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What Do You Think About the Christ?

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Commemoration of Jerome, Translator of Holy Scripture

September 30, 2018

Matthew 22:34–46

The Pharisees had a question for Jesus and upon answering it He had question for them. What do you think about the Christ? Who’s son is He? They answered and then Jesus gave them a riddle. They said He is the Son of David. Jesus says, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ If then David calls Him Lord, how is he is His son?” They weren’t able to answer Him. Perhaps you and I can do better.

What do you think about the Christ? That’s the question of Jesus, the Christ Himself. In the time of Jesus the Christ was a title, the Messiah. The Christ was the one the Old Testament people of God looked forward to for their salvation. And now what was Jesus doing? He was claiming to be that One. He was claiming to be the Christ, the Son of David and the Lord of David. 

Jesus made good on His claim. He suffered the sin of the world. He died and descended into hell. He rose on the third day. He accomplished the salvation promised in the Old Testament. He became known by the first Christians as Lord, Savior, and Christ. This last one came to be more and more a name and less and less a title. Jesus was Jesus, and Christ, and of course Jesus Christ. 

We can see how easily it came for Christians to call Jesus Christ in looking at our Epistle reading. In the first nine verses of First Corinthians the apostle Paul uses the name Christ for Jesus nine times. It’s clear from the beginning that when Paul is writing to the Corinthian Christians his message is centered in Christ. 

He gives thanks to God for the grace given to them in Christ Jesus. They eagerly await the revelation of Jesus Christ. God will keep them firm to the end so that they will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, He has called them into communion with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

This is not ivory tower spirituality. Paul sees actual blessings in the lives of the Christians in Corinth. He knows that they have been saved because of what Christ has accomplished. He knows the real and eternal results of the Gospel work that was accomplished in their midst. He knows that they received the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins in Baptism. He knows that they had continued to receive the body and blood of Christ in His sacred meal for the forgiveness of their sins and their unity in the faith. He knows that faithful preachers had continued to proclaim the Word of God to them. 

But why was he writing to them? In the sixteen chapters of his letter to the Corinthians he deals with a lot of messed up stuff. There were a lot of problems in that congregation. A lot of sin, serious false doctrine, and severe divisions. This is only within a couple of decades after Pentecost. It’s not like the Gospel had been made known to them and they all lived in perfect harmony. Paul was writing to them because he needed to deal with their problems.

It is all the more remarkable then how he begins his letter. He does not question whether they are Christians, he knows they are. He doesn’t give up on them but rejoices in them all the more. 

Why is this? Was it because they were trying hard? Did they deserve a second chance? As bad as their problems were, was it perhaps not really that bad, since they weren’t as bad as the pagans?

No, Paul makes it clear in his opening words that it is because of Christ. It is not because of them, but because of their Lord, Jesus Christ. He knows it was true of himself. He was saved by grace alone, through the suffering and death of Christ. In every one of his letters he drives home the point that it is in Christ that we have hope and salvation.

So the question Jesus posed to the Pharisees in the Gospel reading is not just an idle question and His follow-up riddle is not just for fun. It is at the heart and center of who God is and the certainty of our salvation. Either Jesus is the Christ or He is not. Either He is God in the flesh or not. Either He is the one who accomplished salvation or not.

Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles never pour their effort into proving God exists or even that Jesus is God. What they do is proclaim. What do you think about the Christ? Do you believe He is Lord and your only Savior? If you do, do you live like it? We saw how with the Christians in Corinth they had much to be desired for how they lived being as they were recipients of salvation from Christ. So Paul drew them back in. He wrote to them. He proclaimed to them more.

This is what you and I need as well. So you and I believe as those Pharisees did not. You and I may not be as messed up as those Corinthian Christians. But comparing yourself to others is not living in Christ. Living in Christ is. Your focus ought not to be on others and how they fall short but on the two great commandments God has given you and how you fall short of those. Jesus spoke them in the Gospel reading, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Is this how you live? Can you think you are living in Christ when you fall short of these two commandments, upon which Jesus says depend all the Law and the Prophets? You have fallen short and you know well that is true. Jesus also is aware of this and that is why when He asks the Pharisees a question it is a question that goes to the heart of the matter. Not them. Not you. Not me. Not anyone else you might compare yourself with. Christ.

Christ alone. What do you think about Him? Do you believe in Him? If you do, then love your neighbor as yourself. Love God with all your being. Do not convince yourself that you are doing okay. You are not. You need to be forgiven. You are not who you should be. You need salvation. 

Christ is your salvation. Christ is your life. He does not show you the way, He is the way. He suffered on your behalf because you needed full redemption. There was nothing good within you deserving of anything from God. Christ is your salvation. He gives you new life and eternal life. 

This is good news for others. Many people do not know Christ. How will they know Him? If you were to ask them, “What do you think about Jesus?”, what would they say? The good news for them is that they have you. You are in their life to tell them about Jesus. You are in their life to help them and love them and serve them. You are doing none of this to please God or receive good things from Him. He has already given you everything in Christ. You are already forgiven. You are free.

You are in Christ. He died for you, he brought you into His life in your Baptism, He gives Himself to you in His sacred meal. You love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind because you are in Christ. You love your neighbor as yourself because Christ has loved you with His whole being. If you ever forget, or doubt, or stray, go back to where Jesus takes you, to Himself, on the cross, suffering for all your sins so that on the Last Day He will take you to Himself in heaven. Amen.

SDG