TEXT: MATTHEW 22: 34-46
IN CHRIST JESUS GOD LOVES US WITH ALL HIS HEART!
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting at Grace Lutheran, Columbus, Indiana

To the Church of God at Grace Lutheran, Columbus, Indiana…called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Drawn from I Cor. 1:2, 3).

Greetings from your sister congregation Luther Memorial Chapel, located in Shorewood, WI (a village of Milwaukee). It is by their kind encouragement and partnership in the Gospel that I am able to be with you today. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

When the Pharisees heard that (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. It wasn’t easy to silence the Sadducees! They were the high achievers of their day, those who aced the ACT and SAT tests. They were socially elite and theologically liberal. They believed in what they could see and feel and therefore belonged to the “death-ends-it-all” school. When you’re dead, you’re dead - they thought. So they sought to trap Jesus with a question concerning seven brothers married successively to a serial widow. “Which of the seven will have her as wife in heaven?”
TEXT: MATTHEW 22: 34-46
IN CHRIST JESUS GOD LOVES US WITH ALL HIS HEART!
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting at Grace Lutheran, Columbus, Indiana

To the Church of God at Grace Lutheran, Columbus, Indiana…called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Drawn from I Cor. 1:2, 3).

Greetings from your sister congregation Luther Memorial Chapel, located in Shorewood, WI (a village of Milwaukee). It is by their kind encouragement and partnership in the Gospel that I am able to be with you today. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

When the Pharisees heard that (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. It wasn’t easy to silence the Sadducees! They were the high achievers of their day, those who aced the ACT and SAT tests. They were socially elite and theologically liberal. They believed in what they could see and feel and therefore belonged to the “death-ends-it-all” school. When you’re dead, you’re dead - they thought. So they sought to trap Jesus with a question concerning seven brothers married successively to a serial widow. “Which of the seven will have her as wife in heaven?”

Jesus responded by using the very Old Testament books they accepted to prove the resurrection. At the time of the burning bush the Lord who called to Moses identified Himself this way, “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob”. They had died centuries earlier, yet God spoke of Himself as their God in the present tense. He did so because they were still living in Him and there would be a bodily resurrection. Jesus concluded, He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The crowds were astonished and the Sadducees were muzzled!

Enter the lawyer from among the Pharisees. Socially and morally conservative, opposed to the Sadducees in almost every way, they were of one mind in testing and seeking to trap Jesus.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Like the media elite of our day slants questions attempting to make a candidate look bad, so the lawyer asked a loaded question intended to make Jesus slip up. The rabbis taught that all of God’s commandments were equally great. They wanted Jesus to pick one of the commandments so that they could debate Him and ask why He belittled the other of God’s commandments.

But Jesus didn’t choose He summarized! He who spoke the commandments to Moses as the pre-incarnate Christ now stood on the earth in the flesh and put the law in a nutshell. He quickly cut through their nonsense with the two edged sword of God’s Word! They sought to trap Him in the law and ended up trapped themselves!

He said…“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.

Are we not trapped right along with the Pharisees? Jesus’ double-love command reveals more clearly than any other word that we are sinners who cannot answer to God. The very purpose of your life – the reason God has put you where you are today – is to love and adore Him without reserve and to cherish your neighbor without holding back. Our neighbor is everyone God places in our life – even when they are unlovable.

How is your love for God this Sunday morning? Was there any competition against setting all your mind on His things this week? Or, was your mind sometimes divided by worry, wearied by duties, distracted by the trivial? Does the offering you bring today flow from all your heart joyfully bursting with love for God? Or, is there reluctance of a heart coveting more stuff, comparing itself with the wealth of others and finding fault with God because gas is $4.00 a gallon. Are you filled with contentment and peace to the very core of your being, loving God with all your soul? Or do you inwardly long for a different God, who follows all your desires and removes the cross from your life?

You see, if we get love wrong, we get it all wrong! Agape love is an active and doing thing, not primarily feeling a certain way. Agape love is hard work. Such love honors God’s commandments perfectly. Such love insists on pure doctrine! Such love does no harm to the neighbor, even unintentionally, even by neglect. Such love extends God’s mercy to all.

It is important to note that Jesus does not command you to love some generic god, some god at a distance – like the new age songs indicate. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This love cannot be spiritualized into general warm feelings as we hear in popular songs. This love cannot be removed from our vocation in life and the concrete relationships we face each day. This love cannot be severed from our use of God’s Word and His holy mysteries – that is His means of grace.

What a mess we are and what a mess we cause when this love is not at work. Rebellion, laziness, stubbornness, stinginess, callousness, coveting, sexual immorality, gossip, abortion, strife, self-pity, ingratitude, despair, and despising of God’s gifts are just a few of the results of self-love outweighing God’s love. What a heavy word Jesus’ speaks to us sinners! No law condemns us as thoroughly as Jesus double-love command! There are no excuses! There are no loopholes! If you have not loved the Lord your God with everything you are and have everyday of your life and your neighbor as yourself, you fail! So do I! Wake up! Repent! Turn around!

Dear Christians, thank God for His revelation that no one is justified by the law (Gal 3:11). Thank God that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13). When Jesus said, On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets, the word He used for “depend” means “dangles” or “hangs from” as objects hang on a nail. The picture is of two pegs at equal height from which hangs the entire Scriptures.

Our only hope in face of the unmovable law of love is something greater than the Law and the Prophets hanging from two nails at equal height. Our only hope in the face of our lack of love is God’s gift of love in human flesh hanging from two nails at equal height on the cross (there was a third, but in thinking of the two pegs from which dangle the law and the prophets, here consider the two spikes piercing His hands). Here hangs God’s love for us sinners, in fact, this is how we know what love is, that Christ laid down His life for us (I John 3:16). In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins (I John 4:10). God cancelled the record of debt that stood against us nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14). If our text today is the law in a nutshell, thank God we know the Gospel in a nutshell, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

It is to this loving end that Jesus asked the Pharisees a question deeper than any question of the law. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? They said to him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone ask him any more questions.

It wasn’t easy to silence the Sadducees or the Pharisees, but Jesus silenced both. But He hasn’t silenced you – rather He has opened your lips to confess his Name! The Pharisees were afraid of Jesus’ question, but you are not. You know how David’s Son can be David’s Lord and your Lord. You are baptized into His death! You are clothed in Christ! Every week in the Creed you confess how it is that David’s Lord is also David’s Son. He is very God of very God. He is the Word made flesh who dwells among us. He is God with us! He is God for us! He is God serving us!

He is love and He fulfills the law of love “for you”. He loves you perfectly! He loves you with no loopholes! He came for the very purpose of keeping the law in your stead and suffering the wrath of God as your substitute. God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, the awesome God has done for you these great and terrifying things. “It is finished” He cried with all His heart, in a work of pure and eternal love “for you”!

Do you qualify for His love – with all of your doubts and weaknesses and failings? To do so, one thing is absolutely necessary. That is - you have to be a real sinner! God doesn’t forgive pretend sinners. The forgiveness He purchased as His head hung in bloody death is only for genuine, bona fide sinners who lack total fear and love and trust in God. He calls us to keep on repenting and to keep on receiving His love! He calls us to invite other dying sinner to receive His forgiving love.

Just as He said in silencing the Sadducees, He is still the God of the living. Risen from the grave He is still loving you! In Easter triumph and Ascension majesty He intercedes for you at God’s right hand with all His heart and all His mind and all His soul. In love He comes with all the authority of God’s right hand to feed you heavenly food. He comes to you today with the intense love of a Bridegroom for His Bride to unite Himself with you – bidding you to eat His true body and to drink His true blood. He can come no closer to you than to come under the roof of your mouth in this miracle of love – what Luther called “the sum and substance of the Gospel”.

What a burden Christ comes to lift from your heart today and each week! What freedom He gives you here as He gives you Himself! You see the root problem is not your loving God imperfectly and not loving your neighbor like yourself. That is a problem! The post communion collect rightly leads us to pray that this salutary gift will strengthen us in fervent (that is constant and unfailing) love for one another.

But the seed problem, the root problem of unbelief is refusing to be loved so much by God! Can holy God really love someone like you so much? But getting even more personal, can holy God really love “you” so much? Oh yes, Oh blessed yes! He loves you with total love that drowns your sin in the depths of the sea – with perfect love that separates your sin from you as far as the east is from the west – with unreserved love that causes rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, with steadfast love as He comes to work in you again this morning. You are so precious to Him in Christ.

You are precious to your pastor also, Pastor Armstrong, who like St. Paul gives thanks to God for you because of the grace of God given you in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1:4). He gives thanks for many other things about you also, your concern and prayers for him, your sharing all good things with him. But a pastor’s deepest thanks for the people he serves is always their reception of God’s means of grace. You see, the opening of the heart at which love flows out to God and to the neighbor is precisely the same size as the opening at which God’s love flows into our hearts.

God bless you in receiving in faith His promised gifts of forgiveness and love as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful. He will sustain you to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even so, “come Lord Jesus”, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a