Lawyers Ask About Law to Test Jesus
By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
Oct 26, 2014
20th Sunday after Pentecost (ERLC Youth Sunday & Reformation Sunday)
Today we are celebrating the ERLC Youth Sunday, and at the same time we are celebrating the Reformation Sunday.
Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated alongside All Hallows’ Eve, in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and some Reformed church communities.
Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation. (ligonier.org/blog/what-reformation-day-all-about/).
In the United States churches often transfer the holiday, so that it falls on the Sunday (called Reformation Sunday) on or before October 31, with All Saints’ Day moved to the Sunday on or after November 1.
The liturgical color of the day is red, which represents the Holy Spirit and the Martyrs of the Christian Church. Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is traditionally sung on this day. It is also traditional in some Lutheran schools for schoolchildren to hold Reformation Day plays or pageants that re-enact scenes from the life of Martin Luther (cute-calendar.com/event/reformation-day/17821.html).
In our passage, we have also a reformer, actually the great reformer of human history, Jesus Christ. Like Martin Luther, he used the Word of God to reform the hearts of the people. Like Luther, he experienced challenges from religious people. In our passage, the Pharisees tested him by asking a difficult question. Indeed,
I. Jesus is Tested by the Pharisees on the Great Commandment.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Mt. 22:36). It’s a difficult question since the Jews have had 613 laws called Mitzvoth. Here are some of the laws of Mitzvoth: (1) To know that God exists (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6); (2) To circumcise the male offspring (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3); (3) To pray to God (Ex. 23:25; Deut. 6:13); (4) To recite grace after meals (Deut. 8:10); (5) To love all human beings who are of the covenant (Lev. 19:18); (6) Not to cherish hatred in one’s heart (Lev. 19:17); (7) Not to bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18); (8) To love the stranger (Deut. 10:19); (9) Not to commit sodomy with a male (Lev. 18:22); (10) Not to break a vow (Num. 30:3); (11) Not to practice observing times or seasons -i.e. astrology (Lev. 19:26); (12) Not to tattoo the body like the idolaters (Lev. 19:28); and (13) To show honor to a Priest, and to give him precedence in all things that are holy (Lev. 21:8).
II. Jesus Answers that the Greatest Commandment is to Love the Lord Your God
Matthew 22:37-38 says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment.”
Deut. 6:5 says, “You are to love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Mark uses heart … soul … mind, and St Luke add “strength.” In Deuteronomy, the words are heart … soul … might or strength.
Heart includes the emotions, will, purpose; soul, the spiritual faculties; mind, the intellect, the thinking faculty. This greatest commandment was written on the phylactery which the “lawyer” was probably wearing (See Mt. 23:5, Cambridge Bible).
In practical sense how are we going to love God? I suggest the following: (1) Let’s pray to God regularly; (2) Let’s come to church to attend Bible studies and worship God; (3) Let’s serve God through His servants. (4) Find the needs of the church and try to help.
III. Jesus Answers that the Second is to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Probably Jesus cited Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” From Lev.19:18. Man ought to love his neighbor, (1) not as he does love himself, but as he ought to love himself; (2) not in the same degree, but after the same manner, i.e., freely and readily, sincerely and unfeignedly, tenderly and compassionately, constantly and perseveringly (W. Burkitt).
Cases arise where man ought to love his neighbor more than his life, physical life, and has done so, sacrificing it for his fellows, his country, and the church, in imitation of the example of Christ and the martyrs (Popular Commentary on the New Testament).
On May 2, 1962, a dramatic advertisement appeared in the San Francisco Examiner: “I don’t want my husband to die in the gas chamber for a crime he did not commit. I will therefore offer my services for 10 years as a cook, maid, or housekeeper to any leading attorney who will defend him and bring about his vindication.”
One of San Francisco’s greatest attorneys, Vincent Hallinan, read about the ad, and contacted Gladys Kidd, who had placed it. Her husband, Robert Lee Kidd, was about to be tried for the slaying of an elderly antique dealer.
Kidd’s fingerprints had been found on a bloodstained ornate sword in the victim’s shop. During the trial, Atty. Hallinan proved that the antique dealer had not been killed by the sword, and that Kidd’s fingerprints and blood on the sword got there because Kidd had once toyed with it while playfully dueling with a friend when they were both out shopping.
The jury, after 11 hours, found Robert Kidd to be not guilty. Attorney Hallinan refused Gladys Kidd’s offer of 10 years’ servitude (sermonillustrations.com).
In this story we can see the love of the wife to her husband, and at the same time the love of the lawyer to fellowman for not accepting the wife’s payment of 10 years’ servitude.
You might say that it is very hard to love other people, especially if he or she does not belong to our club, gang or church, or if they have different principles in life, or if they have different beliefs. But our Lord, Jesus Christ, mandated us to love God, and to love our fellowmen as ourselves. Actually we can only love God via people around us. If we cannot love people around us who are visible, how can we love God who is invisible? Then how can we exercise and execute love? We might learn something from this true story.
Newspaper columnist and pastor Dr. George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.”
With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised?” And she did it with enthusiasm.
Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, and sharing. When she didn’t return to his office, Dr. Crane phoned her, “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”
“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.”
Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion (sermonillustrations.com).
She learned to love her husband by acting out her love. Likewise if we want to experience love, let us acting out love. Love begets love.