Summary: Jesus sums up God’s laws in a brief statement that says it all: love God, love your neighbor--our duty to God and others. This is law of love...on one foot.
A young Jewish student went to see a learned Rabbi and posed a challenging question: “Rabbi, can you tell me the essence of the Law while standing on one foot?” The Rabbi got flustered. “What? Give you the essence of the Law while on one foot? I’ve studied the Torah for over fifty years and I haven’t even scratched the surface!” He then threw the guy out. Jesus was able to give such an answer.
Here’s the context: Jesus had been debating the religious teachers, who weren’t happy with Him. The question over what commandment is the most important may have been intended to embarrass Jesus. It seems impossible to answer. Or perhaps this was an honest question. It’s the kind of question we might ask someone with great spiritual authority and wisdom. And to the surprise and consternation of our Lord’s enemies, this man who may have been an opponent of Jesus became a friend.
The religious teachers of Jesus’ day approached the Scriptures in one of two ways: one was to draw from God’s law many more rules and regulations. The other approach was the opposite, to summarize teachings in a brief sentence or two. That’s what Jesus was asked to do.
The Old Testament contains 613 commandments. In a recent book, The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs tells how he spent a year trying to live according to all those commands. He admits he wasn’t able to successfully obey them all, plus he left out animal sacrifice, but the experiment left him with an appreciation for God’s rulebook. He admits in an interview: “I sin about 30% less but I’m still a sinner.”
Jesus sums up God’s laws in a brief statement that says it all: love God, love your neighbor--our duty to God and others. This is law of love…on one foot.
Love is the big motivator. Love for God makes us want to please Him. Love makes all the difference. Once God has our love, He’ll have the rest.
In his best-selling novel, Shogun, James Clavel claims that in ancient Japan there was no Japanese word for love. The very idea was regarded as a foolish, western concept. For the ancient Japanese, loyalty was the highest attainment. But loyalty isn’t enough. The ancient Japanese had no word for love, but the ancient Greeks had five words. Jesus picked the strongest one, agape, which describes our deepest devotion and unconditional commitment.
We’re to love God and others with our heart, soul, mind, and strength…
The heart is the center of our being; in the Bible it means the same as our thoughts, words, and deeds. When we say “I love you with all of my heart” we mean a love that is full, complete, sincere and true--holding nothing back. To give God our lives is to give Him our hearts.
The soul is the immaterial and immortal part of our inner person, that which sets us apart from the rest of creation. It is regarded as the source of our emotions. We love God and others with deep feelings, with enthusiasm. We put some life into our love!
The mind refers to knowledge and perception. Faith does not require intellectual suicide. We love God because we’ve considered and accepted the truth of Scripture. Ours is a reasonable faith, not a leap into the dark.
Our strength suggests that faith isn’t passive. Love for God and others is actively expressed. Love is something we do.
Notice that God expects the fullness of our love: “all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.” Is our love half-hearted, or does God have our “all”?
This may start to sound like working our way to Heaven. If that’s the case, none of us will make it. Nobody can love completely/perfectly. We don’t love to make it to Heaven; we love because we’ve already been guaranteed a place there. God’s initiative Love compels us. If we really love God, we can’t help but love others.
Not all love is sincere...A young woman wrote a note to her former fiancé: “Dearest Jimmy, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie.
P.S., And congratulations on willing the state lottery.
In verse 32, how does this student of Scripture respond to Jesus? He is delighted! He gives his wholehearted agreement. Our translations don’t do justice to his response. In the original language he begins with a shout we could translate as “Right!”, “Excellent!”, or “Beautiful!” (or if he was a soldier, “Hooah!”) It’s pretty clear Jesus made a big impression on him, and he’s honest enough to admit it.