Eighteenth Sunday after Holy Trinity
Text: Matthew 22:34-46
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father,
and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In their best moments they realized the difficulty that they faced. When they honestly looked at their efforts, they had to admit that they had fallen short. But instead of repenting and turning to the Lord's mercy, instead they sought to make God's Law manageable, to cut it down to size. So today they come to Jesus with a question: What is the greatest commandment? If we know the greatest commandment, then maybe we can keep that one and it won't matter so much if we mess up the less important laws.
But Jesus does not play their game. Jesus will not say, “Now this is the big one: keep this and you can forget about the details on the others.” Instead, Jesus summarizes the whole law: Love God above all things and your neighbor as you love yourself. That's what Jesus says: no ifs, ands, or buts – no games. Jesus is not impressed when you play the Pharisee's game of trying to make the Law manageable: sure I've sinned, but I'm not as bad as some folks. Sure, I gossip a little – but I always tell the truth about the person I'm gossiping about. Sure, I sleep in on Sunday every now and again, but mostly I'm there.
Jesus says no to all these excuses. Jesus says, “Love God with your all and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you loved God with all your heart you would not treat his Name as a curse word or let a football game or a hunting trip keep you away from his House. If you loved your neighbor as yourself, you would never gossip about your neighbor behind her back. You have sinned and there is no excuse. Repent.
So the Pharisees ask the wrong question. They ask for Jesus to cut God's law down to a manageable size so that we can keep it. But Jesus won't play that game. Instead, Jesus asks the right question: Whose Son is the Christ? Don't ask what you can do for your God – ask who God is and what he has done for you. That is Jesus' way. The Gospel way. Whose Son is the Christ? Think on Him. Look to the Christ for mercy. Know Jesus the Christ and you will know life, forgiveness, and salvation.
But the Pharisees want to cut Christ down to size too: “He is David's Son” they say. He is the descendant of David the king, an earthly ruler. And that is right – but not right enough. If the Christ is just a man, just an earthly ruler, then he is no good to us; such a Christ cannot save us because no mere man can save us. Even if there ever were a man who could live his own perfect life, what good would it do for you and me? But there is more to the Christ than that – Jesus asks, “If he is just David's Son, how does David, in the Spirit, call him Lord?” There's the rub: the Christ is David's Son and David's Lord, a human being and God. And this makes all the difference. When Jesus the Christ gives his life on the cross it is of infinite value: for he is no mere man, but God and man in one person. This is God's love for you: that he himself would take up human flesh so that he might die in your place and forgive you and bring you into his kingdom.
But the Pharisees don't want that. They don't want to admit that God's mercy is that deep and that deeply needed. But it is. God really does love you that much and you really do need all that mercy and love for there is no other way. Your attempts to keep God's Law, your love, your faith, your actions and efforts are never enough. They simply do not match up to God's demands. There is no making God's Law manageable. But in Jesus Christ God has found a way to save you. His mercy, his love, his faithfulness, his death, resurrection, Baptism, Absolution, Supper. These things save you. These are the things you live in. These are the free gifts of God. These are all for you. See how much he loves you!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding,
will keep you body and soul in Jesus the Christ. Amen.