SCRIPTURE READING – MATTHEW 22:34-40 – TWO VERSIONS
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Turn off your cell phone.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Turn off your neighbor’s cell phone as your own.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THESE VERSES
The correct translation, from
the original Greek text (which, BTW, and contra KJV-only worshipers, we are very close to having), is Version 2. Version 1 is false for the following reasons:
- There were no cell phones in the first century.
- Even if there were cell phones in the first century Jesus would not have needed one, since the Father in Him knows the hearts and minds of people.
- Version 1 is too legalistic-Pharisaic sounding. Jesus would never have said such a thing; i.e., Jesus would never have singled out a human-made unwritten rule as the greatest rule of all.
- Jesus wouldn’t turn and give someone the evil eye if, while He was speaking, their cell phone went off.
Behind the Pharisees’ question and Jesus’ response lie the ongoing “Sabbath Controversies” they were engaged in. I’m going to illustrate this by using an example that happened to me recently. Recently I was driving in downtown Monroe, stopped at a light, when a car pulled up behind me. The man driving appeared angry – at me! He honked his horn, then drove next to me, and gave me “The Look.” It was not the look of love. Something, apparently, about my driving had not been pleasing to him. I have no idea what it was. But I knew that, in his mind, I had violated one of his rules of driving. As a result I received The Look, not of love, but of condemnation. “The Look” is what happens in a rule-governed world where following a set of rules is the means of acceptance and social righteousness. The prevailing mood in such a world is judgment and condemnation, because rules get transgressed. I do think it is polite to silence my cell phone in a Sunday morning worship service. I do not think it is a Jesus-thing to give someone The Look when their phone goes off. Because love is patient, love is kind, love is not easily angered, and love keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus, it appears, was constantly breaking religious rules. One example is Mark 2:22-28. Here some rule-watching Pharisees to Jesus about the behavior of His disciples on the Sabbath. Contrary to Exodus 16:25-26, which rules out gleaning and plucking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus allows His disciples to do so. For this he receives “The Look.” Jesus’ response is to reinterpret the Exodus passage, placing it in the greater context of God’s overall purposes for humanity. Ben Witherington writes: “Jesus’ point of view seems to be that human beings do not exist for the sake of the law, but rather the converse. The function of the Sabbath is to restore and renew creation to its full capacity, just as leaving the land fallow for a sabbatical year might do. The disciples’ eating was a means of renewal and restoration for them. Thus, they should be permitted to eat, even at the expense of specific, clear prohibitions in the law. In short, Jesus sees it as part of his mission to interpret matters according to their true or original intention, no longer making allowances for the hardness of human hearts.” (Ben Witherington, The Christology of Jesus, 68) If the love of God was abundantly poured into my heart (Romans 5:5), at that point I would not need rules such as “You shall not steal,” or “You shall not commit adultery.” That’s why Jesus said that all the Law and prophets hand on the two Love-Commandments.
Jesus’ revolution is, essentially, a Love Revolution. He was bringing in a love and grace environment, rather than a rules-environment. That’s why Paul wrote, in Romans 5:2, that “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” “Gained access” is Temple language; meaning we who trust in Christ as ushered into the fields of God’s grace.
Love, not law, wins. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
1. Thinking of Romans 5:5, ask God for a fresh outpouring, a fresh deluge, a “rainstorm” of God’s love to be poured into your heart today.
A PHOTO PUZZLE
I took this picture in Jerusalem. Where is it taken?