16. October 2022
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The lawyer sought to do what lawyers do, in this case, to entrap Jesus in His Word. But all this lawyer’s high-brow legal training and experience pale in comparison to the mastery of language, logic, and rhetoric of Jesus, the eternal Word now incarnate. He wants Jesus to pit His Word against itself, one commandment above the others.
But as Balaam said to Balak, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num 23:19). Jesus’s answer does not deny what He said previously but rather shamed the lawyer’s flawed argument and misleading reasoning. Jesus does not provide some wiggle room to slither out from under the judgment of the commands as the Sadducees did. Jesus does not pile up an abundance of man-made laws to avoid the severity of the few God has given.
Jesus confesses again, as He did to Moses for Israel on Sinai, the total weight of the law expressed in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4. You will love God with your whole person. But we can imagine that this means the first table of the Law, for us, commandments one through three, are the priority. And the second table, those expressing love for neighbor, is thus secondary. But as Jesus makes abundantly clear in His teaching, preaching, and work, there is no such division or dichotomy. Love for God bears fruit in love for neighbor.
Since it is the commandment of God, you must be attentive and keep them because you will have to give account when the day of reckoning comes. In another place, Jesus said, “Do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:27). But you also know how difficult this is. If you loved God above all, it would not be nearly so hard for us to confess our faith before men. You would never think of the commandments as a burden. You should never fear God’s wrath since perfect love casts out fear. You should never be uncertain when there is a choice between God and the world.
And yet you know what happens when you honestly examine your hearts according to them. If you take God’s Word seriously, you know how serious a matter it is not to keep the First Commandment. As yourself, “Do I look to God, my heavenly Father, for all love, good, and joy? Is everything measured for me by what pleases me? In all things, am I self-centered and selfish? Do I see my worry and fretting as a sin against trusting God? Do I complain about the troubles, people, work, and suffering God lays on me? Do I love the things God gives me more than I love Him? And do I cling to what God takes away, even though He gives me Himself?”
After such honest reflection, you understand the troubled question they asked of Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26) It is important to remember that even the commandment of love belongs to the law which Christ alone has fulfilled. This chief commandment reveals to us more clearly than at any other place that we are and continue to be sinners who cannot answer before God in any way.
The bulletin art is correct. All the commandments hang on Christ’s crucifix. God threatens to punish all who break these commandments, but He punishes His Son in your stead and for your sake. He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. All the grace and blessings He gives you because Jesus kept the commandments on your behalf.
Apart from Christ, there is no fulfillment of the Law. He kept the His Law perfectly and obediently to the Father. The Lawgiver keeps His own Law. The Judge takes the criminal’s place, and you go home free.
Therefore we would all be lost and shut out from God unless God had loved us, despite all, with such a love that he gave his own Son who shed his blood for us. It is not our love that saves us but God’s love toward us. Love is not to be found in that we have loved God, but in that, he loved us and sent his Son to redeem us from our sins. The true and complete nature of love, which does not seek its ends, has come into the world in the figure of Jesus Christ.
This does not mean that Jesus is the complete man who reveals how a good man can love. In such a case, it would simply be more of law and bring more judgment upon us. No! Christ is more than “the Son of David,” a man with extraordinary qualities and atypical importance. He is also the Lord of David, far beyond any of history’s greatest figures. He is the Son of God who has come to die for you. In this, you have learned to know the nature of love.
But you now have this love by faith, and it will become a power in your own lives. He who believes “is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). It is as when a man finds a treasure in a field, or a merchant discovers a pearl of great price that he has searched for long and patiently. His heart is dominated by the search. Now, your eyes are opened to the love of God in the forgiveness of sins, continuously delivered into your ears, upon your head, and into your mouth. Jesus has overwhelmed you and holds you captive by it.
It all hangs on Jesus. His love for neighbor is perfectly known for giving His life for His friends. This is true love, unlike this world has ever known since before the Fall. Without Jesus, you cannot know love. With Jesus, you understand and receive the fullness of the love of God. Without Jesus’ love, you can never love your neighbor. With Jesus’ love, you will love fully and completely.
If there is any unloveliness in you—in your marriage and family, among your neighbors, or this congregation—the only remedy is the love of God in Christ Jesus crucified for you. Forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you. Serve each other as Christ has served you. Die for each other as Christ has died for you. Love as Christ has loved you.
Despite your self-love, Jesus never stops loving the selfishness out of you. Despite all the self-justifying jockeying before the Lord, He condemns you by His commandments and justifies you freely by His blood-bought forgiveness. If there was any doubt, today He gives you His love in the loveliest of meals, His Holy Supper. The body given and blood shed for your forgiveness—his life given that you have life. Love received freely as a gift, without merit or worthiness, that we would be changed to be like Him. He changes you to be lovely as He is lovely towards us.
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