David's Son Is David's Lord
The text for this morning is our Gospel, Matthew 22:34-46, which has already been read.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I’m sure you’ve heard speakers or teachers who are trying to encourage discussion say: “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” I must disagree. Just try asking one of them a stupid question, and watch their reaction. If not by their words, you’ll see by their facial expression or body language how even they don’t believe such nonsense. No, not all questions are created equal.
If you’ve sat in on enough question and answer sessions, you know this is true. Most people won’t ask any questions in a large group setting for fear of looking foolish. So when someone asks a good question, there is an almost audible sigh: “I was hoping someone would ask that question!” Or “I’m glad they asked that question! I had never considered that idea before.”
But there’s often the negative side, too. Someone asks a question where they already know the answer but just want to show how smart they are. Then there are also those who will ask a question just to “stir the pot.” And there are those who will ask a question just to test the speaker. No, not all questions are created equal. There are good questions, foolish questions, and trick questions.
That’s certainly true with our text. We have the third of three questions in Matthew 22—each intended to entangle Jesus in His own words. The Pharisees and Herodians ask: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? The Sadducees ask: If a woman has been married to seven brothers, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Each time, Jesus returns the question with some biblical backspin. They’re caught in their own trap. The foes marvel. The crowd is astonished.
Today, another question: One of the Pharisees—a teacher of the Law—asks: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
It sounds like a reasonable question, doesn’t it? How would you answer it? Well, we’d probably start with the Ten Commandments, and figure that the first would be the most important since it’s the first, right? “You shall have no other gods.” That has to be the most important commandment, since it deals with God. Certainly more important than the other commandments further down the list that deal with obeying parents or lying or gossiping or coveting. Keep that one and you can slide a bit on the rest, right?
The Pharisees went a lot further than ten commandments. They were connoisseurs of commandments. Like stamp collectors, they went through the Law, the Torah, with a magnifying glass. And when they had gone from Genesis to Deuteronomy, they collected 613 commandments. 613 biblical principals. Six hundred and thirteen dos and don’ts to make you the apple of God’s eyes. It’s bad enough having to learn ten commandments—much less keep them. Can you imagine 613? No wonder they were asking Jesus which was the most important. When you have 613 you definitely need to prioritize. So which one is the top dog?
As the question rolls over in your mind, you begin to see the problem with priorities. By putting something first on a list, you diminish everything below it. That’s why I frown on the idea of “putting God first” in your life. You hear people say that sometimes, don’t you? Very piously and religiously. Perhaps you’ve even said something like this: “God first, family second, work third, and play fourth.”
The trouble with that kind of list is that it sets God over and against family and work and play, and you know deep down in your gut that that can’t be right. A list like that also makes God one item among several on a list; and you know that that can’t be right either, because God shares a list with no one and nothing. He wants to be your everything, not just your top priority.
But to be totally honest, when you stop and do the math, God doesn’t actually even come in first; not if we measure it in how we expend our time and treasure. Take time, for instance. You have 24 times 7 equals 168 hours each week. Let’s say work, getting ready for work, getting to and from work, take up twelve hours a day. That’s 60 hours. That leaves 108 hours. Let’s say meals take another 2 hours a day. You eat seven days a week. That’s 14 hours. 94 left. Sleep? Probably should have about 8 a night. That’s 56, so we’re down to 38.
Now, of course, if your family is priority #2, you’ve got to spend some time with them. Let’s say you’re above average and you spend an hour of uninterrupted quality family time a day. That’s 7 hours. Then there are chores, errands, and “honey-do” lists, perhaps 4 hours a week. Now, we’re down to 27 hours.
And, if you’re like most people, you’ve got to have a little “me time” to work out or curl up with a good book or watch television. Let’s say a couple of hours a day. That leaves us with 13 hours still unaccounted for. If you go to church to worship the Triune God and receive His gifts of salvation and you manage to stay for Bible study and a second cup of coffee that’s another 3 hours. If you’re keeping track, that’s still about 10 hours a week left for everything else.
The purpose of this little exercise is not to make you feel guilty about how you spend your time. It’s simply to demonstrate you can’t say God is first when He ranks somewhere below your favorite book or this week’s American Idol. And that’s what’s wrong with priorities. God can’t be first among your priorities… another god among your pantheon of gods. “You shall have no other gods.”
Instead, God is in the center of every priority—family, work, play, whatever. God is in the middle of it all, because your life, as you now have it, is hidden with Christ in God. So every waking or sleeping hour of the day has God in the middle of it. You can’t separate how you spend time, anymore than you can separate how you spend money, because all of it is God’s and He is hidden in the midst of it all.
That’s what’s ultimately wrong with the scribe’s question. Which commandment is the greatest? You can’t answer that. They are all great, each in their own way, because each has God in it. Each reveals God’s character. Luther recognized this when he said that the first commandment was at the heart of all the commandments. Fear, love, and trust in God above all things, and all the other commandments will flow quite naturally.
Jesus said the great and first command is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He wants you all to Himself. He wants all of you to Himself. Your heart. Your soul. Your mind. Everything. He doesn’t want to be a priority in your day planner. He wants to be what He already is—your God. And you can have only one of those.
“And a second is like it,” Jesus says. Hey, wait a minute. Who said anything about a second commandment? The question was, “Which is the great commandment?’ not “which two?” That’s cheating. But Jesus throws in a second or maybe a 1b to His 1a. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
You thought you could love God and forget about your deadbeat neighbor who gets on your nerves? Wrong! You thought you could be religious in your own little spiritual bubble and despise the people around you? No way! You thought you could keep the first commandment and blow off the rest and say, “That’s good enough?” Well I’m sorry, but it’s not good enough. Jesus won’t let you play priorities with your love. Love God, love your neighbor.
The Pharisees were experts at complicating the Law, spending hours disputing what is permissible and what is not. Jesus is the exact opposite. He cuts through all the complicated jargon and puts before us the central teaching of the Law: love. What is the Lord’s will for my life? Answer: that I love the Lord and my neighbor. It’s so simple that no one can honestly say, “I didn’t understand what you wanted, Lord.” The entire Law is summarized in one word: love.
But do you do it? Do you love God, not just a little bit, or an hour and a half on a Sunday morning’s worth? Do you love God completely, or do you withhold parts of your being from God? And what about that neighbor whom you are to love as yourself? I’m not talking about the nice ones; I’m talking about the rude ones, the mean ones, the downright unlovable ones. Do you love them?
Please recognize this about the Law, dear people. You must love perfectly if you want to save yourself. You can’t slip up even once. You must love God even when He doesn’t deliver what you ordered. You must love your neighbor even when he doesn’t live up to your expectations. And when the Law is finished with your loving, the only question left is this: “How then can anyone be saved?”
Which brings us to Jesus’ question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” We miss the point if we see this as nothing more than tit for tat. His is a serious question, and an honest answer would bring His opponents to a correct understanding of Him. Jesus is reaching out to the Pharisees. They come with malice and murder in their hearts. Jesus loves them, and invites them in. So don’t hate the Pharisees. Jesus doesn’t. And they’re a lot like you. When He reaches out to them, He is inviting you into the mysteries of the Kingdom.
“Who is the Christ?” Jesus asks.
“The son of David,” the Pharisees reply. They learned that in Saturday school in the synagogue. The Messiah would come from David’s line.
“Good,” says Jesus. “So, now tell Me. When David was speaking by the Holy Spirit in the Psalms, he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet.’ ‘If then David calls Him Lord, how can He be His son?” Now there’s a great question! How can the Christ be son of David and yet the Lord at the same time? He can’t be. Unless, of course, David’s son is also the Son of God. And then there’s much more to this Jesus than a sharp rabbi who can’t be trapped by trick questions.
How can David have the Messiah as both his son and his Lord? The only answer that makes sense of the text is that the Messiah is both man and God. And this teaching is at the very heart of the Christian confession. Who is Jesus? We rejoice this morning to be given this answer by the Lord Himself.
And so our Lord’s last words to the Pharisees, to the temple, to His enemies, is the word of His two natures. Their rejection would become, only three days later, the fuel of Jesus’ passion, His arrest, His trials, and His death.
But what does this mean for us? We, after all, have not rejected this sublime teaching of the two natures of Christ. We confessed it earlier in the creed: “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…” But what does this mean?”
That Jesus has two natures is at the very heart of the Gospel. If Jesus was not David’s Son and David’s Lord, then He could not be your Savior. Christ had to be true man in order to fulfill the Law in your place. He had to be fully human in order to suffer and die for your guilt because you have failed to keep the Law. Christ had to be true God in order that His fulfilling of the Law, His life, suffering, and death might be sufficient for all people. He had to be fully divine in order to overcome death and the devil for you.
This Son of God was born Son of David for one purpose: To gather the whole world and all of loveless humanity into His death and to rescue it from its failure to love God and love neighbor. Jesus loved perfectly. He loved God with His whole heart, with His entire soul, with His whole mind. He loved His neighbor as Himself. Not just His favorite disciples, but also the crowds, the outcasts, the demonized, the diseased and despairing, and yes, even the religious types with their questions meant to trap Him. He loved them, too. And He loves each of you.
Jesus loved His Father, and obedient to His will to save, He went to the cross to die. He loved His neighbor, even to the point of praying for those who killed Him. That perfect, holy love is yours, His gift to you. It comes with His death for you and His life for you. Jesus is God’s love for humanity, and He is humanity’s love for God. In Jesus, you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. In Jesus, you love your neighbor as yourself. And in Jesus—the One whose righteousness exceeds the scribes and Pharisees, the One who hung dead on the cross—all the Law, from the greatest to the least of the commandments, is fulfilled to the last jot and tittle. The Law can no longer condemn you. There is no condemnation for anyone in Christ Jesus. No question about it.
So which is the greatest commandment? Wrong question. Who is the Christ? That’s the question. And you know the answer: His name is Jesus. David’s Son, yet David’s Lord. God Incarnate. The Godhead veiled in flesh.
Which explains one more mystery—how Jesus is able to keep His promise to be with you always, how He is able to reign in heaven at the Father’s right hand and still be here with you, personally and intimately.
The risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ is fully divine and fully human. As such He is able to come to you in His means of grace. In the water and Word of Holy Baptism, Christ has given you His Holy Spirit, who has created and sustains your faith. In the bread and wine of His Supper, He feeds you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Through His called and ordained servant He speaks His own Word of absolution.
David’s Son is David’s Lord… and your Lord, too. For His sake you are forgiven for all of your sins. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen