“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Isreal, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and wtih all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourlsef.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’
‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”
On the third day, Jesus was at the temple, and it was a time of teaching for him. It was also a time of attack from the Pharisees, Sadduccees, and teachers of the law. By now, all of them were already plotting ways to capture Jesus and get rid of him, because he had stirred up so much opposition to them. But they knew that they couldn’t just take Jesus for no reason, because there would be a great revolt and uproar by the people, who were leaning on every word that Jesus spoke. So the basic plan (as it seemed to always be) was to try to trick Jesus into messing up on his words, which would then give them a reason to arrest him.
They questioned the authority that Jesus had, they questioned paying taxes, they questioned theology of marriage vows in heaven. And everytime, Jesus answered them plainly, with words that they could not refute. Jesus quoted Old Testament Scripture for them to prove his point, which the teachers were so skilled in knowing. Jesus used each opportunity of being challenged and questioned as a way to teach the people, and correct the wrong mentality of the the Pharisees.
This last challenge Jesus received was probably one of the most powerful. The teacher of the law basically asked Jesus to set the ultimate foundation of faith, the crux of what believing in God is all about. He asked for the greatest commandment of all. I’m not a person who has a lot of favorites, because I always feel things are situational, and at certain times I’d like one thing more than another. I can never make such a definite claim about anything, because I’d feel that I was lying. By claiming something is a “favorite” or the “best” or “greatest,” you are setting in stone your stance, and will be held to it. If I were Jesus, I would have probably asked them another question that they couldn’t answer, so I could avoid having to answer this one.
But Jesus told them, “Love God. Love People. Nothing else matters.” (stolen from MissionYear). And when you sum up the 10 commandments, that’s basically what it says. The first 4 commandments are about loving God (have no other gods before God, do not make idols, don’t misuse the name of the Lord, Keep the sabbath day holy) and the last 6 deal with loving others (honor parents, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet). If you hold the ‘greatest commandment’, everything else would fall into place. If you truly love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then you wouldn’t murder someone else out of your devotion to God. It seems so simple, yet its so difficult to follow.
With loving God, Jesus set 4 pillars that the love must stand on: heart, soul, mind, strength. This is a total body love of Christ. Internally, externally; emotionally, intellectually, physically; everything within us needs to have true love and utter devotion to Christ. It might be easy for some of us in our minds to think “Yes, I love Jesus” but do not use our strength to fight our sinful desires and show the love physically (i.e. follow his commands: do not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouth, do not fall into drunkeness). Other people might be morally upright, doing everything good and nice. But internally, they don’t believe Christ died for them, and they don’t do good things for the glory of God, but more so for their own reptuation or character growth. Jesus is saying that in order to truly love God, your heart needs to be broken and changed, your soul needs to be saved, your mind needs to believe, and your strength needs to act. If you put all of this together, then you will be constantly loving God.
The second command Jesus gave was very bold. He told them/us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Do you know what he was saying? He basically said, “You guys are so selfish. You love yourself so much. You love yourselves more than you love God even. The only person that you truly love with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is yourself. If I tell you to love others in a similar manner of loving God, you wouldn’t understand that, because that isn’t where your greatest love lies. But you all love yourselves so much. Love others in that way.” The sad thing is it’s so true. We are selfish beings, always looking out for ourselves first, and others next. Again, the world teaches us to be skeptics of those around us, and make sure you’re taken care of before anyone else. We live in a culture of “do what it takes” to get ahead; it doesn’t matter who you push down as long as you’re pushing yourself up. But Christ came with a revolutionary concept: with the hand you use to lift yourself up, use it to lift someone else up. Again, this all comes from devotion to God, knowing that God loves these people so much, our love for God reflects that. There are many people who I don’t mix well with, but because they are friends of friend’s of mine, I show them love. Because I know of the relationship they hold with people I love, it causes me to love them as well. If we realize that God loves all these people and we love God, then we in turn would love these people.
Jesus’ last statement gave me so much hope for the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He said “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” So many times, I have this mindset that every Pharisee was a sinner destined to hell with no hope. But there were people who knew the truth. And Jesus told this man that He was really close. He had the mental understanding. He knew the information, and believed that Jesus was right in his claims. As always, he was lacking, but he was getting closer to the Kingdom. There was hope. When I look around, there are people who seem hopeless. People who’ve rejected the truth time and time again, people who’ve tried to disprove everything God says. But God hasn’t given up on them, and so I can’t either. I just need to keep praying for them and try to be used as a light around them. If it is God’s will, they will come to Christ. And I want to be celebrating with them when it happens.
To this lost generation, merely a few days before his crucifixion, Jesus went into the temple to continue preaching and teaching. He did not relax because his time was short, but he persevered to the end. He did not give up on any of them, but wanted to keep pressing and serving God until His last breath. In the same way, I want to be faithful to my call until the Lord rips me away from wherever I am at. When all is said and done, I want to say with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Press on. The Lord did.