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The Greatest

Fall '20 (COVID-19)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:52
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Matthew 22:34–46 NIV
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ 45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Testing Jesus

This is becoming like a tag team wrestling match. The Sadducees failed to trap Jesus so the Pharisees stepped up to the plate. Kind of reminds me of that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he throws his slow ball…you know the one I’m talking about. One by one every player from the opposing team comes up, takes three swings at the pitch: strike one strike two strike three, you’re out. Strike one strike two… Strikes out the side on one incredible pitch! The arrogance of testing Jesus is pretty amazing. Amazingly stupid. They soon regret it...
Matthew 22:35–36 NIV
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Wouldn’t you know it, a lawyer… haha just kidding. Different kind of lawyer. Basically an Old Testament scholar and teacher. But this was not freshman biblical studies class. He was going toe to toe with someone he was not worthy to quiz.
Matthew 4:7 NIV
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Granted he didn’t know he was talking to the Son of God. But he could have and should have known by this point.
Matthew 22:37–40 NIV
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus is saying if you want to understand the entire old testament understand these two commandments. He’s also saying, if you want to know what God wants from human beings, here it is...
The Pharisee was trying to ask an impossible question. But Jesus had studied the scriptures enough and more importantly, knew the heart of the Father enough to break it down in this simple form. Jesus is saying that we are to love God above all else. I will have more to say on this later. Heart, soul and mind. Those are the major ways you love something or someone. God is to be the ultimate object of our love. There is to be no greater love than the love we give back to the God who loved us first.
But we can’t just be pious and self-focused. We are also called to let that holy love flow through us to those around us. To love your neighbor as you love yourself. So do we love our neighbor? Some people are easier to get along with than others. Some people hold grudges. None of us are perfect. But as Christians we are not to hold grudges. We are to be open to reconciling with others. Paul goes further
Romans 12:18 NIV
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
It’s not easy because we human beings can be fickle and sometimes we think we are being sensible when we aren’t. But Christians can’t just say: well that’s just the way I am and everyone has to deal with it. Love your neighbor as yourself. You cut yourself some slack so cut your neighbor some also. But also don’t forget to love yourself and work toward being at peace with yourself. This is a fine line so walk it carefully. Don’t give yourself excuses for being rude. Do take time to rest when you are overly tired. If you’re sick, stay home. Some things like illness and offhand criticisms you can keep to yourself just fine.
But Jesus presents us with a very high calling here: love God with all that you are. Love your neighbor as yourself. Perfect answer. Simple words to live by. Words with more than enough challenge for any of us. But also words of hope because this means we can love God. This means we can love our neighbor. With God good things are possible.

Getting Tested by Jesus

Jesus not only handles their question with a brilliant answer, he quickly turns the tables on them. It was traditional to say that the Messiah would be the son of David who fulfills the promise of a son who would rule forever. And that was true. So nobody could be taken seriously as the Messiah if they weren’t of the house and line of David. But Jesus knows that this is only part of the story. There’s more to who the Messiah is and it’s right there in the same Scriptures.
Matthew 22:43–44 NIV
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’
Well you would’ve heard the sound of silence in that moment because they didn’t have a clue. Or maybe they did have a clue but didn’t dare say so. They very much wanted to keep all concerns focused on the here and now and the human side of the equation. This is because they wanted to control people. Jesus came to redeem people. Sin will destroy you. There’s nothing a political leader can do about that. So Jesus wasn’t interested in politics.
He was not after temporal here and now earthly authority. Jesus was here to defeat sin and death and hell. Some might say Jesus should not have just stood back and let Rome do what they did. But Jesus stood for a false trial and execution. When John tells the story of Jesus’ arrest we see his true authority on display:
John 18:4–6 NIV
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16–28 The Great Commandment, and David’s Master (Matthew 22:34–46)

The next occasions when Jesus will meet his opponents will be in the garden when they arrest him, in the Council when they accuse him, and on the cross when they mock him. But each time they will know, he will know, and we as Matthew’s readers will know, that he knows the answers to these questions and they do not

So Jesus digs deep into what and who the Messiah is. He’s not a topic of theological debate. He’s not a king you can manage upward. Even David looks up to the Messiah and so should these teachers of the law.
At the core of this great command is something human beings were made to do: Worship

Worship

Matthew 4:10 NIV
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
This is the big reason I don’t carry water for any political candidate. I was in college. I worked on a campaign to get some credit for a class and the candidate was successful, so I got invited to the big celebration at a swanky hotel in the Kansas City suburbs. There we were hob-nobbing with wealthy and much older people. Soft music in the background. Heady stuff. Then fast forward to another moment. A moment of disappointment. I had really supported someone else in politics. Believed in them big time. But that all changed rather quickly. I remember where I was standing when I realize that politicians will never deliver us and we should never fully embrace them. It was a sad moment. It was in a checkout line of all places. It just hit me, I had found myself defending this person and needing them to be right. Until my emotional well-being was somehow tied up in what was happening with their political career. In that moment I felt shallow and even ashamed that I had put so much trust in an earthly leader. Some of the innocence of youth faded away. Maybe my first wrinkle formed, I don’t know. I didn’t yet understand that it wasn’t just about this leader it was about my relationship to power and politics vs my relationship with God. It take years for it all to sink in but now I know for sure: Worship the Lord and serve him only can apply very specifically to politics. How easy it is to get caught up in the rush of it and it begin to take the relish off your love for God.
How easy to trade the power of God for the power of your viewpoint being in office. Don’t fall prey to it. Hold your nose when you vote for anyone to office. And pray for them. Pray they humble themselves and don’t get swept away and lose their way, lest we all suffer for it. Believe in God. Trust in God. Vote. Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is uniquely God’s: your heart, your soul, your mind. And don’t forget to consider loving your neighbor in how you vote. And don’t forget to keep loving your neighbor after you both vote. It is a command. We don’t get exceptions in election years.
Jesus is in a sense saying all of this and more to this lawyer. He’s hinting that the Messiah isn’t your ticket to power.

The True Identity of Jesus: The Messiah

The true identity of Jesus is that he is God’s Messiah. To so many people this meant the political hero that would defeat the enemies and put them back in control of their own destiny. So they were not even considering someone like Jesus. Someone politically connected that’s who the messiah would be. Someone who saw the world the way the Pharisees did, that’s who the Messiah would be. Someone to make Palestine what it used to be: independent and powerful.
In their minds i guess a king was the greatest form a human being could take. A powerful, regal, elegant King who also had the power of God on his political side. So it was all about keeping the Romans satisfied until this king appeared. I just wonder if some of them didn’t even start to think maybe Caesar was the Messiah. He was giving them a little power. He called himself the Son of God. Oh I hope none of them were giving in to that kind of thinking. I certainly hope nobody in our day thinks a candidate or politician is a messianic figure.
There is one Messiah and it is Jesus. Jesus is not just a king or a leader.

Jesus is more

Jesus is more. The Messiah is more. No earthly leader can foot the bill.
Matthew 22:41–45 NIV
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ 45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”
They had no answer because they were focused on the wrong kingdom. It is because one day a unique son of David would also be the Son of God. Therefore, David prophesied, perhaps without fully being aware of what it all meant. He prophesied that his descendent would also be his Lord. David didn’t know about the trinity. David didn’t understand it all. But David knew something about loving God with all your heart. David knew something about the horrors of sin and God’s amazing grace. As wrote the prophetic poem we now call Psalm 110 he gave us the secret to understand what power-hungry Pharisees never can.

Jesus is Lord

Jesus is Lord. Lord of life. Lord over death. The Lord who defeated sin. The Risen Lord who conquered the Grave. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Alpha and the Omega That’s A to Z if you’re keeping score at home. He was there in the beginning and he will still be reigning long after the End. Let that truth be freeing to you this morning!
Let the Spirit search your heart today. If anything competes with your absolute trust in Jesus, let it end today. It’s not right. It won’t lead to peace. It can’t help it will only hurt. This morning, if you have been thinking too much about the realm of politics and not enough about the letting God reign in every corner of your life, repent. There’s too much at stake.
If Jesus is Lord then Caesar is not. If Jesus is Lord, you are free to trust him with your very life!
...the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King… by John Piper
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