Speaking Past the Question

Judaism at the time of Christ orbited around concepts of righteousness.  Those codes, taking the form of 613 laws, covered the gambit from justice and the priesthood to sexual ethics.  That legalistic approach actually represents a distinct contribution to world history, directly supporting a pillar of modern day culture … the rule of law.

And like everything, even the “law” can become emphasized to the point where the function of the law as a guarantor of  human freedom and the common good lies forgotten and the law becomes an end to itself.

In steps Christ.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:34-40)

Brilliant theology.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, Christ in these words speaks past the question as posed by his detractors.  “He seems to speak past the question, but in this very act he completely addresses the questioner.”  In so doing, he “throws out all the distinctions that the Pharisees strive to work out so conscientiously.”  What remains is grace.  And an incredible answer.

 

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