"What Do You Think About the Christ?"
Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
Second Sunday in Angels' Tide
St. Matthew 22:34-46
IN NOMINE JESU
Our text for today gives us an exercise in Christology. Christology is the study ("-ology") of who the Christ is. Much has been written about who the Christ is. At our seminaries, there are entire courses devoted to this study. But it is not kept separate from the rest of the seminarian's studies, as everything is intertwined with, and connected to, each other. In fact, one of my former professors has said, "All theology is Christology." Everything we look at in Christian theology has its roots in, and is centered around, the Christ, to whom the Scriptures point, to whom all theology ultimately points. Without the Christ there is no Christology, no Christian theology, and no Christianity. Without the Christ there is no Lord, no faith, and no baptism. Not only is the Christ necessary for all of this, for our faith, and for our salvation, but a right understanding of the Christ—a proper Christology—is crucial.
In our text for today, the Pharisees showed Jesus that they had a proper understanding of who the Christ is. The Lord asked them whose son the Christ is, and they said, "The son of David." Make no mistake about it, the Pharisees were well-versed in the Scriptures. They knew the Torah. They knew the Prophets. They knew the Writings, including the Psalms. They weren't priests, but they were very well-educated laymen, laymen who knew the Scriptures inside and out. Keep in mind that what they knew is what we have today as the Old Testament, for the books of the New Testament had not yet been written. They would have fared well on "The Great American Bible Challenge," currently on TV, provided that all the questions were based on what was in the Old Testament. How well would we do on that show? Let's move on, shall we?
The Christology of the Pharisees was spot-on, but their application of it was their undoing. They knew what the Scriptures said. They had a problem attaching the title Christ ("Anointed One") to Jesus of Nazareth. They refused to acknowledge what the disciples had already confessed, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. They acknowledged that the Christ would come through King David's bloodline, as the Christ would be called the Son of David from time to time. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110:1 to them, asking how David calls his own descendant his Lord. King David wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'" In English, the two uses of Lord lose something in translation. The original Hebrew text of this psalm uses two different words, which makes the meaning of this verse even more significant. In Hebrew, David used the Divine Name YHWH and a form of Adonai, which means "Lord"—"my Lord," in this case. What David said was "YHWH said to my Lord"—"God the Father said to God the Son." David confessed that his Lord would come from his lineage—that is, according to the Son's human nature. In the blessed evangelist St. Luke's account of Jesus' birth, Mary, Jesus' human mother, was of the house and line of David. This was a stumbling block to the Pharisees. It was an offense to them. It was a scandal to them. They refused to acknowledge that Jesus is the Fulfillment of Psalm 110, the Son of God and the Son of David. They refused to believe that Jesus is in fact the long-promised Messiah, the long-awaited Christ. They let their hatred of Him mess up their Christology in its application. And because of that, their Christology, their understanding of who the Christ is, is false.
What do we know about who the Christ is? All we need to know about Him God has given to us in His holy Word, both the Old and New Testaments. But, for some reason, we still have a hard time accepting Jesus for who He is: the Christ. Our Christology is messed up because we are messed up. What the Christ is, what Jesus is, does not fit what we think He should be. Take a look at the statue of Jesus that adorns the altar here. When you look at Jesus, what do you see? All too often we see little else than someone we need to serve. We look at Him through the eyes of the Law, not the Gospel. We try to think of as many ways that we can to serve Him. But when we get so steeped into that, we are in over our heads, for there is no way we can adequately serve Him. All our works are for nothing because we have lost our focus. When we take our eyes off Jesus and look in the mirror, we see someone condemned by the curse of the Law because we have relied on our own merits rather than on what Jesus has done for us. We forget what our Lord has clearly said about Himself—namely, that "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt. 20:28).
We don't like what the Bible says about Jesus, especially what He says about Himself, because it doesn't fit in with our ideas about what He should be. We're trying to make Jesus fit into our box, but He refuses to fit. Jesus refuses to limit Himself to what we think He should be, what He should say, and what He should do. We want a warm, fuzzyH Jesus, not the One who comes with a sword. We want to keep Him clean, not to see Him beaten and bloodied like He was for us. In fact, seeing a crucifix scandalizes us because we don't like being reminded of what He willingly endured for us. We can sing about His being "stricken, smitten, and afflicted," but we better not see any reminders of that! On this 18th Sunday after Trinity in the Year of Our Lord 2012, we are as guilty today as the Pharisees were on Tuesday of Holy Week in the year 30 A.D., the time frame of our text: we are guilty of trying to impose our faulty Christology upon the Christ. We are placing our ideals above what God has given us. We are guilty of self-idolatry. We are guilty of believing in ourselves and not in the Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God, of not loving the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. We stand condemned in our sin of unbelief.
But thanks be to God that we have a Christ who is not bound by our reason but who has willingly bound Himself to His Means of Grace, to His Word and Sacraments. Jesus the Anointed One was anointed by His Father to be the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, the Lamb without spot or blemish or defect. Christ, the Son of David, was born of the Virgin Mary and willingly placed Himself under the Law by receiving the Old Testament covenant of circumcision and the New Testament covenant of baptism. "But when the fullness of time had come," the blessed apostle St. Paul writes, "God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4-5). And again, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God" (Rom. 5:8-9).
God our heavenly Father has declared us not guilty of our sins on account of the blood shed by His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, from the cross. That blood He shed upon the altar of the cross, He gives to you here at this altar, along with His body given for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins, "so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:7-8), as we heard to today's Epistle. Yet our Lord has revealed Himself to us, though in hidden form on this side of heaven. He revealed Himself to us in the living water of Holy Baptism. He reveals Himself to us in the bread and wine, in His body and blood. He has revealed Himself to us in His Word, so that we would continue to believe in Him and have a right, an orthodox, Christology, that we would believe, teach, and confess the Christ who has revealed Himself to us in His Word and Sacraments. That right Christology comes through the right teaching of His Word, as He has given pastors the charge to preach and teach the Word and to administer His sacraments. Come and hear your pastor as he preaches Christ crucified and as he teaches the Christ of the Scriptures, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, who sits at His Father's, and our Father's, right hand, comes down to us and serves us, for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many—for you and me. How do we know this? "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9). We are in table fellowship with our Lord, for He has established it with us with His dead body and shed blood, confirming it with His resurrection on the third day. He has risen, and He has conquered sin, death, and the devil forever, forever under His feet. One day, by God's grace, we will enjoy table fellowship with Him in heaven forever, where our Christology will be perfect, as will we, thanks be to God! Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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