Summary: The greatest commandment: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul & strength
I came across an article recently that was a response to a letter written by someone who was in anguish over trying to figure out how to live the Christian life. This is part of that letter:
"He made us a perfect world that works according to physical laws that we can understand - wouldn’t he also make a religion that anyone can understand? Why is it that only religious leaders claim to understand it? Why do you have to go to seminary to understand it? Doesn’t he love us all? Doesn’t he treat us all the same? Doesn’t he want us all to know Him? Why did he create a confusing religion? Did he create a confusing religion?"
In this morning’s Scripture, Jesus claims the entire Bible hangs on two commands. If you do those two, you’re set.
[The Trap] The religious teachers of Jesus’ day had boiled the truths of the Old Testament into no less than 613 commands and rules.
How one can keep up with that many, I have no idea!
It was common for them to debate which of the commands were more or less significant
Not that any could be ignored, but some were obviously more important than others.
Different rabbis had different thoughts on which might be the greatest commandment.It made sense that Jesus would be asked His opinion on this topic.
However, it is clear that the one questioning Jesus at this point was not someone looking for truth, but someone looking for trouble.
Verse 34 says “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees.”
It literally means “Jesus had ‘muzzled’ the Sadducees.”
We’d say, “He shut their mouths, didn’t He?”
The Pharisees and the Sadducees, who normally didn’t get along very well, were united for one goal: get Jesus. They were committed to finding some way to get Jesus to say or do something that would get him in trouble. They didn’t care much about the answers, they just wanted, as the Good News Version has it, “to trap Him with a question.”
In the passage just before this one, the Sadducees had done their best and Jesus’ answer muzzled them. He left them speechless. So the Pharisees decided they needed to take over the job of trapping Jesus.
It says they “gathered together,” for that purpose. It doesn’t mean they just happened to be hanging out at Scotty’s Donuts and started talking about this Jesus guy. They called a meeting to strategize on what they could do to bring Jesus down. They sent one of their guys to go to Jesus pretending to be an honest seeker
Notice how politely he calls him “Teacher” but this Pharisee does not respect him as a teacher. His goal is to get Jesus to say something that would somehow tarnish his reputation.
When you have 613 laws, you’ve got lots of room for disagreement among teachers. Maybe they could twist his answer into something that sounded like He was degrading some other part of Scripture.
His answer was not something they’d never heard. When they heard it, they probably all thought, “Of course! We should have known he’d say that!”
[The Commandment] The greatest commandment that Jesus quotes here was something all pious Jews prayed every morning. Even today, Jews repeat “The Shema,” taken from Deuteronomy 6:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Those Pharisees must have been so ticked off at Jesus!
He’d done it again!They couldn’t possibly argue over it.And without catching a breath, He gave them more than they asked for: the second greatest commandment:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. That will be the focus of another sermon. Today, we’re just focusing on “The Prime Directive”: That we love God with our heart and soul and mind and strength.
Over and over throughout the Old Testament, God commanded His people to love Him and obey His commandments.
Deuteronomy 11:1 is representative of more than a dozen verses that command God’s people to:
Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.
Love God and Keep His Commandments: The two went were inseparable:
Like peanut butter and jelly
Rock & Roll
Me and my dog!
Love God & keep His commandments.
If you Love Him, You Obey Him
If you loved your parents, you would do what they told you to do.If you love your God, you do what HE tells you to do. Love and obedience were inseparable.
But there was a problem. The Pharisees had gotten really good at obeying the Law. They had those 613 commandments scrutinized, memorized, codified and analyzed. They obeyed them scrupulously.