A Right Response to the Word

Some pretty high-powered reading this morning. Romans 3 declares that all have sinned, the law bearing witness to man’s failure at works-based righteousness. And then it reveals that a righteousness of God has been manifest — “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom. 3:22). Certainly worth pausing over and typing out a few thoughts.

I also read Psalm 51 this morning. Game, set, match against David. So busted! The law referred to in Romans 3 condemning him for his unbridled lust and duplicit, murderous treachery. And yet He pleads to God for washing and cleansing. Asks that his transgressions be blotted out . . . that a right spirit might be renewed . . . that the joy of salvation might be restored. The grace Paul explains in Romans 3 is given flesh and blood application in Psalm 51. Worthy too of a bit of noodling and some writing.

But it was my reading in the latter part of Matthew 22 that “topped the list” in terms of stirring my soul. Maybe because three phrases in the passage highlighted for me a right response to the Word.

They marveled . . . they were astonished . . . no one was able to answer Him a word.

It started as a setup. In Matthew 22:15 it says the Pharisees went to Jesus and plotted how to “entangle Him in His talk.” They understood that Jesus had just spoken against them in His stories of the kingdom (Matt. 21:23-22:14). “Okay, Mister Articulate Man,” they think, “Let’s see if we can’t trip You up with all Your words.”

So the Pharisees send some of their disciples to Jesus with an “innocent question” about paying taxes (23:16-22). “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Jesus, aware of their ill intent, tells them to look at a coin and take note of whose face is on it. It’s Caesar’s of course. It’s his money. So, says Jesus, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are Gods.” Pretty simple, yet pretty profound. And Matthew records that when they heard His response, “they marveled” (v.22).

Emboldened by this challenge, but perhaps disdainful of such an inane topic, the Saducees step forward with some “sincere” ponderings about the resurrection (23:23-33). They lay out a hypothetical case that they are sure puts a stake in the heart of resurrection teaching. But Jesus dismisses their logic, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” And then Jesus, who is the Author of the Scriptures and the Incarnate Power of God, corrects their understanding of marriage in heaven, and reminds them of their own admission that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And, says Matthew, “when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at His teaching” (v.33).

Finally, the Pharisees push toward Jesus one of their brightest minds to engage Him in a debate concerning “the greatest commandment in the Law” (23:34-45). And after providing an unarguable response to His question, Jesus asks them a question of His own, “If the Christ is the son of David, then how is it that, through the Spirit, David calls Him Lord?” And, pens Matthew again, “no one was able to answer Him a word.”

And I can’t help but think that those should be three pretty common responses whenever I hear Jesus speak. That I should marvel . . . that I should be astonished . . . that I should be still and silent with awe. Sometimes, I fear, I can be so impressed with my understanding of a passage or, with the results of my study, that I fail to recognize that it isn’t about how bright I am but how gracious He is. That He, through His Spirit, illuminates the Scriptures. That I hear His voice solely due to the grace of divine revelation.

If I truly regarded it as such, wouldn’t I, more often, marvel . . . and be astonished . . . and sit quietly before Him?  Wouldn’t that be a right response to the Word? I’m thinkin’ . . .

Word of God speak . . .

By Your grace . . . for Your glory.

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