“’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 foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’” Matthew 22:36-40
Yesterday we looked at a conversation Jesus had with the chief priests and the elders. Today, we’ll consider His conversation with another group of religious leaders—the Pharisees. These experts in Jewish law lorded their knowledge over their countrymen and had become a religious institution of rules and rulers. Along with the Sadducees, the Pharisees constantly tested Jesus with questions, trying to catch Him in some form of false teaching.
When they asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 to remind those listening that God had always wanted a relationship with them based on love and fellowship. You see, religious institutions and religious instructions only have significance when rightly connected to the love of Jesus—receiving His love personally and then passing it along to other people. That’s why the law mattered to start with; it’s about loving God and loving others.
Loving God with all of your being makes everything else matter. Without Jesus, the Bible and church don’t matter. Without Him, life has no hope and no meaning. The Bible can be read and trusted as absolute truth because He died and rose again. The Church is valuable as the Bride of Christ and the expression of His body. Life has eternal purpose when lived for His glory. It’s also about loving others: our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Joyful and loving service to the people around us is an expression of our love for God.
Remember, Jesus had this conversation knowing that the people He was talking to would shortly have Him tortured and killed. Yet He patiently pointed them to His Father. Here lies the crux of this particular conversation—Jesus was focused on the Cross because He loves God with all of His heart, all of His soul, and all of His mind; and He loves others as Himself. Because Jesus loved His Father supremely, He was willing to obey Him completely.
What holds your dearest affection today? Loving God flows into loving others. When you consider His love for you, how can you help but express that love to someone else?