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Enemies Under Foot (St. Matthew 22.34-46)

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

“Enemies Under Foot”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

St. Matthew 22.34-46; Psalm 110.1 (quoted by Jesus in the Gospel reading)

11 October 2020

 

+ In the Name of Jesus +

Who are your enemies? Do you have enemies? Are you perhaps an enemy to someone?

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel reading have an enemy. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. The scene today is Holy Week, and the Pharisees and others are out to tempt and trap Jesus in His Words so that they might gin up charges against Jesus in order to discredit Him and have grounds to kill Him.

This is how hard the devil works to stir up our sinful flesh – God Himself can show men His power by healing a man of a disease in front of their own eyes – as Jesus did in last week’s Gospel reading, where Jesus healed the man suffering from severe water retention on the Sabbath at the home of some Pharisees – they would have seen the man instantly be relieved! Yet they refuse to put their faith and trust in God, standing before them in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. For to their eyes, guided by their hateful heart, they see an illegitimate son of a maiden and a carpenter from Nazareth. They see just another person to sit in judgment upon.

Knowing all the miracles Jesus did, they have such hard hearts and stubborn will, that they just cannot keep themselves from letting their hatred for Jesus get the best of them. We all know people who just keep on going down the same rotten path of giving in to the sinful flesh, and sometimes no matter what we say or do to persuade them otherwise, they are bound and determined to go on their own sorry way.

These Pharisees see Jesus as their enemy, not a friend. Jesus gives no place for the hypocrisy of the Pharisees – these men preached a rigorous religious legalism, trying to please God with outward religious acts of piety and devotion. But inwardly they despised anyone who did not live up to their standards. There was no room for repentance and forgiveness from God or man in their system.

They had lots of enemies – tax collectors, prostitutes, Roman soldiers, Samaritans. And yet, Jesus eats with and heals and preaches comfort and the coming of God’s Kingdom to these same people whom they despise. As a last straw, Jesus was teaching that the coming of God’s Kingdom was not going to be an earthly utopia in the promised land of ancient Israel – where the Messiah would come to free Israel of the Romans and all its enemies as the Pharisees wanted. Jesus instead preached that the coming of God’s Kingdom was for all who repented of their sins and believed the Gospel: whosoever believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior should not perish from their true enemies, sin, death, and devil, but have everlasting life in heaven.

No wonder the Pharisees see Jesus of Nazareth as an enemy to be done away with. Jesus preaches that they have it all wrong. He condemns their hypocrisy later that day in the Temple when He said to them,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Mt. 23.27; ESV)

It’s hard to believe that God, who is love itself, who out of love and a desire to freely express that love created all things, created man and woman, and every person down to you and me, could possibly have an enemy.

Moses reminds us, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10.17-18; ESV)

How can such a wonderful God have an enemy? Yet there they are. There you are, actually.

For God created you to reflect His love perfectly back to Him. He created you and all mankind in His own image. He created us to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind – and our neighbor as ourselves – as our Lord reminds the Pharisees and us today. But instead, our first parents lost the image of God, rejected the will of God for their lives, and ever since,

In Adam we have all been one,
One huge rebellious man;
We all have fled that evening voice
That sought us as we ran.

We fled thee, and in losing thee
We lost our brother too;
Each singly sought and claimed his own;
Each man his brother slew.  
(LSB #569, stanzas 1-2)

We are by nature born enemies of God, under control of the greatest enemy, the devil himself. We do not love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and we do not love our neighbor as ourselves – and every sin against God’s holy Law is an act of sedition and rebellion – it should be clear to you that by our own power and strength, we are and will continue to be sinners who cannot answer before God in any way. Guilty as charged. Treasonous, heretical, hypocritical, enemies.

Our hope for salvation, our hope to no longer be an enemy of the living God, rests only in the true and living embodiment of love for God and love for neighbor, in that man who stood before those Pharisees – Jesus of Nazareth. Mary’s Son – yes. Joseph’s Son – only as His legal guardian. Not illegitimate. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. God’s Son – yes indeed. David’s Son, and also more than David’s Son, David’s Lord, whom David in the Holy Spirit worshipped and adored, the eternal Son of God.

Yes. There stands our hope of friendship with God, and inclusion in His eternal Kingdom. It is the Son of God and Son of David, whom the Father has appointed in eternity, says David in the Spirit in the 110th Psalm, as our Lord reminds us today:

“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’…” (Psalm 110.1)

This Lord Jesus Christ is sent by His Father from Zion on high to the world at enmity with Him, to rule in the midst of His enemies. He rules not by force, but as a priest, who offers Himself as the justifying, atoning sacrifice on the cross. There at Calvary’s cross, the product of such hatred and evil, there what we meant for evil as enemies of God, God brought about our every good instead: there Jesus conquers you, once His enemies, not by killing you off, but by giving His own life to make you His children, make you clean through His blood, to declare you righteous, to reconcile you to God – indeed, He declares from the cross, “It is finished” this enmity and strife with God is overcome and done away with through His blood.

For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for His enemies, for you, at the right time – so that you might be the righteousness of God, partakers of and citizens restored to His eternal Kingdom. The Father has indeed exalted His Son to His right hand – Christ is risen from the death He died – exalted to bestow this salvation upon you in preaching, absolution, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the Holy Supper of His crucified and resurrected Body and Blood.

All enemies of Jesus are now under His feet. To those who reject the risen and ascended Jesus as Lord and Savior, this is a frightful thing. To now be an enemy under Jesus’ feet means to lie outside of His Kingdom, and in the pain of hellfire forever.

But to you who live by faith in the Son of God, who are called by the faithful God into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, through your Baptism into Him, to be under His feet is a most blessed thing. For you are no longer at enmity with God – and so His feet over you are the ones pierced and bruised for your salvation. Those feet are also the beautiful feet which bring you the ongoing comfort and joy of the good news that the Law is fulfilled for you by Him, and all its accusations are silenced. Those are the blessed feet that have overcame the devil, slew death, shattered hell, opened heaven, and made atonement with the Father, and even now protect and shelter you in this wicked world from all your enemies, and defend you from every evil of body and soul.

Finally, remember, dear children of God, that you too will ascend to where the Lord Jesus Christ has gone. With Him, all enemies will one day be under your feet as well:

Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave

And at death no longer tremble;

He, the Lord, who came to save

Will at last His own assemble.

You will go your Lord to meet,

Treading death beneath your feet.  (LSB #741, stanza 7)

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +

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