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The Great Commandment by Ruling Elder Al Wettach


The Pharisees asked Jesus another one of their manipulative and dishonest questions. Among the Pharisees was a group called the Scribes. Their function in Jewish religious life was to make scrupulous copies of the Books of the Law which we know as the first five books of the Old Testament. They also copied the words of the prophets. The Scribes argued the meaning of these scriptures with their peer Pharisees. One of the favorite questions to debate was, “What is the greatest commandment?” The question is interesting. Only an expert could distill the Hebrew scriptures into one commandment. So, the Pharisees asked Jesus this question to trap him in an argument, perhaps to show others that Jesus was not worthy of being followed.


Jesus strategically answered their question. He said, “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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


Jesus’ answer linked a devoted love for God with a devoted love for neighbor. These two loves inseparably form the Greatest Commandment. His answer established a summary of the Law and the prophets. In the Books of the Law, love for God is commanded in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and love for neighbor is commanded in Leviticus 19:9-18. And looking to the prophets, God commands specific ways to love neighbors in these scriptures: Isaiah 1:17, Zechariah 7:9-10, and Micah 6:8. As Christians, we may be tempted to dismiss the value of the Old Testament. If we do this, we rob ourselves of an authoritative understanding of Jesus’ words in the gospels and the Apostles’ writings in the New Testament letters. In The Greatest Commandment, we have a timeless summary of God’s two-fold desire for human living.


There is comfort in knowing God's mind, yet there is something troublesome. If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t love God with all of our heart, soul, or mind, and we don’t love our neighbor as we love ourselves. No one has loved in the measure being asked by God. And if we can’t love God in the measure He desires, where is our hope? Our hope is found in Jesus, who perfectly and sinlessly loved God and His neighbors.


The Greatest Commandment offers us a pathway to devoted love for God and our neighbors. Jesus is our pathway. Faith in Jesus puts us in a position of nearness to Him to hear His teachings, admonitions, encouragement, and love. He shows us how to love one another, care for widows and orphans, seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. And when we fall or stray from Him, Jesus’ love forgives us, picks us up, and calls us back to follow Him. And where is Jesus leading us? He tells us in The Great Commission, where He is leading us. He leads us to our neighbors, near and far, so they hear the call to follow Jesus.

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