Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Pentecost 19, October 23, 2011 (revised)
TITLE: “The Law and the Prophets in Me”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from the Gospel lesson, particularly these words, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
Questions, questions, questions. The world is full of questions about what is important. How do you prioritize your life? What matters the most to you? Is it how much money you have? Your family? The future? What is it that makes you tick when you get up in the morning. For every day of every life is spent on questions or prioritizing and planning, ordering and organizing.
For the Jews in Jesus’ day, they thought of these questions as well , only they were a little more spiritual about it than you and I often are. They wanted to know what is the “great commandment in the law?” They had laws for everything. What to eat. What to wear. How many steps to take on the Sabbath. How to treat strangers from other lands and strangers from your own town. 613 laws, to be exact. 248 laws for each part of the body, and 365 laws for each day of the year.
Now obviously God is interested in the Law. It is, after all, His Law which He gave to His people on Mount Sinai so many thousands of years ago. They are really quite simple and straight forward:
- You shall have no other gods.
- You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
- Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
That’s it. That’s God’s Law and the full extent of His will for you here on earth, as far as the Law goes. 10 commandments. 82 words in English. But if that isn’t simple and clear enough for you, we can even simplify it further:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
What could be simpler than this? Jesus even goes so far as to say that on these two commandments, or two tables of the Law, hang all the Law and the Prophets. Everything, everything comes down to them. Love God with everything you have and everything you are and love everyone else just as much as you love yourself.
Now we are all legalists by nature, we want to narrow things down to nice and simple rules that will get us into heaven and will make everything clear and perfect and simple. The commandments, of course, are clear and perfect and simple. The problem, though, is that they are impossible. The harder you try, the more you fail. You will find many churches today that are obsessed with the Law and the myth of keeping them just as much as the Jews were in our text. There are churches that make things like smoking or alcohol into the sin against the Holy Ghost. Obesity can be a spiritual catastrophe and the television can become the very tool of the devil Himself.
Now I suppose in one way that this may be true. After all, just about anything that we have or do can be turned on its ear into sin. An innocent brownie can turn into gluttony. Spending time with your family can actually keep you away from church and hearing the Gospel. The more you try the harder you fail.
But Jesus will not be satisfied with this kind of constant running after nothing, as if we are defined by our sins. He says to you this day and every day, You are baptized! Notice what He does with the Pharisees and their endless Law questions. They want Law questions which He answers, but He then gives them a Gospel question: What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He? Jesus doesn’t want them to spend their every waking moment in fear over their failures and sins, true though they may be. So instead He gives them Himself.
This question about whose Son is He really brings us to how these two commands are what the Law and the Prophets hang upon. For you see, Jesus is the Son of God AND the Son of David. He is the only begotten Son of God, without sin and keeping the Law perfectly in every way. But He is also the Son of David, born of the Virgin Mary, your brother, who knows your every weakness, your every fear, your every failure. He knows that the harder you try the harder you fail. He knows. He’s been there. He’s taken the suffering and the pain for it. He knows.
Jesus comes to you today with a message of freedom and hope. Do not let the sins which so shape and define you bind you up and hold you to the grave! Jesus has come into your flesh to bear your sin and be your Savior. He has freed you from the shackles of fear and death. He has come to say to you, don’t be afraid. I’ve kept the Law for you. God looks at you today in perfect righteousness. He looks at you and says well done, good and faithful servant. It doesn’t have to make sense, and yet in mercy it does. It makes sense because Christ is the giver and the gift.
Don’t believe the lie of Satan, who wants to chain you to your sins. Christ has taken them into His own flesh and blood and paid the price. They are now His sins, not yours. You can’t have them anymore. And in their place He gives you the peace which is beyond all understanding, the peace of knowing that in Christ, all things are now ready, the Law is kept, the promise is yours, and everlasting life is your reward. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.