Mat 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees with His reply, they met together to question Him again.
Mat 22:35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap Him with this question:
Mat 22:36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Mat 22:37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
Mat 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Mat 22:39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Mat 22:40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Is the God of the old testament a loving God?
Through this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees there are a few interesting points that I would like to bring out but I also want to keep the main point the main point.
1. The reason that the Pharisees try to trap Jesus again in debate seems to be because the Sadducees had recently been “defeated” by Him. They see an opportunity to gain prestige and favor in the eyes of the people if they can overcome Jesus with their level of knowledge and understanding of the scriptures. Not only would they defeat Jesus in debate but they would come off looking better and smarter than the Sadducees. Their purpose was to gain political points by overcoming Him. So they bring in the big guns. They go and get their best student of the law, in essence a lawyer, and they send him in to ask Jesus a question that was commonly debated in their time.
“Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
The Jews at this point in history had divided the law into lesser and greater categories, not unlike we do today. We view murder as a much greater sin than adultery. We treat it with punishment that is much more harsh and lasts longer. But, have you ever considered what God might think is the more damaging sin. Read through Proverbs sometime. God seems to hate a lying or gossiping tongue more than anything else. Jesus takes this concept to another level when he talks about “if you have lusted after a woman in your heart, you have committed adultery,” and “out of the heart comes all manner of vile things”.
Think of the punishment for sin. All sin has the same punishment in the Kingdom of God. Death. But it all has the same remedy as well, Jesus. God understands the root of sin comes from the heart and that all sin leads to death. If left to our own devices, without the glorious love and grace of God in our lives, we would all die eventually. Sin is “self” destructive.
2. Jesus gives the correct answer to the question and it is interesting to note that the “lawyer” receives commendation for his understanding of the law from Jesus. The same interaction, with a little more detail, is recorded in Mark 12:28-34. Here we see that the lawyer understood that all of the law and the demands of the prophets really came down to these two most important commandments. Jesus senses that this lawyer is close to finding the real meaning of everything and I think it is why He adds the necessary emphasis at the end of His statement..”The ENTIRE law and ALL the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” [emphasis added]
The whole bible can be summed up in these two commandments?
This is the main point. This is the understanding that gets the “lawyer” close to the Kingdom of God. It is an understanding that everything is about love and relationship.
God wants to have a relationship with you. His whole goal from the beginning of human existence, even before sin came into our world, has been to have a relationship with us. Even before you were born, God desired a relationship with you…
Psa 139:13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psa 139:14 Thank You for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Psa 139:15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
Psa 139:16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Psa 139:17 How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!
Isa_49:1 Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The LORD called me before my birth; from within the womb He called me by name.
Everything God did through the prophets was about bringing the Israelites back to a relationship with God. Each time God “punished” them was because they had lost their relationship with Him and they were falling into self degradation and self destruction. They needed the “shepherd’s staff” to bring them back to a loving relationship with Him. That loving relationship was the only thing that would ever give them a chance at having the eternal relationship with God that He so desired to have with them. He has always been a God who wanted to be “with us”. Jesus was God with us. Jesus and the Holy Spirit continue to be God with us.
Loving my neighbor isn’t so hard, as long as they stay outta my hair.
Let’s not neglect the other of the two greatest commandments as well. Our relationship with those around us is also important, and based on what God asks from us, it should be more than just a passing experience.
God knows that how we treat others reflects the relationship that we have with Him. Look at the 10 commandments sometime. [Deut 5:6-22] You can divide them into two parts. The first 4 are about how to LOVE GOD. The last 6 are about how to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR. The 10 commandments are about relationship.
Do you love God so much that you would never hurt your neighbor?
Do you love God so much that you would never lie, cheat, covet, or commit adultery against your neighbor?
Do you trust Him to be your God?
If you understand that love is even something that you cannot “create” on your own, then you are getting close to understanding the loving God who created you. Because of sin, even the love that you produce on your own is tainted with selfishness. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can somehow muster up enough love, kindness, and charity to make yourself presentable and worthy of standing in the presence of God. It is ONLY through having the Holy Spirit in us and working through us that we can hope to love the way God wants us to. It is by faith in God, supplying the gift of the Holy Spirit to bring us to that real loving relationship with God and with our fellow man, the same love that Jesus had for His Father and for us; this faith is what can make us “purified” in the eyes of God.
Dear reader. God wants to have that deep abiding relationship with you today. He wants you to understand that He is the source of everything in your life. He is even the source of genuine love. He also wants you to know that He can give you that genuine love, if you ask for it from a sincere heart. He will change your heart. He will replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh. He will make you more loving. He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness and save you from your sins. PRAISE GOD!
I LOVE YOU, though I know that love produced by my sin tainted heart is just that, sinful and tainted…but I LOVE YOU because You have promised me that You will change my heart and give me one capable of loving You the right way. I ask for that gift now Lord, today. Fill me with the Holy Spirit and help me to display YOUR love…not mine. Thank you so much for the gift of the cross and for showing me there what real genuine love is. Thank you for loving me that much while I was a weak sinner. Thank you for covering me with Your robe of righteousness and for knowing that I could never produce that robe on my own.
Please be with my family…my children especially. They need You so badly and they just don’t know it. Forgive their sins Lord and cover them with Your grace. Thank you for all that you provide. For my very life and for wanting a relationship with me. Thank you for promising to change my heart. Increase my faith. Help my unbelief. Amen.