Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord does not play along with the Pharisees. He gives them a perfect summary of all the Law and prophets: Love God and neighbor perfectly. This ruins the test. They wanted to debate. They wanted to be dazzled with rhetoric and quick thinking. They wanted to think some deep thoughts. Instead they were exposed as sinners. The greatest commandment is not some clever bit of ethical advice with pros and cons on each side. It is simply the command to be holy as the Lord is holy: to love God perfectly and your neighbor as yourself. This kind of preaching is no fun. After all, we already know these things. But this kind of preaching exposes the heart. These are things we’ve utterly failed to do, even though we know better. There is nothing to learn or discover here except the damning truth that we are evil.
The problem is not just that we have sinned. The problem is that we cannot and do not keep this commandment at all. We never love God perfectly; we never love our neighbor as ourselves. Never. Sometimes we do nice things. Sometimes we don’t hurt other people. We occasionally refrain from carrying out the evil thoughts in our heads. But we never—never—love God with our whole heart. Never. We always keep a part of our heart for ourselves. We are always thinking about ourselves, whether or not we’re hungry or cold or bored or what we happens next. We are always looking around to see who is noticing. We want to be sure to get credit. The problem isn’t just the sins we’ve done; the problem is that we were conceived and born in sin. We sin because we are sinners. It is our most basic definition and identity. We are helpless against ourselves. Our very instincts are self-preserving, selfish, sinful.
Our Lord answers the lawyer with the Law because He wants to lawyer to feel the law and despair, so that He might then heal and restore him. And that is the point of Our Lord’s follow-up question: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” This isn’t a test to see how clever the lawyer is, to see if he knows the Bible, or something they can debate for fun. It is an invitation. Yes, He is David’s Son but He is also David’s Lord. Jesus invites the lawyer to contemplate the saving mystery of God becoming Man. From that contemplation comes peace and joy, encouragement and hope.
Our Lord became Man to take up sin and bear it to death on His cross. He has come to do what we could and would not, what we would never do. He has perfectly loved and obeyed the heavenly Father; He has perfectly loved His neighbor. He died in perfect love for those who did not love Him. His Kingdom—given in the holy washing and renewal of Holy Baptism, the new birth and inheritance of heaven—He bestows for free. It has already been bought and paid for, prepared for those who desire it, who dare to believe it, who hear His Voice and say, “Amen.”
How is it that David’s Lord is also David’s Son? And how is it that God comes to us in bread and wine in His Body and Blood? How is it that He joins us to Him in Holy Communion? How is it that the Creator becomes of our Food and our Bridegroom? How is it that sinners are declared saints? How is it that He loves us and remembers us in His Kingdom? These are all important questions, and all of these are answered with the word “love.” The Gospel isn’t an academic topic for debate. But it does give rise to hymns and poetry, in heaven and on earth. It saves lawyers and sinners surprised to discover they need saving. This is perfect love, and it is for you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.