MATTHEW 22:34-40

INTRODUCTION

Here is the scripture reading for Reformation Sunday. It reads as follows:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Each year, on the last Sunday of October we celebrate the Reformation of the Church. It was started by a 33 year old priest on October 31, 1617 when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The significance of the Reformation is undisputed. There are 3 interpretations of the Reformation, each with its faults.

There is the heroic interpretation. This is where Luther is considered as a hero. In this view Luther’s character, inner struggles, and his personality are at focus. In the cultural-historical interpretation the Reformation is looked upon as a movement from darkness to the new world powered by the power of reason and intelligence. The third view of the Reformation is called the nationalist interpretation. Here Luther and the Reformation is looked upon as a symbol of German identity, and independence.

But a fourth view of the Reformation, I believe, is more accurate. The Reformation is an episode in the history of the Christian Church. For Luther it was all about the Gospel. And he held true to the word: reform. Not a new church, but a return of his church to the truth: The Gospel (love) of Jesus Christ, as our Savior, to make us righteous before the Heavenly Father.


PART ONE

Our reading for today centers on a question given to Jesus about God’s Law. Verse 36 is another test question. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” This continues a series of traps to Jesus during Holy Week that we talked about last week. Jesus sidesteps around it again.

In Jewish tradition there were 613 commands in the Torah. Jesus responds by going to Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God.” What this means is to love your God with everything you have. Love Him with everything you are. That means your heart, mind, and soul. This commandment allows for no outs. No way to do part of it. It is all or nothing. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He continues: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And here Jesus says that all the Law and God’s Word relies on.


PART TWO

What does it really mean to love God and love your neighbor? When love is discussed it is often looked upon as an internal, individual thing. It is often described as a feeling. But the concept of relationship when it comes to love is basic to Christian love. God’s love for His creation is shown by how He relates to it. When sin rips apart this relationship, God begins the process of repairing this now broken relationship. This relationship of Gospel (love) is focused around His plan of salvation through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ for the love of humanity.


PART THREE

God’s redemption through love is not possible without loving your neighbor. In the original Greek to love your neighbor means: “Love the one nearby you.” I like this translation better than the word neighbor. It makes love so much more solid. This translation means our neighbor is anyone who might be close to us, in a church pew, in our family, in the neighborhood, etc.

This seems very simple, but yet is very difficult. It means that all people around us need to be loved. They need to be in a relationship with you. This takes time. Or you might have some past issues to overcome. But we need to remind ourselves that God and Jesus took the step to seek out a relationship with us.


PART FOUR

Love is indeed an action, but it is also one of emotion. What does love involve? Devotion, adoration, and delight. And not just to the one you are closest to. It involves your neighbor as well. We don’t love others without emotion. We love each other by sharing our lives and their lives with them. That means in their joys and sorrows. It means laughing and crying together. Jesus shows us by his love for his neighbor.


CONCLUSION

We find ourselves here today celebrating the Reformation of the Church. For Martin Luther the Reformation was all about reclaiming the Gospel of his Lord. The love of God for us. A love so great that He allowed His one and only Son to be sacrificed so that we could have a repaired relationship with our heavenly Father. And not just a relationship with Him, but also a loving relationship with those who God has placed nearby you.

Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. Strengthen your relationship with the Lord your God and your relationship with your neighbor. And share the Gospel (the love of God). Amen.

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