Reading: Matthew 22: 34-40
Key verse: Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
The Pharisees come once again to test Jesus. An expert in the Law asks Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law”? The Pharisees are all thinking of the Ten Commandments. There is much debate over which of the Ten is the most important. Will Jesus pick one of them dealing with our relationship with God or will He pick one dealing with our relationship with each other? In the Pharisees’ minds, it does not really matter which one Jesus picks. They know that whichever one Jesus picks, He will alienate more people than He pleases. They are seeking to once again corner Jesus and to discredit Him with those who follow or are considering following Him.
But Jesus does not pick #1 or #8 or #3. Instead, Jesus picks from outside the Ten. Jesus taps into another sacred piece of the Jewish faith. Jesus quotes two verses, one from Deuteronomy that forms the central part of the twice-daily prayer called the Shema. The Shema was a memorized prayer that was used each morning and evening. When Jesus said to “love the Lord your God” with all your heart, soul, and mind, He would have struck a chord with all listening that day. Smiles would have come to all the faces except the Pharisees.
But Jesus does not end here. He adds a second commandment. It is almost as well known. He adds, “love your neighbor as yourself”. There is much scriptural support for this choice as well. Jesus is quoting from Leviticus and this theme runs throughout the scriptures and the Law. To love all whom God created is a natural extension of loving the Creator. Again, smiles on almost all of the faces.
Jesus ends with this summary statement: “All the Law and Prophets hang on these two”. Follow these two commandments – love God and love neighbor – and all else will fall in line. Jesus’ words are as true today as the day He spoke them. Every day may we seek to love God and neighbor with all we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength. May it be so!