Sermon October 25, 2020

Matthew 22:34-46

“Whose Son is He?”

 

    In our text today Jesus has already answered questions posed to him by the Scribes and the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. Each group in some manner is seen as trying to test Jesus knowledge, wisdom, or the direction in life he would provide, and Jesus’ response meets each challenge. Those questioning Jesus were often trying to discredit him. It reminds me of our politics today. There is often as much effort spent trying to make the other guy look bad as there is trying to tell everyone else what they will do. Sometimes it makes you wonder why people can come into agreement of what is best for the common good of all. I usually conclude that perhaps the arguments little to do with what is best for all.

Never-the-less, my desire is not to talk politics, but to simply suggest that the questions Jesus faced were of something of the same nature.

    Jesus questioners were not motivated merely out of academic or theological interest. There was more too it than that. One side wanted to maintain the status quo and keep hold of power and authority. Jesus was prodding his listener on toward considering more deeply their understanding of God, and what God was doing and wanted of them. With every question, Jesus met each challenge. Finally, Jesus had the opportunity to ask his own question. Drawing from Psalm 110 which begins:

1 The LORD says to my lord,

“Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD sends out from Zion

your mighty scepter.

Rule in the midst of your foes.

 

    The Psalm describes the rule of a person who is both priest and king to God’s people. It is easy to see how those reading Psalm 110 would connect it to the idea of God’s Messiah or anointed ruler. Jesus interprets it this way and then ask of them if the Messiah is David’s Son (actually of the lineage of David –since we know the prophecy is that the Christ would be a descendent of King David) then how is it possible for David to also speak of him as Lord?

    Jesus opposition could not answer his question, and the scripture tells us that they did not question him anymore. It was bad enough to have him answering their questions and now he was asking them question that they could not answer. But what of Jesus question?

 

    What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he, and how can he be both King David’s Lord and his son? Today we remember and celebrate Reformation Sunday. Is there any question that tends to become more important to us than to ponder what is at the heart of God’s wishes and will for us? What is really of ultimate importance within our faith and our lives. It is the people who have considered this question that have been the true reformers of history and kept the faith alive. Our desire to truly enter into the work God is doing is not just optional, but it is a necessity if we want to find God at work within our lives.

 

T this issue that Jesus raised with regard to the nature of who the messiah is takes us to the heart of our faith and our understanding about life.

 

    Who really is the Christ?

 

    When Jesus asked the Pharisees his question, they could not answer it, but if they could have, then they may have realized that the one asking the question in the first place was indeed the messiah.

 

    To the Pharisees when they affirmed that the messiah was the son of David, I think they had in mind the Old Testament promise God made to David. In 2 Samuel 7 we read where God is speaking to David through the prophet Nathan, and God promises to David,

16Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”

 

To be the son of David was to identify the person who is the messiah as the extension of this Old Testament promise. No only that but part of the understanding of being the messiah is that God would work through this person as God worked through David to bring peace to the people of Israel and an end to being subjugated by outside powers. The messiah was a ruler of the nation. With that limited understanding, people of the Jewish faith are still waiting. For them the Messiah has not yet come.

    But what if the Messiah is to be understood as something more than an earthly ruler and deliverer? Obviously, for us, the answer to Jesus question of how the messiah can both be the descendent of David and Lord is to be found in an understanding of the incarnation. Jesus was not just a human being, but he was the Son of God. He was both divine and human. He is God made known to us as a human being, and thus as we understand Jesus to be the second person of the Trinity, he is co-divine, and co-eternal with God. Therefore, he can be both David’s Lord and David’s son.

    Now to be honest with you when a preacher starts talking about the incarnation and the Trinity, most people’s eyes tend to glaze over, and I end up putting people to sleep. These theological concepts can be difficult to understand and perhaps harder to clearly explain, but the bottom line is that Jesus is someone special, and more than just an ordinary man.

    If the Pharisees could have known and believed this about Jesus it would have caused them to completely reassess their opinions regarding their faith, and life. I think that maybe that is why Jesus asked them such a question. Consider, they wanted to trap him, and deliver him to death, and he wanted them to consider what God was doing right before them. If they would have been able to perceive the nature of God in Jesus, what a difference that would have made. However, they could not see. They could not understand, and they did not change their direction in life. They were filled as people so often are with their own beliefs, their own sense of importance, and their own concerns of life. That they could not perceive who Jesus was is the nature and course of sin in life. In fact, I would say that no human being is truly able to perceive the nature of Christ unless God reveals that truth to him or her. Who do we perceive Christ to be?

 

In MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary, the author has this same thought. He writes:

“The most important question in the world is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” And the world has never lacked for ideas and opinions about the answer. Certain Pharisees in Jesus’ own day accused Him of casting “out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons” (Matt. 12:24). A second-century a.d. comment in the Talmud said Jesus practiced magic and led Israel astray (Sanhedrin 43a).

In modern times, most people have tended to be complimentary of Jesus, although their opinions are frequently condescending and naive. … The famous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson held Jesus to be the most perfect of all men who have appeared on earth, and Napoleon said, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ was not a man.

…German theologian and philosopher David Strauss, a staunch critic of biblical Christianity, said Jesus is the “highest model of religion within the reach of [human] thought.” English novelist H. G. Wells wrote, “When I was asked which single individual has left the most permanent impression on the world, the manner of the questioner almost carried the implication that it was Jesus of Nazareth. I agreed.… Jesus stands first.”

As those testimonies give evidence, many people who do not trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior still rank Him as the highest model of humanity. But beneath most such compliments is the incipient, if not specific, denial that He was anything more than a man And many of those who highly praise Him nevertheless deny much of what He taught, especially what He taught about Himself and His work.

Christianity has always found its most violent detractors and enemies in those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. Many of those detractors presume to go under the name of Christian. Some years ago a Washington State newspaper reported that the minister of a liberal church had begun a sermon series emphasizing that Jesus Christ was merely a man and not God. He said that the reason there is any controversy at all on this issue is because “there is always a bunch of people who say Jesus is God.” The minister suggested that Jesus was simply like Mother Teresa or Caesar Chavez.

Many religions and cults teach that Jesus was a prophet of God, or at least a great religious teacher, but that He was not the Savior of the world and was not divine to any greater degree than they consider all men to be divine.”

As a people of faith most of what we believe and how we respond to life, the Christian call to discipleship will be based upon who we believe Jesus to be. Many people have come to many different answers but only one answer is the correct one. Beware of the errors that people make with regard to who Jesus is, and how these errors affect your life of faith. Only one understanding of Christ has the power to make a world of difference. If Jesus is not the Son of God, if he is not God incarnate, then why are we here? We are wasting our time following after a lie. However, if Jesus is the Son of God, our Savoir, Redeemer, and living Lord, then what are we waiting for? The doors of heaven are open and the potentials of life have been unleashed for us.

Life can be difficult. Problems can abound. We can struggle with church finances and personal finances. We can struggle with our time and priorities. This is true, but if Christ rose from the dead and even now is at the right hand of God, than God is always good. We are never going through life alone, despite the pains and trails we may suffer. The difference in our perception rest within our willingness to humbly accept the work of God that is before us.

When we willingly and earnest turn to Christ in prayer, lay aside all other pretext for salvation and ask Christ to be in our lives, the world changes and we are a people with a new vision of what is important in life, and this is the work of God.

It’s like the young man whose girlfriend lived in a distant city. He wanted to have an engagement ring on hand when he proposed to her, so he sought the help of a friend who was a jeweler.

In due course, after designing the ring, he was shown the materials. The diamond looked like any other stone he might have seen in a garden or along a sidewalk. And the gold was a bright, garish color, not at all like the gold he had seen used in other jewelry. On questioning the jeweler about the gold, he was told that it had not yet been refined. Still in doubt about the eventual beauty of the engagement ring, he asked: “And how do you know when it is pure enough?” to which the jeweler replied, as he peered over the crucible, “When I can see my face in it.” (Cyril J. Barber and Gary H. Strauss, THE EFFECTIVE PARENT, (San Bernadino: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc. 1980)).

That is the kind of life God longs for us to have–so pure that He can see His face within us. Even more importantly, so pure that others can see His face within us as well.     This is only possible when we truly know who Jesus is. Then life is breathed into life and this is the work of God to the believing heart. Amen.

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

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