04 November 2018

The Life and Love of God in the True Man, Jesus, the Christ

Your entire life in body and soul — all that you are and have — is from the Lord your God.  It all depends upon Him, and it is finally found in Him and lived in Him — or else you die forever.

By the same token, His Law is not an arbitrary set of rules and regulations aiming at controlling you and your behavior.  He has created you in love, for the sake of loving you and giving you life in and with Himself.  His righteous and holy Law, therefore, begins with Who and What He is, and with what He is and does for you by His grace, in accordance with His good and acceptable will.  It is a revelation of the life to which He calls you, that you might live with Him in faith and love.

All of His Commandments can be summarized with one word, Love, because He Himself is Love.  He calls you and commands you to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, because the Lord your God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, first of all loves you.  Your love will not save you, nor could that ever be its purpose without ceasing to be love.  But His Love for you is your life and your salvation in the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.

Blessed are those who keep His Commandments and teach others to do the same, for so have they become like the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They have learned how to love from Him, and in their love for others they give life to their neighbors.  And as your Father in heaven teaches you to live and to love in this way, so are you fathers, in particular, instructed to teach the Word of the Lord to your children, that they might become the children of God by faith in Him.

To live by faith in the Lord your God is to fear, love, and trust in Him above and beyond all things, with your whole heart and soul, with your body and life, your reason and all your senses.  It is to live in Him.  Not that you should thereby earn His favor, and certainly not as though to gain from Him what is already yours by His grace, but for the profoundly simple reason that He alone is God, the Lord.  There is no other God but Him, and as such, there is no life or love in any other.

To know and love the Lord as your true and only God will certainly govern your priorities in life and determine the way you go about your days and your work and spend your time and money.

As our Lord implies in pointing to the second great Commandment, which He likens to the first, and as Dr. Luther stresses in his preaching on this Holy Gospel, your love for God also translates into a genuine and generous love for your neighbor.  In the same way that you love and take care of yourself, so do you guard and protect the people around you and work hard to meet their needs.

On the one hand, you have the confidence and courage to love your family, friends, and neighbors, and even your enemies, because your life is safely and securely found in the Lord who loves you, the Author and Giver of Life who will never leave you nor forsake you.  You live forever in Him.

On the other hand — and this is the point that Dr. Luther emphasizes — the Lord in His mercy has also determined to regard your love for others as your love for Him, so that, whatever you do to even the least of the children of God, the brothers and sisters of Christ, you have done it unto Him.  That is a high and holy calling, and a high and holy privilege, that your relatively meager works of love in this body and life should be credited as a royal service rendered to the Lord your God.

As it actually stands, however, this twofold Law of faith and love toward God, and of love for your neighbor, accuses and condemns you.  It does not exonerate you.  It rather exposes your sins.  For the truth is that you fear, love, and trust in so many things that are not God, whereas you do not fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, and you do not love your neighbor as yourself.

Your unbelief and your idolatry are evident in your words and actions, in the way that you pursue your own selfish desires and depend upon the works of your own hands, driven by your own ideas and emotions, instead of submitting to the Word of the Lord and sacrificing yourself to the glory of His Name and for the benefit of others.  You invest yourself, your heart and mind, your time and attention, your resources, strength, and skills, in the making and spending of money for yourself, in the chasing of entertainment and pleasure, and in the building of monuments to your own ego.

In short, you make a god of yourself, and you worship yourself, to the dishonor of the Lord and the neglect of your neighbor.  To be sure, the Lord is not harmed by your idolatry, and He will not fail to provide for your neighbor without your help.  But His Law does not leave you unscathed.  Its wisdom, love, and goodness put you to shame and condemn you to death, because your lack of faith and love is indicative of your distance and separation from the Life and Love of the Lord.

The scribe in this Holy Gospel is not far from the Kingdom of God, because he has understood the Law of God and confessed it correctly.  And yet, for all of that, neither the Law nor even this man’s astute analysis and articulation of the Law are able to save him from sin, death, and hell.  The Law cannot give to him or you or anyone the Life that it describes or the Love that it requires.  Not because the Law is lacking or deficient, but because you are not able to keep it or fulfill it.

The thing of it is, though, the holy and righteous Law of God, His good and gracious will, was not given and revealed with the intention that you should accomplish it in yourself and for yourself.

Make no mistake, the Law is quite serious and not optional.  The Lord your God commands you to love Him and your neighbor, and there is no life or salvation apart from that love.  But neither can such love be coerced or forced.  It can only be given freely, which is impossible for your sinful heart to do.  What is impossible for you, however, the Lord your God accomplishes in His Love.  And everything His Law requires is revealed, embodied, and lived for you in the one true Man.

The Law was ever and always to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, who is also the true and perfect Man.  For this Son of David is the Image of God Himself, in whom God and Man are united in harmony and peace, in righteousness and holiness, innocence and blessedness.

It is Jesus the Christ, and He alone, who has loved the Lord, His God and Father, with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength — yes, with all that He is, His whole Body and Life — unto His innocent suffering and death and the voluntary shedding of His holy and precious Blood upon the Cross.

It is in Christ Jesus, the Crucified One, that sacrifice and whole burnt offering, and the perfect Law of Love for both God and Man, are all fulfilled and completed without any conflict or competition.  It is in Him that righteousness and peace kiss each other, that you might be justified, forgiven, and saved by His grace and mercy toward you.  For it is precisely in His wholehearted love for God, the Son for His Father, that Christ has so loved you, His neighbor, with the sacrifice of Himself.

And so it is that, in the Person of Christ Jesus, in His own Body of flesh and blood, God and Man are reconciled and united.  Not as though God were lacking anything or incomplete without us, but He accomplishes this divine mercy so that man, His creature, might live forever in Him, embraced by His love, and so living in His love — all of this according to His own free grace and holiness.

He alone, the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God — He is the fulfillment of the entire Old Covenant (or Testament), of all the Law and the Prophets, the Commandments and the promises of God, the Priesthood, the Tabernacle, the Temple, and all the priestly sacrifices.  Everything finds it fulfillment, its purpose, and its meaning in His Body, crucified and risen from the dead.

He fulfills and accomplishes all of these things as the true Man.  But He does so, nonetheless, as the One who is also true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, by whom and for whom and through whom all things are made.

This Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God is not only the key to Jesus’ question about the Christ, who is indeed both David’s Son and David’s Lord (begotten of the Father from eternity, but conceived and born of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the time had fully come).  It is likewise the crucial and necessary key to your eternal life and salvation.  For God has become Man and lives His divine Life in the flesh, that you might also receive and live that Life in Him.

His Life, His Love, and His whole fulfillment of the Law, it is all for you, whose flesh and blood He shares, that He might be your merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God.  Which is to say that you now live with God in Christ, and that you love, as you are loved, in Him.

A life devoid of such love is really no life at all.  But the life of love that God the Lord commands is not some means to an end; it is the life that is yours by His grace through faith in Christ Jesus, who loves you and has given Himself for you, who has risen for your justification, and who lives and reigns forever as your King.

His sacrificial death upon the Cross is the Atonement and Propitiation for all your sins.  His bodily Resurrection from the dead is your righteousness in the presence of God.  And His Ascension to the Right Hand of the Father is your sanctification and the surety of your eternal salvation.

It is His holy and precious Blood, shed for you upon the Cross, which cleanses you of all your sins and even now binds you to God in faith and love, unto the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul.  For it is the divine and life-giving Blood of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, which has washed you and sanctified you in the waters of your Holy Baptism.  And it is the same Blood of Christ Jesus, poured out for you to drink it in the Holy Communion, which daily and richly forgives you all your sins, guards and protects you from death and the devil, strengthens and sustains your faith and life in the Lord Jesus, and seals you as a child of His God and Father.

It is in Him, and with Him, and through Him, as a member of His Body, that you have entered into the good Land that God has promised.  That is the Land wherein you live even now, even while yet here on earth, by grace through faith in His Gospel, within the Communion of His Church.

Together with those who have gone before us in the faith, we eagerly await the Resurrection of all flesh on that great and glorious Day of the Lord.  And in our waiting we give thanks for those who now rest from their labors.  For we are strengthened and encouraged in our own labors of love by the witness of their example, and we are comforted by the mercies they received under the Cross.

We cannot help but love them, for whom Christ Jesus our Lord gave Himself in love and shed His Blood upon the Cross, whom He chose by grace and called by His Gospel, whom He washed and sanctified and named in Holy Baptism, and whom He fed with His Body and sealed with His Blood at His Altar, here on earth as it is in heaven.

It is by and for the sake of His Blood that we remember and rejoice in those who have gone before us in the faith of Christ, who have lived and died and now live forever in Him, removed from our sight here on earth, but caught up into the life and love of God Himself forever and forevermore.

In this commemoration the Church confesses and give thanks for the life that is no less yours in the Blood of Jesus Christ, your Lord, which He pours out for you here at His Altar on earth, even as He ever lives to pray and intercede for you before the throne of His God and Father in heaven.

It is a divine life that you live by His grace, in faith, and in love for God and Man.  For as Christ has fulfilled the Law on your behalf in His own flesh and blood, by His life and by His sacrifice, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, so do you now live according to the Law of Love in Him.

In Christ Jesus, God has become your Neighbor and loved you; and in Christ Jesus you now also love God in your Neighbor.  We do not presume to rejoice and give thanks for the saints who have gone before us without also loving and serving and giving thanks for the brothers and sisters in Christ who live alongside of us here within His Church on earth.  For we are one Body in Christ, even as we eat of His one Body and drink from the one Cup which is the New Testament in His Blood.  So are we children of one God and Father in Him who loves you, who forgives you all your sins and gives you life with Himself in both body and soul, here in time and hereafter in eternity.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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