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Sermon for Trinity 18

by Rev. Brian Hamer ~ October 31st, 2011

Sermon on St. Matthew 22:34-46

Trinity 18 

+ In the Name of Jesus +

A Gentile once asked a famous Rabbi to explain the entire Law while standing on one foot. The Rabbi replied, “What is hateful to you, to your neighbor don’t do. That’s the entirety of the Law; everything else is commentary.” This anecdote reminds us of today’s Gospel lesson. The Pharisees wanted to summarize the Law. Jesus, however, wanted to focus on the Gospel and His identity as David’s Son and David’s Lord. A question of the Law and a question of the Gospel. “For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17).

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” The first table of the Law (the first three commandments) summarizes the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” You shall have no other gods. You shall fear God, for He is the author of life and has the power to take it away as He pleases. You shall love Him above all other things and persons. You shall trust in Him and in Him alone. Your heart shall cling to Him. You shall look to Him to every need. Moreover, you shall not misuse His name. You, the people of God who love His commandments, shall not use any type of witchcraft, cursing, or swearing. You shall not treat God’s name as the pagans do, saying “Oh, my god!” in anger instead of in reverent fear. You shall honor His name, hold it sacred, and call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. You shall remember God’s Sabbath Day, bringing yourself and your family to church to hear God’s Word and receive His blessed sacrament. You shall not despise preaching and His Word, saying that you don’t get anything out of it, for the Divine Word is not about your feelings, but about dying to sin and living to Christ. Yes, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength.

And the second commandment (i.e., the second table of the Law) is like the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. You shall honor your father and your mother, for they hold the highest authority on earth. From their office as parents flows the authority of the police officer, teacher, governor, yes, even kings and queens themselves! So honor and fear the authorities by paying your taxes, obeying the laws of the land (unless they ask you to sin), and leading a peaceful and Godly life in what you say and do. You shall honor your neighbor as yourself, not hurting or harming him in any way, but serving him, protecting his property, and honoring his reputation. You shall love your neighbor by putting the best construction on everything he says and does. You shall love your neighbor by not coveting anything that belongs to him, but helping to improve and protect all that God has given to him, even if he is not a Christian. Yes, you shall love your neighbor as yourself!

By now the meaning of the Law is clear for you and me. The lawyer who asked Jesus about the greatest commandment was trying to pair the Law down to size; to reduce is to its minimum. It reminds us of those who ask what’s the least they have to do to be a member of a church, to have their kids confirmed, or to exercise full privileges at God’s altar. We might call it “minimalism,” and it’s simply not God’s way for His people. Rather, God gives us the full dose of the Law in all its power to bring us to repentance. See how you have not loved God or your neighbor perfectly and need to repent or die! And that is the essence of the Law: repentance that prepares us to believe in Jesus Christ, David’s Son and David’s Lord.

For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ!

Jesus counters the Law question with a question of the Gospel: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” The Pharisees answered correctly: “The Son of David.” Indeed, the descendant of David was promised to sit on David’s throne and establish a kingdom that would never end. Recall that Jesus is David’s Son. He was born of a pure Jewish blood line. See, for instance, Jesus’ family tree in the first part of Matthew’s Gospel (1:1- 17) that establishes Jesus’ human descent from King David. “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David” (1:1). He is Joseph and Mary’s boy from Nazareth. Fully man, like us in every way, except without sin.

But He was more than just another man. Jesus asked, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet?’” Psalm 110 is a Psalm of royalty, spoken appropriately by King David. “The Lord [God the Father] said my Lord [God the Son], Sit at my right hand.” This Psalm describes the exaltation of Christ as King of the Universe. He has conquered death by His own death. Christ has put our sins to death in His body on the cross. He has been buried in our grave. And now David’s son and Lord sits at the right hand of God the Father, the place where He prays for us and intercedes for us as our High Priest. He is David’s Lord because He is fully God, exalted on high.

Jesus then combined these two ideas – David’s Son and David’s Lord – in His question, “If then David calls him Lord, how is [Jesus] his son?” I ask you: How can Jesus be both David’s Son and David’s Lord at the same time? He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary. As true God, He is David’s Lord. As true man, He is David’s Son. Jesus says, in effect, “Do you want to pair down the Law to one commandment? Then learn to love God and your neighbor. But more important than your “Cliff’s Notes” on the Law is the Gospel truth that I am David’s son and David’s Lord. Believe in me and have eternal life!” And how did the lawyer and the Pharisees reply? “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” This ends a whole series of questions and answers in Matthew 22 from various unbelieving Jewish leaders. Their minds were obsessed with their own efforts to keep the Law, but that will not avail for salvation. But those who believed in David’s son and David’s Lord received life, salvation, and resurrection from the dead.

Jesus’ Gospel question – “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” – is a vital question for us. It recalls Jesus’ question to Peter in Matthew 16, “Who do you say that I am?” It invites us to listen in faith, to examine Jesus’ person and work, and to confess His identity. And do you remember how Peter answered this, the great question of the Christian faith? “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16). And we join with Peter to confess that Jesus is the Anointed One of God. He is the God of the cross and empty tomb, who has put the enemies of sin and eternal death under His feet. He is the One who is present in baptism, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper. In short, He is the Gospel of grace and truth, who daily and richly forgives all our sins.

So can you summarize the whole Law while standing on one foot? Yes. Love God. Love your neighbor. Everything else, from the five books of Moses to your daily life of love, is a commentary on these two commands. But greater than the Law of Moses and greater than your life of love, is the One who kept the Law perfectly for you and who is grace and truth incarnate. His name is Jesus Christ, David’s Son and David’s Lord. On Him hangs your sin. On Him hangs your life and salvation. INJ. Amen.

Rev. Brian Hamer

Redeemer Lutheran Church

Bayside, NY

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