Matthew 22:34-46

Bible and candle.
 "Bible and candle." 
Reprinted from Icon: Visual Images for Every Sunday, copywrite© 2000 Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.


The suggested text for this day is listed as Matthew 22:34-40 (41-46). In our opinion the two paragraphs are related. They constitute one incident and, furthermore, are related in thought. It occurred on Tuesday of holy week. It was Jesus' final word to the Sanhedrists. He would face them only once more, at His trial. Verses 34-30 are paralleled at Mark 12:28-31 but not at Luke 10:25-28. Verses 41-46 are paralleled at Mark 12:35-37 and Luke 20:41-44. Mark gives a fuller account of verses 34-40.

Matthew 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.

Jesus' altercation with the Sanhedrists began at 21:23. There the text mentions the chief priests and the elders. At verse 45 the text speaks of chief priests and the Pharisees. At 22:15 we have the Pharisees. At 22:23 it's the Sadducees. And our text, verses 34-46, involves the Pharisees. They had heard that Jesus muzzled the Sadducees. Evidently they were happy about that. And now they gathered together.

"Got together" is a difficult phrase very likely means "at the same place for a concerted effort." Evidently they decided to have one of their law-authorities ask Him a question. The Sadducees accepted only the laws in the Torah. The Pharisees added many precepts to these Old Testament laws.

Matthew 22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

What does "tested him" mean? Does it merely mean "to test," asking for an opinion against the Sadducees? Thus Lenski. Or does it mean that they "tried to trap him." Thus TEV, Fahling, Ylvisaker and Stoeckhardt, with the added thought that if Jesus would prefer one commandment to any other He could be accused of setting part of the Law against another part. AV has "tempting him." NKJV has  "testing him." RSV, NIV, NEB, AAT , NASB read "to test him,"  which leaves it to the reader to decide whether it was friendly or unfriendly. These  Notes  prefer TEV:  "to trap him."

Matthew 22:36  "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 

The sense of the question is:  "Which particular injunction is the greatest in the Torah?" 

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied:  "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

The future indicative is the strongest imperative. God gives man no choice. "Lord your God" is the standard New Testament term for the Covenant God of the Old Testament. Compare Luke 1:68 and 20:37. It denotes the saving God who gave His chosen people His "teachings" to save them.

Now follows three "with" phrases which denote means and manner.  "With your heart in its entirety, With your soul in its entirety, with your mind in its entirety." "Heart" denotes the innermost personality, "soul" the soul or life, and "mind" the reasoning part of man. Remarkably the body is not mentioned but it needn't be. Man in his entirety must be devoted to God.

How can that be? Look at 1 John 4:19: "We love because He first loved us." (The preferred reading does not have "God" or "Him" as object.) 1 John 4:16 reads: "God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God and God remains in him." God is love and His requirement is that man be love. On this sentence compare Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 11:1.13.22; 30:19.20. The word "love" pervades Deuteronomy. Paul says Romans 13:10: "Love is the fulfilling of the Law."

Fahling: Not as if the Commandment of love should be counted as an individual precept, but as indicating the spirit which must underlie all obedience.

Matthew 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

This injunction is the greatest and first in order.

Lenski: By this commandment, therefore, all the other commandments and the many regulations given to the Jews through Moses are to be weighed and gauged.

It is not separate but all inclusive.

Fahling: The rabbinic schools had come to the conclusion that there were at least 613 different ordinances: 248 affirmative precepts, which corresponded to the parts of the human body, and 365 negative precepts, corresponding to the days of the year, the total 613, the number of Hebrew letters in the Decalog.

But by adding many precepts to the commandments in the Torah, they had a set of laws which were completely loveless. Only the regenerate can understand what Jesus means in verses 37-38. Compare Luke 7:47 and Galatians 2:20. To know Christ by faith is the door to love. To love God with one's whole being means to trust in Him and His promises because Jesus died for us. It makes a person spiritual and causes him to walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25.

Verse 37 is the second use of the Law in the sense that it reminds us that we often fail to love God with an undivided heart, soul, and mind. But it is also the third use of the Law in the sense that it reminds us of what God wills in us toward Him.

Matthew 22:39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Read Leviticus 19:18.34 in their entirety. Vengeance is ruled out. And the lowly non-Jew was to be loved just as was the Jew. The atonement underlies verse 37. And the atonement underlies verse 39.

Bengel: The love of our neighbor resembles the love of God more than all the other duties. . . . The lawyer might easily omit the latter (love toward neighbor), whilst anxious about the former (love toward God). Our Lord guards him from that danger, and answers more than he had asked.

True. The lawyer asked only for the greatest. Jesus answers that it is not possible to have the one without the other.

Fahling: As referring to their object, God and the neighbor, the words might be divided into two commandments, but their essential demand is the same--love.
Ylvisaker: The one may not, in truth, be fulfilled without the other. True love toward God, according to the first table, must manifest itself in love toward the neighbor, in accordance with second.
Stoeckhardt: Jesus gave them a simple plain answer by declaring the law of love to God, Deuteronomy 6:5, as the greatest commandment, and added that the law of love to our neighbor, Leviticus 19:18.34, was like it, and that the whole law was summarized in these two commandments, so that all commandments were of equal importance and validity.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is remarkable that Jesus speaks only of love toward neighbor, though the lawyer had stated the requirement of love toward God and neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). It is remarkable that in Galatians 5: 14 Paul says: "The whole law is summarized in one sentence: 'You will love your neighbor as (you love) yourself'." See also James 2:8. A loveless attitude toward neighbor betrays a loveless attitude toward God.

Matthew 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." 

"On these two injunctions the Law in its entirety, as well as the Prophets, hangs." The word "love" summarizes God's revelation and will toward man. This is such a simple but profound truth. It swept aside all the arguments between the Sadducees and Pharisees. It swept aside all the arguments among the Pharisees themselves. It is so simple and is followed by simple, repentant sinners. Even the malefactor (Luke 23:39-43) loved God and man. He reminded the other malefactor of the truth (verses 40-41). That's love.

Jesus Himself is the greatest example of love. The Pharisees, through their spokesman, tried to trap Jesus. He tries to draw His enemies to Himself by what He says.

And now, a problem. At this point read Mark 12:32-34. This reaction on the part of the scribe is not recorded in Matthew. It brings up several questions:

  1. Has Matthew given this incident an entirely different character than has Mark? Higher critics have suggested this but we reject it immediately. All agree that the two accounts are parallel. Therefore, if that is so, they cannot differ in character.

  2. Did the Pharisees send this lone scribe in a friendly mood? Lenski thinks so. He says:  "To make the motive of the Pharisees the desire to entangle Jesus, as had been done in the previous attacks on him, is rather unsatisfactory. The outcome of the present questioning is entirely too friendly for that. Mark 13:34." We reject this explanation because the word  "to trap" is used of the scribe in verse 35. He did not come as an honest inquirer but to trap Jesus.

  3. The only other explanation is that the Pharisees were thwarted through the very person whom they sent to ask Jesus a question.

It is similar to an incident in John 7:32-49. The chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to arrest Jesus. But they came back empty-handed. They did not arrest Jesus because they were deeply impressed by what Jesus said. Likewise here in Matthew 22, the Pharisees used this scribe to trap Jesus. But the result was contrary to their expectations. The scribe agreed with Jesus.

Stoeckhardt: The scribe, who had asked, now talked sensibly and not as when he began, confirming and repeating what Jesus had stated. The Lord's answer had brought him to his senses, gaining confidence in the doctrine of this Master of Israel, and began to think that this might be the Messiah. Since this is a sign of faith Jesus assured him that he was not far from the kingdom, in fact that he already belonged to it, because divine truth has always the power to change the heart of the enemies of the Gospel.

In the crucifixion of Jesus Satan used all his might to overthrow Jesus but God used that incident to conquer sin, Satan and death. Paul left Jerusalem for Damascus to persecute Christians, but entered Damascus as a Christian.

Matthew 22:41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

Quite obviously in verse 34 the Pharisees gathered together to plot against Jesus. Their plot failed. And we think that the genitive absolute with which verse 41 begins means:  "While the Pharisees were still together." Thus AAT. Jesus' enemies were still there and before they disbanded He had just one more question to ask them. Jesus does not return evil for evil. He is still inviting His enemies.

Ylvisaker: In advance and in public He now definitely proves out of the Old Testament the divine nature of the Messiah, and anticipates , as it were, through Scriptural proof, the accusation for blasphemy upon which His conviction would be based. And with this word, Jesus concludes for all time His negotiations with the Pharisees and with His other opponents.

Jesus' first disciples acknowledged Him as the Messiah, John 1:41. Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah to the woman of Samaria, John 4:25.26. But Jesus did not use the term "Messiah" of Himself among the unbelieving Covenant people because they had the wrong idea of the kind of Messiah He ought to be, John 6:15. He did reveal Himself to His disciples as the Messiah. Read Matthew 16:13-20. But He warned the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah, verse 20.

In December of the year before Jesus was crucified, a matter of about four months, the Jews encircled Jesus in the temple and said: "If you are the Messiah, tell us openly." John 10:24. He answered: "I have told you but you don't believe. The works which I perform in My Father's Name, these testify concerning Me. However, you do not believe because you are not of My sheep." The miracles of Jesus were proof enough of His Messiahship but they rejected these miracles and therefore also His person.

But on this Tuesday, just three days before His trial, He asks them an important question about Himself. Now read Matthew 26:63-66. He was charged with calling Himself the Messiah, the Son of God. That led to His death. But here in Matthew 22:42-45 Jesus confronts them with the all-important question. He throws out a lifeline to His enemies. And it is done in a simple but loving manner. What He had told them in verses 37-40 would do them no good at all if they refused to come to faith in the Messiah. They would remain dead in their trespasses.

Matthew 22:42  "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"   "The son of David,"  they replied.

"What is your opinion concerning the Messiah? Whose son is He?" The answer to the first question depends on the answer to the second question. The Pharisees answer: "He is the son of the (well-known) David." At this point read John 7:40-43, where the term "the Messiah" occurs three times. That He would be a descendant of David is clearly stated but so long as there was confusion as to His true identity, people remained in unbelief. On Calvary people made fun of the term "the Messiah." See Luke 23:35.39. But here in Matthew 22 Jesus gives His enemies a final opportunity. But they would go no farther than to say that Jesus was descended from David.

Matthew 22:43 He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says,

"In view of your answer" which is true as far as it goes, but is not enough. It is plain from the context that:
  1. The Pharisees acknowledge the Davidic authorship of Psalm 110;

  2. They believed in the doctrine of the inspiration of the Old Testament;

  3. They believed that Psalm 110 was Messianic.

Read the whole Psalm. Verse 1 is quoted 16 times in the New Testament, verse 4 nine times and verse 5 once. The whole Psalm speaks of Jesus' person, His work and His total victory over all His enemies. David surely knew that He was prophesying concerning the Messiah. Jesus must have included David when He spoke Luke 10:24. While David was king, no mere human being was above him and he conquered his enemies. But, in prophecy, he acknowledged One greater than himself.

Matthew 22:44 'The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'

The LXX is quoted verbatim. In the first line we have two occurrences of "Lord," clearly denoting two persons. In Hebrew the first is "Jehovah" and the second "Adon." Greek cannot distinguish and therefore uses "Lord" for both. All our translations have Lord-Lord except LB which has "God-Lord," an attempt to imitate the Hebrew.

David acknowledged Jesus as his Lord. The second line is a command or an invitation. Here "my" refers back to the first occurrence of "Lord"  genitive of possession, the right hand, of course, denoting power. In the third line we have "the personal enemies who hate you."

Bengel: The eternity of the session is not denied, but it is denied that the assault of the enemies will interfere with it. The warlike kingdom will come to an end. The peaceful kingdom, however, will have no end. 1 Corinthians 15:25 etc. . . The enemies will lie prostrate. . . among them the Pharisees. . . The enemies will themselves be the footstool of Christ by right of conquest. Compare Joshua 10:24; Psalm 47:3.

The fourth line involves an anthropomorphism. And it reminds us that God, in Christ, became true man. David was speaking of the exaltation of Jesus' human nature. His divine nature was already exalted.

Matthew 22:45 If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?" 

"In view of this plain prophecy which you accept." This verse is a fact or particular condition. The protasis must be answered with "yes" or "no." Here it means:  "If, as you must admit, David calls Him Lord."  "He is Lord."  "How can it be that etc." And Jesus is a descendant of David.  "Him" is genitive of relationship, referring to David. NKJV and AAT wrongly capitalize "Son." AV, RSV, NIV, JB, NEB and NASB rightly have "son ."TEV reads " David's descendant." NKJV and AAT leave the impression that Jesus received His divinity by descent, human descent.

The point, of course, is that Jesus is the God-man, God and man in one person.

Bengel: It is considerably more evident of Christ that He is the Lord than that He is the Son of David. . . . . David as well as Abraham (John 8:56) saw the day of Christ, the last great day we may suppose, when all His adversaries shall become the Lord's footstool.
Fahling: The Messiah is the Son of God and the Son of Man. According to His human nature He is David's son, but according to the divine nature He is David's Lord. But Jesus did not press the point. His believing followers and the common people who heard Him gladly, understood. The adversaries, however, had hardened their hearts.
Ylvisaker: If Jesus had added further proof of His Messiahship, the Pharisees would not have been moved thereby to recognize Him. Jesus knew this only too well. For they were hardened in their hearts against Jesus in word and deed.

That thought reminds us of Luke 16:31. Jesus used the Word to bring people to faith. If they rejected that, there was no hope.

Stoeckhardt: Our Lord was the Victor in all the disputes with His adversaries.
Lenski: The Pharisees dared not say that he was NOT to be David's son; they knew that he would be. They dared not deny David's inspired word that the Messiah would at the same time be David's Lord and thus very God. Yet, the Pharisees would not admit the Messiah's deity.

Matthew 22:46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

This verse has a note of utter finality. None of Jesus' adversaries were able to find fallacies in His teaching. The Word of God has muzzled them. Note the triple negative: "No one was able to answer Him a word nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him no longer." Multiple negatives of the same kind make the negative emphatic.

Of course we know that the disciples did, after this, answer Him and ask Him questions. The point here is that henceforth no adversary dared try to trap or criticize Him.

Bengel: 'To question' with the object of tempting Him; the disciples questioned Him with the object of learning. A new scene, as it were, opens from this point.
Fahling: They did not dare to ask any more questions, because then the truth against which they rebelled would have been brought out.

Mark 12:37 adds this remark:  "And the common people heard him gladly."

Stoeckhardt: All that the Lord had told the elders of the people was wholesome instruction for all the people on this last day of His public teaching activity, giving solutions to the most serious questions.

Jesus began by profession that God was His Father (Luke 2:49; John 2:16). And He ended by declaring Himself the Lord of David.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Matthew-John Sundays After Pentecost Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 84-88. Used with permission.

Return to top

Return to Buls' Notes Index