“David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks of Christ” Trinity 18 2023

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08. October 2023

Trinity 18

Mt 22:34-48

 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ … [and] If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today, Jesus is asked a question and speaks in terms we can understand. But then He asks a question in the second half, and no one can understand and are silent. The first way of speaking makes complete sense to us, but the second way is beyond any capacity—our heart, soul, strength, or mind. In a shocking turn, what Jesus says that we can comprehend cannot save us, but what He says that offends us is precisely the truth that keeps us! 

As you may have guessed, we’re talking about God’s two ways of speaking: the Law and the Gospel. When Jesus speaks the Law, we have no problem with it. It makes sense. It echoes the desires of our hearts. It confesses what we experience in this world. It’s so simple even a child can get it. What does God expect of you? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… [and] You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Or, as the poet once opined, “All you need is love.” 

You’ll notice that no one disagrees with Jesus’ answer. It’s exactly right. What does God demand? That you love Him with your whole being and that you love your neighbor as yourself. This is the correct summary of everything written by the Law and the Prophets. Love does what God demands and what your neighbor requires. And on this demand for love, even the atheists, pagans, and idolaters agree. This demand everyone knows because it’s written on your hearts from the beginning. 

But despite all religions believing this demand of the Law for loving service, not all agree on the how, who, and when. We can’t agree on how to love our neighbors, who our neighbors are, and when this love is required. Do we need to intervene or not? Should we engage in this program or activity? What is the most loving thing to do? This is because love is bound and limited according to the flesh, not free and unlimited. We look for loopholes and escape clauses to avoid the fullness of the Law of love.

But love, according to the Scriptures, is summarized in the Ten Commandments. Jesus takes the summary and fully exposits it in His Sermon on the Mount of Matthew, chapters 5-7. He shows us the full extent of the Law as given by all the Law and the Prophets. Love has no limit because the Law governs all things. The Law demands perfect and complete loving service. You don’t get to ask when, how, where, and why. Love serves God in everything, and love always cares for the neighbor. Even though we know this is impossible, it makes sense to us, and we agree with the poet, “All we need is love.” And on this, even the atheist, the pagan, and the idolaters agree.

But while the Pharisees were still gathered together, Jesus asked them His question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ … [and] If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” After His question, His interrogators cannot answer a word and don’t even dare question Him anymore. Their questions about the law were often on useless subjects such as ritual purity, specific clothing, etc. After their question about the greatest commandment of the Law, Jesus asked them about the most incredible comfort in the Gospel. He’s telling them that as much as they are concerned about the law, it would be far more beneficial to them if they had asked about the Messiah/Christ. Because in David’s Son and David’s Lord, they would be made righteous, justified, and saved. Now He tells them how they might receive the righteousness of faith, overcome the devil, death, sin, and hell, and know Christ. Asking questions about the law and commandments does not bring them much benefit, but to know Christ’s Gospel is the greatest gift, for He is “the power of God that saves all who believe in it, whether Jew or Gentile” (Rom 1:16). 

This quote from Psalm 110 is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. It is one of the sermon texts that are the basis of the preaching to the Hebrews (the book of Hebrews). It is quoted frequently because its dialogue is the key to proclaiming the Gospel. What makes no sense to reason is received by faith and for salvation. Psalm 110 becomes the drumbeat of faith in Christ. The message that silenced and confirmed the Pharisees in their unbelief leads you to know and believe who Jesus is. And knowing Him, you also come to receive Him in the gifts He gives.

What the Pharisees hear as a riddle, you hear as a confession of Christ Jesus in His two natures, very God of very God and true man, born of the Virgin Mary. Yes, Jesus is of David, true man. But He is also David’s Lord, true God. The first is believable because, as true man, Jesus was born under the law. But the latter is unbelievable. God in man made manifest for the salvation of the world. It can only be received in faith. “I believe that I cannot in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him,” but the Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified you by the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus as man requires no preacher, only eyes, ears, and touch. Jesus as God requires a preacher because “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” (Is 64:4; 1 Cor 2:9). 

Jesus reveals that David’s psalm was sung about Christ’s kingship: how He would be victorious and triumph over His enemies. Jesus is warning the Pharisees again before His Passion and admonishing them to repent. It is as if He were saying, “Let go over your malice. Stop trying with cunning, craft, and guile to knock me down. You will fail. You will not defeat me. You will soon see Me sitting as Lord of heaven and earth, and if you persist in your rebellion, you will be as a footstool under my feet.” There is no way the Psalm is about natural sons because which king refers to his son with greater dignity as Lord? But David, inspired by the Holy Spirit—not human intellect, reason, or wisdom—speaks of Christ. 

Jesus is your Lord and the Father’s Son from eternity. He was made Man in the last age from the seed of Abraham and David. He only terrifies the enemy whose heart thinks only of the Law. But Jesus has revealed to you a more excellent Word, the Gospel, where you learn that He created you anew in Baptism, purchased and redeemed you from all the power of the devil, death, sin, and hell—that is, He overcame the devil, slew death, shattered hell, opened heaven, and made atonement with the Father. And as your King, He protects and shelters you in this wicked world from all our physical and spiritual enemies and defends you from all evil of body and soul. And as your High Priest, He has cleansed you by His blood from all sins. You have a constant mediator and intercessor before God, who speaks well of you, wins grace and mercy for you, and finally will take you and all the elect to Himself in eternal life. Amen. 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin