When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. One of them, a legal expert, tested him. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:34-40, Common English Bible).
There is so much there. We haven’t finished Matthew’s Gospel yet, six more chapters to go. And there is so much we have talked about. Thus far our look at Matthew has come to 164 posts. We have talked about parables. We have talked about blessing and the beatitudes. We talked about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and his clearing the money-changers from the temple. We also have seen some pretty miraculous things like a little girl brought back from the dead, two Old Testament characters come back to life and have a conversation with Jesus, Jesus feeding more than 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish and Jesus and one of his disciples walking on the water. Yeah, all those qualify as miracles.
All of that and so much more and yet we aren’t finished with Matthew’s Gospel. Then, there are 65 other books in the Bible. If you pick up your Bible and turn to the first page of Matthew, hold your finger there and then flip to the end of Matthew and pinch both places, it is really a pretty small number of pages in comparison to all the other pages of Scriptures.
In the Old Testament there are more than 600 commandments. There are more than 600 things that God said were really important. The Pharisees were self-appointed overseers of all things commandments. They were determined to keep Israel on the straight and narrow of the things God said were important.
When the Sadducees failed in their attempt to trap Jesus the Pharisees, more specifically, an expert in the law then took a shot. “Which is,” the legal expert asked Jesus, “the most important commandment?”
Jesus doesn’t even pause to think about it. You might think he had been studying for this oral exam (the Scripture does say that the legal expert was testing Jesus). He answers, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. “
I would think that the Pharisees would have no issue with the first half of Jesus’ answer. Loving God? Yeah, I would say that should be first. I would hope the Pharisees thought so too.
To me at least, it is the second part that is more surprising. And, considering the way the Pharisees treated Jesus and others, I can’t help but think this one was quite surprising. Think about Jesus’ words, “And the second is like it, you must love your neighbor as you love yourself.” By their actions, we might be left to think the Pharisees didn’t love themselves too much because they certainly didn’t show much love by the way they treated the people around them.
At the end of the day it is all about love. You can just about trim the Bible down to these few verses. If the greatest commandment is to love, that is the bottom line for the way we live our lives. In the end, you’ve got to love.
How do you demonstrate your love for God and neighbor?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved