The Great Law and Lord: Matthew 22:34-46 (Sermon)


What is the most essential rule to live by? In our passage this morning, Jesus answered this question and asked his own. He turned the conversation from the Law to the Lord. Those listening didn’t understand who was standing in front of them. Jesus gave them rules to live by and defined himself in a way that shuts them up. If we look closely, his words have the power to convict our consciences and encourage our souls. 


If you have your Bibles, we are continuing our series in Matthew. The book’s theme is to follow the Promised King into his Kingdom. I am going to have D.S. read for us this morning. Let’s stand in honor of God’s Word if you are able.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 

            “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, 

                  “Sit at my right hand, 

      until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? 

If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:34–46, ESV)


Thank you. Let’s pray. Dear God, I pray that your Holy Spirit descends upon us and fills this space. May he minister to each of us where we are. You know where we resist you. You know where we struggle. You know what our hang-ups are. Help us to love you and each other. Help us to love you. Meet, change, comfort, and please have mercy on us. In Jesus’s name, we pray, amen. You may be seated.


Even though we just finished Easter, we are traveling back to before Jesus died on the cross in Matthew chapter 22, verses 34 through 46. This is the week Jesus would die. He entered Jerusalem, known as the city of the King. People were declaring he was the Son of the famous King David. He turned over tables related to temple sacrifice. They were price gouging and making worship hard for the masses. Jesus cursed a fig tree, and it miraculously died, representing the fruitless lives of the religious leaders and their impending judgment. He healed the sick and taught in the temple. The leaders observing all this were livid. They questioned what right Jesus had to teach in their temple. Jesus answered with a question and then three parables. It took a while, but they discovered he was talking about them, not just telling stories. They were seeking to arrest him and put him to death, but they didn’t do it publicly because of the fear of reprisals from the crowds. So, indirectly, three groups came at him to trap him with his words. They wanted him to look bad and grounds for his death sentence. He evaded each attempt. This morning, we will look at the third trap. 


The structure of Matthew 22:34–46 hangs on a question posed to Jesus and a question he poses back. The question first comes to him from a lawyer. Then, in verses 41 through 45, Jesus asked the entire group who the “Christ” was. In our staff meeting this week, Dave Smeltzer shared that he thought this was perhaps the most important question ever. I love that. It is more important than the Law and points back to our hope when falling short of God’s commands. Jesus’s question digs into Psalm 110. Jesus knew the answer but wanted those attacking him to see it, too. Verse 46 summarizes their response. They were tongue-tied. Jesus put them in their place. Here is a detailed look at our passage: 

What is the greatest commandment? 

34 - 36 The Greatest Commandment 

37 - 40 Jesus’s Answer 

37-38 Love God 

39 Love Your Neighbor 

40 Summary

Who is the Christ? 

41 - 42 Jesus First Question About the Christ

43 - 45 Jesus Asked a Second and Third Question about the Son Being Lord 

46 Summary 

Main Idea - and Intended Response  

What was Matthew trying to say? The main idea of our passage is that Jesus is the Lord sent by God, predicted by the Spirit; he is our hope. Let me repeat. 

Jesus is the Lord sent by God predicted by the Spirit; he is our hope. 

Jesus’s authority was more significant than David’s, greater than the Law, and he was God in human form. The passage warrants our listening ears and open hearts. Let’s dive in. 


Turn over to verse 34. 

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together” (Matthew 22:34, ESV). 

The Pharisees, driven by a sense of urgency and a desire to maintain their authority, gathered together. Yet, they were met with a silence that would soon be their own. What were they to do with this enigmatic figure, this maverick named Jesus? 

  • He silenced the Herodians. 

  • He silenced the Sadducees. 

  • Three times the charm. The Pharisees came at him with their best and sat back watched. 

-The Herodians wanted to know about the ethical Law, a political hot potato. 

-The Sadducees wanted to know about the Mosaic Law, a theological controversy. 

-And now the Pharisee’s lawyer wanted to know about the whole Law.


Look at verse 35. 

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him” (Matthew 22:35, ESV).  

Note that it says, “one of them”. The Lawyer was a Pharisee, an expert in the Law. The Law of Moses was his jam. There were roughly 613 laws of Moses, 365 negative commands, one for each day, and 248 positive commands representing one’s entire being. God wants us to obey him every day all the way. In Mark chapter 12, we read that this Lawyer was a scribe. Scribes painstakingly copied down papyrus to preserve the Law for the next generation. They knew their Bibles backward and forwards, inside and out. This was their job. If anyone would pin Jesus down and trap him in the Law, this was the guy. He likely had an aptitude to recall what he studied and debate. The bottom line was that he was the expert. What was his trap? 


Go to verse 36. 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36, ESV).  

Of the 613 commands, pick one: Jesus. Which one is the most important? If he decided, “Don’t have another god before me,” what about, “Thou shall not murder?” If he picked, “Do not covet your neighbor’s goat,” what about “Not bearing false witness?” How did Jesus pick? Jump to verse 37.  

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40, ESV). 


He quoted the Law back to the Lawyer. He went to Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. He was right. God wants his people to love him and each other. Jesus picked the Jewish confession of faith called the Shema to answer the Lawyer’s question. The name Shema comes from the first word of that confession, meaning “hear.” 

Hear, [Shema] O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, ESV)

The pious would say this Shema twice a day. They would literally, and some still do, put these in words on their doorposts and wear them around on heads. 


The quote about loving your neighbor comes from Leviticus chapter 19 verse 18. Here is the context: 

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:17–18, ESV)

Ironically, the people Jesus was talking to loathed him. They despised him. They hated him in their hearts so much that they would have him arrested and executed in a few days. Jesus was right, however. John the Apostle wrote: 

“And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21, ESV).

God wants his people to love him and others. The Apostle Paul wrote: 

“Through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13–14, ESV)

The church’s call is to love: love God and love people. Jesus said that the world will know we are Christians not by our rules, what we don’t and do, not by our voting record, or the color of our skin; it is by what? Our LOVE. 


We don’t hear a response. How did the lawyer and his posse take this? Silence. But Jesus was not finished. We had heard three questions from them; now it was his turn to ask them questions, not about the Law but about the Lord. Go to verse 41. 

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question” (Matthew 22:41, ESV).  


What was his question? Jump to verse 42. 

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42, ESV).  

He asked them who they thought Christ’s father was. “Who is the ‘Christ?’” 


How did they answer? Let’s keep reading. 

“They said to him, ‘The son of David’” (Matthew 22:42, ESV).  

They answered that King David would be Christ’s father. We must understand they don’t think of a son like we do. In their culture and context, a son was another name for a descendant. The “Christ” would be a descendant of King David. Were they right? Yes, they were about this prediction in 2 Samuel, chapter 7. 


In 2 Samuel chapter 7, Nathan told king David:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.… but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:12–16 ESV)

This son was not Solomon nor anyone before Jesus. God will establish this Christ’s throne, and he will always rule. 


Just as the religious leaders asked Jesus three questions, Jesus asked them three questions. Turn to verse 43. 

“He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying’” (Matthew 22:43, ESV). 

How is it that Christ, David’s son, is his Lord? Dads don’t go around calling their children Lord. Keep reading: 

       “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, 

                  “Sit at my right hand, 

      until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? 

If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”  (Matthew 22:44–45 ESV)

The Holy Spirit inspired this, and the chapter is one of the most quoted Old Testament passages in the New Testament. One reason may be because we see God’s nature: the Father, the Spirit, and the Son are here. Again, the main idea of this portion of Scripture is: 

Jesus is the Lord sent by God predicted by the Spirit; and he is our hope. 

Was Jesus saying that Christ was not the son of David? No. He agreed with the leaders. However, he was indicating that Christ was at the right hand of God and God putting his enemies under his feet. He would be greater than David by referring to him as Lord, which meant whoever this Christ was. Matthew’s readers knew this. His biography began:  

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, ESV, italics mine).

Jesus Christ. Jesus the Messiah. Jesus the promised Lord. 


Consider this. 

  • On Jesus’s way to Jerusalem, two blind men called to Jesus for mercy. What did they say? “Son of David, have mercy upon us.” People tried to silence them, and they raised their voices and repeated, “Son of David, have mercy upon us.” 

  • What were people calling Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey? “Hosanna, Son of David.” 

  • What did children call Jesus at the temple? “Son of David.” 

They were correct. He was the Son of David.


Now, think about this. Who were Jesus’s enemies? The religious leaders standing before him. What did Psalm 110 say about his enemies? The Lord would make them his footstool. And so the enemies of God’s coming Messiah will become a place for his feet. Would you want that? How did they hear that? The Lord will put those who hate his guts in their place. They asked about Jesus’s authority, and he gave them an answer. Watch out. He is the Christ, the Son of David, the living Lord. 


So, how did they react? Look at verse 46: 

“And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (Matthew 22:46 ESV).

Silence. They didn’t dare ask any more questions. Jesus was victorious. He was incredible. Why is this passage in our Bibles? What does this teach us? It helps us see who Jesus is. He is the Lord. And being so, we should follow his instructions. He taught that if we love him, we will keep his commandments. What did he command? Love God. If you want more to do, love people. The religious leaders loved their prominence, prestige, and role. They didn’t love others or God like they should. Do we? Do we love God with all our hearts? Do we love God with all our minds? Do we love him with all our strength? Or do we give him leftovers for a few minutes? How is our love for God these days? In what ways do we demonstrate our love for him? Think about that. Singing, praying, listening, and obeying can be ways we express our affection for God. That is good. 


What about our love for people? Do we love people? What does that look like? What does it look like to love each other at church, our families, work, school, and our neighborhoods? 1 Corinthians 13 is an excellent place to start. Let’s read this in unison together:  

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4–6, ESV).

Do you love others like that? 

















Enjoying Evil

Enjoying Truth

  • Are you mean or kind? 

  • Are you envious and jealous, or are you content and generous?

  • Do you boast and brag, or are you humble and respectful? 

  • Are you rude? What are your texts, posts, and communications like? Would people say you are impolite, or are you considerate and gracious? 

  • Do you insist on your way, or can you graciously accept others' preferences? Are you selfish or selfless? 

  • Are you irritable and grouchy, or are you grateful and joyful? 

  • Are you resentful, bitter, and angry? Or are you merciful, charitable, and compassionate? 

  • Do you enjoy evil or good? I recall a friend of mine after high school sharing his delight in tempting another friend to do something wrong. He delighted in his control and his corruption of him. That was evil and certainly not loving. God wants us to love each other. 


It can be hard to love others like that. In the Beatitudes, Jesus turned up the difficulty level to black belt. Matthew chapter 5: 

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43–45, ESV)

Do you love your enemies? How can you express love to them? That is hard. All this talk of love can make us feel inadequate and overwhelmed. Only one person has ever loved perfectly: Jesus. We need help. He is our hope. Matthew records that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. 


Those trying to pin Jesus didn’t realize that something so simple as loving God and people is something we fail at. We cannot love God with all we are and love people as we should. Guilt can sweep over us like a tsunami. That is why God gave his people a sacrificial system. They made sacrifices every year for sins they committed, known and unknown. But that was not satisfactory. We read in TM4L yesterday that the blood of bulls and goats doesn’t cleanse us from sin. It was a shadow of another sacrifice that came once and for all, Jesus. Matthew tells us in chapter 1 that he came to save his people from sin. He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the world’s sins. That is why he died. He died because he loved us perfectly, and through his death, he substitutes his perfection for our imperfection. He bore God’s anger toward our sins, so God is no longer angry. Instead, he loves us who believe. Do you believe it? 


Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you so much for saving us from our sin. Thank you for loving us to death. God help us love you and others. In Jesus’s name we pray, amen.

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