Matthew 22:34-46 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
20th Sunday after Trinity
It is important to know who somebody is. A person’s name and context give us the meaning of their identity on the basis of which relationship is formed. Or that’s roughly how these things seem to work. An example of this is the play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, that you may know from its filmed adaptations too. In case you haven’t seen it, either as a play or a film, I shan’t give away the plot. But an Army journal, a Who’s Who, plays an important part towards the end of the story.
The Pharisees who are questioning Jesus this time in Matthew 22, are also trying to have a look to see where Jesus appears in their own Who’s Who. They hold the law of Moses in front of him, figuratively speaking – all 613 commandments of it – and ask him, ‘Now, which of these is the greatest?’ Jesus has no trouble answering it, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ This answer could not be questioned: it was a perfect summary of the law, and one that was even shaped into a daily prayer for every devout Jew; a prayer that is prayed even to this day. However, Jesus has always been challenging the people about their outward religious observance when it was not matched by an inner resolve to observe the intention of the law from the heart. Words are not enough for a person to be made whole; the heart needs to be renewed as well. So, the crux of the matter becomes apparent in the question that Jesus asks the Pharisees in turn: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ In their answer, ‘The son of David’, they are not wrong in itself, but their answer is incomplete. Yes, Jesus is the son of David, or in the line of David, as Matthew, the gospel writer says before. But he is not just a king who would win military battles for the Jews, which is the popular image of the son of David at the time. A king like that would hardly encourage people to love God and their neighbours in the intended meaning of the law.
But what if David’s son is also David’s Lord and Master? What if God became human and brought the healing and saving rule of his Kingdom to the whole world? As such a Son, he would change the picture dramatically and change the entire meaning of who the real enemies of humanity were: not just a political oppressor, but the universal problem of sin and death.
David, as the writer of many of the Psalms, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, had said, ‘the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’ The first Lord is God; the second Lord refers to the Messiah.
Simply put: God is creator, Messiah is his Son. Jesus is both son of David and Son of God. Prophesies about him were going to be fulfilled, as he would show the world what it really meant to ‘love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and to love your neighbour as yourself.’ From this time onward, no one dared ask him any more questions. His answer to any of them would not have been in words anyway, but in actions that spoke louder than words. His submission to God’s plan of salvation for the whole world, even unto death, would show what the summary of the law was all about: love – for God, and for our neighbour. This would tell everybody who Jesus was, in a new Who’s Who edition that showed an open tomb as evidence of his identity, and the true importance of being earnest about love. Amen.