The Greatest Commandment
10 May 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 22:34-40 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34–40 NLT)
When we use the term Commandments, we’re usually referring to The Ten Commandments Moses received on Mt Sinai (See Exodus 20). And of course, we only have to read the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to know that before he was through, Moses had given them a lot more detailed commandments pertaining to all areas of life—family, community, diet, health, worship—every area of life. The Pharisees had classified 613 specific laws derived from Moses’ teaching and they spent a lot of time and energy arguing and debating over which were “more important” and which were “less important.” We Christians have developed a lot of “commandments” over the centuries as well!
The Pharisees thought they could draw Jesus into an argument over the most and the least. But Jesus wasn’t interested in an argument over details. Jesus was (and is) interested in our hearts! Jesus responded by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and said that if we will keep only two commandments in our hearts, we’ll be well on the way to keeping all the commandments in our practice and behavior. This reverses the emphasis of the Pharisees religious rules, which were mostly about what not to do. Jesus said concentrate on loving from the heart and you won’t have to worry much about all the “Don’ts!”
St Augustine said: “Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt.” Working that out in daily life may get a little more complicated than that, but if your heart’s right, your behavior is going to be more right than not!
Father, I love you. Please work heart change in me so that I can love you with all my heart and love others as I love myself! Amen.