Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trinity 18 Matthew 22:34-46

And the Pharisees, having heard that He (Jesus) silenced the Sadducees, they gathered to themselves. And inquired, one of them (a expert in the Torah) testing Him. "Teacher, which precept is greatest in the Torah?" And He said to him, "Love (with God's Own love) the Lord your God in the whole of your heart and in the whole of your soul and in the whole of your mind. This is the greatest and first precept. The second is like it: Love (with God's Own love) your neighbor as yourself. On these the two precepts the whole of the Torah hangs, and the Prophets. And the Pharisees, having gathered, Jesus inquired of them, saying: "What does it seem to you concerning the Christ; whose son is He?" They say to him, "The One of David." He says to them, "How then does David, in the Spirit, call Him ‘Lord' saying, ‘Yahweh said to my Lord, sit on My right until I place the enemies of yours under your feet?' If then David calls Him ‘Lord', how is He his son?" And no one was able to answer Him a word nor did anyone dare from that day to inquire of Him any longer.

It is two days before Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin council. Jesus is in the midst of his deposition, answering questions from the Temple priests first, and now the leading laymen of the synagogues make their inquiry. Clearly, these are not questions of students who want to learn from the Teacher. These are posed to gather evidence against Jesus to be used against Him at His trial. The Pharisees send an expert in the first five books of the Bible in attempt to trap Jesus in His Own words. It fails.

The trap went like this: force Jesus to pick from one of the 613 laws found within the Old Testament. Then, they could accuse Him of neglecting the others. Jesus doesn't take their bait. Instead He selects total Love of God as the #1 precept of the bible. That's a whole lotta love! Who can love God so completely? Although the Pharisees tried, even they failed. So do you. Your heart desires selfish pleasures, your soul is satisfied with worldly things, and your mind wants to ponder foolish matters.

But this agape love of which Jesus speaks is not a feeling or an attitude. It is an action, and the One they questioned was love in action, if only they'd notice. He is God's love personified in His actions of healing, forgiving, and caring for those in need. He is God's love toward you given to you as a free gift. Three days from this questioning He would give up His life for the world on the cross. That same body given to death there; that same blood shed there, is given to you to eat and drink for your forgiveness.

Interestingly, Jesus will not be bound by the parameters of the question. He's told to choose one precept; instead, He selects a second in addition: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Even tougher than the first. At least God is love-able. Many neighbors are not. Yet Jesus bids us even to love our enemies! Even if you would condescend to show a small bit of kindness to those who hurt you, would you be able to love them as much as you love yourself? Hardly. Such love is impossible for man...

Yet with God, all things are possible! That is why this is God's Own agape love with which you can love your neighbor. For the God and Lord of both you and your neighbor is Jesus. He loves all mankind enough to give His life for the whole world. It is He who loves others through you, just as He has loved you with the washing of water and His word in Holy Baptism. He cleansed you at the font to make you His holy possession, placing the true enemies--sin, death and the devil--at His feet forevermore.

Jesus doesn't just give an extra answer, but actually turns the tables on His inquisitors by asking *them* a couple of questions. "How is the Christ both *son* of David, yet also David's *Lord*?" Well the answer was clear: because the Messiah is both God and man at the same time. But the Pharisees could not bear to admit that. You can relate. Oh, the fact of Jesus being God and man you know, but do you act like He is your God and Lord, or do you often do what you please, ignoring His will for you?

The truth is that Jesus is your Lord and Master. He reigns over you from the powerful right hand of His heavenly Father's throne. His rule puts all enemies underneath His feet. But He doesn't consider you an enemy, even though you have failed to follow His commandments. Because Jesus' rules over you not with rules for you to obey, but by the love of His powerful right hand. In that hand is the powerful scepter of approval, for His word has proclaimed you forgiven for your sins, worthy to reign with Him!

Yes, a whole lotta love is required by God. Loving God with the whole heart, mind, spirit and strength. It is more than we could ever accomplish. But in Christ Jesus, those precepts are met, and He also loves you His neighbor, even more than Himself, exchanging your death for His life everlasting!

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