Monday, October 24, 2011
Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity
Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity 10/23/2011 Matthew 22:34-46 Bror Erickson Matthew 22:34-46 (ESV) But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."  Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question,  saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David."  He said to them, "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'?  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?"  And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. One does kind of wonder why the Pharisees are coming to question Jesus. He had just silenced the Sadducees, who were the theological liberals of first century Judaism, they didn’t believe in the resurrection, Angels or much of anything else for that matter. The Pharisees might have just been trying to see if he was one of theirs after all. Or they might have just been trying to show the Sadducees that they could do what they had failed at. At this point in the game, Jesus had made enough enemies that the Pharisees should have known he wasn’t one of theirs. And the Sadducees and Pharisees both were pretty much agreed on one thing. Jesus can’t live. In anycase, the question seems to be a soft ball lobbed in across the home plate. Anyone studying the Old Testament would have been able to answer this question just as Jesus did. What is the greatest commandment? The one our society tends to ignore, even in the church, the most. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Of the commandments of Scripture, it is most often those concerning our relationship to God that are ignored most blatantly. We don’t think it immoral to skip church. We don’t think it immoral for someone to be a Mormon, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or an Atheist. Mostly because those people will often excel at those commandments we hold dear, the one’s that effect us. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Well perhaps they don’t excel at love, but they can excel at honoring your mother and father, not murdering, being faithful to their spouses, not stealing, perhaps they don’t even gossip or covet much. However, these two commandments are inextricably linked to each other, in that they both command us to love. And from whence shall this love come? See none of our attempts at following the Ten Commnandments are at all valid if they don’t flow from love. Trying to squelch a guilty conscience with good works is self defeating. God does not consider it to be a good work that is done in an effort to save oneself. Doing good works with the goal of earning or keeping your own salvation are not considered good works in God’s eyes. Given the death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ, they are rather more like insults. Good works can have but one motivation if they are to be good. The law demands but one motive, and allows for one motive for obedience. And this one motive is impossible for a sinful human being to have of his own volition, because there is but one person a sinner loves, and that is himself. Yet even the love a sinner has for himself is imperfect. Generally, we know this. When someone does something nice for us, expecting something in return from us, we know we aren’t being loved, but being manipulated. Do you think our all knowing God is fooled as easily as our credulous neighbors? Do you think he doesn’t know when he is being manipulated rather than loved? Most of our neighbors know. We tend to know when we are being manipulated rather than loved. And love is not an easy game to play. I dare say husbands and wives often resort to manipulation rather than love. Of course, that is why people would rather live together than get married these days. It’s so much easier to play the game of manipulation when there aren’t any commitments. Love demands commitment, not of the other person, but of yourself to the other person. See so many think Jesus made the commandments easier somehow, but wittling them down to Love. Most of them are ignorant of the fact that Jesus is merely quoting the Old Testament here. But worse they show ignorance as to what love is. Love doesn’t make the commandments easier to follow, it makes them harder. If the only reason you don’t steal is you are afraid you might be punished, or even rewarded for not stealing, then you have failed the law. You didn’t do it out of love. This is why it is said we sin in thought, word, and deed. Your heart betrays your motives, and desires, and if your desires are at odds with the law, than you are not following the law out of love. These are the greatest commandments, not only because they summarize the two tables of God’s Law, our relationship to him found in the first three, and our relationship to neighbor, God’s beloved whom he loved with his own life, and whom we despise with manipulation, in the last 7. See both tables really come out of this love for God. And it is our sin that will not let us love God, because our sin wants to be god. We want to be our own God, make our own choices. This can even be our motivation for following God’s law, as it is in the Mormon religion which imagines it follows God’s law. But then cannot explain the second half of our passage here today, but which is the secret and the key to love, a source of love that works in us a love for God and neighbor, even amidst our sin, despite our sin, which removes the need for manipulation of God. What is this? Jesus tries his own hand at the game of tripping your neighbor up. You want to play riddles? Whose son is the Christ? Everyone knows that it is David’s Son. But what few had ever thought, what they never came to grips with was the wording of Psalm 110. Perhaps they had other interpretations. I’ve read a few. But I’m biased towards Jesus’ own interpretation. He rose from the dead after all. “the Lord said to my Lord. “ It is one of the many not so cryptic allusions to the trinity found scattered throughout the Old Testament that is so adamant that God is one, that there are no other Gods, that we can have but one God. There is one God we should love, and only one God, and him we should love with all out heart, mind and soul. Whose son is the messiah? He is the Son of God, the son of the Father, the only begotten son, who was begotten not made, incarnate by the Holy spirit of the virgin Mary, or as we say in the Apostles Creed, Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was made man. This is what we believe concerning Jesus Christ, the messiah. That he was from all eternity and to all eternity God. For God is eternal without beginning and without end. That he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns with them to all eternity one God now and forever. And it is here that we find love. That while we were still sinners, he died for us, he forgave our sins. Greater Love hath no man than that he lie down his life for his friends, and Jesus did it for us, his enemies, who were children of the wrath of God, who could not think, who often cannot think to do good except to avoid punishment or seek reward. Here is love. And with that death he forgave our sins, and with his resurrection he gave you life, and with his love he loves you so that you knowing the love of God, might then know love for God, Love for yourself, true love, and love for your neighbor be they husband, wife, friend or coworker, daughter or son, or someone you just met. As God forgives us with his death, he takes away our selfish motives, he leaves us with love. You can’t make up for sin, it is forgiven. You can’t earn your way to heaven, heave is given. Salvation is yours. All that is left is love that overpowers our sin, rises above, and subdues our old adam that we might walk in the newness of life.