Sermon Notes, 18th Sunday after Trinity, 25 September 2016 Anno Domini
St. Andrews Anglican Orthodox Church, Enterprise, Alabama (USA)
“34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (Matt 22:34-46)
The Pharisees did not argue the merits of Christ’s victory in the exchange with the Sadducees for they cared not for the righteousness of His cause, only they sought a means by which they might destroy Him. Though they may have neglected assembling for the purpose of worship, they certainly gathered themselves together for the sake of conspiracy against the God whom they presumed to serve. They, and their representatives, asked what they hoped would be a hard question for Christ, but when He answered with Scriptural Truth, Jesus asked them a question which baffled them and they were vanquished from the field of debate by One they loathed and considered a mere carpenter. Their view was the greatest miscalculation of their lives.
“But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.” They gathered, not as eagles which never congregate in groups but soar individually, but as buzzards which instinctively gather where they believe death will provide a meal.
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying.” The lawyer is not so in the sense of one who litigates civil or criminal suits, but a teacher of the Law of Moses. This lawyer is even more malicious than those who chase ambulances on our modern scene. He proposes a question which is not out of curiosity to know the truth but out of malicious intent to tempt and entangle Christ in His words. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” The answer to this inquiry is not a single, canned answer. The Law of Moses is based upon obedience and constraint, but the Commandments – all of them – of God are rooted in love. Even those indiscretions which violate the law may be covered by a sufficiency of love in the heart. “……love covereth all sins.” (Pro 10:12b)Men love laws and rules, but God loves the things of the heart.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” There are those of the heretical antinomian party who advance these two commandments as proof that the Ten Commandments of God are ancillary to obedience to God in this first great Commandment, but they are not. The Ten Commandments facilitate obedience to these two great Commandments repeated by Christ. Christ does not institute a new Commandment here, but re-emphasizes those already given: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut 6:5) The second part of the great Commandment is also recorded in Old Testament law: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (Lev 19:18) Here we have the purpose and intent of the Law – love! The Law was written on tables of stone at Sinai, but in the fullness of time, God has written them in the hearts of His people. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33) The Law was never intended as a burden, but as a blessing to us. We have made the constraints of the Law of God a burden. We have made perfect obedience a precondition to salvation itself, and we have erred gravely thereby. There is no sin that is beyond the reach of God to forgive. It is by grace whereby we are saved, and never by the works of the Law! “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10) It was through the reading of this passage, and many others that opened the eyes of the great Reformer, Martin Luther, to the blessed truths of the Gospel and to the errors of Rome.
In the Gospel of St Luke, we learn more about this exchange: “And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:32-34)
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them.” Christ employs an excellent military rule here: “while the targets are in one field, and in close formation, economy of fire will save much time and expense.” While He has these culprits together in one space, He will return the favor of their question. “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” The whole effort of the Pharisees has been to expose Christ in the eyes of the people as someone less than whom He claims to be. So He will return the fire and see if they can stand the heat. This question is one which they did not expect, and one which they would prefer not to answer. In attempting to cause Christ to answer wrongly, and having been disappointed in the effort, they now face an embarrassment which will reveal their own dishonest and treacherous hearts before the people. They wanted to pick the field of battle, but Christ has outmaneuvered them and now brings the battle to their own front door! “They say unto him, The Son of David.” Always preferring law over grace and mercy, these scoundrels are consistent in answering, even rightly, according to the law, for Christ is truly considered under the law of generations to have been the Son of David. No Jew today can trace his genealogical record back more than three or four generations, but at Christ’s coming, God used even the secular power to reveal the generations of Christ through the line of David on both the royal and the priestly side. This is the ‘legal’ record of Christ’s descent, but the descent of Christ is through no earthly father, but of God the Father.
“He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalms 110:1) This prophetic utterance of David was issued through the inspiration of God. It cannot be understood by a heart that is darkened by hate and devoid of inspiration. These Pharisees, therefore, could not discern either a spiritual, or a politically acceptable, answer to this question.
“And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” So Christ, with the simple weapon of Truth, has vanquished His four different sets of enemies in one sitting whose weapons are intrigue, deceit, and treachery – the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Scribes. The world hates innocence and truth because it is a conflict and a challenge to all that the world adores. But truth ALWAYS wins out in the long run. No one remembers the Roman pontiff who disputed with Luther, but all remember Luther. No one remembers the Archbishop who sent Cranmer and others to the stake, but all remember Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. We may not recall the names of the men who sat on the Sanhedrin in condemnation of Christ, but we remember Christ and His Apostles. True silver is silver all the way through. If silver-plated, the spoon will wear through in time to expose the cheaper metal beneath, but a sterling spoon will always prove to be silver. Are you a sterling Christian, or do you wear the plating and covering of a Christian and are an imposter underneath?