27/10/02 6 p.m. Year C Proper 25/Last after Trinity : Matthew 22:34-46
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37 Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" "The son of David," they replied. 43 He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him `Lord'? For he says, 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 can he be his son?" 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
I wonder what have people been talking about this week ? The weather, the latest developments in Eastenders or Coronation Street, or the Midle East, Iraq or Northern Ireland
In Jesus' day the religious leaders would spend ages debating the 613 individual statutes in the law, and attempted to differentiate between "heavy" (or "great") and "light" (or "little") commands.
Jesus had just answered questions from various religious and political groups about paying taxes ( vs. 15-22 ), and marriage at the resurrection ( vs. 23-33). Because Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the opposing religious party, the Pharisees asked Jesus a question, 36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
37 Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. This first quotation came to be known as the Shema, named after the first word of Deut. 6:4 in Hebrew, which means "hear." 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. The Shema became the Jewish confession of faith, which was recited by pious Jews every morning and evening. To this day it begins every synagogue service.
We live in a world where there is much talk about love. The word can be used for an intense liking of something: 'I love strawberries'; ' I love Port Vale'. Love can be used for a friendship where people share a common bond or interest, what you could call a brotherly/sisterly love. Sometimes the word is confused with feelings such as lust.
Love. The Greek verb is not phileo, which expresses friendly affection, but agape, the commitment of devotion that is directed by the will and can be commanded as a duty. It is a deliberate, selfless love where the lover is more concerned with the interest of the one being loved than his/her own interests. It requires sacrifice, will, courage, and commitment without conditions.
We all need to feel loved in that way. To be accepted as we are without conditions. The best way we can know that love is through Jesus. We also need to give love. Once we have received God's love we can demonstrate that love to others. Not just to those who are lovable, but to everyone. Not in our own strength, but inspired by God the Holy Spirit, who lives within every Christian and is a source of divine love.
The heart was regarded ,as it is today, as the seat of the affections.
The soul was considered the very being of someone in their ordinary relationships with earthly and physical things. You could say it the personality, what makes a person unique.
The "mind" is the self in its rational functions involving deep thought and reflection.
These functional names often overlap. You could paraphrase Jesus words by saying that we are to love God with our whole being all of the time.
In the old days of the circuit riders a minister was out riding one afternoon and came upon a man out working in his field. "Fine day isn't it?", the minister called out. "Its fine for you", the man replied, "All you have to do is ride around on that horse thinking about God all day long, while I have to sweat here in this field and then walk home afterward. I don't think its right you should have things so easy while I have to work so hard."
"On the contrary", the minister answered, "thinking about God is one of the most difficult things you can do. And to prove it, I'll give you this horse if you can think about God and nothing else for one minute." "You're on.", said the man and immediately he sat down in silence. Thirty seconds later he looked up at the minister. "Does that include the saddle?", he asked.
The story is funny because we can imagine a person doing what the farmer did. But the story is also profound. It is profound because it reminds us that it is not only hard to think about God in the way the law tells us we should but it is also to do it.
39 And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
To the Shema Jesus joined the commandment from Leviticus 19:18 to show that love for our neighbour is a natural and logical result of love for God. 18" `Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
According to one tradition, the beloved disciple, John, now very old and too weak to walk anywhere, was carried into church every Sunday by his friends. As the worship ended, they would assist him to his feet, and he would bless the gather faith community, saying: "Little children, love one another."
One day, a church member got the idea that the old disciple was saying the same thing too often, like a pastor repeating the sermon over and over. But the elderly John had an answer for that: "There is nothing more to be said. It is the final word. If we love one another, that is everything."
Jesus said they will indeed know that we are Christians by our love. John 13: 34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
God has created people in his own image. He has re-created people to be like Jesus. He, therefore, calls those who have received his love to show it to other Christians and to the world. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, everyone is our neighbour, even those who we would not readily warm to. We are called to love people who live outside our area, who were not born in our area, who we do not know, who speak differently, who have a different colour skin, who dress differently, who have less than we do, or who have more than we do, and so on. Jesus even said we are to love our enemies.
The more we realise our own wretched position before God without Jesus, the easier we will find it to love others.
Jesus told us how we should love our God and to love fellow human beings. But, if we are honest, we fail to live up to Jesus summary of the law. We forget God, or push him to one side when following him becomes uncomfortable or inconvenient. We get resentful, angry and envious of people.
I read somewhere of a minister talking with the children about the importance of living right, and he wrapped up with the challenge, "Now, if all the good people in the world were red and all the bad people were green, what colour would you be?" One tot thoughtfully replied, "I'd be streaky."
As one 'streaky' person to another we have to admit that God's word is good in that it shows us God's perfect will for our lives. Yet it also exposes the sin that is in our lives.
The law, then can be summarized by saying that we are to love God with our whole being all of the time, and we are to love everyone else as we love ourselves. As we cannot to this we will be separated from God. Therefore, we need someone to put us right with God, a Saviour, and this is what the next section is about.
Jesus not only showed us the right way to live, but also offers a right relationship with God. He lived a perfect life, always loving God with his whole being, always loving other people as himself. This is why he was able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice, to bear the punishment for the sins of the world, which is separation from God. He endured this as he hung on the cross. This is why he cried out, 'My God, my God why have you forsaken me'.
Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and a new life with God to those who will follow him.
In "The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis reveals the mystery of God's love in a letter from a demon in hell to a lesser tempter on earth charged with securing the soul of his "patient": "Remember, disgusting as it may seem to you, God really loves those weak and filthy human vermin that crawl the earth. Hateful as it may seem to you, He really wants them finally happy. That is why God did that treacherous thing we here in hell will never understand; cut them loose from his control, put human beings on their own in so many dangerous ways, took some of his own freedom and slipped it into their beastly little hearts. That's why he's so mysterious with them. He wants something more than mere obedience. His master plan is to win from them the free unforced recognition of his love, and the free unforced and glad response to it!"
The Jewsih religipous leaders were unable to accept Jesus, even through he was the one whom the Scriptures pointed to.
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" "The son of David," they replied. 43 He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him `Lord'? For he says, 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 can he be his son?" 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Many Jews expected that the Christ or Messiah or anointed one, they all mean the same thing, would be a human military leader who was a descendant of King David. Jesus exposes the error in this by quoting Psalm 110, which was written by David and addresses the Messiah as 'Lord'. This Psalm was regarded as Messianic by the Jews and Jesus uses it to show that the Messiah is divine and superior to David. The Psalm has the Messiah sitting at the place of honour, God's right hand. He is second in importance only to God the Father. In these days conquering Kings would have themselves portrayed with their defeated enemies under their feet, like a footstool. The Psalm refers to the Messiah being a victorious King and an eternal priest. Jesus won his victory on the cross. On the cross, as the great priest he offered himself and not animals, to God the Father as a sacrifice for sin.
Jesus used the Bible to show God's perfect will for everyone. In doing so he revealed our need for a Saviour. He used the Bible, Psalm 110, to show that the victorious Saviour would be God himself.
We see from this that Jesus saw the Bible as having authority in teaching us about God and the way that he wants people to respond to him. Today is 'Bible Sunday', and so it seems fitting to highlight the fact that Jesus saw the Bible as being the only reference point for knowing God and His will. Therefore, so should all Christians. Unfortunately, much of the church today is often embarrassed about Biblical truths and will compromise and follow the ways of the world rather than be challenged by it . How refreshing it was to witness Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt on a television news programme stand up against the proposal to allow homosexual partners to adopt children.
One document which spreads some light on what we have been looking at is The Westminster Shorter Catechism ( A.D. 1647 ), which involves a question and answer format about the Christian faith:
Question 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Question 2. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Question 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
Answer. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
We need not look at Jesus' summary of the law and feel hopeless, that we will never be able to get it all right all of the time. After all, few people approach an examination expecting to get 100% but this does not stop them trying. We can rejoice knowing that Jesus has got 100% for us and offer ourselves to God in gratitude and obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This poem expresses the commitment God wants from us...
If all you want, Lord, is my
my heart is yours alone -
providing I may set apart
my mind to be my own.
If all you want, Lord, is my
my mind belongs to you,
but let my heart remain inclined
to do what it would do.
If heart and mind would both
while I kept strength and soul,
at least I would not sacrifice
completely my control.
But since, O God, you want
to shape with your own hand,
I pray for grace to heed your call
to live your first command.