Hymn #545 The Morning Sun is Brightly Beaming
Hymn #343 How Lovely Shines the Morning Star
Hymn #247 God the Father, Be Our Stay
Introit - pg. 80
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Collect for Trinity XVIII
O God, forasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee, mercifully grant that Thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever One God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) The Pharisees hear that Jesus has silenced the Sadducees. The Sadducees were your Jewish elites of the time. They had money and prestige. Their piety was entirely wrapped up in the temple ritual. They were also quite Greek in their thinking. They didn’t believe in any sort of bodily resurrection from the dead. They didn’t believe in angels or demons. They were your most rationalistic, metropolitan Jews of Jesus’ day. They had approached Jesus with a ridiculous scenario in order to trap in Him, trying to prove the resurrection of the dead was an absurd idea. Using the book of Exodus, Jesus puts the Sadducees in their place and silences their absurd ideas with the words of Scripture. The Pharisees could not stand the Sadducees. The Pharisees were your common religious man. They sought to bring the holiness of the temple into their daily lives, often in absurd ways. Pharisees thought they were experts in the Mosaic Law. So when they heard Jesus had silence the Sadducees they conspire to take down the one who has taken down their enemies. They gather together and one asks a question to test Jesus. His question seems like it would be quite the conundrum. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Can you imagine if someone asked this question today of civil law? Of all the laws and statutes on the books, which is the great one, which is the law of laws? It would be impossible to answer, so they think, and any answer Jesus would give they could use to philosophically flay Him. Their question though shows a deep misunderstanding of the Law and the expectation of the Lord who gave the Law.
2) Jesus answers easily, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” From all the legislation given to Moses in his five books, Jesus distills the entire Law into one word: love. This is why He’s not cheating when He immediately adds, “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The two greatest commandments are really the same commandment, just pointing in two different directions. The entire Law is summarized in the word “love.” Love for God and love for your neighbor. But it’s more than simply love. It is a perfect love that the Law demands. This is evident from way Jesus describes this love you are to have for God. You are to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. God does not want part of your heart or most of your soul. He does not want a thoughtless love, but one that engages the entire mind, all one’s thoughts, waking and sleeping. For mankind this is utterly impossible, for “every intent of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually” Moses writes in Genesis 6:5. Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Among the Pharisees there was no one who loved God with all his heart, soul, and mind. The descendants of Adam and Eve bear their guilt and their sin. They fall short of the second commandment, which is like the first, for not a single one of them loved their neighbors as they love themselves, carrying for their neighbors needs just as much as they cared for their own. Jesus not only answers their question, but answers it in such a way that shows they don’t understand the nature of the Law which they claim they can follow.
3) Jesus seizes the momentum of the argument and asks them a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This may seem like mere academic tit for tat. They ask a seemingly difficult question. Jesus answers and then asks them a question which is deceivingly simply. But it is far more than just argumentative back and forth. The Pharisee’s question was about the Law, that is, what God requires of man. Jesus’ question is not about the Law but about the Gospel. Jesus has already demonstrated that these men do not understand the Law they claim to uphold so He moves on to the Gospel, a topic which, like the Law, they assume they understand but really don’t. Jesus says, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He? They said to Him, “The Son of David.” They know their Scriptures and that the Christ was to come from the house and line of David. But they are ignorant about the Messiah’s true nature. Jesus asks, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?’ If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” Jesus is quoting Psalm 110, which the Pharisees would have known well. They just didn’t understand it. Jesus presents them with a real conundrum, not an imagined one. A king never calls his son “Lord.” Even if a King makes his son co-regent with him, the king is not made inferior to his son. King David, once the crown is removed from his head and placed upon Solomon’s, does not at that moment become inferior to Solomon. Jesus, using the Scripture, demonstrates that not only do they not understand the Law, they have no understanding about the promised Messiah either. “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare question Him anymore.”
4) Christ was willing to teach the Pharisees about the Messiah, about Himself, but they wouldn’t have any of that, which is why they left him without answering Him. They had exalted themselves in Jesus’ presence and Jesus had brought them down. If they had humbled themselves before Jesus and earnestly sought to be taught, Christ would have gladly and gently taught them about His person, who He was, and His work. They could not answer them because human reason cannot understand Christ unless Christ reveals Himself and teaches about Himself. The Messiah is the Son of David, of the house and line of David, as the Pharisees knew from the Scriptures. David’s son was also David’s Lord because the Messiah would be fully man and fully God, for that is the only way in which David would bow before one of his own offspring, if that offspring was greater than he. Human reason cannot fathom how God could take on flesh and become fully man, neither can human reason understand how this incarnation can happen so that the Christ remains fully God AND fully man at the same time. This is why this doctrine must be taught by Christ Himself. This is why faith is not the rational decision to believe something, but the gift of God the Holy Spirit, for the Christian faith is beyond the powers of reason and decision. The Pharisees, like men of every age, cannot be reasoned into the faith, nor can they make a decision to accept the faith, they must be taught the Faith so that the Holy Spirit, working through the teaching of the Gospel, creates faith in the hearts of men. The faith that Holy Spirit creates in our hearts through the Gospel accepts the Gospel, which is more than just the identity of the Messiah, but His work as well, that Christ has died on the cross to atone for the sins of the world, so that all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
5) These two teachings of God, the Law and the Gospel, go together, though they are never to be confused or fused together into one. The Law shows us that we do not love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. The Gospel teaches us about Jesus’ perfect life lived in our place and His bitter, innocent sufferings and death which atone for our sins. The Law shows us God’s will for us and our behavior and how we don’t live up to that. The Gospel shows us our Savior and that He has lived our life perfectly and righteously. Christ loved God the Father with all His heart, soul, and mind. Christ loves His neighbor as He loved Himself, so much so that He became man and died for the sins of His neighbors in the flesh, the entire human race. Faith in the Gospel forgives our sins and cleanses us from all our unrighteousness. That faith is what moves Christians to begin to love God in this life because faith is how we are pleasing to God. Through faith we begin to fulfill the Law. We begin to love God, still not with all our heart, soul, and mind, but what we lack is not counted against us because our trust is in Christ for the remission of all our sins. Faith is the love and trust of God in our hearts because faith believes all His gracious promises in Christ Jesus. Through this faith we also begin to love our neighbors as ourselves. We do not love our neighbors perfectly in this life, for sin still sticks to us in everything we do. But where our love for our neighbor is lacking, that is forgiven through faith in the Gospel. That is why we come back to this place week after week, to hear the Gospel, to have our sins forgiven in Word and in the Sacrament, so that through these means Christ strengthens our faith which believes all His promises.
6) In the end we see that in this disputation with the Pharisees, Christ is simply teaching us faith and love. He teaches us faith by teaching us that David’s Son is David’s Lord, that Christ is fully God as well as fully man so that He might atone for the sins of the entire word. He teaches us love for God and neighbor as the Christian lives a live not under the Law of Moses but under the Law of love. The Pharisees understood none of these things, nor did they care to. But your Lord Jesus teaches you these things once again so that your faith might be strengthened for the week to come and so that your love for your neighbor might not grow cold. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.