In this passage, we come to the end of the discussion between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders about the source of Jesus’ authority. This conversation began after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his followers proclaiming him as the son of David. This, coupled with his prophetic teaching and actions, put him at odds with the religious authorities. When the religious authorities asked for a direct answer on this issue of authority, Jesus had answered by asking about the authority behind John’s baptism. When the religious leaders refused to answer Jesus, he told three parables. The Jewish religious and political leaders replied with three questions to test Jesus’ authority. We heard the first question last week. This is the third question in the sequence.
In Jesus’ answer, we hear the central ethos of both Judaism and Christianity: love of God and love of neighbor are non-negotiable. In what ways can we, as church, more fully love God?
Just as Jesus had refused to separate the sacred and secular in the question that we heard last week, he now refuses to separate religion from ethics: according to Jesus, how we treat our neighbor is a reflection of our love for God. As church, what do we do for and with our neighbors that allows them and others to see our love for God?
Jesus ends the verbal sparring match over the question of his authority in the same way he answered the original question. He asked a question that his opponents either would not or could not answer. The Pharisees knew that Jesus had been proclaimed as the son of David; when they answered that the messiah is a son of David, this event must have come to mind. David was the exemplar king of Israel: their greatest king. Yet David had said that the messiah was his superior. What do we need to do differently, or better, in order to express our understanding that Jesus, the messiah, has more authority than any other authoritative person we can think of?
Based upon the use of the homoion in Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of God in Matthew, Eung Chun Park argues that Jesus has irrevocably related the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:5) and Leviticus 19:18, so that it is not possible to truly love God if one does not also love one’s neighbors. (Eung Chun Park, “A Soteriological Reading of the Great Commandment Pericope in Matthew 22:34-40,” Biblical Research, 54 (2009): 61-78).