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Perfect Obedience; Perfect Love
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The Law is all about love. Jesus is saying here that everything the Law and the Prophets teach is summarized by those commandments: to love God and to love each other. The words “Law and Prophets” summarize the Old Testament, and the Old Testament points to Christ. So when we hear those words in the New Testament, they point us to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of the Seed, the One who will crush the head of the satanic serpent. When we hear “Law and Prophets,” we should think, “This is talking about Jesus.”
Perfect obedience to the Law means that one must love God and neighbor perfectly. In perfect love, the young Jesus stayed in the Temple while His parents traveled back toward Nazareth; He was doing the work to which His Father appointed Him. In perfect love, Jesus called sinful men to be His disciples. In perfect love, He rejected the temptations of Satan in the wilderness. In perfect love, He healed the blind, the lame, the leper. In perfect love, He drove the moneychangers from the Temple court. In perfect love, He raised the dead. In perfect love, He called a Samaritan woman a little dog. In perfect love, He prayed for His disciples, knowing Judas would betray Him, knowing Peter would deny Him, knowing the others would abandon Him. In perfect love, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for sin to the very dregs. In perfect love, He hung on the cross at Golgotha. He was hanging on the Law, judged there by the Law. There He died for every sinner. He died there for you and for me and for every person who has ever neglected to love God and neighbor. He died there in perfect innocence, the only man ever to perfectly love God and neighbor.
But just as He hung on the Law because we had broken it, Jesus fulfills the Law by hanging on it too. There, on the cross, Jesus shows He perfectly loves God the Father more than all things by being obedient to His Father's will. But He also perfectly loved His neighbor—you―by dying for your sins, by taking them away, by leaving them on the cross. The One who is God and man in one Person perfectly loves God and His neighbor by hanging on the Law's cross. There, on Calvary, your Savior died for what you did and did what you could not do. There the Law is fulfilled. There the Law is satisfied. There your salvation is accomplished by the innocent Lord who put Himself under the Law for you and who fulfilled the Law for you.
How do you know the Law had been fulfilled? Your Baptism says so, because Jesus places His perfect love on you in the blood-washed baptismal robe of His righteousness. His Body and Blood say so, because you receive the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith in that holy Food. His Word says so, because He reveals Himself as the innocent Sacrifice, the Scapegoat who bears our sins for us. His Word and Sacraments are the testimony that His obedience to the Law counts for you and your neighbor. He has fulfilled that Law for you.
Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. By themselves, these commandments convict you because you have not kept them. But in Christ, those commandments are kept; your sins against them have been erased. In living perfect love for God and for you, He has given you His perfect obedience and love. Come and receive perfect love at this altar, a gift given you from Christ Himself. 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.