We have reached the third question of the leaders of Judaism that is designed to trap Jesus. The first question had to do with paying taxes to Caesar the second question had to do with the resurrection and now the third question is focused on what is the greatest of all the commandments. Now we are back to the Pharisees.
The first question had political emphasis now this question is mainly theological in nature.
Which is the greatest commandment? They were not asking this question in reference to only the Ten Commandments, Judaism recognized 613 commandments from the books of Moses. It is the massive number of commandments that Judaism recognized that they have in mind when asking this question.
During Jesus’ day the Rabbis and Pharisees engaged in discussions concerning these commands seeking to determine what they called heavy and light commands. This means about what you think it means. According to them there were some laws that were central and some that were fringe or some very important while others not so important.
Jesus has already taught us His view of the law of God…
Matthew 5:17–20 (ESV)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
This important statement of our Lord gives us insight into His mission and the character of God’s Word. Jesus came and when He did, He was what the Mosaic Law pointed to. It was in a very real sense the shadow of Christ. Once He appeared the Law was fulfilled.
All of God’s Word is important. All will remain. Not one part will pass away until all is fulfilled. According to Jesus even the smallest letter is important and will remain.
There was talk that Jesus had come to do away with all or parts of the Law of Moses. This misconception even surfaces today in some circles. Jesus came to fulfill the Mosaic Law not to abolish it.
Jesus’ purpose was to establish the Word, to embody it, and to fully accomplish all that was written. “Christ is the culmination of the law” (Romans 10:4). The predictions of the Prophets concerning the Messiah would be realized in Jesus; the holy standard of the Law would be perfectly upheld by Christ, the strict requirements personally obeyed, and the ceremonial observances finally and fully satisfied.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the Prophets in that, in His first coming alone, He fulfilled hundreds of prophecies concerning Himself…
Matthew 1:18–23 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
The Messiah’s coming does not render the Old Testament obsolete. “To fulfill” is not to dissolve the authority and application of the old covenant revelation; rather, “to fulfill” means to fill up the Law’s intent and show the goal to which it leads. Jesus is saying that He achieves the purpose of the Law and the Prophets in the inauguration of the kingdom in His life and ministry and in its consummation at His return. The Law is valid under the new covenant when used “lawfully” (1 Tim. 1:8), but it cannot be followed rightly apart from Christ.
So, these Pharisees are out to expose Jesus as One who is seeking to do away with God’s Law and they want Him to answer their question. In their minds, when He does, He will highlight one portion above the rest and show the rest of the commandments to be optional.
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.”
1. Jesus Put to the Test Again
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.
Here, as with the previous two questions, the purpose is not to discover how the Pharisees could better love and serve God but they were out to trap Jesus. By Matthew’s grouping of these three questions, we get the image of Jesus walking through a land mine. They are relentless, one after the other.
This is the sad picture of Jesus’ recent parables. Judaism had not produced the fruit of the Kingdom. Rather than embracing Jesus as Messiah they were out to destroy Him. This group that promoted themselves as God’s representatives did not know God when He stood right in front of them.
There are many people today who search for truth, significance, and God in so many places. It seems they look everywhere and miss Him because they refuse to acknowledge the reality that Jesus is the final end of their search. He is God with us and the world misses Him. Like the Pharisees, they love their sin more than they love their souls. They love their current life of sin more than to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior because that would mean that there are things in their lives they must change and they love them too much to ever do that. So, the Pharisees loved their status in the Temple, loved their wealth and loved their system of religion which could be lorded over the people to their advantage.
2. Their Question
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Here we have a lawyer of the Pharisees asking his question. He was an expert in the Law of God. The trick question was to have Jesus select the greatest and then, by doing so He would be negating the others.
3. Jesus Answered, Love the Lord Your God
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.
Jesus then answers by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5
Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (ESV)
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
In Deuteronomy, Moses has reminded the Israelites that God has been their Rescuer, Redeemer, He has sustained them and cared for them. Because of who God is and what He has done they are called to love God and to put away their idols. This section is the culmination of all the Law and the Commandments.
If the Israelites Were called to love God with all their heart and if this is the greatest commandment, then how much more are we called to love God who has freed us from our bondage to sin?
Do you love God today? Has He saved you from your sin? Do you love God? Are you putting away your idols?
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
The right answer was found in the OT teachings of Moses. Surprisingly, the answer Jesus gave was not a certain task or a rule or some prohibition but He answered that all the Law has love for God at its heart. Therefore, the greatest commandment is the commandment which fuels all our obedience to God…love for Him.
Do you love God today? How do you know you love God? Just saying you do doesn’t make it true. Telling God you love Him doesn’t make it true. How do we know whether or not our love for God is a reality?
Jesus is about to tell us…
4. Jesus Answered, Love Your Neighbor
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.”
Consider the sheer fact that Jesus said this. He didn’t have to say it. The Pharisee didn’t ask this. They did not ask for two commandments they just asked for one. Jesus went beyond what He was asked and said more. He seems to want to push the importance and centrality of these commandments as much as he can. He has said that the commandment to love God is great and foremost. He has said the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself is “like it.” Verse 39: “The second is like it . . . ” That’s enough to raise the stakes here almost as high as they can be raised. We have the greatest commandment in all the revelation of God to humanity (Love God); and we have the second greatest, which is like the greatest (Love your neighbor).
They only asked Him what the greatest commandment was. He tells them another that is like it. The one like it is the proof of the first. In other words, the reason loving your neighbor is like the command to love God is because loving your neighbor is the manifestation of your love for God.
You can say you love God all you want but the validation comes the reality of that statement is shown to be true as we love and care for those around us.
1 John 4:20–21 (ESV)
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Do you seek to meet other’s needs? Do you go out of your way to care for others? This is especially true as we consider our neighbors are those within our church body. Are you generous with others? We are to use our gifts to meet the needs of others. As you care for those around you then you can see that your love for God is actually a reality.
Jesus has told us already in the Sermon on the Mount what loving your neighbor looks like and Jesus makes the same point. We have a short one verse commentary on what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 7:12 (ESV)
12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
I want us to also see what the Apostle Paul has to say about Jesus’ command to love your neighbor…
Romans 13:8–10 (ESV)
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
You are fulfilling the Law of God as you love your neighbor as yourself. If I love my neighbor then I am not going to commit adultery with them, murder them, steal from them, covet what they have, and anything else taught in God’s law. My love for my neighbor covers all these things.
We discover that the Law of God and His commandments are fulfilled as we love Him and love others. How can we do this? This takes place when we are saved. The Holy Spirit manifests these things within us. A person without the Spirit cannot fulfill this great commandment.
Romans 8:1–4 (ESV)
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
When Christ saves us, we love God and others. We don’t just not covet but we are happy for others in what they have. We don’t just not steal from other but we are cheerful givers now. When God saves us, He makes a new creation that cares for and serves others especially in the household of faith.
Now, I want to ask you, do you love God?
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by R T France