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Homilies from Nola Crewe
23rd October 2005

Matthew 22:34-46

34         When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,

35          and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

36          “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?

37             He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 

38            This is the greatest and first commandment. 

39             And a second is like it; ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

40            On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

41              Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:

42            “What do you think of the Messiah?  Whose son is he?  They said to him, “The son of David.”

43            He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

44            The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45            If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?

46            No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

May my heart and soul and lips be ever in God’s service.                            Amen.



Let me set the scene of to-day’s lesson.  Christ has been going about the countryside stirring up the people.  They are walking away from their families; leaving their homes, quitting their jobs:  leaving their boats and nets in port while they follow Jesus and listen to Him teach.  Society’s leaders: the governors, the military, the clergy; the government and the legal establishment don’t know what to make of all this.  The messiah they have been waiting for, for thousands of years was to come in David’s footsteps:  a king, a ruler, to have dominion over all, to avenge His people’s enemies and to give them great rewards.  Yet this sandal-clad man has no armies, St Michael and the angelic warriors have not cut a swath before Him.  He seems all too human, just another false prophet . . . and there have been many of them.  Recently there was John the Baptist who many believed was the Messiah.  And now, another one. 

Was this man taking advantage of the public:  seeking their hard earned monies?  Using their resources – their donkeys, their homes, their loaves and fishes?  Was he a con man?  Did the people need protection from this Messiah claimant?

And this so-called Messiah was attracting great mobs.  Mobs get disorderly.  Mobs breed revolution.  Blood in the street, chaos, confusion and rebellion were their very real fears. 

What were they to do?  

If they drove him out of town, would the people just follow after him?  If they executed Him, would they create a martyr around which the public might rally? 

And He couldn’t REALLY be the promised messiah . . . could he . . . .   ?

The best solution would be if he could be publicly discredited, proven to be a phony . . .  that would be excellent. 

The people would go home. 

Life would get back to normal. 

The rabbis and the lawyers could return to their studies of the Torah and the books of the Old Testament, and awaiting the coming of the promised one.

These men who met and worried over these matters were the authorities on the Old Testament with all its do’s and don’t’s

– restrictions on food,

-          on who to marry,

-          and where to live –

each demonstrating God’s care and concern with guiding his people in their immaturity. 

    To instruct His people in the way of righteousness He had provided Ten Commandments and they revered these laws above all others:

          -  you shall have no other God;

-          you shall build no idols;

-          you shall not use God’s name as a profanity;

-          you shall not work on Sunday;

-          Honour your father and your mother;

-          you shall not murder;

-          commit adultery,

-          steal,

-          lie;

-          envy what others have 

Of the ten, nine contained the very  negative, YOU SHALL NOT! 

But have you ever noticed?  Laws turn everyone into mini-lawyers looking for a way around them.  Try telling your children “Bedtime is 8:00 p.m.”  Then they argue bedtime means when you start getting ready for bed; a bath, a snack, a story all are part of bedtime.  Speed limits are pushed to see how far you can exceed them, without getting a ticket.  

     Through the ages, Jewish rabbis perfected a method of teaching and learning through questioning everything, exploring the limits or, as the lawyer who questioned Christ,  testing Him and His claims, to find out who HE really was – and if the questioning determined heresy or treason . . . so much the better.

          The lawyer stepped forward and demanded of Christ, “Teacher [that is, Rabbi, for since childhood, Jesus had been acknowledged as a student and teacher of the holy Torah], which commandment in the law is the greatest?

     Instead of selecting one of the ten given to Moses and his desert peoples, as the lawyer obviously expected, Christ answered in the positive and gave the Commandments of the new covenant, to the people for whom He was about to be sacrificed.

          “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment” – a commandment that takes all the love you can contain in your entire self for Him alone.     But then, refusing to be limited by his questioner, Christ adds, “And a second is like unto it:  ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 

In placing the two great commandments together, Christ makes it absolutely clear that love, the reality of Jesus, is ever expanding and non-exclusive.  God must be loved before all and at all costs, but that is the natural state for the Christian.  In fact, it is more a sadly human forgetfulness and laziness that keeps us from loving and worshipping God as we ought.  We get so busy with the mundane and meaningless that we forget to love and honour all that is important. 

But that loving of God makes it both easy and natural to love others:  our parents, our children, our partner, our pets, even qualities like freedom, equality or our country. 

And it is that love that expands and grows every day to encompass more of God’s people. .  . the love that will be our inheritance forever. 

        How I love to imagine the look on that lawyer’s face when his query was turned around on him . . . when the perfect answer was given and the lawyer silenced.  The answer that changed the law forever after.  Before Christ, lawyers and rabbis were needed to understand the restrictions and requirements of the law.  

     After the life of Christ, the answer was always obvious.  You no longer need others to know right from wrong; what is pleasing and what is offensive for a Christian to engage in before the eyes of the Almighty. 

     In loving my neighbour as myself [and Christ told us that everyone is my neighbour] all I have to do is ask myself, “would I like someone to do this to or for me?” 

     If the answer is yes, go ahead, that’s the green light. 

     If the answer is no, step way back from the big red stop sign that just popped up.

     If you’re not sure, the amber warns you to think a bit more, maybe ask that neighbour, don’t barge ahead. 

     Just think how easy it all is:

     Hmmmmmmmmm, if I was old and sick, would I want a visit?

     If I was battling tired toddlers on the subway, would a an offer of a seat or a helping hand be appreciated?

     If I woke up to find my front steps shoveled after a snow-fall, how upset would I be? 

    The right answer is always so obvious.

         Or, try these questions:

              Would I like my neighbour to steal my money?    

Or, sleep with my husband?                                    

Or, rip me off when shopping?                      

Or, splash slush all over me when driving past?

             These answers don’t take any theological training. 

    These questions have no limitations to argue. 

              Living within Christ’s law is a very easy place to be.

     And it’s the right place:  RIGHT NEXT TO THE GREAT, LOVING HEART OF JESUS.

                                                          A m e n . 

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