Monday, November 13, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 18:21-35, for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity (1 YR), "Forgive as God Forgives You"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today Peter addresses Jesus on the question of forgiveness, and seems to be testing the upper limits of what God expects or requires of our forgiveness. Shall I forgive my brother 7 times? From the perspective of our sinful flesh, 7 times seems pretty generous and patient. But Jesus replies, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy seven times” or “seventy times seven”. There is disagreement about how it’s translated. But whether 77 or 490 times, Jesus’ point is clear—don’t keep score of the sins committed against you, and don’t seek for an upper limit of forgiveness. Do not keep track, but forgive generously and without limit, as God has done for you. Jesus then tells a parable of forgiveness that begins with the debt a person owes, amounting in what today would be hundreds of millions or billions of dollars—or perhaps the equivalent of a couple hundred thousand years of work, at a laborer’s wage. Jesus shows the enormous generosity of God’s forgiveness. But the end of the parable makes clear that not all keep their forgiveness. Some forsake that forgiveness by refusing it to others.
First of all, we have to acknowledge the Biblical truth, that if we kept records of sin; really, if God kept a record of sin, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). The answer is none could stand. Next, just like the servant whose debt was canceled, we have an enormous, unpayable sin debt to God. We have no means or method to repay it. The OT reading asks this same question. Wondering as the cost spirals upward, could God be satisfied by my offerings? By a thousand sacrificed rams? Ten thousand rivers of oil? My firstborn child? When even an unthinkable price is not sufficient, he answers, God requires this: “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:6-8). But the prophet Micah realizes we cannot pay even that cost on our own, as we have each sinned against God. He finally puts his hope in God’s mercy alone, saying at the end of his book: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression…you will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea?” (Mic. 7:18-19). We have no means to repay our sin debt, but God is unsurpassed in His mercy and forgiveness to us.
So it is a first and foundational principle of forgiveness, that we receive it undeservingly from our merciful God. Just like the first servant in the parable, we would be doomed if God did not cancel our debt. We notice, as I mentioned in last week’s sermon, that God does not renegotiate a payment plan with lower monthly payments, but wipes out this man’s debt entirely. Salvation is not a cooperative payback schedule for our sins, it’s Jesus’ total payment of our sin debt before God. He paid the costly price of His precious, innocent blood, and His holy death on the cross. We don’t “chip in” on the cost, or “earn our share.” All credit and glory belongs to Him. But a marvelous transformation in us is intended. The rest of the parable shows what went badly wrong, when the servant received forgiveness from God, but rejected the second essential principle of forgiveness—that as God has forgiven us, we are to forgive others.
Instead of being filled with joy and generosity at his unimaginable, newfound freedom, and spreading that generosity to others, he immediately and vindictively chased after his fellow servant and hounded him for the small debt he owed him. If ten thousand talents represents hundreds of thousands of years of labor, the 100 denarii owed by the second servant, amounts to about 5-6 months of labor. In the parable, this represents the sin debts that other owe us, in comparison to what we owed to God. Yet he mercilessly pursued this servant for the debt, and threw him into jail, pursuing his neighbor’s harm and destruction, when he had just narrowly escaped his own destruction, by the mercy of the Lord. God will not tolerate such a gross violation of His mercy and forgiveness. Such a terrible contradiction to the mercy that He showed first. The two principles of forgiveness—that we are first forgiven by God, and that we must also forgive others—are inseparably tied together. Hearing what happened, the Lord throws the unforgiving servant back in prison, revoking his freedom because he showed no mercy.
It’s a frightening thought for us—but it should not be unsurprising in the least, that God would not look kindly on us abusing His mercy by taking it for ourselves then mercilessly refusing it to others. Hell is real, and none of us wants to suffer there, so we must heed Jesus’ words with all seriousness, and if there is ever un-forgiveness harbored in our hearts, we must earnestly pray and attack it with all the weapons of the Spirit. We must pray and wrestle so that the devil’s stronghold is destroyed, and Jesus may truly work in our hearts, so we forgive our brother from our heart. This power to forgive truly comes from God’s forgiveness to us, and we must repent of our sins, and repent of any un-forgiveness, so that we may truly forgive others.
This raises one of the most difficult questions about forgiveness, that seemed to be on Peter’s mind when he was testing the upper limits of forgiveness. It seems unbearable (to our sinful human flesh) to continually bear with injustice. We feel like forgiveness should cut short after we have taken “so much.” Hatred and bitterness and desire for revenge all spring from injustices done against us—but it is only through forgiveness that these binding chains from sin are broken and we are released. The late Bible scholar Kenneth Bailey talks about several aspects of living out forgiveness. First, that unless we forgive each other and seek God’s forgiveness, we won’t be able to live together as a community. We daily need to pray for God’s forgiveness to pick up the broken pieces of our lives and be restored in the joy of our salvation. Bailey explains that many reject or scoff at the idea of forgiveness, because it seems to say “Never mind” or “Injustice can continue, it doesn’t really matter. We are willing to ignore injustice to ourselves or others.” But this is not  what Biblical forgiveness means.
First of all, forgiveness is not the brushing off of sin, but the acknowledgement of a real offense, hurt, or injury, and to forgive it nonetheless. Secondly, we can both forgive, and struggle for justice. Fighting injustice is part and parcel of the godly walk. We are not required to let injustice go unchecked and continue. Remember our verse from Micah? What does God require? “To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” Bailey goes on to say, “The world despises this theology because it thinks anger is necessary to fuel the struggle for justice, and that forgiveness will dissipate that anger. The Christian disagrees and replies, ‘No. I will forgive and I will struggle for justice. I may still be angry, but my struggle for justice will be purified by forgiveness and thereby become more effective” (Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 127).  The Christian does both, forgives and fights against injustice.
Bailey points us to how Jesus forgave, even when His tormentors made no confession of their guilt. Even when the wrongdoing was huge, He forgave. Jesus is the living example of the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “forgives us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is nothing less than Divine Love, and God’s Divine Love is freely given out to us, as He has objectively cancelled our debts at the cross. That Divine Love of forgiveness is freely given to us, to forgive those who sin against us, even when the wrongdoing is huge. Raw and fresh in our memory is the horrible, evil act of last Sunday, the shooting at the Texas church. We as Christians can say that we forgive, but we will also struggle for justice, and let that struggle be purified by forgiveness. God’s forgiveness keeps us from descending into hatred and adopting the very forms of evil we despise.
The famous Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who fought against real and brutal racism and injustice in South Africa shares some of his own thoughts on forgiveness. He reflects that it’s not just a kindness you do to someone else, but also the best form of self-interest, as forgiveness helps you heal from being consumed by hatred and anger, which almost chains you to the perpetrator of the sin. Forgiveness allows you to move on and become a better person, and can even help the perpetrator do so, if they acknowledge their wrong and participate in the forgiveness. He shares the moving story of a young girl from South Africa whose four family members had all been brutally murdered by the police. She was asked: “would you be able to forgive the people who did this to you and your family? She answered, ‘We would like to forgive, but we would just like to know who to forgive.’” Tutu said that in the beauty of her forgiveness she retained her humanity against all attempts to treat her as less than human.
In a world that swirls with so much anger, violence, and unforgiveness—in a world where many angry voices shout that we must fight injustice without forgiveness—we as Christians can take up the incredible and mighty calling of God to forgive others as God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus. Not because it’s easy, not because the weight of sin is not crushing and sometimes crippling, but because Jesus lifted that crushing weight, He bore it on His cross, and He buries it in His grave. Because through Jesus’ forgiveness He heals what is crushed and crippled, and makes alive. Jesus buries evil with a force that even death cannot overcome, as He shattered the grave in victory. Even when murderers take the life of innocents; whether in churches or on the streets; death cannot shatter the power of Jesus’ forgiveness and His Risen Life. He will give life again to all those innocent saints at First Baptist Church.
Evil and death cannot overpower the Divine Love of forgiveness that Jesus pours out on us without limit, and enables us to forgive our brothers and sisters from our heart—yes even to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus’ forgiveness washes over us by water and His Word, purifying us of anger, hatred, and bitterness, and steeling us to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with our God. With His forgiveness, we are able to pursue justice through doing what is good, upright, and noble—not by repaying evil with evil. And as long as this sinful world lasts, we will need that daily prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen! So be it, in Jesus’ Name.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Peter asked Jesus if it was generous to forgive his brother ___ times. Jesus answered to forgive him ____ times ____. Did Jesus mean for him to keep track? What is the problem if we keep track of sins? Psalm 130:3.
2.      In Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant, who does the king or lord represent? Matthew 18:35. Who do the servants represent? What does the debt that they owed to the king represent between us and God?
3.      Why could we never repay the debt of our sin? Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 51:3-4. Note: salvation is not a “repayment plan” but the total cancellation of debt.
4.      God cancels the impossible debt because God is _____. The servant then imprisons his fellow servant, who owes him the small debt, because the first servant is ______. How are these two qualities completely contradictory? What quality are forgiven believers to show toward others instead? Matt. 18:33
5.      What fearful punishment awaited the servant who would not forgive? Matthew 18:34. How are we made able to forgive others from our heart? Matthew 18:35; Ephesians 4:32.

6.      What was the cost for Jesus to pay our debt of sin before God? 1 Peter 1:18-19. Was this cost great or small? But how much does it cost us? 

Monday, November 06, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 5:5, for All Saints' Day, "Blessed are the Meek"

·         Some months ago—mentioned “doorway and exit” to the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are the “doorway” to understanding Jesus’ teaching in the sermon.  
·         9 Beatitudes. Simple structure: Blessed are_____, and how they will be blessed. 1st & 8th form bookends: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Only repeated blessing, and only present tense—theirs is. All other blessings are future tense—they shall… What does this mean? Kingdom of heaven delivers both present and future blessings. “Now but not yet” of Jesus’ blessings. Final note: first 8 are “they” (3rd person), but the 9th switches to “blessed are you”. Who are these blessed ones? They are you, the church: believers in Jesus.
·         The Beatitudes, give us Christ-colored glasses, not rose-colored glasses; to see our own life in light of Jesus Christ and who He is, and what He has done for us. Today, focus on Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Like all the beatitudes, there is a description of who are blessed by God—in this case the meek—and what blessing God promises—they shall inherit the earth. First of all, what does it mean to be meek? Secondly, how was Christ meek, and finally, how are we to be meek?
·         Quick word search finds passages that show what meekness is. Translated variously as “lowly, afflicted, poor, humble, or gentle.” As Pastor Fricke has put it well before: “meekness is not weakness.” Some may hear “Blessed are the meek” and think it means being timid, or not being assertive. But the scripture doesn’t praise these; telling us instead in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control”. So meekness is not fearfulness or cowardliness. Assertiveness can be a good or a bad thing. It can be bad if it’s pushy and self-promoting. It can be good if it is humble and wise leadership without self-promotion. Numbers 12:3 describes Moses this way. He was very meek, more than any other on earth. The context was about the jealousy of his brother and sister grumbling over God speaking to Moses—but Moses did not defend himself against the accusation, but God did. Moses was no self-promoter, but lead well.
·         As a Bible dictionary sums it up, Moses kept his strength of leadership, while accepting personal insults and injury “without resentment or recrimination.” Resentment and vindictiveness might be selfishly satisfying, but they do nothing to strengthen our leadership. How much more so for Jesus, who graciously endured suffering and death on the cross, all for doing good, and did not sin by opening His mouth in cursing or anger in return. He bore it all patiently and committed Himself to God’s justice. (1 Peter 3:18-25). This is the very picture of meekness for us. To be Christ-like in meekness is not to be weak, but to be strong in self-control, not to lash back against those who hurt, hate, or lie against us. It is to bear with injury, and not to repay evil with evil, but to trust God to bring the final outcome to justice, as Jesus did. The command that Jesus held, even from the cross, awed even His enemies and the Romans.  And His meekness is seen, not just in His restraint, but positively in the gentleness and love with which He forgave His enemies.
·         Of course, that a Christian bears with insult or injury doesn’t mean they can never use lawful and just means to defend themselves against evildoers. St. Paul famously appealed to his Roman citizenship, and ultimately to Caesar, on more than one occasion, to right an injustice. Even Jesus told Pilate that his authority was subservient to a greater authority.
·         How do we respond when someone injures us with an insult or slander? Do we bear it in a Christ-like manner, or do we rage and thirst for retaliation? Proverbs 12:16 says, “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.” Or Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” So meekness has restraint, or self-control, which is actually a form of strength, not weakness. The devil loves to bend it till it breaks, and sorely test that meekness. While it’s never as bad for us as for Christ, it still takes great self-control to be gentle or meek under great stress or pressure. Not just biting our tongue, but to respond with grace and gentleness.
·         So while meekness sometimes reads as “humble” or “gentle”, a quality to cultivate and practice; there are also many places, especially in the OT where the word reads as “lowly, afflicted, or poor.” In those passages, it’s the status or condition of a person who is objectively suffering or needs deliverance. Meek or afflicted, is often, but not always, parallel to being poor. Psalm 9:18 18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor (meek) shall not perish forever. Psalm 22:26 26 The afflicted (meek) shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! Psalm 147:6 The Lord lifts up the humble (meek); he casts the wicked to the ground.
·         Understanding the meek as those who suffer or need deliverance, brings, “Blessed are the meek” very close to the first beatitude, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” In fact, both echo a key passage in Isaiah 61:1-7, which Jesus quotes of Himself: vs. 1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound”. Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, the downtrodden and suffering. Meek, poor in spirit, or lowly—who long for God’s deliverance—they are blessed! Isaiah 61:7 also says these who receive Jesus’ kingdom blessings will inherit a double portion of the land, and be filled with everlasting joy. It leads us to the blessing for the meek: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
·         Psalm 37 says almost the same thing: that “the meek shall inherit the land”—but listen also to the surrounding verses. It’s another picture of self-control. Here it’s against the anger and frustration of seeing wicked or evil men seemingly triumphing over the good, or getting away with evil. Psalm 37:8–11  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. 9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. 10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. 11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.  It emphasizes waiting on the Lord, and that the meek who inherit the land will have abundant peace. The hearts of those who suffer, who are objectively poor, afflicted, and lowly, long for that abundant peace. God says to be patient and wait for it, and it will be ours!
·         Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. It’s a future promise, but it’s also a very physical one. Did you notice that? Some (without knowing the Bible) think that heaven is an airy, thin, insubstantial place, where ghostly spirits wisp around through the clouds. But “they shall inherit the earth.First, and briefly, remember that “inherit” is a grace word, not an “I earned it” word. Inherit speaks of God’s generous gifting to us. But what does it mean to inherit the earth? In the prophet Isaiah, God says: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). This verse describes the future of the new creation, where there will be no more futility or sin or conflict. It’s quoted twice in the New Testament, once at the end of Revelation, describing when God completes that future renewal of creation. The second quote, is 2 Peter 3:13, that after Jesus returns and this old creation is judged and destroyed, “According to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
·         So blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth describes God’s promise of grace—that in the new heavens and new earth, the meek, the righteous, will possess the earth. The land will be yours. The Jewish people had a deep and profound connection to and longing for the physical land of Israel. It can probably be compared in some ways to the longing among many Hawaiian people for the land. I don’t know that the longing for land is a universal human desire; but I do think we all can identify with desiring a physical haven, a place where we can dwell in peace, without interference or enemies. People long to live without the futility of labor, or the greed and violence of wicked men, or all the things that frustrate the meek and the righteous. It takes us back to that Psalm, 37:11, “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” This becomes Jesus’ promise to us—there is a day coming, when the injustices and wickedness of this life will be over, and the land will be ours, in abundant peace. What an inheritance!
·         And all of it is owed to the Savior Jesus, who describes Himself as meek and lowly in heart: Matthew 11:28–30 (KJV)  “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Follow our meek and lowly Savior, who was afflicted for us, who suffered and died for us, that we should find rest for our souls, delight ourselves in His abundant peace, and inherit the new earth where righteousness dwells. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
·         Let us pray: “Meek and lowly Jesus, we confess to you our sinful boasting and self-promotion, our anger and retaliation when others wound us, and other sins against you and our neighbor. Take the heavy yoke of our sin, which you have born to your cross, and forgive us our sins. Grant us your meekness and teach us self-restraint, that we may flourish on this earth, and one day inherit the new heavens and new earth that you have prepared as the home for those who are righteous by faith in you. In your Most Holy Name, Amen.”

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Matthew 5:1-12 contains 9 Beatitudes. How do the 1st (v. 3) and 8th (v. 10) form “bookends” to the set? When the 9th switches to the 2nd person: “YOU”; how does this affect the hearer?
2.      How are the beatitudes like “Christ-colored” glasses for the Christian life?
3.      Read Matthew 5:5. What is “meekness?” What is not meant by meekness? 2 Timothy 1:7. How does Moses set a positive example of meekness? Numbers 12:1-9. How is Jesus the ultimate example of meekness? 1 Peter 3:18-25. What do the meek bear with?
4.      How is restraint or self-control an aspect of meekness? Prov. 12:16; 15:1. Why is this so hard? What is the improved outcome by doing it though?
5.      Read Psalm 9:18; 22:26; and 147:6. Here the word for “meek” carries the meaning of “lowly, afflicted, or poor.” How does being objectively lowly or meek in our need of help, also fit with the beatitude? Read Isaiah 61:1-7, and look for as many parallels as you can find to Matthew 5:1-12.
6.      Read Psalm 37:8-11. How does this passage also describe the self-control or restraint that accompanies meekness? What are the meek distressed by? What are they promised? Cf. Matthew 5:5.
7.      How are the future blessings of the kingdom of heaven physical? Read Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1.
8.      How does the word “inherit” speak of grace, and point us back again to God’s generosity and undeserved love in Christ? Galatians 3:29-4:1, 7.

9.      Finally, how does Jesus describe Himself as “meek” in Matthew 11:28-30 (see King James’ Version—other translations often use ‘gentle’, but the Greek word is the same from Matthew 5:5). What does He promise to those who follow Him and take up His yoke? How does this come full circle with Matthew 5:5 and Psalm 37:11? 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sermon on Romans 3:19-28, for the 50th Anniversary of Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Maui, and the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, "To God Alone Be Glory!"

            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today is a joyful day, a day to praise God and sing aloud; to give all the glory to God alone for His great salvation! God, by His grace and favor, has blessed Emmanuel Lutheran Church, with 50 years of sharing the Good News of Jesus on this island of Maui. 50 years of worshipping together as a family in Christ, 50 years of baptisms into God’s family, 50 years of prayer and intercession for this community, 50 years of preaching Jesus Christ. So many blessings have developed from the work of the Holy Spirit among us. Not to our credit, but to God’s credit, to His glory alone. 50 years of sharing the Gospel Truth that we are loved by God, we are forgiven freely by Jesus Christ as a gift, and that Jesus has called and blessed us into service toward others.
            And bigger than our tiny corner of the globe, we also celebrate the worldwide blessings of 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation, dating from October 31, 1517. The same blessings God has shown us, multiplied the world over, by churches that proclaim the same Gospel of Jesus Christ Sunday after Sunday. 500 years ago this Tuesday, Martin Luther first challenged the church with 95 Theses arguing that God’s grace is not for sale, but that God calls us to a life of repentance and free forgiveness. Luther didn’t know then how greatly the church and the whole world would be transformed. 500 years later, the ripple effects are still being felt. But as Luther would reflect on it some years later, he would say: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing…I did nothing, the Word did everything.” He knew, as we should, that he couldn’t boast in what he’d done. It was not his power or intellect, it was not by force or bloody revolution that reformed the church, but the Word of God being free to do its work. Luther did not boast, because it was the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word to heal the church. A church that had become so confused and corrupt as it forgot or obscured God’s Word. Still today we need to open God’s Word and study it earnestly, to guard against new temptations to forget or obscured God’s Word. As Luther opened the Word of God for his own study, and taught it to the church, the Word did its work. All Glory goes back to God alone.
            And really, 500 years is just the tip of the iceberg. Even though God used Martin Luther to bring the focus back to Christ, the Good News of Jesus Christ has always been at work in human history. As our first reading from Revelation 14 says, it is an “eternal Gospel” proclaimed for all people on earth. From the dawn of creation, until the final judgment. God’s message of salvation stretches from the beginning of time till eternity, and we can and should celebrate His grace in every season, in every millennium. What was significant about 500 years ago, was that the Gospel rang out clearly where it had been muffled or almost silenced for so long, and began to ring out those joyous notes loud and clear again: “To God alone be the Glory.”
            But Luther’s reminder that we have no grounds to boast, points us to Romans 3 today, which 1500 years before him, urged that we have nothing to boast about. Certainly not boasting in our works. For we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We don’t boast before God, because no one stands as righteous before Him. Nobody has satisfied God by perfect obedience. Only Jesus Christ, has done so. Only Jesus has perfectly and completely satisfied God by His perfect obedience and sacrifice. And the Reformation was all about putting Jesus back as front and center for our salvation. And that His work was complete for us. So while we cannot boast in our works, Paul says in Galatians 6:14 “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We boast in the cross of Jesus; we boast in the Lord, because He is our salvation! We have nothing to offer to God except our sin; but Jesus has offered God His perfect life, death, and resurrection; His righteousness on our behalf! That’s something we can boast about, because all the glory goes to Him, and not to us!
            Now Romans has some very important theological language, that we don’t use every day, but words that carefully show that all our salvation comes by faith in Jesus—not by our contribution or effort. This heart of the Gospel all but shouted out to Luther from Romans. He saw words like “gift”, “redemption”, “justified by faith apart from works”, and realized that salvation is God’s free gift. It’s not a merit system, but by grace. Salvation is not probation, where your good efforts are measured and graded, and God shortens or lengthens your punishment based on your works. Salvation is not a debt-repayment plan, where we negotiate lower payments for our forgiveness, based on what we can afford to contribute. No, salvation is God’s free gift in Christ Jesus, a total erasing of our debt before God. “Redemption” means that God has purchased us back from sin and death by the precious blood of Jesus. Jesus’ redeeming work gives all the glory to God.
            And this is complete; sufficient; it is not a partial or incomplete assignment, like students sometimes sheepishly turn in to their teachers—it is Jesus’ 100% effort, completed, and accepted by God! How do we know that God accepted it? Jesus rose from the dead! God affirms Jesus’ innocence; He accepted the payment for our sin by raising Jesus from the dead. And now Jesus tells us, go tell the whole world about it! Repent of your sins and be forgiven! Believe and have eternal life in Jesus! Don’t reserve any credit for yourself; give all glory to God alone! The Gospel is “anti-credit” to us.
            But perhaps most important in this reading are a “word family” or group of related words. English hides the connection between them, but the words “justify, justification, just, or Justifier” are all related to “righteous or righteousness”. This word family can be pictured in a courtroom, where God is judge, and there are two possible verdicts, when we are on trial. We can be guilty or innocent—or in the language of the Bible, unrighteous or righteous. Righteousness and justification are about God giving an innocent verdict. To be justified is for God to declare us righteous. But the key question for this Bible passage, and for Luther in the Reformation, is how do we get this verdict? How does God justify us?
            If we step back, we see that Paul speaks of two kinds of righteousness. Two standards, if you will. The first, is righteousness measured by the law. The second, Paul says, is a righteousness apart from the Law, or the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus (who is our Defense Attorney). Under the first standard, of the Law, we are all held accountable to God, all silenced before Him, and none of us are justified in His sight. None of us meet the first standard. We are guilty and condemned under the Law. But the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus, does not measure what we have done, but measures Jesus’ righteousness. For all who believe in Jesus, God justifies us freely, by faith. Jesus became our substitute in death, and His righteousness is counted to our behalf. So in God’s courtroom, this is His verdict: we are guilty under the law, but pardoned or justified by what Christ did for us. Verse 26 says, “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
            Justified or righteous—both are speaking of the same concept—that Jesus takes away guilt and supplies us His innocence, His righteousness instead. Still today we gather in worship to be justified—to hear God’s verdict, His forgiveness, and to believe it and have eternal life and the comfort of a clean conscience before God. God’s verdict comes not by what we have done; but because Jesus perfectly took our place. And this means, that all glory goes to God alone! Justification is about Jesus.
            Circling back to how this was at the center of the Reformation, the church at that time was teaching that it’s not by faith in Jesus Christ alone that we are saved, but that faith plus works is how you are justified. Luther forcefully proclaimed passages like Romans 3:28 again and again: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” If works of the law are ruled out of our justification; if, verse 20, “by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight”; then it is only by faith in Jesus that we are justified. There’s no wiggle room. Luther said the church stands or falls on this article of justification. This was the make or break issue, the hill to die on. Why? Because where would we be if God justified us by our works? Plainly, NO HUMAN BEING would be justified! To trade away this free Gospel of gift, for any other message, is to lose our very salvation! St. Paul said it most emphatically in his letter to the Galatians 1:6–8 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Paul warned this was a spiritual life or death issue, and don’t accept any distortions—even if an angel from heaven should preach it! Hold to the grace of Christ!
            The church stands or falls on this article of justification by faith, because only by faith does God give that righteous or innocent verdict. Believing in Jesus; receiving His free gift. Anything else keeps credit with us, which steals it from God; even faith is God’s gift to us. To God be all the glory!
            Many opposed Luther and feared that it would take away incentive for doing good works, if the Bible were taught plainly. If people aren’t working to be good, in order to get into heaven, then they will just stop doing good, or will be lazy! Of course, no one can argue that humans aren’t usually lazy about doing good. But in reality, trying to earn your salvation, as Luther discovered, is a fearful and exhausting effort, doomed to failure and despair. Also, works done for this reason are from the wrong motive. But once we are freed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, freed from the fear of judgment, from attempts to pay an impossible debt—then we are truly free to do good works of love for God and love for neighbor, out of the freedom of the Gospel. We are given a new motive—thankfulness for what God has done! And this puts the cart back behind the horse—faith in Jesus saves us, but good works naturally follow as the fruit that comes from God’s new life in us. So works are not lost or forgotten—they are simply removed from the equation of justification, and put back in the context of loving our neighbor as ourselves, for their earthly good.
            It is a beautiful thing that God gave Martin Luther the insight to rediscover the Gospel in the Holy Bible, and to boldly bring that powerful Word back to work in the church. Doubtless, had Luther surrendered in the face of threats to his own life, or had he given up—God would still have raised up another reformer. But in any event, the church would only be healed by restoring Jesus Christ to front and center. Only by reclaiming the Good News that we are saved by grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, did the church begin to heal, and to send forth once again that loud and clear song of salvation. And that song rings out loud and clear: “To God alone be all the glory, in Jesus’ Name, Amen!”
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  • The book of Romans as a whole, and Romans 3:19-28 in particular, was crucial to Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the Bible, as He immersed Himself in study of the Bible. This passage gives such a clear description of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus, apart from the works of the Law. Nevertheless, it has some theological terms that may not be familiar to us, and some weaknesses of the English language prevent us from seeing the relationship of all the ideas. Here is a quick  vocabulary list to help clarify:
  • “the Law and the Prophets”—expression for the Old Testament (v. 21)
  • “works of the Law”—obedience (or lack thereof) to God’s commandments (v. 20, 27, 28). This is excluded from our justification
  • “justified”—in Greek it’s part of one word family, together with “righteous” or “righteousness” (below), and means “to declare righteous/innocent”. “Justified” can be thought of as God’s legal verdict of innocence—not by “works of the law”, but only by faith in Jesus (v.20, 24, 26, 28)
  • “righteous/righteousness/just”—in Greek, all part of the same word family, meaning upright and innocent. Note there are two kinds of righteousness—by the law (we are actually all unrighteous by this measure) and the righteousness “apart from the law” (v. 21), which is the “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus” (v. 22) (a free gift!)
  • “believe/belief/faith”—again, all one word family in Greek, but split in English into the verb “believe” and noun “faith”. Means our trust in God, or “honesty about dependence” on Him.
  • “propitiation”—a putting away of God’s wrath against sin. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the satisfying of the just demand of the Law that sin and evil be punished. (v. 25)
  • “redemption”—to buy back, from sins and death (v. 24)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 9:1-8, for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, "Your Sins are Forgiven"

            “I could tell you the story of my life before I met Jesus—how I was paralyzed, and who I was before that incredible day when Jesus said my sins are forgiven, and then healed me. But my story is not really so important in the big picture. And besides, I don’t know your story either. I don’t know the sins that marked your life, the doubts or fears, or the physical illnesses and challenges that may face you. All I know is that meeting Jesus changed my life forever. I was one of hundreds of people healed by Jesus—but far more important than our names and backstories was what Jesus did for us, and who He was.
            I wouldn’t even be telling you this story if it weren’t for my friends. They had incredible faith in Jesus, that He would heal me. It’s hard to find friends like that, who would stop at nothing to help you when you were truly in need. You have to imagine, that when they carried me on that mat to the crowded house where Jesus was teaching, I began to lose heart. How could we even get close enough to be seen by Jesus? I was ready to give up—was this even going to work? You probably don't know how it felt in those days to have people look at your illness or injury, and wonder aloud things like, “What sin is he guilty of, that God punished him this way?” You can read other examples like that in the Gospels. It was just the way people thought.  Being in public made me feel like a spectacle. People don’t realize how cruel their words can be.
            But just when it seemed there was no way in, my friends did the most remarkable and embarrassing thing. They climbed up on this guy’s roof, with Jesus inside, and dug a hole through the mud roof! You can imagine how embarrassed I was, and with all the cries and shouts of what’s going on, and here I am, helpless, coming down on ropes in front of Jesus. I thought my friends were crazy! But like I said, it’s hard to find friends like that, who will go out on a limb for you, and did they ever.
            But the next big surprise was when Jesus first spoke to me. He didn’t know me, but the first words from His mouth were, “Take heart child, your sins are forgiven you.” He didn’t say, “I forgive you”—as though I had personally done Him wrong, but “Take heart…your sins are forgiven you.” I hadn't done anything. Just showed up, and He forgave all my sins. For some people, guilt is a feeling that torments them. For others, guilt is barely on their radar. I don’t what type you are, and how your conscience responds when you sin—but He wasn’t talking about my feelings—He was telling me that my sins, that objective guilt, was all forgiven. Of course I didn’t process that all right away, but through reflection on those incredible words, it’s clear that Jesus was erasing my debt before God. The scribes sure knew what He was talking about. All of a sudden their faces turned to frowns—not at me, but at Jesus.
            And again, who was this Jesus? Suddenly He’s reading their minds, saying, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He turned to me and said—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” It was pretty unnerving to have someone reading their thoughts—I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty used to my thoughts being my own private space. Nobody invades my thoughts, and I don’t particularly want them to see my fears and personal demons. But here Jesus looks right in the window into our minds. Is that why He told me, “Take heart child”? I could feel my spirit lifting with a joy I had never felt before, even before He healed me! Have you listened to the teachings of Jesus’ apostles, and felt that same peace with God, when your sins are declared forgiven?
            So which do you think is easier; for Jesus to forgive my sins, or to say, “Rise and walk?” Of course, anyone could just say your sins are forgiven—but how could anyone prove it? But only someone with real authority—God’s authority—could say, “Rise and walk!” And then here I am, a walking, living proof of Jesus’ power! But Jesus said, His ability to heal me, proved that He had the authority on earth to forgive my sins too! The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. I’ve had many years to reflect on the beauty of those words. Even now I realize that the greater gift that Jesus gave me that day was my forgiveness. My healing would last until death. But my forgiveness lasts for all eternity.
            Jesus saw wickedness, evil in the hearts of those scribes. Do you fear to think what He sees in yours? Do you know that none of us have any secrets from Him? Scripture tells us, “no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). That can scare the living daylights out of you—that your own thoughts and actions are not private territory to God. The only one fooled if we say we have no sin, is ourselves. God already knows. But I hope that you know, it doesn’t have to be such a frightening realization. At the same time that Jesus was reading my thoughts, He told me, “take heart child, your sins are forgiven.” Do you think He would turn away from you if He saw your thoughts; or is it more likely you would turn away? Well, he did not speak fear to my heart or condemnation, but peace and courage! He did not turn away from my suffering, as I'd seen so often, but He spoke life and healing, when I needed it, in body and soul.
            I don’t know your personal story; and I guess the details don’t matter too much. More important than who you are or where you came from or what you’ve done, or how healthy or sick you are, is that Jesus is the Great Physician of body and soul. It all starts with forgiveness. I didn’t even know I needed it that day. It’s not even what I came for—and certainly wasn’t on the minds of my good friends. But Jesus knew even better than us what I needed most.
            Leaving behind the little role play of that healed man, I hope you can reflect on how great a gift Jesus’ forgiveness is. When the crowds saw Jesus heal and forgive this paralytic, they were afraid; and they glorified God who had given such authority to men. It was so strange, back in that day, for the Jews to hear a man like Jesus declare “your sins are forgiven.” I don’t think those words strike us so strange today, because we’ve believed and accepted for 2,000 years that God has entrusted His forgiveness to men. The church proclaims the forgiveness of sins with the very authority of Jesus. Pastors absolve you of your sins, not on any independent authority of their own, but on the very authority of Jesus Himself, who said to His disciples, after the resurrection, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:22-23). For those who repent of their sins, we declare they are forgiven—and it is so—by Jesus’ word. For those who remain unrepentant, their forgiveness is withheld, as long as they do not repent—and it is so—by Jesus’ word. We have no independent authority to change God’s Word in this matter, only to speak as He has said. But what remarkable authority to speak on earth that your sins are forgiven, and to be assured by Jesus that it is also done in heaven!
            As we have been forgiven by Jesus, so we forgive others. Though we hear of forgiveness countless times in church, we always need both to live in Christ's forgiveness, and also live that forgiveness toward others. Forgiving someone means that you will no longer hold that wrong against them. Forgiveness is not a brushing aside of sin, or a sweeping it under the rug, or pooh-poohing sin, or any other expression that makes sin seem trivial. But forgiveness allows us to admit a real wrong has been done, a real hurt has been caused, a real failure to obey God’s command to either love God, or to love neighbor.  And that means we have a real debt that exists between us and God. We acknowledge this real debt—and that we can’t pay it—and then forgiveness is the Gospel word that Jesus has actually paid the real debt by His death on the cross. Take heart child, your sins are forgiven. ARE! Jesus has made things right between us and God. And so we forgive others. We tell them the debt has been taken away, and I will not hold it against you.
            If God is not behind that forgiveness, it will stutter, sputter, and fail. We are ever weak when it comes to treating others the way God has treated us. And if we think we’ll do it under our own steam, we won’t succeed. But God’s divine forgiveness pours into us generously through all these outlets that He has given—His Word, preached, read, heard, and taken to heart. His washing of Holy Baptism, where your sins are washed away, and you are joined to the saving life of Jesus. His Supper, where Jesus gives you His body and His blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. The absolution—where Jesus appoints His ministers to speak to you on His behalf—your sins are forgiven. In all the ways that God pours out His forgiveness for us, that creates His new life in us. It enables us to forgive and love as He has loved us. He fills us with the faith to be great friends to the paralytic, to the suffering, to the lonely, or whoever needs our friendship and our willingness to bring them to Jesus. For Jesus knows what we need, and He comes to take away our fears, sin, and our weakness, and to give us His life. All glory to God! Amen.

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       Special note: Ephesians 4:26 may be puzzling: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” We should understand from this verse that anger in itself isn’t always a sin. It’s the outcome or actions we take as a result that may be sinful. We are warned to avoid sinning in our anger, and certainly not to go to sleep with unresolved resentment.

  1. Read Matt. 9:1-8. What was the obvious need of the paralyzed man? What did Jesus address first instead?
  2. What did the Jewish people often (incorrectly) assume about a person suffering an illness? John 9:1-5
  3. Why is our sin the most life-threatening ailment we face? Read Romans 6:23 Why is it even more important to have forgiveness than physical health? (hint: what happens even to all healthy people eventually?)
  4. Why were Jesus’ words, “Your sins are forgiven!” such a shock to the religious leaders? What was the sin they accused Him of doing? Read the parallel account of this healing in Mark 2:1-12 (esp. 7).
  5. How did Jesus address their challenge of His authority? How did Jesus demonstrate His authority? (cf. later, John 10:17-18)
  6. What are the consequences of not having forgiveness? How does it affect our lives or those around us? How does forgiveness change us? What did Jesus do to make forgiveness possible?
  7. How has Jesus entrusted the power to forgive to His church? Read John 20:21-23; Luke 10:16; 24:45-49. Let’s forgive!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 22:34-46, for the 18th Sunday after Trinity, "Commander and Savior"

            In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Last Sunday, if you were here, we had a bulletin quote from Luther, that whether God’s Law or man’s law, the law should never bind further than love goes, and that love should be the interpreter of the law. “Where there is no love these things become meaningless and the law begins to do harm. The reason for enacting all laws and ordinances is only to establish love, as Paul says, Romans 13:10 ‘Love therefore is the fulfilment of the law.’” Luther’s reflection and St. Paul’s comments both echo Jesus’ words today. He shows the Law is given that we might love. Jesus sums up the whole of God’s law in two great commandments. “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.”
            If we just reflect for a moment, we’ll realize that enforcing laws with excessive cruelty, goes beyond love. Laws applied inflexibly, so as to prevent compassion or to harm the innocent violate the principle of love. The apostle James reminds us: “Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Jesus shows both perfect love and true mercy. He sets the boundaries of what love is and what is obedience to His commandments. Since they are His commandments, He is the Commander of Love. Jesus aims our love in two directions, when He sums up the commandments: “Love God” (what we might call the “vertical direction”) and “love your neighbor” (the “horizontal direction”).
            Whatever trap they had in mind for Jesus with their question, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” they had to agree with His answer. Famously, the Pharisees counted 613 commandments in the Bible. Perhaps they thought He would choose one among the many, and they could nail Him for whatever He left out. Instead, He summarized the Law so completely, that they had no response. But later they would still “nail Him” anyway for a different reason. Jesus perfectly grouped the 10 Commandments into what we call “the Two Tables of the Law”—the First Table: commandments about our relationship to God (vertical dimension); and the Second Table: the rest of the commandments, which are about our relationship to our neighbors (horizontal dimension).
            Jesus says, on these two commandments depend (literally “hang”) all the Law and the Prophets. Perhaps it’s just a happy coincidence, but when you join together these two dimensions, you get a cross. Jesus says all the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. The weight of everything God commanded, required, and foretold, hung on these love commands. Jesus later says, after His resurrection, that all the Law and the Prophets testify about Him (Luke 24:27; 44). Jesus hung on this cross, He hung physically on a wooden post and cross-beam, but spiritually, the whole Law and Prophets hung upon Him. Their fulfillment and our life, hung upon the outcome of Jesus’ saving act. Unpin these two commandments, or remove Jesus Christ, and the whole thing comes apart. But in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:17), and Christ walked the way and suffered the death that atoned for us all.
            For our part, Luther warns us not to neglect the 10 Commandments, because they relate to all of our life. But make no mistake—they can’t save us. Thankfully, Jesus turns our attention, and the Pharisees’ to the very teaching that can save us. He asks them who the Christ, or Messiah is. Messiah is the Hebrew, and Christ is the Greek translation of the same Old Testament title, which means “Anointed” or “Chosen One.” Jesus knows they were waiting for this Anointed One, but didn’t yet know who He was. Some early Jews even debated whether there would be one, or even two Messiahs. One a king, and perhaps another a priest. But they all agreed that there would be the Messiah or Christ who descended from David.
            Agreed that the Christ was to be born from David’s line, Jesus puts them in an unexpected corner, by quoting Psalm 110:1. They knew this Messianic passage well. It was a Psalm King David wrote. And Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted passage in the New Testament. It reads: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet. It can be puzzling, so let’s look at it piece by piece, and then the whole picture. “The Lord said to my Lord”—two persons are conversing, “the Lord”, and “my Lord”. If we turn to the Hebrew, we get a  little help—the first “Lord” is the name of God Himself, Yahweh. And the second, “my Lord” is the Hebrew title “Adonai”. So YHWH said to my Adonai, sit at my right hand”. That first person is obviously God the Father. But who is “Adonai” or “my Lord” that God is speaking to? The Jews believed this to be the Messiah, or Christ. Jesus agrees, but then points out how unusual it is that David is speaking with respect and honor, by the title “my Lord”, to a human descendant of his, who is yet to be born!
            So let’s recap this: God the Father is speaking to the Messiah or Christ, whom David is addressing as “my Lord.” The Jews agreed that the Christ would be a human descendant of David. But how could they reconcile the fact that David is calling Him Lord? Do you address your grandchildren as “lord?” I hope not! It’s highly unusual—but it shows that David knew his Lord would rank above him, and be seated at God’s right hand, to rule over all His enemies. David was worshipping his future Savior, the Christ! What other conclusion could they come to, than that this was the Divine Son of God?! Jesus’ point is that this passage betrays David’s understanding that the Messiah or Christ was both human and divine, else he would not have addressed Him as “my Lord”.  The Pharisees didn’t miss this fact, but they had no response—once again. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t answer, and after this, didn’t dare test Jesus with any more questions. Jesus had an undefeated record against them.
            We know that they didn’t miss the connection Jesus was making for them, about Him being the Messiah or Christ, and that this Christ was divine—the Son of God. We know it, because in Matthew 26:63, when they arrest Jesus and put Him on trial, the high priest demands of Jesus: “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Enraged, the high priest charged Jesus with blasphemy (a mere human claiming to be god), and they declared Jesus deserved death. So by Jesus asking them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is he? If David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” Jesus raises the conversation to the ultimate, the highest point. It all revolves around who He is. If they accept what the Scriptures reveal, they will find that Jesus is the One sent by God. But as we know, they chose instead to crucify Him. But even in this act of hatred, they only allowed Him to prove His claim that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, by His rising from the dead. Something only God could do.
            So following the arc of our reading—Jesus answers their question about which is the greatest commandment, by teaching them the commandments of love—to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself. With perfect authority, Jesus is the good “Commander” of these “love commandments”. Hearing them, we immediately see their validity, but also the perfection they require. To love God with the full intensity of heart, mind, soul, and strength, is sadly a command we fall short of, even with our best efforts. And to love our neighbor as ourselves, as simple as it sounds, is a mirror in which we can see the countless faults and failings of our love toward those around us. Before God, the “Commander” of these good laws, we can only confess our guilt; all that we have broken.
            But by turning the conversation to the Christ, Jesus aims the arc of the conversation right to the target of Himself. Who is this Christ? In Him we find our Savior from guilt, sin, from broken commands. The great commandments are good and worthy of our whole effort, our whole life long. But we cannot be saved through them. If the conversation doesn’t lead to Christ then all their “spiritual efforts” are for nothing. But in Christ, our Savior, we are rescued from the depths of sin and death. In Jesus we are rescued from the impossible perfection demanded by the Law, into the grace-given salvation from Him. Martin Luther sums Jesus’ teaching up: “Be on your guard, learn God’s commandments and the gospel of Christ; God’s commandments teach what you are to do, which estates are pleasing to God and are ordained by him; but my gospel teaches you how to escape death and be saved. These doctrines will give you more than enough to study as long as you live, and no one will be able to master them completely.” Truly, this short passage of Scripture covers two of the biggest topics of the whole Bible—the Law and the Gospel—in a nutshell. And they show how Jesus is both the Commander of God’s Law, but also our Savior, our rescuer from sin and death.
            All the Law and the Prophets “hang” on the two “love commands”: “Love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” All these commands, requirements, and promises of God hang on Jesus Christ, hung on the cross, so that we might have His free gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Loved by this all surpassing love—loved by the One who Commands love, and who mercifully and generously gives it—we are saved by Jesus—the Christ, the Son of God, and Son of David. Amen.

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  1. In Matthew 22:46, we reach the last questions the Pharisees or any of the Jews dared ask Jesus anymore questions (about God’s Word). Why did they stop? When they gave up conversation with Jesus, what did they resolve to do instead? Matthew 26:1-5.
  2. In Matthew 22:34, the Pharisees seem either excited or impressed that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees (their religious and political rivals). They decide to try to test Jesus too. Does Jesus answer their question directly? (vs. 37-40). How does Jesus’ answer perfectly summarize all 10 Commandments? Read these commandments in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
  3. From teaching about the Law in verses 34-40, Jesus turns their attention to the teaching of the Gospel (Good News) in vs. 41-46. What does the title “Christ” or “Messiah” mean? What was this descendant of David going to do? 2 Samuel 7:12-14.
  4. Psalm 110:1-4 is the most quoted passage in the New Testament. Jesus uses this well-known prophecy of the Messiah to discuss a surprising revelation—why would King David, address a human descendant of his, not yet born, as “my Lord?” What did this reveal about who the Messiah was? Why were they unable or unwilling to answer Jesus? What did they realize He was claiming? Compare to Matthew 26:63-68.
  5. How does Jesus’ revealing of Himself as the Christ, and the bringer of salvation to mankind, help answer our inability to perfectly keep God’s Law? When Jesus says David wrote “in the Spirit” (vs. 43), what does this say about the origins and authorship of Scripture? 2 Timothy 3:16.