18th Sunday after Trinity
October 19, 2014 A+D
St. Matthew 22:34-46
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Matthew records our Lord earlier saying: “Therefore a teacher of the Old Testament instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (Mt. 13:52).
Jesus is asked about things old. He is tested concerning the Law. The Pharisees, in the hope of trapping him, point Him over 1200 years into the past. Out of the treasury of the divine mind comes a marvelous answer. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus may as well have had His Old Testament opened to Deuteronomy. He gives the perfect textbook answer. The two tables of the Law are fulfilled with the love of God and the love of neighbor. Do this and you will live. But as perfect as the answer is, so even more impossible is it to fulfill. The Law does not give life. The Law does not lead to comfort, but rather to despair. So much for the things old.
Now Jesus, being the good teacher, being the good householder, coming from the kingdom of heaven, brings out the things new. He takes an opportunity, now to ask a question. He says, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” Jesus seeks to lead the Pharisees away from the Law to the Gospel. The Gospel is everywhere in the Old Testament, too; that means that Christ is everywhere in the OT—the promise of God to Adam and Eve, the redemption of Noah, to promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; the rescue from Egypt, the Ark of the Covenant, the sacrifices, the promised land, the priestly line, the temple, the rescue from Babylon. The list goes on and on. Christ and His salvation is everywhere prophesied in the OT.
You see, Jesus knows the Law. He preached the Law to lead to repentance, but God did not come in the flesh to regurgitate the damning side of the Law or even to give a new Law. He came to fulfill it. He came to be the Christ. The Father anointed and sent the Son in order to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to open the prison to those who were bound (Is. 61:1). In short, Jesus came to give comfort to those who despair of themselves. He came to preach the Gospel to the poor in spirit (Mt. 11:5).
The Pharisees answer with a partial truth. Jesus is indeed David’s Son. But He is more. The Scriptures testify that the Messiah is also David’s Lord. This is the comfort of the Gospel: God is faithful. He has redeemed His people. This is the comfort of the Gospel for you. God is active in this world and especially in your lives. He is present, contemporary, and relevant.
In a world with disaster upon disaster, with Ebola, and ISIS, and insurgents, and cancer, and national debt, and the murder of unborn children, and rampant, militant homosexuality. In a world where Christian family members hurt one another by words and actions, where children hurt their parents and parents despise their children, where even loving spouses act selfishly with one another, where the two greatest commandments are forgotten in the dog-eat-dog world, it’s easy for you to despair, to give up, to feel overwhelmed by the evil surrounding you. And if you look to make yourself more hopeful by working harder, being kinder, being more disciplined. If you want to change the world and start with yourself, then you are setting yourself up for more despair and utter disappointment. Every sage, wiseman, philosopher, guru, or even pop singer has some type of statement like Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world.” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Start with the man in the mirror.” etc. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to play along with this sentiment. They wanted Him to play with the Law. They didn’t even mind if He was David’s son.
But Jesus did not come to play nice with worldly sentiment. He is God. He is the Messiah. God is faithful. He came to undo the bonds of this world. Having come to faith, you will not be comfortable in this sinful world. If you try, you will become frustrated and even despairing. God came to take you out of this world, to make you pilgrims and sojourners on your way to the new heaven and new earth.
That heaven and that earth buck all of this world’s wisdom. Jesus is not nice, in the modern definition of the term. He is loving. He loves you too much to overlook your sins. He accuses you and calls you to repent. But He is faithful. He will forgive you and comfort you. He wants to welcome you into His family and be your Redeemer, your Savior, your brother, and Christ.
He did this by going against everything that makes since to the wisdom of this world. He came in weakness and poverty. He was not a strong political leader or a great military hero. He was not a medical doctor that came to heal all of the diseases in this world. He was born in a kingly line, but did not come in pomp and circumstance. His parables confused people, His teachings were hard to stomach. He looked and acted weak in the eyes of the world. His death looked like an utter failure. But even this, He turned on its head. In His death, He fulfilled the greatest commandments. He loved God and neighbor perfectly with no regard for how it looked to everyone who watched.
He did what you could not do. He loved God and thirsted after His Father’s Will. He drank the cup of wrath to its dregs to empty the punishment meant for all men. He then refilled the cup with His own precious blood to fulfill the second great commandment. He gives you the cup of blessing because He has loved you with all of His heart, soul, and mind. He gives you the New Testament in His blood because He is the Messiah, David’s Lord, and your Savior. The Lord delights only in you to love you; and He chose you to be His people, as it is this day. He washed you in Holy, Sanctifying waters. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ your Lord. In this fellowship, you kneel at the table with all the other members of this family to receive the mark and seal of your salvation—His body and blood.
Do not despair. Do not give up hope. Out of the treasury of things Old and things New, Jesus gives you the kingdom of heaven. The suffering and tragedies of this world pale in comparison to the joy and delights of the world to come. Your sufferings, your afflictions, will soon come to an end. The New Testament in His blood moistens your lips today and gives you an appetizer of the feast awaiting you. God’s work will have its perfect end. You are precious to Him and He will rescue you.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
The Rev’d Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, IN (read Gerhard)