Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
“No More Questions”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
St. Matthew 22.34-46
16 October 2022
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
California Governor Gavin Newsom has placed billboards in states that have or are going to outlaw abortion. Already in Mississippi and Oklahoma his billboards have gone up. They quote Jesus in words that are part of our Gospel reading today but from the Evangelist St. Mark. The billboards read:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” [NIV]
“Need An Abortion? California is ready to help.”
What has drawn the most return fire is his use of our Lord’s words to connect love to abortion. Bill Donohue, with whom I seldom agree, is also president of the Catholic League. He labeled Newsom’s campaign “demonic.” Donohue and I agree on this one. Many other religious leaders of conservative churches also agree. Newsom is trying to convince Christians that abortion is fulfilling the law of love to the neighbor. Our Lord Jesus names Satan as the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. Satan is the author of death. Demonic is the right label.
There were two questions raised in our reading. The first one came from a scribe belonging to the party of the Pharisees, strict keepers of the Mosaic Law. He asked Jesus which is the greatest—most important—commandment in the Law. Our Lord answered by summarizing the two Tables of the Law. First, one must love God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind. And then our Lord went to the second Table of the Law which deals with the neighbor.
“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Faith and obedience belong to genuine Christianity. The first question is about God’s will. What is the most important thing that God expects of everyone, including us? He expects—demands!—that we have no other gods. Nothing, no one else. The true God alone, not merely the true God among other gods whatever those other gods might be. Material goods shoot right up to the top most of the time, but sometimes ambition is blind. It can get in the way of anything holy. I think that Governor Newsom has put himself squarely in that camp. It’s no secret that he wants to be President and he sees a possible opening these days. This first question of the lawyer is important beyond all doubt. Without faith in the true God everything else is up for grabs.
Every pious Jew would have answered that first question just as Jesus did, but the Pharisees had a sinister—demonic—reason for asking. They were hoping to find something with which to accuse Jesus of falsehood. They were ready to exchange the truth of God for a lie just so that they could continue to rule the Jewish nation. Ironically, the Jewish nation was under the control of the Romans so they deluded themselves. This whole matter comes up again in John’s Gospel which will be read on Reformation Sunday. There they denied that they were slaves to anyone. They did not hear the Word of God clearly. Jesus accused them of having the devil for their father [John 8.44]. Indeed, they were the ones who were demonic, not Jesus, the Great I AM [John 8.58].
Mark records that the scribe confirmed Jesus’ words. He even went so far as to agree that keeping the first and second tables of the Law were “much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” [Mark 12.33] Defining what was most important was agreed upon.
But then Jesus asked a question, a question which is the most important question of any age:
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
That question probes the answer to the first question. It lays bare the chasm about the two ways one approaches God. The Jewish leaders took refuge in the Law. The way to God was to keep the Law. That’s the way the natural mind thinks. If I do what God demands then I get eternal life. And strictly speaking that would be true if . . . . And there were have it in that two letter word “if.”
The rich young ruler came to Jesus to ask him how to inherit eternal life. “Keep the Commandments,” Jesus said. But the smug ruler asked Jesus which ones he needed to keep. Jesus recited the Commandments of Second Table of the Law, love to the neighbor. Thinking he had passed the test the rich young man replied that he had kept them all, asking “What do I still lack?” [Matt. 19.20] And then Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor [Matt. 19.21]. And with that the rich young man went away sorrowful because his god was his wealth. He failed on the First Commandment, rendering his boast of keeping the Law moot.
It was a false, misleading dream
That God His Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature. [LSB 555.3]
And there it lies for every person in this world. If we fail to take God’s Law seriously, both Tables, we will fail to see our need for a Savior. The Law, which so many like to quote—even Governor Newsom who was raised as a Roman Catholic—condemns us in our hypocrisy. The Law exposes our sins. The Law exposes our failure to love God above all else and our neighbors like ourselves, like turning on the light in the darkness and the cockroaches go scurrying for cover.
We are guilty in our thoughts, words, and deeds as we confess in Divine Services I And II. Reflection on what the totality of Holy Scripture says, there is nothing whole, nothing clean, nothing pure in our hearts. Therefore, our words and actions are also corrupt. The Law has us dead to rights. We cannot plead innocence. We must shamefully plead guilty.
It’s not a popular thing to do these days. Many Christian denominations have given up any mention of sin for fear of alienating paying customers. How ironic that many “woke” businesses are pointing out customers’ sins while churches keep silent about the sins God condemns. Those religious leaders will be dealt with more severely because they lead people astray into lies that kill body and soul. To fail to tell a person that if he persists in his sin against God and the neighbor he will earn God’s wrath and displeasure.
Yet, God has no delight in the death of sinners. Precisely for that reason Christ came. Christ did not abolish the Law but kept it all perfectly for us. He fulfilled it as God wants it done. But one must know who this Christ is. That becomes the most important question of all time.
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
The Pharisees gave a correct answer: “The Son of David.” They recognized that the Christ was to be a descendant of King David. Jesus was a man, a prophet from the line of King David, a brilliant teacher of the Law, a miracle worker, and even one who showed that mercy was more important than slavish keeping of the Law, but . . . .
But, if Jesus had been only a man then we are lost. Our eternal fate separated from God forever has been sealed. We “are still in our sins,” wrote the Apostle Paul, if Jesus is not true God and true man crucified and risen from the dead for our justification. [1 Cor. 15.17].
Jesus asked one more question in order to reach these religious leaders:
“How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ’?
45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
Jesus has God’s Name because he is true God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law for all mankind because he alone kept God’s Law perfectly as God demands. He is the Redemption that we need in order to spend eternity with God. His righteousness is given to us in Holy Baptism, in the Word of Absolution, and in the Holy Supper of Christ’s true body and blood.
And with that last question no one was able to answer him a single word, and no one dared to ask him any more questions. Jesus proclaimed himself the only-begotten Son of God, David’s Lord and David’s son. There is no other answer that anyone can give. And because our Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives, we need ask “No More Questions” because all of God’s “Yes” is found in Him alone. So writes the Apostle Paul:
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. [2 Cor. 1.20]
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.