The Greatest Commandment
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
The Heart of the Question
From the previous two passages, we have read about the debates between Pharisees and Jesus, how they are trying to trip him up in some way so that they would have some basis to imprison, and eventually execute him. And the tactic they have been using is focusing on the niggling details of the Law, details that are sometimes confusing and have no perfectly acceptable answer. But Jesus gives this final commandment that silences all of their schemes:
“Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
We have all heard this commandment, and it seems almost overly simplistic – some people use this commandment to even justifty the notion that Jesus was just a good man and teacher. But what may help in recapturing the enormity of this teaching is to look at it in the context of the previous passages and debates that came before it, because the previous two passages actually lead up to this one. When we do this, some great insights into the character of Jesus are actually revealed:
– Jesus is concerned not with answers that satisfy only the mind, but answers that can be fleshed out in our lives.
– Jesus fully understands all the details, but is more interested in the heart that those details reveal.
– Jesus knows heaven from first hand experience, and was truly heaven-sent
– Jesus cannot be trapped, herded, boxed in, or otherwise controlled – he is larger than the box.
– Jesus can search the intent and heart of a person, and knows it immediately.
– Jesus’ teachings sometimes are not what we want to hear, and may go against what our dominant culture tells us.
This is a pivotal revelation of the heart of Jesus, what he really cares about, who he really is. When Jesus gives the greatest commandments, he doesn’t just do it as a simple moralist teacher, as some would have us believe. When you look at the complete context of the Law debates AND the greatest commandments together, we see that he really is nothing less than…God! And this God is a God primarily of love.
1. Which of the above characteristics of Jesus is the most encouraging to you?
2. Which of the above characteristics is the most challenging for you?
3. What is the main way in which you think you should love God this week, with everything you are?
4. How would you “love someone as yourself”? What does that mean to you, in your life?