The Greatest Two Commandments and the Son of David

This day’s second gospel reading records two questions. The first was posed to Jesus by the Pharisees; the second was posed by Jesus to the Pharisees. Let’s examine the second question first. Jesus’ question to the Pharisees is this: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

The Pharisees give their answer: he is the son of David.

Jesus replies, “Then, why does David in the spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I might place your enemies beneath your feet’. Therefore, if David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Our Lord’s reply asks for some clarification. David would NOT call any biological son or descendant LORD! As the King of Israel, in fact, he would not address any man as Lord. The Pharisees would not answer because they understood the significance of their answer: The Messiah is more than human, indeed he is God.  Our Lord is not being too subtle here, he makes a bold declaration about himself.

There are other places in the gospels where Jesus declares himself to be God. We find this in example St. John’s gospel account of Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. We find this in St. John 6: 19 – 20:

Therefore, after they had come twenty-five to thirty stadia, they observed Jesus walking upon the sea and coming near the boat, and they were afraid. But, Jesus says to them, “I am (ego eimi): do not fear.”

The Greek phrase ego eimi is to call the reader to another event in Exodus: God’s self-revelation to Moses in the Burning Bush. The Septuagint text of the Old Testament when translated reads, “And God said to Moses, ‘I am the One who Is’ (ego eimi ho on), and he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The One who Is has sent me [Moses] to you’” (Ex 3: 14). Additionally, Jesus also declares his deity to the Jews in St. John 8: 58, “…Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham existed, I am (ego eimi).

Though the Pharisees were unwilling to answer Jesus’ question, we can conclude that Jesus is God. He is the Son of God, the Son of Man, and Creator. He is our Savior. With this information there are implications to be considered.

Let’s now turn to the first question. Jesus is asked by one of the lawyers in testing:

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered him,
You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And a second one is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets (Mt 22: 39).

Personal love for God is not an intellectual exercise, or abstraction. It is manifested not only by acts of devotion and the praise of God through worship. Our love for God is perfected by our love for others — by what we do and say to one another. The converse of this is equally true: if we hate our neighbor, then we declare hatred of God.

Our present condition is more than challenging. We live in divided, polarizing times. Here is this most obvious example of our present day. We attack one another based upon opposing political opinions. We have witnessed vicious attacks, not just in the secular media, but also in settings that are somewhat more personal. In this latter context he outlet is usually, almost exclusively, observed in the supposed anonymity and false safety of the latrine of social media. Conservatives are ravaged by liberals, and visa versa. In a word, all of this is pathetic. On Facebook and other sites everyone must have the last word and show oneself to be more intelligent and have greater insight than the one who is taken on as adversary.

However, in our context of our common faith and life in Christ, we should embrace the words of St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…grant that I should seek not so much to be consoled, as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love…”

There is no truth or salvation found in politics. Every Christian is to understand that we are all citizens of a Kingdom. The primary sign of such citizenship is love — love for one another, love for all our neighbors, and love for the entirety of creation.

Finally, there is this to be considered. In the Orthodox Church, icons are everywhere, and everywhere venerated. We pass honor to the one portrayed by the icon whether it is Christ or a saint. An Orthodox Christian would never dishonor or defile an icon. Let me add this: humans are also icons! We all, all, bear the image of God! Hence, we are to honor one another and our neighbors. We are to love our image bearing neighbors as ourselves. If you dishonor an icon, you dishonor, the Maker of the icon! So, since Christ our Lord is God, let’s love our brothers, sisters, and all our neighbors as ourselves. By this we demonstrate true love for our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

The following is a sermon that corresponds with this posting:

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus