Monday, September 30, 2013

A More Important Question

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. 39 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, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 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.” (Matthew 22:34-46 (ESV)
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” The Pharisees want to argue about the law, and Christ wants to discuss the gospel. I am reminded of Paul writing to Titus to avoid foolish controversies and quarrels about the law. There is something better to keep our mind trained on. But it is human nature to concentrate on the law, what is right, what is wrong. Our Old Adam has us deceived into thinking that we can win God’s favor with law. It’s rather mind boggling in all actuality. Jesus squashes the idea quickly, and turns the Pharisees to a more important question. Who is the Christ?
The law, it is in man’s heart. We still fail at it miserably, but everyone knows the law. Jesus is matter of fact about it. The greatest commandment is to Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you might, the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself, on these two commandments hang the entire law. The ESV translates it depend, the entire law depends on these two commandments. But the Greek brings to mind two images, hang like a door on hinges, or hang like a man being crucified. The law hangs on these two, the law crucifies by these two. It manages to crucify with these two because it demands what we do not have, not of ourselves, and that is love. We do not have love for God, and not having love for God, we are helpless to love our neighbor created in the image of God, and redeemed by his blood. In fact, even our quarrels about the law show this.
The Pharisees would argue about the law, and people today argue about the law, because they think that in some way shape or form it is by the law that man is saved. The law they believe has to play into it in some way. And the whole purpose of the law is to kill. It offers no salvation, no justification, no sanctification, the law kills, the law accuses, the law shows us our guilt. We like to think we can use the law to divert attention away from us. Oh, the law will let us accuse others of breaking it. But it will not excuse us for breaking it. As hard as we want it to come down on others, it will come down that hard on us also. And harder.
I mean, can we honestly say we have loved God with our whole heart? Or have we loved money more and made that our God? Is that perhaps why we are in the mess we are in now? And we reap what we sow. Can we say that we love our neighbor as ourselves? How can we maintain that fa├žade? We simply have not, and so the law crucifies, we are hung by it. Our love is found wanting. Other’s deceive themselves into thinking they are good Christians with the law. And they replace God’s law with the law of man to do it. Man goes easy on himself. Man will hardly fathom it, confronting himself with God’s law. God’s law says that if you see your brother sinning you are to rebuke him, and if he repents you are to forgive him. But we are quick to rebuke, and slow to forgive. When Christ himself spends his whole ministry being slow to rebuke and quick to forgive. Jesus knows something about us that is hard for our sin blinded eyes to see, and that, is we are all alike guilty under the law.
So he doesn’t care to play the game with the Pharisees, and when he has their attention he answers their question and then turns their attention to matters more serious. The messiah, the Christ, whose son is he? That is the question of the day. It has consequences. Is he merely the son of David? Or is he something more than Solomon?
The son of David, this is what the Pharisees answer. And there is truth to that answer. The messiah would spring from the root of Jesse, David’s father. He would be of David’s line. David had many children, and many sons, and many from his line ruled over Judah for years. But if the messiah was merely the son of David then all they could expect was a bit more of the same. It mattered little in the grand scheme of things. If the Messiah was merely the Son of David then people have every reason to continue to engage in the futility of the law and look after new ones, and preserve old ones, to keep cheese off their hamburgers, and even separate plates for their dairy, and be sure to rest on the Sabbath.
That is all the Jews hoped for in a Messiah, another David, another Solomon someone to restore Israel to its former glory. It boggles my mind that that is about all people hope for today with the return of Christ, a restored Israel. And what is worse, we often treat Jesus as if that is all he was or is, and return to our quarrels about the law. What we should give to the church, who said what, where and when. Who should be doing this, and who shouldn’t be doing that. We walk around as if we have no sin ourselves, and therefore can’t be bothered to treat other sinners with respect. We engage in foolish controversies and quarrels about the law, and it would destroy the church except that Jesus is bigger than all that.
Whose son is he? The son of David? Then why does David call him Lord? He quotes a messianic psalm. Psalm 110 is all about Jesus and what he would do. Psalm 110 gives little interpretation but that it speaks of the coming messiah, the one all of Israel waits for, the Son of David. But it would read as a political prophecy if it wasn’t for the first line that is so easy to miss. Yahweh says to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. Or as God said in Genesis 3, he will bruise your head and you will bruise his heal. The picture is of one stepping on the other, in victory. It is almost missed, David calls him adonai, David calls him Lord, who sits at the right hand of God. This can’t be if the messiah is a mere man born of David’s dynasty. David knew something about the Messiah to come, David knew that the Messiah would be God himself. David knew that even he would bow his knee and confess him to be Lord with every knee and every tongue. David knew that the Messiah would be much more than a teacher of the law, or some political figure like himself.
The Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand! And we are still stuck on the law? The Lord says to my Lord sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool! And we are still looking for our salvation in the law? By quarreling with each other over petty little things, and perceived slights? You think that it is in these things we find salvation, or lose salvation? Do we return to our vomit like a dog, to slurp up our own guilt? Do we think our salvation rests in that? No, because what David says here is that the messiah is God himself. The Son of David is God become man, God incarnate dwelling among us, Emmanuel himself! And this man, he has not saved us from earthly enemies, he has not saved us from the toil and tribulation inherent in the life of this sinful world, but he has saved us from our true enemies, the enemies behind it all: sin, death and the power of the devil. He has saved us from the power of the law to condemn because he himself died in our place and on the third day broke the bonds of death and rolled away the stone that you and I would be forgiven our sins and enjoy eternal life.

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