This week I’m posting my sermon less late. In case you missed church for some valid reason, and want to be edified by the Word, here it is. (If you missed church for an invalid reason, you can still read this, but make sure you’re in church on Sunday. Third commandment, etc.):
The Sadducees ran things in Jerusalem. They were priests – they spent their time among the temple and they were responsible for the sacrifices. The Pharisees were influential in the towns throughout Judea and Galilee – they were of the synagogue, they were local leaders in the villages. Right before the Gospel reading, the Sadducees had tried to trap Jesus with their questions. They failed. When they failed, the Pharisees took a crack at it. These questions were not a genuine search for knowledge, and the Pharisees and Sadducees were not interested in what God’s Word really said – both sides were trying to destroy Jesus. A lawyer asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Law.
It’s not clear what they were hoping for – maybe that he’d pick one of the many man made rules they had memorized, and then they could argue with him about how that couldn’t be the correct answer. Maybe they were hoping he wouldn’t be able to answer. It’s even been suggested that they might have hoped he would say “Worship me, for I am God.” If he said that, obviously they could get him. But we don’t know what they thought or hoped he would say. We just have the question, and we know it was designed to trap Jesus. Either to get him to say something they could argue with, and make him look a fool in front of the adoring crowds, or make him say something that would get him in real trouble with the Romans.
But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. He speaks the truth, and they have no answer they can give. Jesus quotes from the book of Moses. Love the Lord your God, love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments are a summary of all that Moses said in Exodus where the Ten Commandments were given, and in Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, where the entire ceremonial law of sacrifices was laid out. It all comes down to “Love God, love your neighbor.” Even today when we teach the Ten Commandments to children, we teach them according to the two tables of the Law.
The First table is summarized as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind.” And that is explained further in the first three commandments. No other God’s, do not misuse the name of God, Remember the Sabbath Day. The second part – Love your neighbor as yourself – is a summary of the second table of the Law. Honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not covet.
Jesus does not fall for their trap, because he knows and believes the Word of God. He knows what the Law says. He knows that the summary of the entire Law is to Love God and to love your neighbor – that’s what we were created to do. It’s what God put us here on the earth for – to Love God and to Love our neighbor.
And if we could do that, then there wouldn’t be a problem. But we can not love God. We can not love our neighbor. The Pharisees are trying to destroy Jesus – they are already showing how little they love their neighbor. But Jesus is God as well as man. So they are not loving God either. These commandments condemn the Pharisees. But if we examine our own conduct under the Law – they would condemn us as well. We can not keep the Law. No matter how hard we try, our sinful nature fights against the law of God. Love God, Love neighbor sounds simple. But our nature is corrupted.
Even now – for those who have been redeemed and been brought into the kingdom of God – filled with the Holy Spirit – we can only make a beginning of following the Law. And it is a struggle – this is what we say in the Small Catechism about Baptism – the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires and a new man daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. It’s a daily struggle for us. We can’t accomplish it on our own. It’s why we pray “Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right spirit within me.”
If this brief exchange was the whole Gospel reading, we could examine these words about the Law of God for days or weeks and still not exhaust all that is found in them.
But after answering their question, Jesus continues – and so must we. He asks a question Whose son is Christ? Easy –David’s Son. The Bible teaches that. Ahh – but then David calls him Lord. And he quotes Psalm 110: The Lord said to my Lord. How is that possible – a father does not call a son Lord. The son is to obey and show honor and respect to his Father. But here, David calls his son – the Christ (that is Jesus) – Lord. How is that possible?
Jesus is not just man. He is also God. David was just a man – a great man, an example for us of faith in God and his promises. His psalms still comfort us in times of trouble and when facing death. But he was just a man. He died. He was buried, and his body decayed.
Jesus on the other hand is not only man. He is also the Son of God. We confess this in the creed – God from God light from light very God from very God begotten not made being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
If Jesus was just God, then he could not have suffered under Pontius Pilate been crucified dead and buried. God can not die. So, Jesus had to become human – just like us. He set aside the glory and became like us in every way – even tempted as we are – but without sin. Now he can die for us on the cross. And that death, that “for you” is because he is God. Jesus had to be God as well – because since the fall of man, no man is without sin. Jesus had to be true God so he could fulfill the law perfectly. He does Love the Lord God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, and he does love his neighbor as himself. He even goes beyond that – he loves us more than himself. He gives his life in exchange for yours. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s the purpose of the God becoming Man thing.
It says that after this no one dared ask Jesus any more questions. After this they are plotting to kill him. He will not be questioned again until he is being questioned by the chief priest after his arrest. Everything in Jesus life – from the moment of his conception – is pointing to this: The leaders rejecting him, and killing him. Because Jesus must die. And He must die as if he were a sinner. As the scriptures say, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” He is the fragrant offering, the substitute sacrifice for you. He appeases the anger of God over your sin. In Jesus your sin is taken away, your guilt atoned for.
The Psalm Jesus quotes – 110 –says “until I make your enemies your footstool.” That means – until all things are put under your feet. It is a prophecy that Jesus will conquer. And that’s what happens on the cross. Jesus wins the victory over sin. And then Jesus is raised from the dead. Now, Jesus has been raised up above all things. He has been placed in glory at the right hand of the Father. All enemies – all those who oppose him and seem so wise and powerful in this world, all the demonic forces that work to destroy everything God creates – they will all be thrown down. And, as Scripture tells us, the last enemy to be destroyed is death. When our Lord returns in glory – and that glory is his by Divine right – then death itself will be destroyed for the final time. All those in their graves will be raised. And every knee shall bow before him and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.