18th Sunday after Trinity
September 30, 2018 A+D
St. Matthew 22:34-46
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The context of our Gospel places Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees in Holy Week. He had entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to the adoration and acclamation of His disciples and the crowds. The Passover was just days away—that means His crucifixion was just days away. Matthew paints the picture for us that Jesus’ final days were filled with confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders who were filling Jerusalem for this pilgrimage feast—the Scribes, the Pharisees, The Sadducees, and the Priests. They were looking for ways to trap Him and condemn him.
After entering into Jerusalem, Jesus told parables that condemned both the Pharisees and the Sadducees—The Parable of the two sons, the Parable of the Tenants, the Parable of the Wedding Feast. After these, the Pharisees attempt to take their shots at Jesus by challenging Him on paying taxes to Caesar; then the Sadducees try with a question about the Resurrection; then the Pharisees try again with a question about the Law. In all three instances, He silences His opponents. On questions about the Resurrection, the Law, and the Christ, Jesus points them to the sure Words of the Old Testament to prove that God, through His prophets, taught consistently on the Law, the Messiah, and eternal life.
As we know from Christian instruction, the two parts of Holy Scripture are Law and Gospel. A Christian must know both parts. Asking questions about the Law are not bad questions, as some among us today chide. But they are incomplete questions. Questions of the Gospel must necessarily follow. The Law teaches what we are required to do. And even though Jesus has come to fulfill the Law, this does not exempt us from its requirements. Even though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross completely fulfilled the requirements of the Law and left no part unfinished, we are required still to fear, love, and trust in God above all things—not for our Salvation, but because of it. We are prohibited still from despising and angering our parents and other authorities—not to earn eternal life, but because this is what a Christian does from faith. This is how a believer lives. The Law still stands. It is completed, not destroyed. It remains for our Sanctification and even edification. It shows us how we are to live in God’s family and how we are to treat one another. Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. The Gospel, on the other hand, tells us where we receive what the Law demands—namely Christ’s atoning work. After the Lawyers question Jesus about the Law, Jesus challenges the Pharisees with a question about the Christ. “Whose son is he?”
In their answer, the Pharisees get it half right. And Jesus uses their answer to give the more perfect answer from one of David’s Psalms. He not only fills out the question about the Christ, He gives us much more. In Jesus’ interpretation of Psalm 110, He gives us the divine doctrines on the inspiration of Holy Scripture, the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the Atonement. Not bad for little over a verse of the Bible.
Remember that the Jewish religious leaders were trying to find fault with His teaching to condemn Him. If He dares try to teach what they considered heresy—what was against their theology, there would be a loud and swift outcry. But they can’t find anything wrong with His teaching from Psalm 110. This confirms from silence that they believed in the divine inspiration of the Old Testament, the Trinity, the two natures of the Christ, and God’s plan for Atonement. This is very telling of Jewish theology of that time. I know these aren’t extremely controversial doctrines for church-going Lutherans at Redeemer, but they are controversial among your non-Christian or non-practicing family members, neighbors, and colleagues. And while not controversial for you, these doctrines do offer you extreme comfort in difficult times.
Jesus’ seemingly passing remark about verbal inspiration is given in the words “in the Spirit.” He says, “How is it that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord?” And in three English words, (and the passage from Luke 24:44 “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”) you have the comforting doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Old Testament. You can have confidence that when you turn to the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, you have God’s sure Word for your comfort and consolation.
However, there’s more that this phrase does. By saying “In the Spirit” connected to His point about the “LORD saying to my Lord” we have Jesus interpreting the doctrine of the Trinity very clearly in the Old Testament. This medieval and modern Jewish idea that there is no Trinity simply wasn’t held by the Old Testament writers or even the Jews of Jesus’ day. Rejection of the plurality of persons in the Godhead is a late heresy that was infused into the Jewish religion. And all so-called Christian heresies denying the Trinity are proved false by Jesus Himself. You can’t be a Christian (of Christ) and deny the Trinity.
Interestingly, those were subpoints to Jesus main argument. David writes, “The LORD said to my Lord.” Jesus’ main point here is to show that the Christ is not just David’s son (although He really is) but that He is also David’s Lord. David writes about God in the third person: “The Lord (namely, God the Father) said to my Lord (David’s Lord; David’s Savior; David’s Redeemer—the Second person of the Trinity) sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” It’s as if he would have said, God said to my son, the Christ, sit at my right hand—be equal in Godhead to me—until my promise of salvation is completed. David is painting the picture of the Father elevating His only begotten Son to His right hand when His enemies (Sin, Satan, death, and the World) are conquered through the crucifixion and resurrection of the Second Person of the Trinity. This is the Atonement, the fulfillment of the Promise to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to all the children of Israel. So David’s son is also David’s Lord. God has taken on flesh in the stump of Jesse. Jesus is true God and true man, and He has come to sacrifice Himself on behalf of sinful man, to elevate man into the family of God.
This is what Jesus wanted for His disciples, for the Pharisees and Sadducees, and it’s what He wants for you. Questions on the Law are good, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise—love God and love neighbor. This points you, then, to your need for a Savior. This points you to Jesus.
Why are you here this morning? Where do you turn when tragedy strikes? Where do you turn when life is uncertain? Where do you turn when the test results come back positive for what you feared the most? Or when life and limb are threatened by disease or injury? Or when death stares you right in the face? Or when the death of loved ones haunts you with grief?
The Holy Spirit turns you to Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh. David, the Son of David, and the prophets in pulpits today point you to Jesus, the only source of true comfort. Whose Son is He? He is David’s Son and He is the only-begotten Son of the Father. He is your Lord and your Brother. For He has conquered His enemies. He has put death under His feet.
In all of your trials and struggles, in your good times and in the bad, He is your comfort and your rock. All of God’s promises for His people, for you, are fulfilled in Him. Christ, through his death has secured for you the Holy Spirit and fulfils the law in you. For that Spirit, whom God sends into your heart for the sake of his Son, makes you an entirely new man. And this new man, which emerges and arises, fulfills with joy and love what the law requires. What would have been impossible is made possible by Christ who lives in you. This new man forsakes the present life, and desires to die and live with God in heaven. This new man rejoices in all trials and adversity and submits himself wholly and entirely to the will of God, because the will of God is always best. (LSB 758). This Spirit, which was secured and merited by Christ, makes you an entirely new man—recreates you, reshapes you in God’s image, causes you to be born anew. And in this new man, you rejoice in the sweet Law of God, which is perfect, and lovely, and desirable—not of your own strength, but in the strength of Him who is in you. As the Apostle says “You can do all things through Him who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13).
Now, in the new man, you can rejoice in Law questions and bask in the glory that God has prepared for you in heaven. Your enemies have been put under the feet of your Lord.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
The Sadducees were part of the Priestly order. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or in the supernatural (like Angels). They supposedly only held the Five Books of Moses as their entire Scripture, so they didn’t read the Prophets on the same level. The Scribes were of the order of the Pharisees. They were teachers of the Law, but they also held the books of the Prophets as Scripture. To this group also belong the Lawyers (those who interpret the Law of God). The Sadducees and the Pharisees disagreed on many theological points, but they were generally both antagonistic to Jesus (there are a few exceptions). We are given hints that the Pharisees liked some of Jesus’ teachings—especially when it went against the teachings of the Sadducees—but did not like His claims to be the Messiah.
 Taken from Luther’s church postil for the 18th Sun. after Trinity. Lenker p. 182.