Summary: When Jesus was asked what mattered most to God, he said two things: Love God. Love People. This is the begining of series abou these two commands.
This sermon is taken from my latest book, “The Greatest Commands: Learning To Love Like Jesus.” Each chapter is sermon length, alliterated, and focuses on the life and love of Jesus. You can find it here:
Love God. Love People.
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church
There’s an old story about a professor who was assigned to teach an introductory class about time management for Freshmen orientation. Without saying a word, he walked into the classroom and set a one-gallon, wide mouthed glass jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen tennis-ball-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”
“Really?” he said. Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel into the jar and shook it, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”
By this time the class was starting to catch on. “Probably not,” one of them said.
“Good!” he replied. Then he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?”
“No!” the class shouted.
Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour in the water until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked back at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it!”
“No,” the teacher shouted, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
He undoubtedly made his point. The problem is—sometimes it’s hard to know what the big rocks are supposed to be. Life can get pretty hectic at times. We have projects at work, priorities at home, and a plethora of extra-curricular activities. Sometimes it can all be pretty overwhelming. We don’t always know where to start.
And then there’s God. What matters most to him? What are his top priorities? And what about the Bible? Let’s face it—that’s a pretty big book. My Bible has over 1,300 pages and it’s a “thin-line” version. Have you ever picked up your Bible because you knew you ought to read it but then just put back down in frustration because you didn’t know where to start.
Well, if you’ve ever wondered what was most important to God, you’re not alone. What mattered most to God was a topic commonly debated among Rabbis in Jesus’ day. Believe it or not, they identified 613 specific commands in the Torah (what we call the Old Testament). Which one was the most important? Which one took top priority? They would argue endlessly. So it’s not surprising that, when a young Rabbi claiming to be something special comes along, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees (who were the religious leaders at the time) would draw Jesus into their debate.
Jesus’ answer to this all-important question would reveal a great deal about his own heart—which, of course, is the heart of God. My promise to everyone reading this is that you won’t be able to set it down without knowing where to start, what matters most to God, and what the big rocks should be. Here’s both the question and the answer from God’s word:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard Jesus arguing with the Sadducees. Seeing that Jesus gave good answers to their questions, he asked Jesus, “Which of the commands is most important?”
Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘Listen, people of Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second command is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There are no commands more important than these.”
The man answered, “That was a good answer, Teacher. You were right when you said God is the only Lord and there is no other God besides him. One must love God with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength. And one must love his neighbor as he loves himself. These commands are more important than all the animals and sacrifices we offer to God.”