Reading the Word
Matthew 22:34–40 (ESV)
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Parallel Text: Mark 12:28-34
Understanding and Applying the Word
The religious leaders continued to approach Jesus to “test” him. Their desire was to trap him in some way so they could accuse him of wrongdoing or draw attention away from him. In order to do this, a lawyer who was a Pharisee went to Jesus to ask him a question. A lawyer was one who was considered an expert in the Old Testament law. The lawyer asked Jesus, “[Which] is the great commandment in the Law?”
Jesus continued to show his great wisdom and ability to deal with the religious leaders’ attacks when he answered the lawyer’s question. Jesus told him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…[and] You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These two statements were not new. Jesus quoted directly from the Law as found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The lawyer would have been very familiar with Jesus’ references. The entire Law is summarized by these two statements.
Our love for God and our love for others are intricately related to one another. 1 John tells us that we cannot claim to love the Lord and hate our brother since God is love (cf. 1 John 4:8). This is why Jesus put these two seemingly separate commands together when asked about the greatest commandment. They cannot be separated.
When we evaluate our relationship with God we must also consider how well we love other people. If we love the Lord, we will love others. If our love for the Lord is growing, our love for others should be growing as well. Do you love God? Do you love your neighbors?
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