God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 22:34–46


The Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadduccees. They thought they could play the part of Socrates and by clever questions silence Him. “Teacher,” they say. They’re locked and loaded. It’s sort of like when my father-in-law says, “Well, I’m just a pig farmer from Iowa . . . .” You know you’re about to get it. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” It’s not quite so loaded a question as “When did you stop beating your wife?” But it is a loaded. At best, they meant something like: “Which precept or statute of God is most important, most central? And then discuss it. At worst, they were trying to trap Him, to silence Him by His own words. The way that some would try to silence you by asking, “Can God make a stone so large that He can not lift it?” Or “If God is love, if He is all good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, why is there evil?” It seems as though, any way you answer it, you must say something that ought not be be said of God.

And if that was their goal, they ended up trapped themselves. Jesus answered the seemingly unanswerable: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” For as nice as the concept of love is, as noble and high and lofty, as obviously good and decent, and despite the fact that one can argue or be against it, love is an impossible demand, an impossible standard. For who can love like that? Who can love God with the whole heart, the whole mind, the whole soul, and the neighbor as himself? And the silence was deafening.

This is how it always goes when you wrestle with the Law, when you try to get yourself free on your own. It’s the Devil’s Snare, the more you resist, the more you fight against it, the tighter the grip. We do not love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And we know this because we do not love our neighbor as ourselves.

Our problem is that we think that God is a kind of cosmic killjoy. That His Law was instituted to keep us from having fun, from doing what we enjoy. That in His Law, God is holding out on us. That He’s hold back the really good things. We do not see God’s Law as the means by which God protects us from the things that will only hurt us. And that by His Law He is blessing us with this protection.

Who here has not dreamt about vengeance for some insult or slight, however great or small? Who here has not thought what life would be like without your children or even your spouse? Who here has not explored all the counterfactuals, all the what ifs, even if it were plainly against the clear Word of God? What is wrong with us? We know what is good; we know what is right. But we still turn toward evil. Here’s what is wrong: we are sinners full of sin. The Law stands against us. It shows us our sin. It exposes and accuses us. The Law is good and demands only what is good. But we are evil and cringe at the thought of inviting homeless people into our homes.

But Christ, Our Lord offers an escape to those who are caught by the Law’s unbending and unrelenting, impossible demands. He asks: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” “David’s Son,” they say. Indeed, David’s Son, a man like us, but more: David’s Son, our neighbor, AND David’s Lord, our Creator, a Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, the first and the last, the Redeemer-Kinsman come to save us. The two things that the Law demand we love, God and neighbor, are embodied in Him who has loved us. In this the Love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. . . . God is Love.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends

For his friends. Greater love has no God, no Baal, no Allah, no Buddah, no Great Spirit in the sky, than this: that He lay down His Son’s life for His enemies, for His enemies! That He lay down His Son’s life for His enemies, that He forsake His Son, disown Him, visit His wrath upon Him that He might shower His love upon those murderers whom He adopts as new sons! Greater and more perfect love has no one than He is who is Love.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Ram caught in the thicket, our scape goat who takes our sins off into the wilderness, our sacrificial lamb who dies in our place. He is the fulfillment of the Law, perfect Love in the Flesh. He has done what we could and would not, and that for us. He has loved us perfectly without fail, without lapse, without exception. His enemies, those incarnations of hate, the devil, death, and Hell have been conquered by the Heel they bruised. They are under the Foot that crushed them. They are held fast so that there is no one to accuse you, no prison to hold you, no threat or punishment left. You are free, forgiven, clean, pure, righteous, perfect, for you are loved in, and by, Him.

This Christ, David’s Son and David’s Lord, is a Priest forever in the Order of Melchizedek, that King of Righteousness from the City of Peace. That great and holy Priest, whose Body pierced and enlivened once again is the very Temple that He rebuilt so that it is the House of Prayer for all people by Grace, whose reign never ends, that great and holy Priest has offered up Himself as the Sacrifice that makes us lovable, and makes us His. The Law has no more to ask, no more to demand. It has been satisfied, fulfilled, completed. Because Love, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, never fails. The Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, (is the Christ), God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the Love that God has for us. God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.

Love in the Flesh, a priestly food, a heavenly banquet, is offered to you this very day: His Body and Blood, the new Temple that cannot be destroyed. Eat of Him. Be loved. And Live. Eat and drink that you would be a Temple of His Holy Spirit, that He would abide in you and you in Him, that you would be as He is, so that you would have boldness in the day of judgment for you are His, so that His love is completed and perfected in you, His beloved. David’s Son is your Lord, your Christ. Love Him. Love one another. Even as He has loved you. Amen.


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