from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 32

Matthew 22:23-46:  The Two Great Commandments

The Story


It was the last day of the Lord's teaching in the temple. Pharisees and Herodians had tried to entangle Him in His talk, asking about the tribute money. Then there came Sadducees. They brought a question from the law of Moses, for they believed in the law of Moses, but not in the traditions of the Pharisees. They did not believe in a resurrection and life in heaven; for they said that the law of Moses did not teach it. They asked about a woman who was married in turn to seven brethren; whose wife she should be if there were a resurrection.

The Lord's answer showed that the law of Moses does teach that there is a resurrection. The Lord said to Moses at the burning bush, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." It meant that these and all other good men were living in heaven. The Lord also told the Sadducees in His answer, that marriage, in heaven is not such marriage as they knew. If they understood more about heaven, and how marriage and all other relations there are just according to each one's character, such questions as they asked would all be answered.

You have learned the Two Great Commandments. They had been given to the people long before, the first in Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second in Leviticus 19:18. They are not among the Ten Commandments which were written upon the tables, but they have the same meaning. All the lessons of the Bible are included in these commandments. That is what the Lord meant when He said, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. "How shall we love our neighbor? How shall children love their father and mother, or their brothers and sisters? Is it enough to feel fond of them, or to kiss them and tell them that we love them? If we really love them we shall try first of all not to do things to trouble them, and we shall try to do all that we can to help them and please them. If we love our neighbor as ourselves we shall want to share with others any good thing that we have, and we shall be as quick to think what they want as what we want. And how can we love the Lord? In the same way as we love one another, by not doing the things which displease Him, and by doing what we know He wants us to do. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments," the Lord said to the disciples. We love Him every time that we try to do right. We love Him with heart and soul and mind, with our hands and tongue and voice and every other power that we have, when we make our faculties do His will.

The question, "What think ye of Christ?" reminds us of the question which the Lord asked the disciples at Caesarea Philippi. Peter then answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," but the Pharisees answered, "The son of David." He seemed to them only a man. Again the Lord showed them out of their own law that they were wrong; for in a Psalm (110: 1) David had called the Christ who was coming "Lord," and that showed that He was more than a man. We must keep the Two Great Commandments, and we must know and acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. This is all that the Lord asks. (Micah 6:8)

1. Who were the Pharisees? Who were the Sadducees? What did the Sadducees believe in regard to resurrection?

2. Were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living when the Lord spoke to Moses at the bush? Where?

3. What is the first Great Commandment? How can I love the Lord with my mind? With my hand? With my voice?

4. What is the second Great Commandment? Who is our neighbor? How did the Lord teach who the neighbor is? Can we love a person in any other way than by being fond of him? How?

Spiritual Study


The Lord's answer to the Sadducees is often quoted as proof that there is no marriage in heaven. It does mean that there is no such marriage as the, Sadducees knew, but there is heavenly marriage. Heaven itself is called a marriage and a marriage feast, because the very essence of it is a holy union with the Lord, and because in the heavenly life there is a marriage of truth and goodness in each angel. Yet the marriage with the Lord, and the marriage of truth and goodness do not begin in heaven, but have their beginning in the life of this world. The same is true of marriage among the angels; it depends upon their character, and the character is formed in this world. So it is true in every sense, that while there is marriage in heaven, there is no giving in marriage there; it does not have its beginning there but in this life. (M. 41, 44)

In the story of the seven brethren the Sadducees were unconsciously describing their own spiritual state. The wife represents the affection for heavenly truth and life; in a word, the church among them. The brethren who successively married her and died without children, represent the natural, worldly spirit, like that of the Sadducees themselves, in which the church had been held, totally unproductive of spiritual life. The number seven in a good sense is associated with what is complete and holy, but here it suggests that the unheavenly spirit had been carried to the last extreme. Last of all the woman died also; the church could not longer exist in such hands.

We have thought of the first Great Commandment as requiring service of the Lord with all our faculties. The heart means especially the inner affection and purpose; the soul means the inner understanding and thought; the mind means the more external faculties, as is still more plain in, Luke, where mind and strength are both mentioned. We are to serve the Lord in affection and thought and action; these in general include all our powers. (A. 9936)

In Luke 10: 2 5-3 7 we read that when the Lord spoke the Two Great Commandments, He was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" and He gave the parable of the good Samaritan, to teach that the neighbor is one who shows mercy. We keep something of this meaning in the word "neighborly." Our neighbors are not merely those who live near to us, but all who are kind and useful and who try to do right. If we love our neighbor we try to see the goodness in everyone and to encourage and help it. Associations or bodies of people also stand for use and goodness of different kinds, are our neighbor, as well as individuals. Societies and the nation and the church are our neighbor according to the good use that each does. The commandment requires that we shall serve the neighbor in these larger forms, giving faithful service to our country and loyal devotion to the church. (T. 415, 416)

The Lord quoted from the Psalm, "Jehovah said unto my Lord (that is, unto Christ), Sit thou on my g hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." He pointed out that David called Him Lord, and that He was therefore more than human. In a deeper sense the words teach how the Divine love in the Lord (Jehovah) gave Him all power (right hand) to overcome every form of evil (make thine enemies thy footstool), till He became wholly Divine. (E. 298)

to next Lesson