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Read:  Matthew 22:34-40   

34 … the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

After a hike through the topic of spiritual warfare, I’m ready to get back to the foundations of our faith (I was beginning to feel like the Hogwarts Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts).  For foundations, nothing is more solid than Jesus’ answer the question, “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus gives His answer, which was a common answer of rabbis in Jesus’ day, it is Deuteronomy 6:4-5, it was used as a prayer, and is called “the Shema”:  “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  Jesus was quoting the Old Testament.  However, quite typical of Jesus’ style, He expounds upon it.

The Pharisees agreed with the first part of Jesus’ answer, but Jesus adds:  “39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Once again Jesus is quoting the Old Testament – Leviticus 19:18.  It is not enough to love God, if you fail to love your neighbor.  For Jesus, these two commandments are inseparable.  Jesus was challenging the ways of the Pharisees, and He is challenging us too!

1John 4:20-21 says, “20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”

So how significant is this principle?  Jesus says, 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Think about that for a moment.  ALL the law, and the prophets!  That upset the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and it unsettles those who do not understand the grace of God in our day too.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom