Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:23-46 (NRSV)
Things are not always as they seem…
Jesus gets some pushback from the Sadducees today. They were a sect that did not believe in any type of afterlife. They push the Levitical law to its limits regarding the idea that the brother has the responsibility for raising a child for his deceased sibling. The child would inherit the land of the deceased as if he was the natural heir (rather than a biological nephew). Of course, if you push this to the limits as in the example given, it gets a bit ridiculous. Kudos to the sixth and seventh brothers for sticking to their faithfulness and marrying her – I would be a little suspicious at this point myself!
Jesus tells us that the afterlife will be very different from the life we know on earth. This shows us that it is difficult for us to imagine something other than the material world. The Sadducees didn’t look at the scriptures literally, but they were making some assumptions that all others would.
Sometimes people use the Bible in ways
where it is hard to see the love.
It reminds me of today’s militant atheists who attack Christianity based on fundamentalist interpretations. We know that there are many more sophisticated looks at scripture and yet this is likely the easiest to attack. When I see these Christians going against them, I don’t feel as if we are putting our best foot forward but I recognize I am biased toward my own view!
The Pharisees were often at odds with the Sadducees and seem impressed with how Jesus handled them enough to set down their own vitriol and ask a legitimate question. Jesus combines the well-known Shema on loving God with a more obscure verse from Leviticus on loving our neighbors.
Jesus then presses the advantage by asking them a question about the Messiah. It may be that just as he prescribed that the Sadducees look differently at the afterlife, he wanted the Pharisees to look differently at the Messiah. Would he be a revolutionary leader that would bring warfare to God’s people or would the Messiah lead us to love God and neighbor more fully?
Which is more transformative in the long run?
Prayer for the day:
God, there are times when the Bible confuses us.
It was written in a different language for a different people in a different time.
And yet, we take it seriously as your message for us today.
Help us to remember to interpret scripture through the lens of love.
Help us to love you more fully.
And help us to look at our neighbors through this same lens.
May we remember that Jesus instructs us that all other scripture hangs on these two ideals.
Photo by WEBN-TV via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.