The Gospel writers recorded that Jesus gave special attention to training the twelve disciples as He made His way to Jerusalem. Jesus healed and taught many, but as he neared the cross, His interest was almost singularly upon those who would lead in the kingdom of God after His ascension. In Matthew 22-23, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was not based upon Jewish identity. What was the result? Many of the Jewish leadership fiercely opposed Him. And Jesus replied in kind—by quoting Scripture.
(1) In Matt 22:23-33//Mark 12:18-27//Luke 20:27-38, the Sadducees and Jesus quoted Old Testament Scripture to establish their arguments about the resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and saw in Deut 25:5 a passage for testing Jesus’ belief in the afterlife. Moses commanded that if a man died and left his wife with no children, the man’s brother was to marry his brother’s wife and raise up children for her. Moses’ command was intended to keep the tribes of Israel populated and ensure that a widow would have posterity to support her in her later years. The Sadducees employed Deut 25:5 as a platform for their hypothetical scenario about marriage and the resurrection. If a wife was survived by seven husbands, in the resurrection, which of them would be recognized as her husband? Jesus replied that the Sadducees were mistaken because they assumed that the resurrection state would resemble the present state. To make His point, in Matt 22:32 Jesus quoted from Exod 3:6, where the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush and said, “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” In the resurrection, the state of life in God’s presence recasts relationships one experienced on earth.
(2) In Matt 22:34-40//Mark 12:28-33//Luke 10:25-28, Jesus quoted Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18 to answer the Pharisees question concerning the greatest commandment in the law. Moses set out the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. He began Deuteronomy 6 by exhorting Israel to keep the commandments as an expression of love for God. “Love the LORD your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5), he said. And in Leviticus 19, Moses commanded Israel to reflect God’s holiness in how they went about daily life. For Moses, loving one’s neighbor as oneself expressed God’s perfection (Lev 19:18).
(3) In Matt 22:41-46//Mark 12:35-37//Luke 20:41-44, Jesus quoted Ps 110:1 to establish His lineage from and superiority over David. In Matt 22:42, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” Now Jesus had more in mind than simply helping the Pharisees understand His family tree. David ruled Israel like none other; he conquered lands and established Israel as a player on the world scene. God put David’s enemies under David’s feet, as the psalmist said in Ps 110:1, “The LORD declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” In Jesus’ interpretation of the psalm, the great King David—second to none in the history of Israel—testified that Jesus was his “Lord.” Jesus prodded the Pharisees to recognize that One greater than David had arrived and was standing before them. Jesus’ use of Ps 110:1 established a frame for how the psalm would be interpreted in Acts 2:34-35, 1 Cor 15:25, Heb 1:13, and Heb 10:13.
(5) In Matt 23:39, Jesus quoted Ps 118:26 to prophesy of a future day when the people of Jerusalem would recognize Him as God’s Messiah. According to the Evangelists, the words the crowds proclaimed to Jesus as He entered Jerusalem were right from Ps 118:26 (Matt 21:9//Mark 11:9//Luke 19:38//John 12:13). The psalmist cried to God for deliverance and enjoyed the Lord’s favor. God’s power on the psalmist’s behalf led him to ask God to send a deliverer—of whom they would say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD” (Ps 118:26). Jesus’ use of Ps 118:26 at the end of His lament over Jerusalem in Matt 23:39 established the expectation that at some point He would return to the desolate city of Jerusalem.