Matthew 23:1-12; Religion for Show

Jesus begins his final address, his final teaching section, with a warning about scribes and Pharisees. We must distinguish the two, for not all scribes were Pharisees, and not many Pharisees were scribes.

Jesus is addressing the crowd along with the disciples. Given the recent interactions, I doubt the scribes and Pharisees Jesus had just talked to were out of earshot.

The scribes made the scriptures available to the people. Most people could not read and did not have access to copies of the law. The scribes and Pharisees were walking, talking copies of the law. I believe this is what Jesus meant by “Moses’ seat.”

Scripture is authoritative and should be observed. But the people need to be careful to not follow their example. They don’t always walk the talk. Jesus has talked many times about obedience, not just lip service. Here he does it again.

These lawyers are of no help with ways to carry the load they require. They teach the law, but they do not preach the practicalities of it. By contrast, Jesus offers a lighter burden and a more comfortable one at that.

Everything we read here applies just as much to the Christian Church as to the scribes and Pharisees. And we must be careful not to let passages like this lead us into anti-semitism. We can’t afford any more of that.

Jesus does want a show of religion. Jesus doesn’t want religious leaders to seek honorific titles.

There are no levels in the kingdom of God.

Leaders are to be servants. Seek the honors and you are begging to be humbled. You will be humbled.

God is our father and Jesus is our teacher. Teachers and preachers in the church are no different from any other Christians. To use such positions to personal advantage is very dangerous.

Matthew 22:41-46; More than David’s Son

After three straight questions aiming to trap him, Jesus now asks the Pharisees one of his own. The question is probably designed to make them think about Jesus in a new light. It is part of the invitation to the banquet.

Jesus wants to discuss the terminology “Son of David”. This term is used quite a bit in Matthew, so it should not be seen as incorrect, but Jesus wants to examine it more closely.

The problem is with the image created by the term “Son of David”. At this time in Israel’s history there was a growing belief in and desire for a messiah, a Christ. As the Son of David, this figure was seen as a conquering hero, like David himself, The Roman hand was heavy and the hoped for messiah would push out the Romans from the land and reestablish Israel as an independent power. This will explain why the Roman leadership in the region, and their temple leader puppets, were death on messianic movements. They were seen as revolutionary.

But Jesus uses Psalm 110 to show that the idea of the messiah is bigger than what people were looking for. The people wanted another David, one whom David could call son. But Psalm 110 shows a messiah that David would call Lord, one at the right hand of God himself.

Jesus is saying to the Pharisees, “Your messiah is too small.”

Psalm 110 was used quite a bit in the early church as a picture of Jesus after the resurrection and ascension. Apparently it had enough of a reputation as a messianic psalm even with the Pharisees that Jesus could use it in this manner.

Jesus embodied this type of messiahship during his earthly ministry. He was a spiritual leader, not leading a revolution against Rome. However, he will die as a revolutionary anyway.

Jesus was hard on the Pharisees. This is because they were closer to the kingdom than any other group in the land. But most of them rejected his invitation. Here, as in previous encounters, they reacted by leaving him rather than following him.

The time for questions is over. Jesus will now deliver his farewell speech to Jerusalem.

Matthew 22:34-40; The Jesus Creed

Now for the third of four questions in a row. This one comes from the Pharisees again, who have witnessed Jesus shutting down the Sadducees. They send a lawyer to test him. Which is the greatest commandment? he asks.

He calls Jesus “teacher” and asks a question you might ask a teacher of the law, but his intent is to cause Jesus to stumble somehow and possibly lose some popular support.

Jesus doesn’t stumble. He answers with what Scot McKnight calls The Jesus Creed.

The greatest commandment is to love God with everything you are.

It is important to remember that love is not an emotional response to another, but a commitment to another. In this case, it is an absolute commitment. Nothing, nothing, nothing is more important than God.

And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. We have heard it so much we probably can barely hear it anymore. Notice that we are not to love our neighbor and be selfless, but to have the same commitment to our neighbors that we have to ourselves. I suppose that would include family.

It really is a restatement, in other words, of the golden rule. Jesus summed up the Sermon on the Mount with the golden rule. Now he sums up his whole body of teaching with The Jesus Creed.

Jesus came to fulfill the law. So here you go: it all gets to this. Love God; love your neighbor.

Songs of my Youth – Come on Down to my Boat

Sometimes an old song will buzz through my head as if I were still a kid. I discovered pop music in the summer of 1966, my 13th summer. I spent a few weeks with my slightly older cousins in Michigan, and they taught me the ropes. When I went back home, they sent “Hanky Panky” with me, probably because they were tired of hearing it anyway. We’re talking 45s. None of us had enough money to buy albums very often.

I thought it might be interesting to write about some of these old songs as they recur in my head. Many of them are mostly forgotten these days, and rightly so. Some of the artists had only one song that anyone at all would remember.

Today it is “Come on Down to my Boat”, recorded by Every Mother’s Son in 1967. Apparently this recording made it pretty high in the Billboard charts that year, but I didn’t realize that The Rare Breed (later called Ohio Express) had recorded it the year before without it breeding much success.

Apple Music Link

Lyrics (via songlyrics.com)

She sits on the dock a fishin' in the water uh, huh
I don't know her name she's the fisherman's daughter uh, huh

Come on down to my boat baby
Come on down where we can play
Come on down to my boat baby
Come on down we'll sail away.

She smiled so nice like she wants to come with me uh, huh
But she's tied to the dock and she can't get free

Come on down to my boat baby ...
Fish all day sleep all night
Father never lets her out of his sight
Soon I'm gonna have to get my knife and cut that rope, cut that rope
Then we can go fishin' in my little red boat
Make you happy in my little red boat
so come on down to my boat baby ...

This song was popular when I was 14. I could probably mostly sing along with it on the radio (WIFE probably), but I also probably never thought much about the words.

It is a typical song of frustrated love. Frustrated by parents. Now that I’m on the other end of life, I know that I’d also tie my daughter to the dock if that’s what it took to keep her away this hypersexed guy who wants to take her to his boat and play. And sail away, too, if he can get by with it.

The memorable this about this song to me is my uncle’s version. At the time he was working for a meat company in Indianapolis. He worked in a smokehouse (man did he smell good when he came home from work!) and he made a product call Pork Tasties, which were what I’d call smoky links today.

His version went “come on down to my Pork Tasty”… That’s the version that has been running through my head today.