and then Jesus expands by saying you must love your neighbor as yourself. This was an irrefutable answer. Then came another question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” The answer, rightly was David, but then Jesus asks another question, which stumps the Pharisees: “If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”
All of these questions and responses put Jesus, and the Pharisees for that matter, in a religious context. They were speaking to one another as Jews - followers of God from ancient times, practicing a faith that even then was ancient. As we await the coming of Christ this Advent, we must remember that our faith is one that is connected across generations, back even to creation, through the Hebrew faith of which Jesus and the Pharisees were a part. Faith is eternal, from the beginning to the end of ages.
The Rev. Matthw L. Buterbaugh
Diocese of Milwaukee