34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
It is interesting to note that the two religious factions of Jesus’ day that were always arguing with each other actually joined forces to put Jesus to the test! These guys practically hated each other for their differing theologies but decided to start working together to defend their religion against Jesus. We can see the hypocrisy in these men as they are ok with working against Jesus. Just as the saying goes: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Even though these two sects were at times enemies, they united to try to trick the Master. The result is quite funny.
These Jewish elite had a custom of challenging each other with scripture and especially the question they asked Jesus. It was like a way to brand yourself by which commandment you stated was the most important and why. Leave it to Jesus to answer with two! He made a very big point that actually offended the Pharisees and Sadducees. “How did He offend them?” you ask…let’s think about it.
These men lived their lives proving their righteousness by how they followed the Law of Moses (called that because it was passed down by God through Moses). They even made more laws of how to better follow the Law so that they could be even “more” righteous. They created hundreds of laws to show how good of a person they were that they totally forgot about the heart behind the Law. Jesus reveals that they have made this process a lot more complicated than they had to. If they were to just focus on loving God and loving others, they wouldn’t have all the issues they have!
This gives us cause to reflect upon our own self righteousness. How often do we “do good” just to fulfill a rule or law in our lives? Maybe we created the law ourselves. Maybe it is a law of the land. Maybe it is an unspoken rule in your church, “well you always have to take communion or else you look like a sinner…” Whatever it is, if it isn’t focused on loving God or loving others, it’s a sin! I know, this principle tends to throw conviction at everyone. It should, but in a way that motivates us to love God and others even more. Think of this bombshell that Jesus drops on His 12 disciples just before being crucified in John 14:
14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Jesus tells us to follow His commandments, but knowing that we can only do so by the power of His Spirit. This is our relationship with Him. We must receive and live by the Spirit of Truth so that we can continue to love God and love others.