THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
MATTHEW 22:35-40 NKJV
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus was constantly being tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees. And never once were they able to catch Him off guard or confuse Him with their questions. But they sure tried. In Matthew chapter 22, we find Jesus sparring with both groups and winning.
In our verses for today, a lawyer from the Pharisees tested Jesus with a question. The lawyers of Jesus' day were involved in the Jewish laws, not the legal work we think of today. This particular lawyer wanted to know what was the greatest commandment in the law. I am not sure if he was looking for a loophole or a way to avoid prioritizing the most important commandment, but I wouldn't put it past him. I know of some lawyers who have looked for loopholes.
In any case, Jesus gave this man a straightforward answer. A bit unusual for Jesus because His usual pattern with these tricky Pharisees and Sadducees was to answer their questions with questions of His own. Love God with all your being, your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first commandment. And love your neighbor as yourself. And Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets rested on these two commandments.
Jesus did not nullify the other commandments; He simply said these two were top priorities. If we look at these two commandments, we can see where these two are overarching.
If we love God with all our being, then we are not going to put any other gods or other things before Him. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we are not going to lie, steal, murder, or covet their stuff. Don't you love how Jesus simplified things? The Jews were completely bound up in their multitude of laws and could get extremely nick picky about them. Jesus put it all in perspective for them. Love God and love people.
Some people claim that because Jesus referenced these commandments before the cross that, they don't apply to those of us on the other side of the cross. That somehow, because we are under a new covenant, which is true, that we don't have to keep these commandments. But how do we get away with not loving God and loving people? And the two are connected. We show our love for God by our loving people. John said if we don't love our brother who we can see, how can we say we love God who we can't see (1 John 4:20)?
So let's love God and put Him first and love people and treat them the way we want to be treated. Jesus' words are still true and still applicable today.
Heavenly Father, I do love You and put You first in my life. I would not even exist if it were not for You. And I purpose to love the people in my life, even the ones who are not entirely lovable. Thank You for loving me first.