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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:What Do You Think About the Christ?
Text:Matthew 22:41-46 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:01/26/2014
Added:2014-02-01
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


01/26/2014

Pastor Ted Gray

“What Do You Think About the Christ?”

Matthew 22:41-46

In this 22nd chapter of Matthew we have read about a number of questions that the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus. We have seen that their intent was evil.  They wanted to trip Jesus up, and the questions were meant to trap Him. Nevertheless they are questions that require an answer from all of us.

The Question on God and Government

The first question, on whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, put before us our obligation to both our government and to God. On the one hand we are to pay our taxes and seek to obey the laws of the land where we live. Yet, on the other hand, we are always to recognize that our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  Our ultimate allegiance and obedience is to our God, and the time may come in our lives where we must say as did the Apostles, “We must serve God rather than men” (Acts:4:19; 5:29).

We live in an uncertain and perilous time in our country where good is called evil and evil is called good (Isaiah 5:20). The question of where our allegiance is will take on more significance as time goes by. Unless there is a change in the direction of our nation, Christians will face harsh repercussions for their Christianity. The writing is certainly on the wall, and it makes the question on Caesar, taxes, and giving God what is due Him all the more pertinent for us and for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Question About Life After Death

A second question that everyone must answer, and a question to which we get a whole variety of answers, is the question of the Sadducees: “Is there life after physical death?” That was the question behind the question of the Sadducees when they asked Jesus whose wife a widow would be in heaven since she had seven husbands all who had died.

The Sadducees had asked that question because they didn’t believe in heaven or hell. They didn’t believe that there would be any resurrection. They believed that this life is all there is. When your days are over and done on earth you die and return to the dust and that’s it.

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s what millions of people believe today. You only go around once in life, so do what pleases you. When you die it’s no different than when your dog or cat dies. It’s the end.

Because of the popularity of that view, and linked to the acceptance of abortion, we see the increasing acceptance of euthanasia. When our dog ripped his ACL going berserk at the mailman, we put him down.  One shot and he was out like a light.  Why make him suffer?  His years on earth were over and done. You can do the same thing with a person in Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont, although it is technically called Physician Assisted Death (PAD). You can do the same thing in Holland and several other European countries where euthanasia has been legal for years. If there is no life after death, if this life is all there is, then why not be humane and give that final shot which puts your loved one out of their suffering?

Of course, in our culture we find many other views on life after death. The most common is that when you die you automatically go to heaven. People, even those who are not Christian, naturally desire to think of life going on in a beatific state in an afterlife yet to be revealed.

We also see in our nation, as it is influenced with the rising popularity of false religions, an emphasis on reincarnation. As our culture loses more of its Christian fabric it turns to false religions and fancies that we do live on after death, but according to our karma we come back either in a better state of being, or worse, depending on how we have lived.

So you see, that question behind the question of the Sadducees, “Whose wife will she be?” - “Is there life after physical death?” -  is a question we must all have the proper biblical answer to.    

The Question of the Greatest Commandment

Last week we read how the Pharisees sent an expert in the law to test Jesus with yet another question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (36). And we saw from the answer Jesus gave that the essence of the law is love. We read how love is the fulfillment of the law, that if we truly love God with our whole being then we won’t run after false goods, idols, nor take His name in vain or make light of His holy Day. 

And we saw how love fulfills the law in that if we truly love our neighbor as our self we won’t steal from our neighbor or bear false witness, or kill our neighbor or commit adultery with our neighbor’s spouse. Instead of coveting our neighbor’s possessions we will rejoice in God’s blessings on our neighbor.

So all these questions that were asked of Jesus, although they were asked with the wrong motive and were traps to trip Him up, are yet important questions, questions that we still need the right answers to today.

The Most Important Question

But in this passage we read this morning Jesus asks the most important question that can be asked. There is no more important question than the question posed in verse 42,  “What do you think about the Christ?”  The answer to that question determines our eternal destiny. The answer to that question is more important than the answer to any other question that you and I will ever be asked.

The Pharisees initially answered the question correctly, at least as far as their answer went.  When asked who the Christ is, whose Son He is, they immediately replied, “The Son of David” (42).

It was an answer that everyone knew. The Old Testament prophecies leave no doubt whatsoever that the Christ – the Greek name for Messiah, the Savior – would be the Son of David, meaning descendant of David. 

We saw that in our study of David’s life where 2 Samuel 7 tells how the descendant of David will reign on the throne forever. We saw that it was a reference not to Solomon, who would follow his father David as king, but a reference to the eternal King of all kings, Jesus Christ.  Indeed throughout the Scriptures, Old Testament and New, we read how Jesus Christ is the Son, the descendant, of David.

The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ

But knowing that Jesus Christ is the descendant of David is crucial for you and for me to know as well. It wasn’t just crucial knowledge for people 2,000 years ago, but for us, because it establishes the true humanity of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  He has to be truly human to represent us, and His true humanity is evident as He comes from the line of David.        

In the answer that the Pharisees gave, “The Son of David” we are reminded that Jesus is human, like us in every way except for sin (Hebrews 4:15). That is a crucial conception of His identity because since humanity sinned, the One who would redeem them from their sin had to be human, to perfectly represent the fallen race.

However, when that question is asked, “What do you think about the Christ?” the proper answer needs to go beyond the humanity of Jesus to His divinity.  In order to save us, He has to be truly human to represent us and truly God to save us from our sins, for no one except for God is able to save us. 

In answering that most important question, “What do you think about the Christ?” we must see both His humanity as the Son of David and His divinity. To be our Savior He must be truly human and truly divine. As the catechism puts it in Lord’s Day 6, He must be truly human “because God’s justice demands it: Man has sinned, man must pay for his sin but a sinner cannot pay for others.”  Thus, our Savior must not only be the descendant of David, truly human, but also truly God “so that, by the power of His divinity, He might bear the weight of God’s anger in His humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.” (Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 16 & 17).

And that is where the answer of the Pharisees failed. They failed to see the divinity of Jesus, just as they failed to see that He is the true descendant of David. So Jesus followed up with  a second question, one that totally confounded them and left them speechless. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’?” (43).

Since David recognized the Messiah would be his descendant, he called Him ‘Lord’, something the Pharisees were certainly not willing to do with Jesus. They totally resented that people called Him the Son of David, yet many people recognized His true identity as David’s descendant.  Even the two blind men whom Jesus healed had called out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy on us” (Matthew 9:27).  Here they were, blind, yet they saw spiritually what the Pharisees and so many others fail to see, that Jesus is not only the descendant of David, but the true God in human flesh, which is why David called Him, “Lord.”

The quote that Jesus used is from the 110th Psalm, which is referenced more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament Scripture. It is alluded to at least 27 times and quoted extensively, not only by Jesus, but by the Apostle Peter, Apostle Paul and the author of Hebrews.  It is a totally Messianic Psalm, meaning that the whole Psalm relates directly to Christ, and not just a portion of the Psalm as is often the case with other Messianic Psalms.

The Psalm gives us a glimpse into eternity past, into the great Council of Redemption where the eternal Christ willingly offered to be our sacrifice. That Council of Redemption is referred to in passages such as 2 Timothy 1:9 which tells us how grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. 

Consequently, this quote that Jesus gives from Psalm 110:1 is a profound statement that encompasses both the humility of Christ and the exaltation of Christ. It is the Father saying to the Son, in effect, before the creation of the world: Because You are willing to be the Lamb sacrificed from the foundation of the world, - since You are willing to bear the sins of those who will believe in You, the sins of My elect, - I will exalt You and make Your enemies Your footstool.

It encompasses both the humanity of Jesus and His divinity. It encompasses both His humiliation and His exaltation. It encompasses the truth stated so beautifully in Philippians 2,  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11).

The Lordship of Christ

As we answer the question, What do you think about the Christ?” we recognize His humanity and divinity, and then thirdly we acknowledge Christ’s Lordship over all things, including His enemies. In verse 44 Jesus continued the quote from Psalm 110, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put Your enemies under your feet.”

On earth, in His humiliation, it certainly would seem as though the enemies of Jesus would have the upper hand. This meeting recorded in Matthew 22 took place on Tuesday; by Friday Jesus would be condemned, mocked, crucified. But things are not what they appear.  All His enemies, past, present and future, who do not repent of their sin will be a footstool for His feet.

On a practical, personal level we also recognize the Lordship of Jesus as we acknowledge that since He is our Savior from sin, He then must be the Lord of our life. All that we have, all that we do, all that we aspire to, must focus on Him and His praise. He is the Lord of our relation-ships whether single or married, the Lord of our employment choices, the Lord whose wisdom determines what we do for “entertainment,” for how we live our lives, that in all things He is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). As the Scripture says: Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31).

The Partial Answer to the Greatest Question

Of all the questions that require an answer from us, no answer is more important than the answer to the question: What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”  The Pharisees came up with a partial answer, but couldn’t come up with a complete answer. They were left dumbfounded by Jesus’ question to why David called his descendant, “Lord.”  The passage closes with these words: No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask Him any more questions (46).

And many people today are in a similar situation. Perhaps, they have a partial answer, such as the Pharisees when they were partially correct and said that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. Many people today know a little truth about Jesus. For example, most know that He was born in a manger. But many see Jesus just as a baby in the manger. They never come to grips with the reality of who He is, of why the eternal Christ was born a human descendant of David to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Others focus on the cross of Christ, yet the reason why He suffered and died on the cross doesn’t seem to sink in. Without seeing their sin, people don’t see their need for the only Savior, Jesus Christ. He is reduced, by many in our culture, to just a figure in history who was crucified and because of His crucifixion there is a strange type of status in the cross. I’m sure you’ve noticed how many celebrities, starlets and singers, popular people whose lives don’t reflect a true faith in Christ, wear crosses for their jewelry.  Perhaps you heard about the jeweler who had a customer  asking about what type of crosses the jeweler sold for necklaces. The jeweler asked the customer,  “Would you like a plain cross or a cross with a little man on it?” 

That’s how many people view Jesus. They don’t see their own sin in the light of the law. They don’t see Jesus as fulfilling the good news of the gospel. He was just man who the Romans took out and on advice of the Jews, crucified. He was, in the words of the jeweler, “a little man on the cross.”  His life and death makes for nice a decoration, not only at Christmas with the quaint, although increasingly contested manger scenes, but also throughout the year with those decorative crosses.

A third common answer to that question “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” is that Jesus was the ideal humanitarian. He fed the poor. He  healed the sick. Jesus came to fix the problems of society, but He was unable to because people didn’t give Him a chance. Thus, anything to do with Jesus today involves social action; that is what Christianity is really about in the minds of many.  The gospel for them is strictly a social gospel.

The Answer of Faith

But the proper conception of who Jesus is, the proper answer to that question, “What do you think about the Christ?” is one that sees Jesus as truly human, truly divine, the only Savior and everlasting Lord. 

A proper conception of who Jesus is responds as Peter did when Jesus had asked a similar question back when He was in  Caesarea Philippi.  He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17).

We see that the proper answer is given only by God’s grace through saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The right answer as to who Jesus is acknowledges Him as truly human. As truly divine. As Savior and as Lord.  And it is a confession not just on the lips but from the heart.  It radiates from our heart through our whole being, so that every part of us seeks to glorify Him. 

May that right answer, the answer given by God’s grace through saving faith, be yours and mine, from the heart, this day and always. Amen.

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 01/2, Rev. Ted Gray

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