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Two Birds with One Stone

October 11, 2020
By Rev. David French

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” It’s a good question but … why does Jesus ask it?  On the surface it may seem like Jesus is simply turning the tables on the Pharisees, sort of giving them a taste of their own medicine. And if that was His purpose, we’d have to say He succeeded as we read, “… from that time on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” That is, He silenced the Pharisees as well.

Was Jesus just setting them up so that He could humiliate them when they inevitably give the wrong answer? Of course not. If you know Jesus, then you know that’s just not how He does things. The truth is, Jesus asks this question because He loves these misguided shepherds of Israel who, with the very best of intentions, are leading God’s children astray because of their traditions and pride.

You see, the problem is they think they know the Scriptures. They do know the words, but they have a wrong understanding of those words because of many of their traditions and their pride in who they saw themselves to be. Remember why they tested Him? It was because He had silenced the Sadducees, so this is just a chance to look smarter than the Sadducees and make Jesus look bad in front of the crowd, sort of a “two birds with one stone.” It’s that same pride that kept them from truly listening to all the Law and the Prophets, that is, God’s Word as we see from their reply, “the Son of David.” And that’s true, but only half right, which when it comes to the Christ of God means it’s wrong.

You see, Jesus asks this question because the answer they give, no matter what they had said, provided the opportunity for Him to speak the truth about the Messiah. At that moment, the light of God’s Word was shining on the darkness of their ignorance and wrong belief. Yes, they knew the Christ would be the son of David, but never say a word about Him being the Son of God. The truth is, if the man in front of them is only a son of David, he is not the Christ.

And that’s the problem. The Pharisees only believed and held fast to what they could understand. Any teaching that wasn’t in line with their understanding of “truth” was simply rejected as false. The Messiah, as they understood him, was going to be a great and powerful man of the lineage of David who would lead Israel to be the economic, spiritual, and social epicenter of all humanity. In their minds they we sure they would recognize the Christ. And they certainly knew the true Christ would never sit and eat with prostitutes and tax collectors or hang out with lepers and Samaritans who God clearly despised and was punishing. 

Now, we get that the Pharisees didn’t understand the truth about Jesus or that God’s plan for the salvation of mankind had to include pain, suffering, and death on a cross. We get that they didn’t understand that sin was a death sentence pronounced on all those born of Adam and really didn’t understand the teachings of the Law (of Books of Moses) and prophets who taught about God’s unconditional grace and mercy for all those born of Adam … including lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, and Gentiles.

That’s why our Lord comes to us today. He doesn’t come to us just to point out the faults of the Pharisees. He comes to us today because He loves us, asking us the same questions, because like the Pharisees, we also might be tempted to think we know it all and stop hearing or reading God’s Word. Remember, it’s easy to come up with right words about Jesus, but what we understand those words to mean is seen by the fruits we bear. That’s what we confess every day.

You see, we really are just like the Pharisees, because by nature, “our ways are not His ways.” They haven’t been since the fall into sin, and they won’t be until Christ returns. In Romans 7 we read those “The good I want to do I don’t do …” verses which end with Paul asking, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” My friends, you know the answer; not just the words, but the answer. The One who can save us from bonds of sin and the pain of death is Jesus, the son of David and the Son of God who is the Promised One of God made flesh.

Think about or better yet, seriously ponder what the Creator of all things was willing to do to save you from your sin. The wages of sin is death, both physical and eternal, and yet our Lord loves us so much that He willingly took on human flesh so He could suffer and die to pay the debt of sin we owe, but would never have been able to pay.  

Now, if you try and make sense of God’s plan using sinful human reason and logic, you will arrive at one of two conclusions. Either your sins aren’t really deadly, and your “good works” contribute to your salvation, or your sins are so great that even Christ’s blood won’t cover them. Those are the two places we can get to on our own when confronted with the Scriptures teaching on sin and salvation. That’s why God doesn’t ask you to do anything to save yourself. Instead, He mercifully enables you, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to believe Him when He says, “It is finished.” It’s why our Lord calls us to have the faith of a little child; that is, a faith with no questions.

We who are already jaded by sin allow the ways and wisdom of the world to guide, influence, inform, corrupt, and finally kill us. Human wisdom has taught us there are no free meals, that there is always a catch. But with our heavenly Father, there is no catch. He had it written down in plain old human language simple enough for a child to understand. The Bible, His inerrant and infallible Word, reveals that the wages of sin is death and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It also reveals, God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son to live and die in our place and that whoever believes in Him for the forgiveness of their sins has eternal life.

You see, it’s to the cross that God directs our faith throughout Scriptures as the place to put our hope, for there the fullness of His wrath as well as the fullness of His grace and mercy and peace and love are poured out for you and for all. On the cross we see both what God thinks of sin and what He does for sinners. So, ponder God’s love for you, but don’t over think it. Simply believe it, humble yourself, repent of your sins, and give thanks because you are forgiven. You have been redeemed by Christ’s blood and baptized into His body. You are, by grace through the faith the Holy Spirit created in you, God’s precious child. 

In His name, Amen.