Today's VerseAnd one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." — Matthew 22:35-40 ESV
DevotionWhat attracted Jesus to the populace was his ability to extract the practical from the complexity religious leaders had made of the Law of God. He would not allow cultural nor social preferences sustained by varying religious groups to cloud the essence of truth God desired to guide the lives of his people.
A good example is found right before Christ's explanation of the ‘great commandment' (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27). While Sadducees strove to devise schemes to enhance their non-belief in resurrection (a schematic which could have confused the average layman), Jesus cuts to the chase and pulls from their bag of ‘theological' tricks the reality that they really did not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mk 12:24). Once the Sadducees are silenced (Matthew 22:34), it is upon the Scriptures and the power of God that Jesus responds to the ‘test' now posed by the Pharisees, 'which is the great commandment in the Law?' (Matthew 22:36).
The Matthew and Mark passages show Him answering instantly (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31). The Mark passage expands its importance as that above the strict regulations of sacrifice posed in the Law (v. 32-33). And the Luke passage fully exemplifies the ‘great commandment' by Jesus telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
The great commandment for that day, and for our day is to love God, and love others. In fact, the commandment could be practically expanded by saying that we love God by loving others! This moves us beyond our daily encounter with God's Word and worship in prayer (both essential ‘manna' for our relationship with God) to a place of godly representation in a world where God has been so clouded by the din of hateful voices. It would be easy for us to just judge the voices and think our lives are expressing the love of God. But, until we find ourselves loving the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, sick and the prisoner, God's love is veiled and his blessing is diminished (Matthew 25:34-46).
Jesus designated two commands for the fulfillment of the Law: love God and love others. Why did the Apostle Paul whittle it down to "…one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'"(Gal 5:14)? Perhaps, he did so only to magnify the intent and intensity of our love for God. I believe we need to measure our love for God by measuring the love we have for others up against the way we love ourselves. In your sphere of relationships, disperse the cloud of godlessness and begin to impact the world from your own front door by loving God and loving others!
By Bill Niblette, Ph.D., Bible League International staff, Pennsylvania, U.S.