The Greatest Commandment
Devotion In Motion
”Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.”
“And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This was the hot theological question of the day. The scribes had broken down the Law into 613 different commandments. There were 248 positive injunctions, or “dos” – and 365 “don’ts,” one prohibition for every day of the year. The question though, was which of the 613 was most important? No Jew would debate this answer. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4. Every synagogue service began with the reading of this passage. Jesus answered with the Shema, the verse the orthodox Jew quotes many times each day and wears inside the phylactery (a little box worn on his forehead and wrist). The most important commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love Him with all you’ve got! With all your heart – make Him your supreme desire. With all your soul – make Him the object of your affections. With all your mind – revolve your thoughts around Him. And with all your strength – make the Lord your greatest pursuit and passion.
No Jew would debate that this was the greatest commandment, but what was so provocative is what Jesus says next… He quotes Leviticus 19:18… “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Prior to this occasion, no rabbi had ever connected loving God with loving your brother. This must’ve stung the conscience of the listening Jews. They all claimed to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength – but they were void of love for their brother. And Jesus is saying you don’t have one without the other. Love for God and love for your brother go arm in arm.
1 John 4:20 puts it this way, “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?” “So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God. But after that no one dared question Him.” The scribe answered Jesus correctly so why does he say that the scribe was not far off from the Kingdom of God? Well because it is not enough to know God’s word, its about knowing the word of God personally.
You see there are many ,a people who can like this scribe recall scripture book after book, can recite any scripture and even know the meaning of it. But it is all meaningless unless you know the author of the word personally. So Jesus goes on to Tell him him about who he was to love with all his heart, with all his mind and with all his soul and with all his strength. It wasn’t about keeping 613 laws about the law. It was about loving God and Loving your neighbor. And who is your neighbor, anyone who needs your help. He says in vs. Verse 35, “Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Jesus quotes Psalm 110 – a Messianic psalm. “Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”
Unlike the Jews’ trick questions, Jesus’ question cut to the heart of their objection that He was the Messiah. The OT predicted the Messiah would be David’s son or heir, but in Psalm 110 he refers to the Messiah as “my Lord”… “The LORD” or Yahweh says to “my Lord…” How can this possibly be? David was king, and the only person ranking higher than the king is God. How can the Messiah be God and man – human and divine? The Jews thought of the Messiah in strictly human terms. They didn’t realize the Messiah was also God. The Jews had stopped questioning Jesus, but now He tries to get them to question their own assumptions. He is answering the scribe and speaking to those that will hear.
To love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is to love and believe that Jesus is both God and man and to accept him for who he is the living word of God. Hebrews 1:1-3a “ God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, Later they’ll reject Jesus because He claims to be God, but here He’s trying to get them to see that their own Scriptures require Messiah to be both man and God. Verse 37, “And the common people heard Him gladly.” With no bias they could recognize His wisdom. But the Pharisees were blinded by their own prejudice and greed and legalism.
“God bestows His blessings without discrimination. The followers of Jesus are children of God, and they should manifest the family likeness by doing good to all, even to those who deserve the opposite.” F.F Bruce
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