Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

The Command to Love
Matthew 22:34-46
Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 25-Sunday between October 23 and 29 Inclusive)
analysis by Michael Hoy


34When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36″Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 41Now 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.” 43He 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”‘? 45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


DIAGNOSIS: Gathering Together in order to Silence

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Loveless questioning
The lawyer from among the Pharisees does not approach Jesus with a simple inquiry. The approach is deliberate, and loveless. It is an attempt to take one more crack at catching Jesus off-guard, after the attempt by Sadducees had failed (22:23-33). The lawyer wasn’t really interested in the answer. The question was only a prop to allow the lawyer an opportunity to hold Jesus up for scorn. While we engage in the world of critical questioning, we can become absorbed in trying to master it — even at the expense of others. The reason we do so is that we think we need to make ourselves look good. But that does not make it any less loveless.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Robbing the Messiah of his proper honor — Self-love
Even though loveless toward others, the lawyer (and we) are not without some kind of perverted love — a love for self, and self alone. The Pharisaic heart cannot love either God or neighbor on command, and betrays that the real love is for oneself. Their response that the Messiah is the “son of David,” while normally an answer which the Christian tradition could embrace, is here perverted as a means of self-aggrandizement. If he is “David’s” son, then he is in our tradition. The sense is that we, in self-love, mistakenly think we control our own destinies, or that they are within our grasp.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Enemies Under Foot
Not so! The Messiah is beyond our grasp, beyond our petty attempts to hold ourselves up on pedestals, from which we shall soon be knocked down. Indeed, when the Messiah comes — the One whom David himself called Lord — God shall put God’s enemies under the foot of his Chosen One. This includes the company of loveless unbelievers, in which company all of us are included; and under the crushing weight of those feet, none of us can stand.

PROGNOSIS: Silencing by Gathering Us Together

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: Crucified for enemies
What makes the victory of the Messiah less crushing (of us) and more promising is the very nature of the feet under which we stand. As our Lord was crucified upon the cross, and we were underfoot, it was from there that he spoke for love of enemies — his own, and God’s. His desire was to let himself be squelched for us, so that we may pass from enemies into the light of God’s friendship. So his messianic rule seeks to silence our criticisms by suffering them out of existence, squelching the final voice of criticism.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Affirming the Messiah–loving God
What we get to see under the loving feet of this Messiah is that we ourselves may die, and rise again in his promising presence. And we get to affirm that this Messiah is our Messiah, because in him alone we can take no pride of self; but also in him, we need not hold onto our selves, but give all to God. He has won for us the victory, crushing sin, death, and the power of evil. We get to love God, as we love (trust) this Messiah.

Step 6- Final Prognosis: Loving the neighbor
Through his stomping victory, we also get to turn our focus away from self toward love of the neighbor, whoever is close to us. We don’t need to preserve our beings. The Messiah Jesus has stomped the living daylights into us, giving us the hope and the promise that is to be shared with one and all — there is love for you yet!

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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