Luther’s Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 18 – Law and Gospel

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Law and Gospel: The Great Commandment

Matthew 22:34-46

New King James Version

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’?

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

Luther’s Explanatory Notes:

34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.

Put the Sadducees to silence. The Pharisees are just as great fools and clumsy teachers as the Sadducees. Yet they regard themselves as wise and subtle and say, “Dear Master,” listen also to us, and see what we know; for we are not as gross as the Sadducees. We understand God’s word and works, which they do not understand; we are the rightful teach ers of the people; therefore tell us, “Which is the great commandment of the law?” This question indicates to us into what a great blindness the Jews had fallen, that they had for gotten the Ten Commandments, which even the little children know. This follows when one depends upon outward works.

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. Christ goes straight forward; he is a good marksman and hits the point. He wants the whole heart. Yes, this cordial love is such a sublime word, that reason cannot grasp it, let alone fulfill its demands. Yea, even the true Christians have enough to learn about it, and yet they can never learn it all.

38 This is the first and great commandment. The first and great. The command of love is the greatest; for if we keep this, we need no other. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Thy neighbor as thyself. As God is satisfied with my faith, that I love him in my heart, as a benevolent God and merciful Father, of whom I delight to hear; so he will also, that all my works shall be directed to the good “of my neighbor (Psalm 15:3) Therefore he lets me live on earth, that I may in return show such kindness to my neighbor as God has graciously shown to me. When you see a Christian suffer want, then know that Christ suffers want, and needs your help. Where the service of God is, there is heaven. Now, when I serve my neighbor, I am already in heaven, for I serve God. But what is meant by serving the neighbor? It means, to do him good. For love, when it is properly exercised, does not consist in thoughts and words, but in deeds.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The law and the prophets. This law of love runs through all the commandments; and all the commandments must go through love. But now one may ask, How can all these things be embraced in these two commandments, since to the Jews circumcision and many other laws were given? For this reason, that this commandment (circumcision) should show whether they love God with their whole heart; whether they did it willingly or unwillingly; and this circumcision was an exercise in this commandment, “Thou shalt love God with all thy heart.”

In the second place, Christ teaches the Pharisees how impossible it is for them to keep this commandment. Neither will human nature ever accomplish what God demands of us in this law; namely, that we must submit our will to his will, and thus renounce our own reason and will. Thus we are in the midst of distress and sorrow, and cannot help ourselves.

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.

What think ye of Christ? The other part of this Gospel, What is Christ? and what are we to think of him? follows now. If I believe with my whole heart that Christ has done this for me, then I receive the Holy Ghost, who makes me entirely new. But it is impossible that we should know God, not to say love him, unless we know Christ. Matthew 11:27.

Whose son was he? They did not think more of Christ than that he was the son of David; that is, he that should sit on David’s throne, but should reign only as a worldly ruler, and subdue all the heathen under his dominion; but that they should need him in their afflictions to redeem them from sin and eternal death, of this they had no idea.

43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

How can he be David’s Lord? David was the greatest man on earth, on account of the divine, glorious promises, and that he was allied with God in so great a covenant; and yet this great man and king falls down and confesses that his son, Christ, was his Lord, and such an one who was equal with God, acknowledged and worshiped as the right and true God; for it does not say, Sit thou at my feet, (for then he would be beneath God) nor did he say, Sit thou at my head, (then he would be above God) but, Sit thou at my right hand; therefore he is equal with God.

This is a correct likeness of Christ, which shows us what he is, and also what his office and work are.

This article of our faith is not as easy as one might suppose. If at this time a sect should arise, such as the Arians, or the Turks and Jews at the present day, it would be hard for a weak Christian to hold out against them. It does not correspond to say, Christ, the man, is God; and if it concerns corresponding, then we could not retain an article of the faith. Therefore say, Whether it corresponds or not, I know that no one can speak of God so well as he can himself.

Now comes the next verse, “Till I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Here stand side by side the highest, greatest power, and the greatest weakness. It is the nature of this kingdom to be mysterious.

46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Not able to answer him a word. Thus the saying of Christ is fulfilled, (Matthew 22:44.) Where there is unbelief, though it appear to the world as wisdom and holiness, yet before God it is foolishness and unrighteousness. But the art to know what Christ is, this they can soon learn. We hear it every day and imagine it is an easy art, we understand it very well, when we hear it; but when we try it and experience it in the heart, then this art becomes very small.

Luther’s Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 128-129.

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