Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder
October 26, 2014, Pentecost XX – Reformation Sunday
Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 1, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Matthew 22:34-46
From the book of Deuteronomy:
And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt.
From St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our visit to you was not in vain; but though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition.
And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation!
What would you say was the most significant question ever asked in the history of the world? I will give you a hint: it had to do with the events that occurred in the Jewish temple, just a few days before our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross for us.
While teaching in the temple, He was confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes – the religious leaders of the people. They pressed Him with questions that were designed to trap Him and discredit Him before the people. But Jesus answered each question with great wisdom; and He exposed the hard-hearted unbelief of His opponents in the process. In the end, all they succeeded in doing was discrediting themselves.
So, after Jesus answered all of their questions – it’s then that we find our Lord asking them a question. But before we get to that, let me suggest to you that the greatest question you could ask would have to be one that deals with the greatest theme ever proposed. And there is no greater theme in the universe, than the one we find in the Gospel of John.
John 1:1-5 says,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
And this affirmation continues at verse 14, where is says,
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Gospel of John presents Jesus Christ to us as this divine Person; and the greatest proposition ever made is this; that the second Person of the divine Godhead, who is the Son of the Father, has become “flesh” and walked among men; that He has revealed Himself to men as “full of grace and truth,” and has so communed with men as to enable them to report to the world that they behold His glory “as of the only begotten of the Father.”
What a great thing to propose to the world! – that the Son of God, in a point of time, has become a man like us; that He has lived in the midst of sinful humanity; and that He has revealed the grace of His Father toward those who believe on Him! Can there be a greater thing to consider than that? If it is a proposition that is true, then great hope has been introduced into this dark and fallen world! If it is true, then people such as you and me – broken and wounded as we are by sin – can be forgiven, washed clean, and restored to a relationship with the One who made us for Himself! If it is true, then there really isn’t anything else that matters by comparison!
And if that great theme is true, then the greatest question that can possibly be asked – the one question that most reveals what is in the human heart, and that most determines one’s eternal destiny – would have to be this: “What do you think about Jesus Christ?”
Jesus had already asked His disciples a similar question earlier, “who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). And now, as we come to our passage this morning, we find that Jesus asks this ‘great question’ again, only this time to His opponents.
Jesus asks the question of the religious leaders: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?”
Now to understand this question, you have to put yourself, as it were, in the ‘sandals’ or shoes of the ones who heard it. We have the advantage; we know that Jesus is the Christ. But when Jesus asks the religious leaders about “the Christ,” they understood Him to be asking about the great expectation of the Messiah, promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. They would have answered: “The Son of David.”
Did you notice that Jesus didn’t debate that answer? It was the right answer (as far as it goes); because, in terms of His earthly lineage, that’s what Jesus was: the biological offspring of King David.
But then, Jesus goes on to show that that answer alone was only half-correct. A half-correct answer to the most important question of all is not an answer that will lead to salvation.
Jesus follows up with another question: “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.” This is a quote from the first verse of Psalm 110 – a psalm that all Jewish leaders would have recognized as referring to the Messiah. This psalm was written by King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In it, David looks ahead and expresses worship toward God for the promise of the Messiah that would one day be born from him.
If King David is speaking of his promised Offspring, how can he also refer to him as Lord? Jesus was presenting His opponents with a puzzle. But it wasn’t intended to trap them and confuse them – as they had been trying to do to Him. He was trying to help them to realize that He was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures.
You see, these religious leaders expected a strictly human Messiah. They expected someone to arise from the lineage of King David; and to, like David, be a mighty, conquering king in their own day. They expected a conquering Messiah – but a Messiah that was only a mere man.
But Jesus, though fully human, had been presenting Himself to the people as more than a mere man. He had healed the sick, the lame and the blind. He had cleansed the lepers, and had cast out demons. He had demonstrated that He had authority to command the wind and the sea waves. He had raised people from the dead. He had fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. He had taught and spoken to the people as no man had ever taught and spoken before. He had proved to them – over the three and a half years of His earthly ministry that He was more than mere man alone.
The words of King David, requires that the Messiah be understood as a divine Person. Here, we see God speaking to another Person in a way that He spoke to no mere man: “Sit at My right hand…” To sit at the right hand of a mighty ruler was to sit in the position of greatest possible honor and exaltation, and to share in that king’s glory. God would never speak in this way to a mere created being. But before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “And now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:5).
And finally, these words also require that the Messiah be recognized as God’s appointed judge. In them, God says to David’s Son, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.”
And again, didn’t Jesus once say of Himself, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him; then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32).
If we were to take David’s words and the miracles that Jesus performed, there should be only one conclusion. The only way that David could speak to his own human offspring and call Him “Lord” would be if his offspring was more than a mere man. He would have to be both human and divine. He would have to be the God-Man; the Son of God, sent to this earth to be born into the human family to be our Savior.
In just a few short days after this encounter, Jesus would be proven to be the Messiah. He would be proven to be, as Paul the apostle said in the very first few words of the Book of Romans, “born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3-4).
Matthew writes that, after Jesus finished asking His question, “no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to question Him anymore” (v. 46). They found that they could not answer Him. All that they could do was put Him to death.
And they did. And then, He rose from the dead.
The great question that the Lord Jesus asked of those unbelieving religious rulers back then is still the greatest question of all today: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” It’s a question that puts each of us on the crossroads of a decision. What will we do with Him? What conclusion will we come to about Him? And the only conclusion that the testimony of the Scriptures allows us to come to is that He is both fully God and fully man; with both natures together – unmixed and unmingled – in one Person.
And what should we do with this? Let me suggest that, in proper response, we should first worship and adore Him. What a wonder He is! He is the eternal Son of God; the second Person of the triune Godhead; the very King of Heaven! And yet, in loving obedience to the Father, and in mercy to us in our sins, He set His heavenly glory aside for a season, was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and was born into the human family. He didn’t at any time cease to be the holy Son of God; but rather humbled Himself, forever took the nature of true humanity to Himself, tasted death in our place on the cursed cross, and rose from the dead in power and glory. He did this for us! How we should love Him in return!
Another proper way to respond would be to believe on Him. The testimony that Jesus has both a fully human nature and a fully divine nature in His one, single person is not a trivial detail of faith. You and I cannot be saved unless that is true, and unless we put our faith in it! You see, we are sinners – fallen because of the sin of Adam, and guilty because of our own personal sins.
And unless the Son of God had truly taken full humanity to Himself, He could not rescue us from our sins. And if it were a mere man that had volunteered to take our sins upon himself and die in our place on a cursed cross, being only a man, he couldn’t do us any good. As a member of the human race – cursed by the sin of Adam as much as the rest of us – he’d have his own sins to pay for. The only way that we can be saved is by the righteous, sinless Son of God taking full humanity to His Person and dying as a sinless substitute in our place. He who knew no sin must become ‘sin’ for us as one of us; or else we cannot become ‘righteous’ before God by faith in Him. But Praise God; He has! And the only right response on our part is to believe on Him as both fully human and fully divine; and trust that His righteous sacrifice on the cross is the payment for our sins.
One more thing; we should respond by having hope in Him. Because the Son of God took full humanity to His own Person forever, and because He partook of death for sins in our place as one of us, and because He rose from the dead in glory as the great Conqueror over death on our behalf, then we can be assured that we will rise in glory with Him. The Son of God didn’t become one of us and die for us, only then to leave us in the condition that He found us. Rather, He condescended to come down to where we are, in order to raise us up to where He is – so that where He now is, we who trust in Him will one day be also! The promise of the Bible is that, if we have been united to the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
The testimony of the Bible is that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who – without ever ceasing to be God – took full humanity to Himself, became one of us, and died on the cross in our place. Have you placed your trust in Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God?” Have you responded to Him accordingly? Do you express your love and worship for Him? Do you declare Him to be the One you trust in for salvation before God? Do you affirm Him to be your hope for future glory?
What do you say about Christ? Whose Son is He?
Let us pray:
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.