Guest Pastor Arthur Just preached this sermon on the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity 10/11/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity18 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
Loving His Neighbor all the Way to the Cross
Today Jesus is in the temple during Holy Week —
receiving challenges from the two religious parties —
the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
It is a Pharisee who is also a lawyer who challenges Jesus
with a question about the Law.
The Pharisees were not priests but teachers of the Bible —
they are sometimes called lawyers or scribes —
they worked outside Jerusalem — in the synagogues —
they were very conservative —
they believed in the resurrection and angels —
they believed in the prophecies of the Messiah —
they used the whole Bible — Law and prophets —
they interpreted the Bible using the principle that
Scripture interprets Scripture —
they were very influential in the ministry of Jesus —
they even persuaded the Sadducees to condemn Jesus to death.
Paul the apostle to the Gentiles was the most important of all the Pharisees.
Jesus was like the Pharisees in almost every way —
a teacher — a theological conservative —
a believer in the resurrection and angels — in Messianic prophecy,
he used the same methods of interpreting the Bible as the Pharisees used.
But there was one difference between Jesus and the Pharisees
that made all the difference in the world —
Jesus taught the way of the Gospel —
salvation through faith in him —
the Pharisees taught the way of the Law —
salvation through works of the law.
From Genesis until now, people believed that
there are only two ways of salvation —
they believed that they are saved by faith and faith alone —
or they believed that they are saved by works of the law.
It is that simple — faith in Christ or faith in your own righteousness.
So this Pharisee, this lawyer asks Jesus the question about which is
the greatest commandment of the Law —
in order to put him to the test —
for he wanted to see if Jesus believed like he did —
that salvation is through works of the law.
The answer of Jesus surprised him —
for Jesus cites Moses in Deuteronomy and Leviticus —
Jesus interprets for him the 10 commandments —
dividing the 10 commandments into two tables of the Law —
loving God first — the first 3 commandments —
loving neighbor second — the last 7 commandments.
Most of us now know the answer Jesus gave to this question —
“You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind.
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments
depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
On the surface, this appears to be an affirmation that salvation is by the law —
by keeping the 10 commandments — loving God and loving neighbor.
But Paul the apostle interprets the answer of Jesus for us
in the way of the Gospel in his epistle to the Galatians —
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
What Jesus did on the cross and what Paul understood after his conversion
on the road to Damascus is that the law is fulfilled in one word — love.
On the cross Jesus fulfilled the great commandment of the law —
he loved God the Father by his obedience to the plan of salvation
in his sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world.
Most of us know that the number one attribute of God is love —
“For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.”
So on the cross Jesus also fulfilled the second table of the law —
he loved his neighbor as himself —
by giving up his life for his neighbor —
by shedding his blood to cleanse and forgive his neighbor.
For what Jesus did on the cross was to love us as his neighbors —
fulfilling the law in one word — love —
so that now love is the law of Christ — or as Paul says —
“Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
That means that you and I can now fulfill the law
by loving God with our whole heart, soul, and mind
and loving our neighbor as ourself.
How do we do this?
By being like Christ — and by taking his love into the world.
Here Jesus helps us know how to do this in the Sermon on the Plain —
“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you . . .
And as you wish that others would do to you,
do so to them . . .
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
And you do all these things —
because Christ loves you as his neighbor all the way to the cross —
and now Christ is in you and you are in Christ —
and in and through your bodies you love your neighbor
as Christ loves you.