Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Mark 12:31): I had always heard that loving God was the most important and then loving your neighbor was second. Here it says they are equal. Does the Bible say one is more important than the other anywhere? It seems like they are almost one in the same. If you love God you will likely love others. If you love others, you probably have God in your heart.
A. No doubt Jesus desires us to love God first — we might call what He says 1 and 1a — but that, as you state, a true love for God will be manifest in a genuine love for others.
Q. (Matthew 22:34): Can you tell me again what the difference is between the Pharisees and Sadducees?
A. Sure. First, members of BOTH of these parties made up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, so we might think of them as the two major “political” parties of the day. The Sadducees were the more conservative of the two, and used the first five books of the OT (Genesis to Deuteronomy) as their primary guides for living. They rejected much of the later OT writings (notably including writings about resurrection, which as we have discussed come from the later parts of the OT, hence their rejection of the doctrine). The Sadducees were the primary members of the Priesthood, including Caiaphas who will be one of the central figures of the Passion story as High Priest. Since they were the “official” leaders of the nation as the priests, the Sadducees worked with the Romans, which made them inferior in the eyes of others, including the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were a different ruling party, and their primary concern was a noble one in theory: they desired for God to act on behalf of His people and cast off the Roman oppression (though they rejected overt action such as assassination that groups like the Zealots used). They believed that if the people of the nation could become righteous enough by keeping the Law, they would “force God’s hand,” so to speak, and bring the Messiah into the world to conquer the Romans. They were the teachers of the Law. Since they did not see Jesus as being a leader capable of such a violent revolt, it is little surprise they rejected Him as the Messiah. The Pharisees hoped to achieve this righteousness by means of legalism, including the use of many traditions that went well beyond the scope of the Law, as Jesus has been pointing out. They would have been among the most powerful group in the nation, but in general, they would have been greatly disliked by the common Jews, who saw them as showy and flashy but ultimately not helpful. The Pharisees would be the surviving party after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and their lineage carries on today in the writings of the Talmud, and the line of the Rabbis.
Q. (Mark 12:35-37, Matthew 22:41-46, Luke 20:41-44): I think I understand that Jesus is asking the “experts” on religious law how the Messiah can be the SON of David. David would not refer to his son as “my lord.” And that, tripped up the religious leaders?
A. Okay, so here’s what’s going on here: Jesus is mocking the religious leaders in what would have understood in a humorous way. Jesus is using a quote from David in Psalm 110 (and assuming Davidic authorship, by the way) to say that David himself saw the Messiah as being more than a normal person. David saw the Messiah as being divine, which is why he refers to Him as “his Lord.” But everyone in that day knew that the Messiah was ALSO a son of David from his lineage. So in posing the question in this way, unless the religious leaders of the day were willing to admit that the Messiah was indeed divine (something they rejected — they saw him as a chosen ruler by not divine), they COULD NOT answer His question. If the person chosen as Messiah was merely a man, then the great King David would have no reason to call him Lord. That, if you will, is the joke, but it was also a blistering critique by Jesus.
Q. (Mark 12:38-40): I am sure that many religious leaders are guilty of posturing today. I remember my dad and some other elders of our church inviting our small-town preacher out to dinner. They would get upset though, because the preacher never paid anything for the dinner. We gave offering to the church and I guess my dad thought that that is the preacher’s wages and he should pay for his own dinner. He and his family were extremely nice, but the preacher did have a slight attitude that he deserved to be taken care of. So, they didn’t ask him to dinner every time.
A. As a person who has worked in ministry, I can honestly tell you that it is quite easy to let a sense of entitlement get a hold of you, and it is something you must make war against. It is very difficult to remain humble in the midst of those circumstances, which to me makes it all the more important.
Q. (Matthew 23:8-9): Don’t Jews call their leaders “Rabbi” and Catholics call their priests “Father”?
A. Yes they do, though it’s worth mentioning that nothing Jesus says here would be recognized by Jews today — they wholly reject His teachings. What Jesus is saying here is not to seek the title for the sake of pride (which was a major failing of the leadership), and I do not believe that Jesus is saying, “never have any titles”. This is a verse about humility, and a reminder to keep in mind who is really in charge.
O. (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4): I have read this or heard of this passage many times before. But, now that I have read it after reading Matthew 23:12, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” this verse has a new meaning. She was not only sacrificing more than the rich people, she will be exalted for it! This verse sure is a game changer.