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Christ on the Right Hand of God.
by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. II. Trinity Sunday to All Saints' Day 

Rivingtons, London, 1875.
Second part of Sermon LXV. for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity.
 1 Cor. i. 4-8.    St. Matthew xxii. 34-46.
He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call Him LORD, saying, 
The LORD said unto my LORD, Sit Thou on My right hand, 
till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool ? —ST. MATT. xxii. 43, 44. 
(for the first part, on the Epistle.
...And now let us consider in detail the Gospel itself; to understand its exceeding interest and importance we must look to the occasion of which it speaks. It was on our Lord’s last public teaching of the Jews,—His last teaching in the temple,—only two or three days before He was put to death. When the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Our Lord had just shown the Sadducees that the doctrine of the Resurrection, which they denied, was implied in the very Law of Moses itself; upon this their great adversaries, the Pharisees, were for a moment softened in their enmity against Christ, Who had with such wisdom and power defended what they considered their own cause. They were in consequence collecting together in little crowds in the open spaces of the temple, conversing on this victory they had obtained; and upon this one of the most reflecting among their learned men thought he would try our Lord’s answer on a point discussed among themselves. Then one of them, who was a Lawyer, or Scribe, a teacher of the law, asked Him a question, tempting Him, that is in order to try Him, for all the people it is said were now “astonished at His doctrine ;“the Scribe therefore wished to put His knowledge to the proof; tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the Law? 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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  But this is not all, for it is not as if these two commandments were to be selected and set apart from the Scriptures as something higher and better than the rest, as some of the Jewish interpreters would suppose. But the fact is, that these two commandments contain within them all the rest, so that if these are fulfilled all the Scriptures are kept; if these are not fulfilled nothing is. On these two commandments, our Lord adds, hang all the Law and the Prophets.

St. Mark tells us in his account, that the Scribe greatly admired the wisdom of this reply; and that in consequence our Blessed Lord said unto him, that he was not far from the Kingdom of God, that is, that he was very near being a Christian. How was it, we may ask, that he was so near being a Christian ? It was because he perceived that the love of God and man was everything; that it was all which the Law and the Prophets contained; he had then so far a spiritual discernment into the meaning of the Scriptures. This brought him near; but what was it prevented him, as a Scribe learned in Divine matters, from being altogether a Christian? And the same may be said of all the Scribes and Pharisees; the nearest approach they made was this. Now our Lord, in teaching them, always appealed to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, because these were the study of their lives; it was through these that God would teach and guide them into all truth. They advanced so far then as to see that the love of God was All in All; but still they raised not their thoughts beyond this; they did not perceive that Christ was God; they did not see it in the Scriptures. Knowing that He was to be the Son of David, they thought that He would surely come with signs of worldly greatness, a King, a Conqueror, and a Prophet, like David was. They did not discern that the Old Testament itself spoke of Him as God, and that therefore His greatness, and His power, and His kingdom must be something worthy of God, something spiritual, heavenly, and eternal.  And this altogether arose, not from want of learning or intellectual skill, but from the state of the heart; for if they had longed for the eternal life which is with God, if they had indeed loved God, and therefore felt that in His love there could never be any death or sorrow, then they would have considered “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,” as no gifts worthy of God. They would have thought forgiveness of sins, and restoration to God’s favour as the only objects worthy of any concern. They would have looked and longed for this in the old Scriptures. But they looked not up to Heaven, but down to earth. Therefore it was that they did not perceive, in reading the Scriptures, that Christ was the Son of God; that His kingdom was to be entirely spiritual, and His enemies the enemies of the soul of man. For this reason, therefore, it was that our Blessed Lord now finished all His teaching by. putting to them one question. These were the last words He spoke to the Jews; and, at last, when before His crucifixion He was questioned in a very solemn manner by the High Priest before the Council, He called their attention to the same passage of Scripture, and confirmed it by His expression. It may, therefore, be considered as His one last question to the Jews, and from that day to this the Jews are to be met with in all parts of the world; and if you ask the reason why this is so, it is this, because they have not yet been able to answer this our Lord’s question to them. He has left the question with them, and all this scene going on ever since will end, my brethren, in nothing else but in this, in our Lent Himself giving the answer to His own question. And this will be on that Great Day when He will appear in His own glory, and in the glory of His Father, and with the holy angels, that will be His own answer to this question which He has left, “What think ye of Christ, whose Son is He ?" Or, as He said in those His last words to the High Priest, when he said unto Him, “Art Thou the Christ?” He answered, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven;” by which words our Lord evidently alludes to this same passage of the Psalms, to which He here appeals in this His last question to the Jews.

I would draw, therefore, especial attention to the circumstances under which our Lord spoke what follows. Many questions had been put to Him from various motives, these had now all ceased. He had taught them by divers parables and sayings; but now at last He puts this remarkable question to them which He does not answer. While the Pharisees were gathered together, now coming round Him in great numbers, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He? They say unto Him, The Son of David. It was the very answer which our Lord desired to obtain from them; and this appears still more evident in St. Mark’s account of the occurrence, for he says that our Lord also Himself said, “How say the Scribes that Christ is the Son of David ?" For indeed this is very true, but when a prophecy contains also something very different which is unexplained, this proves that the interpreter has not come to the depth of the matter; and there is something in this prophecy very inconsistent with Christ’s being merely the Son of David, something which, humanly speaking, seems to contradict it. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? if David then call Him Lord, how is He then his Son?

It is as if He had said, I am now going to leave you, I speak to you for the last time; but if you will look to the 110th Psalm, and consider it, you will there find the whole of this described, which is now about to take place, for I am now about to fulfil that Psalm. You think that the Christ is to be no more than the Son of David, the great King of Israel, the true Israel which you suppose yourselves to be; but that Psalm speaks of His eternal generation as the Son of God. David himself, in the Holy Ghost, speaks of Him as his Lord, and evidently as God, for he uses the same word of both the Father and the Son as God, “the Lord said to my Lord.” He there speaks of His then existing in Heaven, and of His hereafter sitting at the right hand of the Father, until His enemies are put under His feet. You are now His enemies,—so are all unbelieving and wicked men, and evil spirits and death. The Christ Who is now about to leave you, being rejected of you, will shortly ascend to Heaven, and sit on the right hand of God. They that believe in Him, all Christians unto the end of the world, will see Him there by the eyes of faith, interceding for them, as that same Psalm expresses it, “a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek;” but the unbelieving Jews who will not see Him there by that spiritual sight which faith gives, shall behold Him there at the last day; shall see that He is indeed the Son of God, when He is no more as a criminal standing before your High Priest, and condemned by him because He declares Himself the Son of God; but coming to judge the world, the Son of Man at the right hand of power, and as David describes in that Psalm, putting all enemies under His feet.

To this question of our Lord’s in the temple it is added: And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.

Such is the account in the Gospel for to-day; and we before observed, that what St. Paul says in the Epistle becomes very striking and remarkable when we read it as a confirmation of our Lord’s words.

From that day even to this it has ceased to be a matter of question; it is a matter of fact that He has ever since that time exerted this power and victory. He is sitting on the right hand of God, which denotes inexpressible power, as shown in His Church by manifold gifts and graces, whether those outward signs of which St. Paul speaks, the rich garment, “wrought about with divers colours,” or that clothing of the spirit “all glorious within,” which is charity. And He manifests also His victory, for He there sits while His enemies are being made His footstool. The Church, as in the short Epistle for to-day, bears witness to the one, and looks forward to the full completion of the other: having now “the testimony of Christ confirmed” in her, and “waiting for” His “coming,” “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”