Trinity 18 – October 19th and 20th, 2019 – Matthew 22:34-46
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Jesus doesn't care about your “side”. He doesn't care about your “tribe”, your “party”, your sophisticated position on the latest issue of the day. And He certainly has no interest in being used as a pawn in your maneuvering against the “other” side. Okay, yes, I know that's sort of a blunt start for the sermon, but that's part of what's going on in our Gospel text. That nice little drama dust up you're having, the one you've spun to where you're the hero and they're the villain, or where they are the mean jerks and you're the innocent victim – Jesus doesn't want to play that game. No interest what so ever. Listen.
But when the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. This is during holy week – and Jesus has come to the temple. And suddenly He's popular, and there are crowds listening to Him preach and all that. However, Jesus has walked into a social political hot bed. You see, in Jewish society there were three main groups that were vying for power – you had the priests in the Temple, and you had the Sadducees, and you had the Pharisees. The priests liked things nice and calm and worshippers coming in and paying for all the wonderful stuff in the temple – and Jesus has already ticked them off royally by flipping over the money changers' tables – My Father's house is to be a house of prayer. And the priests and elders had opposed Him, and He basically made them look silly. But people didn't want the temple to be a house of prayer – no, it's supposed to be a feather in their political caps. So the Sadducees come up – think of these as the worldly educated liberal elite. And they figure if Jesus is poking at the conservative religious elite, maybe He'll be on their side and bring the crowds over to their side. And Jesus levels them – they ask their question and Jesus says in Matthew 22:29 - “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” That is a takedown as harsh as any could be. Of course, Jesus was teaching there that God is the God of the Living and that there will be a resurrection – but people ignore that. No, the politics is the thing!
And so in jump the Pharisees. They normally allied themselves with they priests, because the Pharisees were conservative – but they were the pious laity – your salt of the earth conservatives who were concerned with doing things the right way. Surely Jesus would side with them, right? Well, let's see. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” A lot of times I have viewed this question utterly negatively – as though it's a horrible thing to even ask. But I'm a pastor, and I ask these sorts of questions all the time. I probably drop 9 or 10 of these a week in Confirmation Class – questions that are open but I want to hear the way the person answers so I can evaluate them. And actually, it's a generous question, if asked of a potential political ally. Jesus could weaponize the answer against the Priests – Jesus could talk about the great laws concerning the temple and how the priests have ruined it. Or Jesus could lambaste the Sadducees again. Think of it this way – if I ask you what the biggest problem in American society is today, you could use that as a springboard for a fantastic rant against whomever you want to rant about. It's open ended, and it's a soft-ball question, and Jesus could just hammer whomever He wants to.
But He doesn't. Because Jesus didn't care about their political games. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” So you want to hammer the priests, Jesus? Want to beat up on the Sadducees? Or maybe hit the Democrats, or grouse about Trump. No. How about instead of focusing on complaining about the other guy we get focused upon loving God and loving, serving, doing good for our neighbor? I didn't turn over the tables in the temple because I hated the priests – I did it because the Temple is good and good for people and I don't want that gift from God messed up. I didn't confront the Sadducees because they annoyed Me – I did it because they were rejecting the idea of the Resurrection of the Dead, and I am going to raise them from the dead and I want them to enjoy that – because I serve My Father and I actually love My neighbor, even the priests and the Saducees and the Romans, and even you Pharisees. Here – let Me show you, let Me get your focus right, O Pharisees.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question. Can you see it? They're in their little huddle, trying to work out the spin of what Jesus had said, conspiring together and trying to figure out how to win the day – when Jesus cuts them off. No more politicking. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?” Instead of focusing on what we do, or what our neighbor does so poorly and how we can use that to bash them over their heads, let's focus on something better. The Christ. The Messiah. The Savior. Whose son is He? And that's an easy question – He's the Son of David. Ah – very good. So let's talk some politics, since you love it – but not this lousy, stupid politics of the day – let's go back to the glory days – to the Kingdom of David – those were the days when Israel was great. So David, the great king – How is it that David, in the Spirit, calls Him LORD, saying, “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 is He his Son? And the Pharisees are silenced – in fact, everyone is silenced on the day's politics. Why? Well, let's talk about the Messiah – the Son of David – and David calls Him LORD. He is “great David's GREATER Son” as the hymn puts it. And you know what happens to the enemies of the Messiah – utter defeat.
And they all should know by now who Jesus is. He's the Messiah – He's done all sorts of Messianic things. And here they all are, playing their political games and focusing on their own power and ignoring Jesus, or even worse trying to use Him as a tool in their power plays – all setting themselves in opposition to Him, all trying their hardest to become His enemy. And you know what will happen if you want to be Jesus' enemy? Defeat and destruction and chaos. Is that the game you want to play, O Pharisees? Is that the game you want to play, O people of Herscher?
See, this is the thing, and this is actually what got Jesus killed, because after He has silenced the priests and the Sadducees and the Pharisees they all conspire together to kill Jesus – probably the only thing they ever agreed on. And why? Jesus doesn't care about your “side”. He doesn't care about your “tribe”, your “party”, your sophisticated position on the latest issue of the day. And He certainly has no interest in being used as a pawn in your maneuvering against the “other” side. Jesus cares about one thing – serving the Father by winning you salvation. That's how He loves you, and that's what He's going to do. Period. All these little distinctions we like to make, that we make mountains out of – they are going to come to an end. “I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Yeah, humanity got busted apart – because sin separates, but I'm not here to tell you your slice of separation is the best – I'm putting things back together. “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” The problem isn't the priests, or the Saducees, or JB or Guiliani or whoever you want to complain about. The problem is Satan, and sin, and death – and they've got you and your enemies alike in the palm of their hand – but I'm going to destroy Sin and Satan and Death. I'm going to destroy it when I'm lifted upon upon the Cross and Crucified – and I will bring you to Me, I will rescue you from sin and death. And it was so. Christ has died, and Christ has risen, Alleluia.
And so Jesus draws you to Himself, now, this moment - “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The important thing isn't all these distinctions and identities that we make and craft for ourselves. The important thing isn't our opinions or ideas or even how we vote. This is what is important – you are Baptized, and Christ Jesus has forgiven you. He has claimed you as His own, and you belong to Him. And even though the world and sin and Satan keep trying to get their hooks into you – you are His. And He forgives you again today.
There's an important thing to note – when I said that Jesus doesn't care about your side, or your politics, or opinion – I did not, did not say that He doesn't care about you. You aren't just the sum of your thoughts and ideas, you aren't just your usefulness to whatever social political powers that be. Who are you? You are a baptized child of God. You are an heir of life everlasting. You are a lord of creation, and when Jesus comes again and the heavens and the earth are made a new and are good and cleansed of sin and death, it will be yours because Christ Jesus gives it to you. And so you delight in His gifts now, and you will delight in them all the more in the life of the world to come. Because Jesus has come to rescue you, to free you from the power of sin and death – from the pettiness of the world. And He has. You are forgiven and free in Him, no matter what the crackpots of any of the silly sides in the world say. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +