The Command that Brings Focus
We are in the time of rising conflict between Jesus and the chief priests. Jesus answered the Sadducees (party of the chief priest) in their mocking question about resurrection. God is creator of life and God of the living. He can and will transforms and renew creation.
Then a Pharisee law expert asked a serious question: 'Which is the great commandment?' Jesus gives two. The first is prominent: 'Love God with all your heart, soul, mind' [Dt 6:5]. The second, Jesus picks a clause in a collection: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' [Lev 19:18].
Jesus says these really are most important. Everything else in scripture hangs on them. Really? Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah? Yes! As commands for people, this is what God wants! Both are deep, all encompassing, un-legalistic. They require meditation, interpretation. They are a filter and lens. Jesus was filtering and focusing in the Sermon on the Mount.
People Drawn into God's Life of Love
As commands they focus on the human response to God's identity/actions. God's love for his creation, opposition to all that corrupts / destroys human life, his love intervening to open a way of relationship with him through Abraham, Exodus, David, promise, even exile. His love always aims at all of humanity/creation, through calling the people Israel to his love.
The great commands reveal the heart of God and draw us into that central reality. They see at the core of us humans a love we often hide but that can answer to God's love. That love, activated, gives us the basis for interactions with others, even enemies, and all the world.
Jesus asks an Easy Question
Jesus' question to the Pharisees may seem a letdown. The ancestry of the Messiah/Christ? Jesus knows there's an easy right answer (as with earlier questions). The Messiah is David's son. But that's no mere cliché. Matthew has repeatedly highlighted significant moments in Jesus' life when unexpected people recognized Jesus as 'Son of David.' David was the great king (1000 bc) anointed by Samuel, promised an anointed descendant, Messiah, always to sit on his throne as king. The lapse of kingship in the exile (500s bc) only heightened the questions about how God would fulfill his promise to David. Now under Roman rule, many Jews longed for a mighty Messiah-king to restore independence.
After the easy answer, Jesus asks another question, quoting Ps 110:1, a well-known passage about the Messiah conquering enemies. But David calls the Messiah 'my Lord,' then how is he David's son? Jesus leaves the question hanging. What just happened? All are silenced.
A Messiah who Transforms Imagination
Jesus is striking an idea in scripture strange to his hearers, a seed planted in his disciples. They think of the Messiah as a ruler following David's pattern, maybe better. But Jesus wants them to re-think their whole understanding. He says the scripture points to a complex idea of the Messiah. Yes, David's son, but also David's Lord. How could such a thing be?
It cracks the imagination. David's Lord is God alone. David's son is a human descendant.
If the Messiah is only a human son, then he will deal with conquering human enemies. It's hard
to 'love your enemies' under your feet. He may be good but still inside the human problem.
But if he is 'God with us,' the Lord returning to Zion, then the scale of his work is vaster! He takes on human sin and death. He embodies the love that is God's heart. Just a question! Think about it as you watch the next events unfold. How do you recognize God's Anointed?