Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

Dr John Stott (an English clergyman whom your Rector frequently quotes) wrote a book entitled “Christ the Controversialist.” For many of us, that hardly seems like a flattering title. We do not care for controversy, and a “controversialist” sounds like an argumentative person, a trouble-maker, someone to avoid. But Dr Stott made his case by focussing on the significant number of passages in the Gospel in which Our Lord engaged himself in controversy. Sometimes He even started the fight (especially in John) by making claims such as “I am the light of the world,” or “Which of you convicteth me of sin?”

We have such a passage in today's Gospel. In Matthew 22, we find Jesus in controversy with two different groups of opponents. First the Sadducees, over the Resurrection. They denied it, but Jesus affirmed it. The Pharisees thereupon asked a much friendlier question concerning the “greatest commandment.” The Pharisees were evidently satisfied with His answer.

Jesus then turned the tables and asked his own question: “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” The Pharisees foolishly thought this was an easy question. “Why everyone knows,” they thought, “that the Messiah is a descendant of King David.” Jesus proceeded to quote a verse from Psalm 110. The psalm was written by David himself, but David had described the future Messiah, his own descendant, as “my Lord,” who would sit at the right hand of the LORD, that is God Himself.

Not one of His opponents was able to explain this text. They were left speechless. (No ordinary human controversialist can achieve this!) But here we see how important Psalm 110 was for the human authors of the New Testament. This Psalm was quoted no fewer than 10 times in the New Testament.

The point which Our Lord drives home in today's Gospel is exactly that which the Church in the early centuries had to make clear (through much labor and controversy). The Lord Jesus is both God and Man, in one Person. In His human nature, He was physically David's descendant. Over and over the Gospels call Him “Son of David.” But at the same time He is the Son of God. And the miracle of it all is that having both natures, He is One Person.

The question which Jesus posed in an atmosphere of controversy to the Pharisees is the question He continues to pose to each one of us: “What think ye of Christ?” Is He in fact, as well as in doctrine, our Lord and Saviour? Eternity itself hangs on how we answer that question. We too, like the Pharisees, will be speechless before Him.

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