The Greatest Commandment

November 30, 2021

But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).

The Scribes said there were 613 laws for the Jews to obey. 248 of those laws were positive. 365 of those laws were negative. 603 laws added to the original 10 Commandments. That’s legalism, not love. The religious leaders of Israel were not doing God, or God’s people, any favors by placing such a monstrous burden upon them. In fact, it was an abomination before God!

Again, the response of Jesus to this Scribe was taken from a text the Scribes held in the highest regard with the highest authority - the Shema - Israel’s ‘Call to Worship’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Faithful Jews quoted these verses twice a day, every day. While the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees focused on the Law of God that was to be obeyed, the Jewish people focused on God Himself who was to be loved, and whom they believed loved them.

Jesus also quoted Leviticus 19:18, you shall love your neighbor as yourself, not as an addition to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, but as the corollary to it. Moses brought 2 tablets of stone from Mt. Sinai. On one tablet was written man’s duty to God. On the other tablet was written man’s duty to his fellow man. Both tablets make up the moral Law of God, the law that is still in effect today.

On these two sections of the Law, of which love is the foundation, Jesus said every other principle of the Law is built. By fusing the two sections of the Law into a whole, Jesus showed the way to fulfill both, for it is in loving our neighbor whom we have seen that we express our love for God our Father whom we have not seen. And it is in loving God our Father, whom we have not seen that we demonstrate our love for our neighbor whom we have seen. If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also (1 John 4:20-21).

The order is significant. The opening of one’s life to God is followed by the opening of one’s life to his neighbor. You cannot have one without the other. This, then, is the righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

“Lord Jesus, thank You for demonstrating to us the fullness of the moral law of God. You demonstrated Your great love for us because of Your great love for the Father. May Your Holy Spirit repeat love’s greatness in our heart as You demonstrated it from Your heart. Amen.”


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