We live in a country of laws. The Constitution of these United States of America is the highest law of the land; Pennsylvania’s Constitution is the highest law of our Commonwealth. Beneath them are all sorts of codes and laws and regulations, far more than I can imagine, enough to make future lawyers study for years and judges to have assistants. But which law is the greatest?
The Pharisees were all about rules and regulations. Last week we heard Jesus muzzle them when they got too full of themselves and trusted in their rules and regulations to the point of rejecting love for neighbor. They thought their rules could save them; they forgot the heart is so inclined to sin no law can ever save us.
Today’s Gospel is a while later, on Holy Tuesday. We hear He had just muzzled the Sadducees too. They asked Him about a woman who married a whole family of brothers in sequence. Whose wife would she be at the resurrection? They were trying to mock Him because they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead on the last day. He told them Scripture teaches the resurrection when God tells Moses He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He IS the God, not He WAS the God. They are still alive to Him, with Him in paradise, looking ahead to the day they will rise from the dead with all flesh.
This made the Pharisees happy. They believed in the resurrection. But they also wanted to one-up their enemies by succeeding where they failed. Why they thought they could do this when both groups had failed numerous times during those 3 years of Jesus’ ministry I don’t know. But they couldn’t wait to put Him to death, so they tried again.
They asked Him what the great commandment is. If He says the wrong thing, and just about anything could be the wrong thing to say or be misused, they’d win the war. They had so many rules to choose from. But of course He was going to focus on The Ten Commandments. Of course He was going to speak about God first and then about the neighbor. They had high hopes, but as usual they would be dashed. He would even put them back on the spot in response.
But we must think about these words, the summary of The Ten Commandments. “You will love Yahveh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. You will love your neighbor as yourself.” The LORD, Yahveh in the old Hebrew, is first and foremost and greatest. Nothing comes before Him. He has always existed. He created all things. He will bring all things to a conclusion. He knows all things, can do anything, and is everywhere. He is the God Who is full of love and mercy but also punishes sin.
So love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love Him 1000%. Love Him more than you can ever dream of loving anything! Can you do that? Can you love Him all the time? Can the sinner love Him all the time with every thought, with every breath, with every heartbeat? No, you can’t. You might try, but you can never sacrifice yourself enough to fulfil the law of love.
For example, when it comes to loving God, you know how easy it is to question Him when something goes wrong or how easy it is to forget He exists and then commit any number of sins. From this we can learn that it is impossible for us to please Him. So can you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself?
Just think. It’s so hard to even know our neighbors in today’s culture. Even when we do think about those around us, we think about ourselves first. We’re always thinking about what “I want, I need, I better.” We hardly ever think about how what we do or want will affect our family or friends, our work or our home. If you can’t please God without His help, there’s no way you’ll love your neighbor rightly. And if you can’t love your neighbor as yourself, there’s no way you can love God above all things since He’s the one who gives that command in the first place.
We cannot love the way God wants us to. It’s hard, especially when times get tough or people harm us. How easy it is to slip into anger and hatred. The bottom line is that sin actually is hatred of God. What should God do with hatred, with a lack of love for Him, a lack we all have? He should condemn it. He should condemn us.
What’s the answer? Where’s our escape? Jesus hints at it in what follows. He asks them Whose Son The Christ is. They answer that He’s David’s son. They believed Messiah was going to be a man who would rescue them from Rome’s government. But Jesus tells them Messiah is God too, God the Son to be exact. He quotes the opening verse of Psalm 110: “Yahveh says to my Lord, sit at My right hand until I place your enemies under Your feet.”
These words were first sung by David. Everyone knew Messiah would be David’s son. He had to be descended from David to be the heir to the throne! But since they thought He was only a man, they couldn’t believe His work would be anything more than related to temporal things. The Psalm verse Jesus quotes says something else. Yahveh here is God the Father. “My Lord” is God the Son. Jesus is proclaiming that David was singing about Him.
So who are His enemies? We know God hates sin and must punish it. The sinner must be punished. Perhaps David is singing that God will destroy all sinners and never have any mercy on them? But if that’s the case, maybe all the enemies should just go under The Father’s feet. Why would The Son need to become man? Who are the enemies of The Son? How were they put under His feet?
You are not the enemy of The Son. He did not die in order to condemn you. He died in order to save you. What did He die to save you from? Sin, death, and the devil. He died to rescue you from the very sin that keeps you from loving Him. He died to rescue you from the death you deserve because of your sins. He died to rescue you from the one who led us into sin and who wants to lead us into everlasting death. They were put under His feet when He crushed the serpent’s head by His Death on The Cross.
Why? We were created in His Image, but the devil stole us. Christ came to win us back, to make us His again, the way we were supposed to be, forever. So The Christ did not come to rescue Israel from Rome. He came to rescue us from far greater, spiritual, enemies. He came to rescue us from sin, death, and Satan. That is the entire purpose of His Death on The Cross. He died and we are rescued. He rose, and we are saved.
Sin, death, and Satan are under His feet. Jesus’ Resurrection declares His victory over them for all the world to see. He has defeated them for our sake. Now they can no longer control us. Their power is gone. He sends us His Spirit to direct and rule our hearts. Death will have to give us up on the last day to life. The devil will not be able to pull us down into hell, but Christ will bring us to His side in paradise. We dwell in His House by faith, which loves Him and trusts Him above all things, and Satan cannot harm us.