There's a note of opportunism here as Pharisees rush in where Sadducees have not feared to tread. Maybe we do it too, ourselves, sometimes, or observe others? Conspire against someone to advance some cause of our own? Is our household of faith free from such machinations? When we attack each other, Jesus is under attack again, as here.
Do we allow so called 'legal experts' to dominate, with their rule books, statutes, canons, etc., both within the sanctuary & its operations, & out in the margins where we live out our faith? If a law needs a lawyer to interpret it, surely it's not a good law! Here, they try to trick Jesus into interpreting it, but as usual, he's always more interested in doing it! Loving God. Loving neighbour. Buried back in DEUT & LEV respectively, these have always been good laws, needing no explanation. None at all. (So why do we keep trying to interpret them? It's not the interpreting that's the problem; it's the doing!). But just as Jesus needs to draw their attention to them, so do we need to keep doing that. From the extreme of too much weight given to the laws of the Hebrew Bible, has the pendulum swung so far the other way that many of us - and not only our young ones - don't know even its major contents? (I sat through a ridiculously tortuous Hebrew Bible reading last Sunday - an important passage, but totally irrelevant in the context of that liturgy. The priest seemed oblivious to how awful & off-turning it was for any of us to endure that! Maybe more of us need to rise up against silly lectionary choices!?) If we're ignorant, or 'put off' our heritage rom the Henrew Bible, how are we to recognize the Two Commandments that all the Law & the Prophets hang on? I am quick to acknowledge that knowing them reasonably well myself, I all too often assume the same level of knowledge in others. Mistake! Part of being a Christian involves going on from where the Hebrews left off, carrying their old & precious treasures along with our own new ones. And finding that our burden is light.
First round of this new bout to Jesus, though he isn't dismissive of the Pharisees' question, despite its clear intent of bringing him undone. They earn themselves a tricky one in return, though there's little point in teasing out the intricacy of Jesus' Hebrew reasoning here. We must know the Scriptures & commentaries, but then emerge into our margins & meet our people there.
Jesus appears to change the subject, but note how closely the two questions he puts to them hang together, about Messiah, & whose son he is. No populist Jesus divorced from God can be Messiah. The Hebrews', ours, or anyone else's. The crunch is that if he is the Anointed, David's son, then the greatest commandment of all that they've been asking about is physically standing in front of them! Unrecognized. The One who loves God & neighbour to the end. (For 'end', read 'new beginning'!) Loving God & others doesn't come out of Bibles, less still from statute books, sermons, commentaries, etc.. It comes, still, from standing among others as their servants. 'Little Christs' anointed with him in baptism & by Spirit. Do we recognize each other as God's anointed children, raised with Jesus, living among each other as his Body? Is that what our community sees itself as, puts into practice, rather than just listening to sermons about it? If not, we're entitled to question as mercilessly as his antagonists interrogate Jesus. (Though, being the nice people we are, we'd use more 'with it' approaches, wouldn't we?) Can we come through that testing, 'proving' as the bread-makers say, as Jesus comes through his in this chapter?