Not Questioning Jesus

St. Matthew 22:34-46 (9/25/16)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Matthew 22:46 “ And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.”

…At least no one dared question Jesus then…….

But, by golly, in 2016 everybody questions Jesus.  Everything He has ever said is questioned by the culture in which we live.  Every Word that He has spoken in the Holy Scriptures has become an open question rather than the very Word of the Lord.  And the problem is not just in the “unbelieving world ‘out there’;” many who call themselves Christians also deny God’s Word.

As to questioning God’s Word in our land, we need to look no further for an example than our own country’s laws, particularly about the definition of marriage.  Marriage is an institution that God Himself has created: one man and one woman, ideally for life.  Government did not create marriage, God did.  And God has spelled out quite clearly for us what the definition of marriage is.  Listen to how Jesus teaches this to the very same Pharisees that He is confronting in today’s Gospel lesson, as recorded a few chapters earlier than today’s Gospel, in Matthew 19:

“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

To question marriage is to question the very Word of God.  That is all the more reason why we had better be very careful with our answer to the question of marriage.  The answer to the question has already been given – by Almighty God.  The Christian by faith believes God’s Word precisely because it is God’s Word.  Question the Word of God and you question the very truthfulness of God Himself, even to the point of calling Him a liar.  A lying God is not the kind of God you want.

How dare we even ask the question of marriage?  How has it come to be that this question is even being asked?  How is it that the picture is so different from what we see in today’s Gospel lesson, where “no one was able to answer [Jesus] a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore”?  How is it that we dare to question Him?

The real difference between then and now is that the Pharisees of that day knew who Jesus really was.  Those Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus was talking about when He questioned them: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”  After they replied, “The Son of David,” Jesus, the Son of David, then brought Psalm 110:1 into the conversation and asked them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”

The difficulty in understanding this conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees comes from the difficulty in understanding the word “Lord.” If we think of it only in terms of a ruler on earth – like a man of royalty like King David himself – we miss the point that Jesus was making, an important point that the Pharisees understood completely.

Most certainly Jesus is God in the flesh; He is the Lord/Yahweh/Savior of the Old Testament.  That much is plain and obvious.  So with that understanding, listen to Jesus’ question to the Pharisees again: “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”

It is a profound question, a deep question that requires an equally deep answer.  But that answer to that rhetorical question is nevertheless quite clear.  Jesus, the Son of David, IS GOD.  The Son of God has come from heaven to earth in a body just like our own, except without sin.  There He was, God in the flesh, standing in the presence of those Pharisees, speaking His Word to them.

That is why, in that scene, no one was able to answer Him a word.  They rightly were silent in His presence, for they had nothing to add to His Word; His Word is the final answer.  Thus, from that day on they did not dare question Him anymore.

Would that all Christians were wise enough to follow this example.  Yet many foolishly ignore the lesson.  Instead, they dare to question God by questioning His Word.  Games are played with God’s Word, a version of “Truth or Dare” in which some dare to question the truth that God has revealed to them in His Word.

This happens not only in our society and culture, as when God’s institution of holy matrimony is questioned – or changed.  This also happens in God’s Church, as, for example, when questions arise concerning males only as Pastors in His Church.  It happens also when questions arise regarding the institution of closed communion – a teaching and practice drawn from a complete understanding of God’s Word.  It happens when so-called “Christians” question the fact the Baptism forgives sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation who believe in its promises.  It happens whenever questions arise about other doctrines that God in His Word has clearly taught.  Both in the world and in the Church we are constantly tempted by that first temptation of Satan, the one that caused our first parents to fall into sin: “Did God really say…?”

That is why we are constantly in need of the protection of God’s Holy Spirit to keep us from falling into that temptation.  We do well to keep the Word of God continually ringing in our ears so that the wisdom that it brings is constantly on our minds.  We do well by always letting our hearts be informed and taken captive by the Word of Christ, even when God’s reasoning remains a mystery to our fallen human minds.  We are right and safe when we follow the testimony of our conscience when those consciences have been well-informed by the Word that our Creator speaks to us through the law revealed in nature and the Law revealed in the Scriptures.

And so we have done well in coming here today.  For it is here that we who are Pharisees by nature – we who call God’s Word and God Himself, into question – it is here that we receive forgiveness for sins.  Here we are silenced, daring not to question Him any longer, while He speaks to us.

Yet the Word that Jesus speaks to us here is a loving Word.  He sharply speaks His Law to us, condemning our sinfulness.   And yet it is a Word spoken out of love for you and me and all mankind, for His Law humbles our hearts in preparation to receive His Gospel in faith.

And by that Gospel you and I, dear fellow redeemed, come to know the full extent of His love for us.  For His Gospel is a Word that silences us, too, overwhelming us when we attempt with our minds to try to understand His great and unconditional love for us.  Yet we are right not to dare to question it, for it is so true.

God so loves you, dear friends – He loves you in this way – that He has completely forgiven all of your sins, all on account of the completed work of His Son, Jesus.  Jesus, the Son of David, lived for you and died for you and rose again for you to bring you His resurrection life.  He has washed away every single sin you will ever commit in the grace-filled flood of your Baptism, even as He does for all who have been baptized.

God declares to you again today through the voice of His called and ordained servant the Word that absolutely releases you from the bondage of your sin.  He invites you to His Table at which you marvelously and mysteriously – in a way that defies all human comprehension – commune with God and with one another and with all of the saints who have passed from this life before you in the one true faith.

And then out the door you go again today, out into the world, to live as people who are not of this world.  God has raised you up today to live as you have never lived previously – that is what it means to live a new life.  God has exorcised you of the spirit of this age and has filled you again with His Holy Spirit.  He has rid you of the spirit of questioning and stirs up within you the Spirit Who leads you to follow God’s Word without a doubt.  He has opened your mind and heart to His Word and His will and makes you bold to follow it.  He has informed your conscience by His Word of wisdom, and encourages you to heed its testimony when you grapple with the questions of the day.

Do not question God’s Word to you, specifically this one: You are forgiven, free, and loved eternally.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.