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The Great Commandment


Matthew 22:34-40

In this passage, we once again find Jesus answering a question.

So two times Jesus has already been questioned in this chapter…and in this passage we find him questioned again…and again, in vs. 35, the question is intended to “test” Jesus.

And it still goes on today…people wanting to discredit Jesus…ruin His reputation…find fault with Him because if they can they can justify their own sinful actions and the whole of Christianity will fall apart.

So look what the Bible says: “But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer (an expert in the Law of Moses, a teacher of the Law) , asked Him a question, testing Him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

 Now, you need to understand that that question did not just come “out of the blue.”

What had happened was these Jewish Rabbis had studied the Laws of Moses and what they would do is they would make some laws “weightier” than others.

So the question came up…which ones were more important.

But then other Rabbi’s would come along and say, “No, wearing the prayer boxes is a heavy law too.”

So this is a debate that has been going on for some time…and this “expert in the Law”, in an attempt to “test” or trap Jesus again, wants to know what Jesus has to say about this issue because if Jesus answers one way He will alienate Himself from one group…and if He answers another way He will alienate Himself from another group.

So he asks, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?”

Now, here this lawyer is, as well as others, waiting to hear one of the commandments from the Law of Moses.

But, Jesus doesn’t deal with the symptom…He deals with the heart of the matter.

This man says, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And Jesus says,

“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.”

Do you understand what Jesus has said here?

 And what Jesus does here is He gets to the heart of the matter and He says, “You can call one commandment more important than another.”

These people were notorious for this. Look at chapter 23: 23-28. Look at this.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 The one thing they needed most of all was missing…and that was a love for God.

And it is the same for us…we can keep all the commandments we want.

Go back to chapter 22 and look at what Jesus says next in verses 39.

“The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

 You can almost hear them can’t you?

And again, Jesus says, “You can keep all the commandments you want.”

Several years later Paul would teach this same principle to some of our brethren in the church at Corinth.

But listen to these words from Paul found in I Corinthians 13: 1-2 as he warns these brethren about the use of their gifts.

 1  If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have {the gift of} prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

 Brethren, you can do it all….

In fact, look at what Jesus says next in Matthew 22:40: On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Now, I want you to see what this lawyer says next…Matthew doesn’t mention it…but Mark does in Mark 12:32. Look at what he says:

 32 And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher, you have truly stated that He is One; and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

 Now look at verse 34.

And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

 Just knowing to do it in love is not enough.

Did he come to “love God…and his neighbor?”

Will you make it to the Kingdom of God…or will you just come close?

I hope it will be the Kingdom of God for you but the truth is, it may all come down to a matter of love.