Dear Baptized, forgiven, and loved by God,
All you need is love, the Beatles sang. But what is so often misunderstood is that true and genuine love doesn’t really begin with us, or with our attempts at it, or with our own sincerity, as sincere as we try to be. Scripture says, “We love God, because He first loved us.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” True love begins with God alone, and with the sending of His only-begotten Son into this world of sin, to bear our sin, and to accomplish everything needful for us to be saved from sin. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
How did Jesus love us? By His willingness to bear our sin all the way to the cross, His submission to the Father’s will, living the life of perfect love, laying down His life, only to take it up again, promising that we too will rise, just as surely as He is risen. His love conquers all. John says, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Let us be comforted and strengthened once again today, in the love of Christ, and be strengthened in our faith in Him. May we continue to grow in love toward God and man, remembering that the source of all true love is Christ alone.
What’s interesting is that the Sadducees, who were much like the religious liberals in our day, were enemies with the Pharisees. So when Jesus put the Sadducees to silence, by showing them that there is indeed a resurrection to eternal life, the Pharisees thought, what a great time to try to trap Jesus in His words. Think of the boost they thought this would have given them, above and beyond the Sadducees, if they could overcome this great teacher, Jesus.
So the Pharisees did not come to Jesus with love for Him. The lawyer’s question about which commandment was the greatest, was by no means innocent. Somehow they wanted to trap Jesus in His words, possibly accusing Him of elevating one commandment above the rest and therefore, disrespecting the other commandments. But Jesus did not choose one commandment like they expected. Jesus chose them all.
Jesus summarizes the entire law, by saying, Love. Love God and love your neighbor. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
What does it mean to love God? It means to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. Whatever we hang all our hopes on, whatever we trust in, whatever we look to for the highest good, Luther says, that’s our god. But the problem is that, nothing in this world, certainly not a smartphone, not a TV, not even another person, absolutely nothing, can satisfy us like God can.
That’s why He doesn’t want us to try to find fulfillment in the fading things of this world, because that’s exactly what they are, fading, fleeting, temporary. Only the true God brings peace, rest, and joy that never fades away. He promises “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” Jesus says “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” We love God by trusting in Him above all things.
In the second commandment He says not to take His name in vain, and certainly it never does us any good to swear or use His name in vain. But He also wants us to call upon His name, taking our every care and concern to Him in prayer, for Scripture says, “He careth for you.” We love God by talking to Him in prayer.
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it. Surely we cannot love God without hearing His voice. “He that is of God heareth God's words.” The conversation cannot be one-sided. How else would we know our Savior from sin? Nature doesn’t tell us about Christ. Our own reason and intelligence surely doesn’t tell us about Christ, in fact, every man-made religion in the world, turns inward, looking to mankind’s own strength and abilities for salvation.
God’s Word alone teaches us that God spared not His only-begotten Son, but delivered Him up for us all. We love God by hearing His voice. Jesus says My sheep hear My voice.
In the rest of the commandments we hear how we are to love our neighbor, by honoring and obeying our parents, by helping and befriending our neighbor in his every bodily need, by helping him to improve and protect his property and business, by putting the best construction on everything, and by helping and being of service to him in keeping his things.
We have to be honest and just admit, no matter how hard we try, no matter how sincere, daily we fail to love God and man, in thought, word, and deed.
But true love begins with God alone. It begins with the question Jesus Himself posed. Of course the Pharisees’ question would be about the law. But Jesus has a question of His own, about the Gospel. “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” There is no greater question. The answer determines the fate of every eternal soul. Jesus is the only-begotten Son of God, the only Savior of mankind. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Believing in Jesus means everything. He is the only one who loved with complete and total sincerity, no even an ounce of selfishness, but only absolute pure love and compassion.
Of course the Pharisees were willing to admit that the promised Messiah would be the Son of David. Every single Pharisee would be able to rattle that off without giving any thought to it. But “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” We notice they said nothing about Him being the Son of God. And that makes all the difference in the world. Who else would be able to bear our sin, and love perfectly in our place, except both the Son of Man, and the Son of God?
Being born of the Virgin Mary (who decended from David), and conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, Jesus is both David’s Son, and David’s Lord. As the Son of David, the Son of Man, Jesus lived under the law for us, the law that requires absolute perfect love. He fulfilled it’s every demand upon us. He always loved His Father, always submitted to His will, even when it meant laying down His life on the cross. He always loved us too, every single soul. With billions and billions of people, He knows when even the slightest thing bothers us, and He never fails to take it to heart, and promises He will never leave nor forsake us. As true God Jesus was able to be forsaken of His Father, take upon Himself the sin of the entire world, and still rise to never die again.
Yet, this is the perfect love in which you have been born again in your Baptism, believers in Christ. Christ freely gives us His perfect life of love. And so He says, “Behold, I make all things new.” Through His Word and Spirit, He creates new desires, new love, and new strength within us. It is His love and forgiveness that overcomes, makes everything right between us and God, and enables us to grow in love toward God and man. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”
And when we fail, He is there to forgive our sins and give us the strength to carry on. “This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” His call to us, is not in vain. His Word is powerful. His Spirit is powerful. In us, He produces much fruit.
In this life our inability to love perfectly remains, but Christ has overcome our sin and we continue to grow in His victory as His Spirit continues to work in us through His Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.