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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

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Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Shall Love - October 23, 2011 - Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25) - Text: Matthew 22:34-46

Last week we watched as the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law sent their underlings to attempt to trick Jesus into saying something that would turn either the government or His own people away from Him. But, as we saw, their plans were foiled again. This week we continue in our saga of the Life and Times of Jesus. This week our text begins by telling us that the Sadducees have failed again and now it is the Pharisees turn, again to attempt to waylay Jesus.

We actually have two parts to our text for this morning. In the first part of our text are told that a questions is asked of Jesus in order to test Him, as was the usual reason the Pharisees and teachers of the law would ask Jesus questions. And in the second half of our text we are told that after Jesus answers their question, He asks them a question, perhaps not so much as a test, but in order to help those who were gathered and listening to understand who Jesus truly is. First, the test, “34But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37And he said to him, 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’” (v. 34-40).

It has been said that one way to defeat your enemy is to divide and conquer. In this question the lawyer is attempting to divide Jesus by dividing His emphasis, placing one part of God’s Word over another part. Now, we know that there are Ten Commandments, because that is what we are told that God gave Moses and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. So, out of these Ten Commandments, the lawyer asks, “What is the greatest commandment?” Again the test is an attempt to get Jesus to give greater emphasis to one commandment over all the others.

Jesus, being Jesus, being truly God, knows all and knows what is at the heart of the question, thus He does not answer according to how they might have thought He would answer. His answer is a twofold answer. First Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” As we have been taught and hopefully have learned in confirmation, the summary of the commandments is love. It is true, if we could love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, we would never disobey any of the commandments. The problem is that we cannot do this one thing. Because we are conceived and born in sin, it is against our nature to love God above all else. Jesus says to love God and this love for God is a love which flows out of love, God’s first love for us.

But Jesus does not stop, He continues, “39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Here again, if we could love our neighbor as our own self, we would never break the last seven commandments which deal with our relationships with each other, we would not steal, kill, commit adultery, bear false witness nor covet. But, again, the problem is that we are conceived and born in sin and so not only can we not love God above all else, we cannot love our neighbor as ourselves. Interestingly enough, when we do love our neighbor it is only as we have been first loved by God, thus loving our neighbor shows our love for God, and His love for us.

Jesus even goes so far as to conclude that “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” All the Law and the prophets depend on love, love for God and love for neighbor, which is the summary of the commandments. How is this the case? We will answer that question after we look at the next words of Jesus.

Just as the lawyer asked a question to test Jesus, these last words of our text might be considered a test of Jesus. Our text continues, “41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”? 45If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ 46And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (v. 41-46).

Notice that unlike the questions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and even the Sadducees, who asked questions to trap Jesus, Jesus asks a question which is at the heart of the matter, the heart of the controversy, “Who is the Christ? Is He the Messiah?” Now, understand, the Pharisees do not believe that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah. They believe Jesus is simply asking a theological question concerning the promised Messiah, the one promised back in the Garden of Eden and reiterated to Abraham, Isaac, Moses and so forth. The theological question is this, “Is the promised Messiah truly God?”

The Pharisees answer Jesus question saying that the promised Messiah is the son of David, in other words He is truly human. We would agree, Jesus is truly human, but Jesus is even more than simply being truly human as He will instruct the Pharisees.

In response to their answer, Jesus agrees, but furthers the answer by declaring that He is also truly God, as David calls Him Lord. Now, if you have been paying attention to the news of late, concerning the Mormon church, the question has been asked if the Mormon church is a cult or a part of the Christian church. For the Mormons, who consider themselves to be Christians, they view the Christ as a man who became a god and so they speak of the divinity of Jesus in such a way, also suggesting that we humans may also become gods. In other words, they believe they are a part of the Christian church because they do believe that Jesus is God, but not in the same way we believe that Jesus is God. Here again we are reminded that very often when speaking to others concerning our Christian faith and beliefs we must begin by defining our words. Concerning Jesus being God, He Himself answers otherwise and so does the Christian Church. As we profess and confess in our creeds, Jesus is truly God who was born as a human, taking on human flesh and blood. So now Jesus is both God and man at the same time and thus is the divinity of Jesus. And so according to the traditional Christian church, the Mormon church is a cult.

So, what does this mean? We answer this question by getting back to Jesus’ statement, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” All The fulfillment of the commandments today, that is the fulfillment of God’s demand of perfection, and all of the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, flow out of love, not our love for God and love for neighbor, but out of God’s love for us.

Who is the Christ? He is God. He is truly divine, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and He is truly human, born of the human woman, the virgin Mary. Jesus is God who gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood and to do for us what we are unable to do.

After Adam and Eve sinned, the world was cursed. No longer do we have free will. Our will has been tainted by sin so our will is always to not do what God would have us to do. Again, our will is simply to sin, to live in sin, to sin daily and constantly. Since our will has been tainted so that we no longer have free will, we cannot meet God’s demand of perfection.

Because we cannot rescue or save ourselves, God provided a Savior. Jesus came to earth, God in flesh in order, first and foremost to live in perfection for us. God’s demand is perfection and we cannot be perfect. The fulness of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus lived for us. Jesus obeyed all of God’s laws perfectly, thus fulfilling the demands of the law of the commandments and Jesus fulfilled all the promises, all of the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, thus fulfilling the demands of the Prophets. If Jesus had not obeyed all the laws perfectly and fulfilled all the Prophets perfectly, He would not be the Messiah.

After fulfilling all the law and the Prophets perfectly, after living a perfect life, Jesus then traded His righteousness for our sins. He who was without sin, He who knew no sin became sin for us. Jesus suffered and died to pay the price for our sins, but not just our sins, He paid the price for all sin, for all those sins committed before His incarnation and all those sins we have yet to commit. He paid the price for all sins, for all people, of all places, of all times. He paid the price for sin which was set in the Garden of Eden, death, physical death and apart from Him, eternal spiritual death which is hell. He suffered hell for us in our place so that by faith in Him we will never have to suffer hell.

In His fulfilling of the law and the prophets, in His fulfilling of all of Holy Scripture, in His living, taking our sins, suffering and dying, Jesus showed and shows His great love for us. He loves us. He shows His love for us by creating us, even though He knew we would bring a curse on His creation. He shows His love in His promise to send a Savior. He shows His love in His giving up the glory that was His in heaven as true God, in His taking on human fleshing, being born of a human woman, in His living perfectly for us in our place because we cannot, in His taking our sins upon Himself, in His suffering and dying to pay the price for our sins, in His rising from the dead, in His giving us faith, forgiveness and life, in His robing us with His robes of righteousness for eternity.

God loves us. God first loves us. Jesus is God who shines His love on us even through us so that we might love others. We love because He first loves us. Because God loves us, because He gives us faith, forgiveness and eternal life, He also works in and through us to do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do and we do those good works as we are motivated by Him, as He works them in and through us and as they are done to His glory. Yes, after we are given faith we do have some free will but only with His help are we able to exercise our free will for good.

The two great commandments, the summary of the ten commandments is love. And as always we get love right when we start with God. God is love. God loves us and God moves and stirs in us to love one another. We love because He first loves us. And in so loving others we do show forth the faith that is in our hearts and we do say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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