Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
The lawyer insincerely called Jesus, “teacher.” He had no intention of being taught by Jesus, but to catch him in a trap. But make no mistake about it. Jesus is a teacher. In fact, he is the Teacher everyone must be taught by. If you are to obtain eternal life, Jesus must be your teacher. Some people don’t like school. That’s fine. I have known very intelligent, hardworking, and successful people, who have not pursued advanced formal education. Students should work as hard as they can while they are in school, but it is not a sin to pursue other goals besides academic success. Yet, it is a sin to refuse to learn. That is laziness. A Christian cannot just decide that he doesn’t need to learn from Jesus, that he already knows enough. No, as long as you live, you are called to continue learning. And as long as you are a Christian, you are called to continue learning from Jesus.
While the saving Gospel can be known and believed even by a little child, that does not mean that we should be content with the ignorance of a child. If you love Jesus, you want to learn from him. And it is impossible to be done learning from Jesus. Many wise men, have spent a lifetime studying the Scriptures, and yet remained mere pupils at the feet of Jesus. Yet, that is exactly what we should desire to be: Jesus’ students, eating up every word that comes from his mouth.
It is also important for us to continue learning from Jesus, because as we grow our old sinful Adam grows stronger and more skilled, the world constantly entices and lures us away from Christ, and the devil grows bolder and more cunning. To combat our own sin and unbelief, we can do nothing else than learn from Jesus. To be a Christian means to be Jesus’ student.
And how do we learn from Jesus? All of Jesus’ teaching comes from the Bible. You’ll notice when the lawyer tests him, Jesus answers the question by quoting the Bible. He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5, where it says we should love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And he quotes Leviticus 19:18, which says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Then he quotes Psalm 110, where David calls the Christ his Lord. Furthermore, Jesus says of Psalm 110 that David spoke “in the Spirit,” that is, by means of the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches us that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, meaning it is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). So, if you want to learn from Jesus, you need to learn from the Bible, which is God’s Word. And your pastor needs to preach to you from the Bible and not stray from it.
There are two main teachings in the Bible: The Law and the Gospel. Both the Law and the Gospel are God’s teaching, yet they have very different results. The Law is what God commands of us, summarized in the Ten Commandments. The Law tells us what is good, but it does not give us the ability to do the good. So, the result of the Law is that we are exposed as sinners. The Gospel does not command anything of us, but rather promises forgiveness and eternal life for Christ’s sake. The Gospel is received through faith alone apart from works. If the Gospel is not preached, a person cannot be saved, because saving faith comes through Jesus’ word. If the Law is not preached, the Gospel will be rejected, because the Gospel is only for sinners.
The lawyer, not interested in the Gospel, asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Law. This is a trick. The Pharisees recognized 613 commandments in the Torah. And of course, for each of these commandments, there was someone who thought that it was the greatest. If Jesus chose one of these 613 commandments as the greatest, he would become embroiled in an unwinnable debate with enemies on every side. But Jesus does not fall for the trick. He uses Holy Scripture to teach the truth of God’s whole Law. All the commandments can be summed up into two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. Here Jesus teaches the heart of every commandment.
When people argue over what is the greatest commandment, they always try to argue that the commandments they break are not great, but the commandments that others break are the greatest. This is not just true of Pharisees two thousand years ago, but of Christians today. Christians who go to church every Sunday think that the Third Commandment is the greatest commandment, while the commandments they break are minor. While those who skip church freely think that despising God’s preaching and word is just a minor offense, and point out hypocrisy, gossip, envy, and judging as worse sins. The more popular a sin becomes, the less serious of a sin people find it to be. Yet, it is not up to you to choose which commandment is insignificant and which one is important. And the purpose of the Law is not for you to point out other people’s sins, but for you to become aware of your own (Romans 3:20)!
But Jesus doesn’t spare anyone in the preaching of the Law, but condemns all sin as failing to love God and the neighbor. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Why? Because you should love God with your whole heart. Out of the mouth the heart speaks. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, meaning, do not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Why? Because you should love God with all your mind and gladly hear and learn his word. You shall not murder, because you shall love your neighbor as yourself. You shall not commit adultery, because you wouldn’t want your spouse to cheat on you. You shall not steal, because you would not want someone to take your stuff away. You shall not bear false witness, because you don’t want people slandering you. All the commandments teach you to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself. So, whichever commandment you have failed to keep, you have broken the greatest commandment in the Law.
Having silenced the Pharisees by pinning them under the Law, Jesus asks a question about the Gospel. “What do you think about the Christ?”, Jesus asks, “Whose son is he?” The Pharisees answer, David’s. Every Jew knows that the Christ is David’s son. But he isn’t just David’s son. “Why then did David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’?” David said that the Lord spoke to his Lord. How can David have a lord? He is king of Israel. David is speaking of God, the Son. With these words, David teaches the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and of the divinity of Christ. There is only one God. Yet, the LORD spoke to the Lord and said, “sit at my right hand.” This shows that although there is only one God, there are multiple persons, namely, three: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This also shows that the Christ is God. The Christ, whom the Pharisees rightly say is David’s son, is also David’s Lord, David’s God. Christ Jesus is both God and man.
The Pharisees were struck dumb by this teaching of Jesus. Yet, they have not remained silent. Rabbis today have a way of explaining this away and so deny that the Christ is divine and that Jesus is the Christ. The point out that there are two words for Lord used in Psalm 110. The first is the peculiar name for God, YHWH, which emphasizes God’s eternal being. The second is the word Adonai, which means Lord and certainly can be used as a title for God, but it can also be used to address a human being, like a king or earthly master. So, the Rabbis today teach that David wrote Psalm 110, not to be read from his perspective, but to be sung by the Levites in the temple about David. So, it is simply the temple singers singing, “The LORD (YHWH) said to my lord (David), sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” So, Psalm 110 is not calling the Christ, God. Psalm 110 isn’t even talking about the Christ!
Yet, if this were true, then Psalm 110 would be a very disappointing and in fact false prophesy. Where is David now? He’s dead and has been for nearly three thousand years. Where is his kingdom? There is no kingdom of Israel, nor is there a man sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem. And even when David died, he had to command his son Solomon to kill some of his enemies, whom he did not have the opportunity to vanquish. If Psalm 110 is only about a king of a minor middle eastern nation three thousand years ago, then it is of no value to us today at all, whether we are Jews or Gentiles.
Furthermore, to sit at God’s right hand is to sit on God’s throne, to be made equal to God, as St. Paul says, “Therefore he has exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, ever knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10) The LORD (YHWH) said to David’s Lord, who is the Christ, his son and his God, sit at my right hand. Jesus’ teaching remains true today, despite the grasping at straws of those who deny him.
And what does it mean that Jesus Christ is both David’s son and David’s Lord? It means that Jesus our Redeemer is our God. This means that our salvation is sure! What did Jesus do to save you? He died on the cross. Well, how do you know that that’s enough? Because Jesus is not just David’s son, but David’s Lord. Jesus is at all times fully human and fully God. Whatever he does he does as both God and man. This means that when Jesus died on the cross for your sins, God died for you! But God cannot die! True. But Jesus, David’s son can. And Jesus is God. Therefore, St. Paul, when he took leave of the pastors of Ephesus, instructed them, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” With whose blood? With God’s own blood. That Christ is David’s son and David’s Lord means that your sins have been washed away in God’s blood. Christ has redeemed you with an insurmountable sum. Can your sins be greater than God? Is that not blasphemy to suggest? Then your sins are washed away in Jesus’ blood. Then death and Satan and hell, all David’s enemies and your enemies have been placed under Jesus’ feet, as surely as he is risen from the dead and risen to the Father’s right hand!
Jesus does not demand that we understand how this can be. He is able to do far more than we can either ask or think. Jesus demands that you believe this. Those who reject Jesus’ teaching, because they do not understand it, inevitably rob themselves of comfort. When people try to explain their own teaching of Christ instead of believing the clear words of Scripture, they are left with someone who cannot conquer their sins or give them eternal life. But with Christ, we have victory over our enemies. We trust in him who has fulfilled the greatest command of the Law for us. Jesus, David’s son, is our God and Savior. Amen.