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This is about fifth of the sermon, if there is interest, I’ll post more of it. My comments are in italics

looking-at-the-path-of-a-christian_tSermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:34-46

From a Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil.

1. This Gospel consists of two questions. In the first the lawyer on behalf of the other Pharisees asks Christ: Which is the great commandment in the law? In the second the Lord asks the Pharisees and the lawyer: Whose son is David? These two questions concern every Christian; for he who wishes to be a Christian must thoroughly understand them. First, what the law is, and the purpose it serves; and secondly, who Christ is, and what we may expect from him.

2. Christ explains here to the Pharisees the law, telling them what the sum of the whole law is, so that they are completely silenced both at his speech and his question, and know less than nothing of what the law is and who Christ is. From this it follows, that although unbelief may appear as wisdom and holiness before the world, it is nevertheless folly and unrighteousness before God, especially where the knowledge of the two questions mentioned above is wanting. For he who does not know how he stands before the law, and what he may expect from Christ, surely has not the wisdom of God, no matter how wise and prudent he may pretend to be. Let us therefore consider the first question, namely: What the law is; what it commands and how it is to be spiritually interpreted.

3. When the lawyer asked Christ, which was the great commandment in the law, the Lord said to him: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.”

4. As if the Lord would say: He who possesses love to God, and love to his neighbour, has all things, and therefore fulfils the law; for the whole law and all the prophets point to these two themes, namely: how God and our neighbour are to be loved.

5. Now one may wish to ask: How can you harmonize this statement, that all things are to be comprehended in these two commandments, since there was given to the Jews circumcision and many other commandments? To answer this, let us see in the first place how Christ explains the law, namely, that it must be kept with the heart. In other words, the law must be spiritually comprehended; for he who does not lay hold of the law with the heart and with the Spirit, will certainly not fulfil it. Therefore the Lord here gives to the lawyer the ground and real substance of the law, and says that these are the greatest commandments, to love God with the heart and our neighbour as ourselves. From this it follows that he, who is not circumcised, who does not fast nor pray, is not doing it from the heart; even though he may perform external acts, he nevertheless does nothing before God, for God looketh on the heart, and not on our acts, I Sam. 16, 7. It will not profit a man at all, no matter what work he may perform, if his heart is not in it.

6. From this arises another question: Since works are of no profit to a man, why then did God give so many commandments to the Jews? To this I answer, these commandments were given to the end that we might become conscious whether we really love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and in addition our neighbour as ourselves; for St. Paul says in Rom. 7, 7 (3, 20), that the law is nothing but a consciousness and a revelation of sin. What would I know of sin, if there were no law to reveal it to me? Here now is the law that saith: Thou shalt love God with thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself. This we fulfil if we do all that the law requires; but we are not doing it. Hence he shows us where we are lacking, and that, while we ought really to do something, we are doing nothing.

7. That the Jews had to practice circumcision was indeed a foolish ceremony, yea, a command offensive to reason, even though it were given by God still today. What service was it to God, to burden his people with this grievous commandment? What good was it to him, or what service to a neighbour? Yea, and it did not profit the Jew, who was circumcised. Why then did God give the command? In order that this commandment and law might show them whether they really loved God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind, and whether they did it willingly or not. For if there were a devout heart, it would say: I verily do not know why God gave me circumcision, inasmuch as it does not profit any one, neither God, nor me, nor my neighbour; but since it is well pleasing to God, I will nevertheless do it, even though it be considered a trifling and despised act. Hence, circumcision was an exercise of the commandment, Thou shalt love God with all thy heart.

I want to break down the Great Commandment a bit because something has struck me recently.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” strikes me as straightforward, love God as the One God, with everything you’ve got. Although, as always, we’d be well advised not to make God in our image, and that is easy enough to do. I suspect most of us are guilty of it from time to time.

The problems for us as Christians comes in this part, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself“.

If you love mostly yourself, it’s pretty obvious you’re going to be a selfish son of a gun, and not fit company for man or woman (or even animal). We see this all the time don’t we? Both of these are often considered as the sin of pride.

But we are also commanded to love ourselves as our neighbor. this is a bit murky but, what I see here is that it is wrong to negate ourselves greatly,as well. I wonder if this is the origin of collectivism, the theory that the individual doesn’t matter, only the group.

Food for thought, at any rate.