Archive for the ‘Matthew 22:34-46’ Category

Putting God to the Test

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, October 23, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Matthew 22:34-46

INTRODUCTION: Well the crowd is gathered around Jesus within the temple listening to Him teach and the religious leaders are gathered together just outside of the group.  They’re sending one delegation after another to Jesus, with the unified goal is to disqualifying Him as the Messiah.  Last week, we looked at a question they asked Him about taxes.  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?  And Jesus answered, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”  Right after that the Sadducees had a ridiculous question about marriage in heaven.  Jesus’s answer was brilliant.  He told them it’s a pointless question, because in heaven there’s neither marriage nor the giving of marriage, as all belong to God alone!  Foiled again!  Now what will they do?  Well it’s time to bring out their power player!  Bring out the Lawyer!!  He’ll confound Jesus with a question that even we can’t answer; he’ll tear Him to pieces with a legal conundrum!

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Now how is this a conundrum?  Well you have to understand that after hundreds of years of interpreting their religion, the legal experts had somehow been able to turn the 10 Commandments into 613 of them.  And throughout the years, no one could agree on the order of precedence.  If they could get Jesus to either ignore the question or take a side, He would certainly loose favor in the eyes of some of the people!

And Jesus, without so much as a pause responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  In other words Jesus is saying, “Do you want to earn favor and eternal life with God?  Do you want to fulfill all that God demands in all of the Law?  Fine, then go and love God and your fellow man perfectly and you will have achieved your goal!  But make sure you do it perfectly, if not it won’t be eternal rewards you’ll earn but eternal punishment!  So much for testing Jesus.  That was their last attempt and it failed as miserably as all the other attempts.

I. So why did the Jews keep testing Jesus?  Some people think that if they only knew who Jesus really was, they certainly wouldn’t have done that!  Oh they wouldn’t would they?  May I remind you of the account of the Hebrews as they were led out of Egypt? (Exodus 15-17)  The Hebrew people were safe and secure in the wilderness because God led them out of slavery.  He did it through a series of miraculous plagues, parting the Red Sea making a way for the Hebrews and then returning the sea upon the heads of Pharaoh’s army.  All of this they saw with their own eyes.  They knew how powerful God was!  But when they became tired and hungry they grumbled; they doubted that the God who had miraculously saved them from Pharaoh could provide food for them.  “Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  Now why did they forget what God had just done for them?  Because they were sinners, and sinners always do what is natural; they grumble and complain about how hard life is, and then they blame God for all their misfortune.  Sinners always demand that God provide for them when and how they desire!

Well God did provided for them?  Yes, He made the sky rain quail for their meat pots and manna or bread from heaven, to sop up all their gravy!  But there was a cost to their grumbling spirit and putting God to the test!  They would be forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

II. So there we have Biblical proof that testing God isn’t wise!  So then, why do we test God?  Well, because we aren’t any better than the Jews that gathered in the temple to test Jesus!  We still want a savior created in our own image!  “Dear God, I know that you don’t really want me to smoke this crack, but all of my friends are doing it.  Please protect me; please help me to do it this one time and don’t let me turn into a crack head!”  Is that too extreme for you?  How about this: “God, I know that it would make you happy if I trusted you more with my money.  I know you want more than just the few dollars that I keep putting in the offering plate, but times are tough right now.  But God, if you help me win the lottery, I promise to give you half of all I win!  Oh how I could bless your church if you would just let me win!”  Or how about this one: “Dear God, I know that I promised to love my wife and be faithful to her until death, but things are different now; she’s distant and cold.  We haven’t been intimate for months and I have needs.  Please forgive me, but I just can’t be faithful anymore.  I’ll re-dedicate myself to her again after you change her!”  Or young people, how about this one: “Dear God, please don’t let me fail the test at school tomorrow.  I know I didn’t study, but please help me get an A so I can …”

So there you have it; we all put God to the test in some way or another!  But why do we do that?  Because like the Jews we want to create Him in our own image.  We want a God of convenience who will bless the messes we make out of our lives!  Now that may be the god our sinful minds have created, but that is not the God who not only created us but wants to heal our sinful and sick minds.  Instead of telling God what we want, maybe it’s time we stop and consider what He wants?  And what does He want?  He wants us to have faith!

III. That’s what He wanted the Pharisees and Sadducee  to have; even while they were putting Him to the test and planning how to kill Him, He was still offering them the gift of faith!  How?  The same way He always does it, through His Word.  In Jesus Words He was giving them wisdom unto salvation; He was giving them faith, if they would receive it.  In His Words, He was working to turn their sinful hearts and minds away from themselves and to God’s means of salvation.  He was asking them just as he’s asking us this morning to consider just what kind of Savior we really need.  “What do you think about the Christ (or the Savior of the world)?  Whose Son is He?  They said to Him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David in the Spirit (that is by the Word of the Holy Spirit), calls Him Lord, saying, “’The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?  If then David calls Him Lord, how is He his Son?”

In other words, if all you have is a political savior who will take care of your physical needs here and now, then who will defeat your real enemies that threaten your eternal salvation?  If all you care about are your physical needs, then what are you going to do about your heart, which in it’s natural condition, is dead and can never really love God or your neighbor?  If you are understanding the implications of Jesus’s Words correctly, then you must by now understand that your salvation can never come from a Savior who only finds His origin in this sinful world.  No, your Savior must be God Himself.  Only God can bring the kind of help that is eternal.  You see, we don’t need a new leader we need a new heart, and it’s the same eternal God that led the Hebrews out of bondage who gives you that new heart!  We need a God who comes to us in our own flesh;  we need the Son of David who is also the Son of God!  We need Jesus, because only He can be simultaneously seated and reigning at the right hand of God and be here with us right now, exercising God’s power and majesty over our true enemies, sin death and the devil.

Like the Hebrew slaves of old, we too have been led out of bondage.  The problem is that much of the time, like the Hebrews, we aren’t keeping our hearts centered on Jesus, instead we’re looking back at our old lives and thinking about the meat pots that we left behind; this is why we sin and fall victim to the temptations of this sinful world.  So this morning, God says, “Repent!  Turn to Jesus.  Walk with Him to the cross.  As He was faithful and went all the way for you, follow Him and be faithful as well!”

What does it mean to repent?  Well you’re doing it right now as you’re listening to His Word being declared to you!  You repent when you remember how He first loved you and saved you in the waters of your baptism.  You are repenting as you approach His table of mercy and receive a Holy meal of forgiveness.  You are repenting as you read and study His Word in your daily devotions.  You are repenting each time you pray for forgiveness and strength to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Repentance simply means returning over and over again to God’s forgiveness which is yours in Jesus Christ.  And as you repent, as you turn to Jesus, you are also turning away from a life of bondage, all because you are following God’s only means of salvation, Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION: Do we put God to the test?  Well, as long as we’re still living in this sinful world, the answer is yes!  The question is will you confess this and receive His forgiveness?  Is there any test that God approves of?  Only one; it is the test of faith!  Will you keep turning to Jesus?  Even when you think God is done with you, will you keep asking Him to forgive you?  That is the one test that Jesus hopes you will never quit giving Him, because each and every time you ask Him to free you from your bondage of sin, He answers yes!  I pray that each of us will continue to be given faith to believe this, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!