Summary: The two greatest commandments and their consequences
Langham & F/D 27-10-02
Mt. 22:34- 46: “The Greatest Commandment”
Story: Dr. Robert Seizer, in his book Mortal Lessons: Notes in the Art of Surgery tells this story. He has just removed a tumour from a young woman’s face, but sadly had to cut a facial nerve in the process leaving her mouth permanently distorted. This is what he says:
“ Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?
The young woman speaks: “Will my mouth always be like this? “ she asks. “Yes” I say, “it will be. It is because the nerve was cut.”
She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it, he says, ”It is kind of cute”. All at once I know who he is. I understand and lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with God. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I, so close can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show that their kiss still works. (A Box Of Delights J. John and Mark Stibbe p. 108)
What a tender love that husband showed to his wife.
And love is the subject of our Gospel reading this morning.
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus a question:
Teacher which commandment in the law is the greatest?
And Jesus replied:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Many people think that Jesus invented these two commandments but he didn’t. You can find them in the Old Testament.
The first is found in the book of Deuteronomy
“Hear O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut 6: 4- 5)
and the second is found in the book of Leviticus
“ Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:18)
Jesus’ genius was in linking the two commandments together.
It took me many years to appreciate that love was an essential part of the Christian gospel. I used to think “love” was soppy and sentimental and just for girls. But it isn’t.
Love can be very masculine as well. Love caused Jesus to die on the Cross in our place – for our sins, because there was no other way for us to be reconciled to God.
St .Paul recognised the responsibility to love when he said: “Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law”. (Rom 8:10b)
Story: When I was in Switzerland, I was involved in running a church among the refuges there.
Each Saturday, we would go into the camp and invite them to our Sunday morning service. And on Sunday we would drive over and take those who wanted to come -to church.
We used to have more Muslims than Christians in our service.
One Sunday, a young Muslim Mustapha stood up. He had spent a lot of time with my other co-leaders Dan and Catrin. He came to the front and this is what he, in essence, said:
“I have become a Christian, because you showed me love. In Islam, there is no love.”
I doubt many people will be argued into the Kingdom of heaven – though doubtless some will.
But I am sure that many have and will come to know Jesus in a personal way, by Christians showing the love of God in their lives.
I’d like to conclude with a few thoughts.
1. Jesus is not looking at achievement but at attitude. He is not looking at the deeds themselves but the motivation behind them.
2. Jesus is not interested in sterile religion – in keeping the rules - but rather in a living relationship. He wants us to have a lively relationship with our heavenly Father
3. If we get the upward relationship right – between ourselves and God, then that is going to affect our horizontal relationships – with our fellow human beings. It just has to!
Sign: And what do these two movements form – (A vertical sweep and then a horizontal sweep)
A Cross. Come to think of it - wasn’t that the reason Christ died? To reconcile us with the Father and so we could be reconciled to one another too?