Reflections: The 18th Sunday after Trinity

Today’s Reading: Matthew 22:34-46, Introit: Ps. 122:1, 6, 8–9

Daily Lectionary: Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23, 28-15:15; Matthew 13:24-43

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” (Matthew 22:41-42)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Pharisees sent a lawyer—an expert of the Torah—to Jesus. He asks Jesus a Law question: “Which commandment is the greatest?” The Pharisees probably hoped that they could accuse Jesus of elevating some commandments above the others.

Jesus answers the question by giving two commandments, which perfectly summarize the entirety of the Law. When Jesus says, “Love God and neighbor,” He is basically saying, “The whole Law is important.” You cannot trap Jesus.

The Pharisees thought that understanding the commandments of God is crucial to understanding the Old Testament. Jesus agrees that the commandments are important (Matthew 22:40). Still, there is a more important question, namely, “Who is the Christ?” Jesus believed that the entire Old Testament testified about Him (see Luke 24:44 and John 5:39). Therefore, if you do not understand what God said about the Christ and do not see how various people, events, and ceremonies foreshadowed His work, then you do not truly understand the Old Testament.

The Pharisees did not understand the Bible, because they did not understand the Gospel. The Scriptures contain both Law and Gospel. Both are good and important. Nevertheless, the Gospel is the central message of the Bible. In fact, the Law serves to prepare us for the Gospel. By revealing our sin, the Law leads us to Christ. The Bible is not so much about what you should do as it is about what Jesus has done for you.

Remember this when you search for a new church, or read a book by a scholar you don’t know, or listen to some Christian radio program. Are they preaching Jesus? Is Christ the main message? If not, beware! They are missing the very heart of the Bible. Like the Pharisees, they know the Bible, and yet don’t know it. Do not follow them. Instead, follow those teachers who will lead you to the crucified and risen Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O God, because without You we are not able to please You, mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 18th Sunday after Trinity)

-Pastor Alexander Lange is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Albany, Oregon.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.