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Operation Entrapment 3.0

The Great Commandment  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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There is a very prominent false teacher who puts himself forward as a minister of the gospel, but is in fact a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I hesitate to mention names from the pulpit, but since I’ve heard that there may be some in this congregation who listen to him, I will state his name – Joel Olsteen. This man teaches a false gospel, which is no gospel at all since there is only one true gospel. The danger about him is that, like Satan, he mixes in enough truth to make most folks think that what he is saying is plausible. If you listen to this man, I highly recommend that you stop. His doctrine is dangerous!
Though I have a very low opinion of this man, I’m sure that if I listened to him long enough, I would find an area in which we would have a common view. Today, we come to a place in our study of the Gospel of Matthew in which a third attempt of entrapment occurs. Jesus had previously stymied the attempt in which the disciples of the Pharisees, in league with the Herodians had made in an effort to trap Jesus between a rock and a hard place in regards to His view on paying the poll-tax to Rome. Then He silenced the Sadducees in their attempt to force Jesus to deny the reality of the resurrection of the dead. Now, rather than having the disciples of the Pharisees make another bumbling attempt to entrap Jesus, they put forward a lawyer to trap Him in what he said. The fact of the matter is that the Pharisees would have agreed with what Jesus had to say about the resurrection (just as I might agree with Olsteen on certain doctrines). They may even have taken great pleasure in the fact that He silenced their theological opponents. But that was of little consequence as it related to their overall feeling about Jesus and His ministry.
If you have not done so already, please take your Bible and turn to . As we go through our passage this morning, we will look at the motive of the Pharisees in posturing this question to Jesus, the noticeable omission in this particular encounter, and the answer which Jesus gave on this occasion.
First, let’s read the passage together.

The Motive

1. This was an attempt at entrapment, not a request for clarification
It is easy to get caught up in the importance of Jesus’ reply to this lawyer’s question, and forget the motivation behind it. As with the previous encounters, this question was put forward in an effort to test Jesus. It was an effort to entrap Him in His teaching, with the goal of producing some evidence for which they could claim that He was guilty of a capital offense.
It is true that there was an on-going debate at that time as to which of the 613 commandments in the OT was the most important. One would assume that the most important of commands would have been one of the ten commandments which are still to this day hailed as the moral law of God. But our text tells us in verses 34-35 that the Pharisees had counseled together in regards to trapping Jesus in His teaching. They were testing Him, and not seeking His view on their on-going debate.
Being familiar with the Scriptures and Jesus’ responses it might be easy to think that each of the attempts at entrapment were lame from the get-go. But there was an evil motive behind each of these three encounters. They were looking for evidence with which to condemn Him to death. It seems that “the Pharisees were convinced that Jesus must be teaching a message that He considered to be greater than that of Moses. And they hoped He would disclose it, and contradict Moses. For to contradict Moses was to contradict God.” (MacArthur pg. 337)
In these three attempts at entrapment we find the testers doing the very thing that the serpent did in the Garden of Eden – seeking to deceive. In each instance they used platitudes with a hope of puffing up Jesus’ ego so that He wouldn’t see through their motives. But of course, Jesus, being the omniscient God of the ages, could not be deceived.
The desire to deceive is a part of the fallen condition of mankind. Satin is a liar, he is a deceiver, He is, according to Jesus, the father of lies. And there is no doubt in my mind that he was working behind the scenes trying to get the religious establishment of Israel to put an end to Jesus. Satan is many things, but he has great limitations. I’m not certain if he understood that nailing Jesus to the cross of suffering would actually put a nail in his own coffin. But we know that it did. He is a defeated foe. Though we need to be aware of his schemes, and wary of them, we need not be afraid of him for greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world!
Let’s consider now

The Omission

2. Jesus did not rebuke or correct the lawyer of this occasion
The idea of an omission can cast a negative light, but in this case it does not. This omission is somewhat of a surprising since Jesus had either corrected or given an outright rebuke to those who sought to entrap Him in the first two encounters. Notice how Jesus responded to the Pharisees/Herodians in verse 18.
Notice again, His response to the Sadducees in verses 29-32. But on this present occasion, there was no stinging statement in His answer to their question that was postured by this lawyer. As a matter of fact, in Mark’s account, he gives the idea that this lawyer was more sympathetic to Jesus than is seen in Matthew’s account. Notice what is omitted in Matthew’s account – the exchange that occurred after Jesus answered this man’s question.
Mark 12:32–34 NASB95PARA
The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Let’s turn our attention now to

The Answer

3. Jesus gave a direct, simple, and yet profound answer to the lawyer’s question
In all of the other exchanges that took place on this one very long day, Jesus’s answers to those who questioned Him were not real straight forward. When questioned about the source of His authority He answered their question with another question. This was followed by three parables and the first two parables ended with scathing rebukes.
When questioned by the disciples of the Pharisees Jesus denounced them for testing Him, and called them hypocrites. When questioned by the Sadducees Jesus probably insulted them for their lack of faith in the Scriptures. And He demonstrated their erroneous belief that there was no resurrection of the dead.
But in this case Jesus answered the question without hesitation. And He did so in a direct, simple and profound way. Using one of the most familiar texts in Judaism, one that might be compared to for Christians today as it relates to familiarity, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question. Look at verse 37. Now, in Matthew’s account, this is abbreviated in comparison to Mark’s account. The statement comes from which is commonly referred to as the “Shema” in Judaism. Though the Jews were trying to get Jesus to contradict Moses, He simply quotes Moses and affirmed what the revered prophet had written 1400 years earlier. Notice how Jesus referred to the command to love God, in verse 38 – “This is the great and foremost commandment.” Though He wasn’t asked to, Jesus went on to give what He referred to as “The second” command which is like the first in that it emphasizes love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So far in this series we have emphasized the aspect of entrapment, because that is the context of this passage. But because much of the NT writings are based on what Jesus said here in this text, we are going to spend the balance of our time this morning considering these commands to love. Let’s look first at

What it Means to Love God

1. Loving God involves our entire being
2. Loving God is not natural to fallen man – it comes with the supernatural indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit
John MacArthur wrote:
“To say that Jesus died for man’s sin is to say the He died for man’s hatred of God, which is the essence of all sin. Christ died for man’s lack of love for God. And just as He offers forgiveness for past lack of love for God, Christ also provides for future love for God. The great Forgiver is also the great Enabler, because through Christ, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” ().
In God’s grace, He has chosen to save His own apart from any merits of our own making. He supplies the faith to believe the message of the gospel. He supplies the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer. And the Holy Spirit supplies to ability to truly love God with our entire being.
3. Loving God is living in obedience to His commands
John 3:36 NASB95PARA
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
John 14:15 NASB95PARA
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
1 John 2:5 NKJV
But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
1 John 5:3 NASB95PARA
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Let’s consider next

How Loving our Neighbor Relates to Loving God

1. Our love for our neighbor is a reflection of our love for God
If we do not love our neighbor then there is every reason to question our love for God.
1 John 2:9–11 NASB95PARA
The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:9–11 NASB95PARA
The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 4:20 NASB95PARA
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
2. Our love for our neighbor should be seen in concrete actions
1 John 3:16–18 NASB95PARA
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
3. Our love for our neighbor should be founded on God’s love for us
1 John 4:7–11 NASB95PARA
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Closing Song: #92
O How I Love Jesus
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