The Gospel. St. Matthew 22. 34.
At that time: When the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, who was a lawyer asked him a question, tempting him, and saying: Master, which is the great commandment in the Law? Jesus said unto him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is he? They say unto him: The Son of David. He saith unto them: How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: the Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy foot-stool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his Son? And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
I’ve often heard the opinion of many alleged scholars and experts say that Jesus never actually proclaimed himself to be the Christ. I suppose, technically, this is true. If one is looking for a verse in the Bible where Jesus literally says, “look everyone, I AM THE CHRIST, so you better pay attention”, well, you’re not going to find it. But of course, we all know that Jesus did in fact make his true identity known, and he did it in many different ways. Today, we not only have one such example, but Jesus also gives us view of his eternal standing with God, and the authority that standing gives him.
You see, the Pharisees of that time believed that Christ would be a descendant of King David, based on the writings of the Prophet Isaiah. Their thought, their hope, was that this Christ would come to return Israel to glory, presumably by some powerful act. They certainly never thought that the Christ would be some backwoods carpenter. No, he was going to be of royal lineage; he would act like a king, have the authority of a king, and of course, the blessing of God. At least they got that much right. Now, we know that Jesus did, in fact, have that royal lineage. But that was his human lineage. Today, he tells us about his divine lineage.
Actually, lineage is not the right word, because Jesus has always been one with God; in fact, because he shares in the Divine Essence of God, he is God. You see, Jesus is saying to these Pharisees that the Christ, he himself, has always existed. He does this by turning the tables on the Pharisees, by challenging their pre-conceived ideas of who Christ is, by throwing Scripture right back in their faces.
The Pharisees contented that the Christ will be a descendant of David; that he would be David’s son. How can this be? said Jesus, when David himself refers to Christ as “my Lord”? Jesus quotes Psalm 110, which the Jews of the time believed was written by David himself. So Jesus points out that David, this king, assumed a subordinate position to Christ. This is not something a father would do.
Of course the explanation is that David recognized and pointed out the pre-existence and divine nature of Christ. Jesus, by reminding the Pharisees of what is written in their own Scriptures, tells us that he is the one who possesses this divine nature. There is only one other place in the Gospel’s were he does so as powerfully; in the 8th chapter of John’s Gospel, where Jesus proclaims that before Abraham was, “I AM”. This conveys to us that not only has Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, existed since before time, but that he is co-existent, co-eternal, co-equal with God himself.
So why the little lesson in theology, and why is it important? Let me give you an example; Some time ago, I visited an internet discussion board where the question was put; if Jesus asked you today, “who do you say that I am”, how would you respond? Here were some of the answers; “I can say that you are the central figure in my life, my role model, my saviour and my Lord and that I’m saved through you. What all this means theologically is something I struggle with”; Next; I’m not at all sure I would recognize Christ at first glance, because I don’t always see the Christ presence in everyone of us. Perhaps I’d be fortunate enough to get the “flash of recognition” that Peter had”; And then we have this; “Because this question has been on my mind for awhile, I would say that he is the tender of the bubbling spring. I would also draw a bit from the Buddhist tradition, and say he is awake”; and finally; ”I’m not sure but I’m trying to find out”.
These answers came from people who claim to be Christians! One of them was even a Youth Minister! Yet NONE of them have the least bit of certainty about who Christ is, in spite of the Gospels, in spite of all the Epistles, in spite of two millennia of church teaching. Christians who don’t know who Christ is! If they don’t know who Christ is, then how can they know who God is? And if they don’t know who God is, then how can they possibly love God? And if they can’t love God, then aren’t they breaking that first, great commandment? Aren’t we?
Loving God is not an easy concept for some. But Jesus gives us an easy way to figure out that concept because he tells us that the second great commandment is just like the first. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. By loving our neighbor, completely, unconditionally, we also love God. We may hate the words and actions of some people, but if we don’t approach them with love, then we cannot say that we love God. It’s that simple.
Today, as Anglican Catholics, we have a unique opportunity. We have chosen this faith, not because we dislike change, or object to modern ideas, but because we love God. We love Him for all that he has given to us. We owe it to Him to proclaim His love to the world; to tell those who are confused about just who Jesus is; to submit to Jesus authority, as David did; and to follow in the way that Jesus has set before us.
Jesus gives us all the proof we need today to clear up the confusion. He is pre-existent with God; He is co-equal with God: he shares in the Divine Essence of God; He is God. And by his authority, he commands us to love God, and to love each other. This is the final Word, and about this, there can be no confusion.
And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.