The greatest commandment
Published 8:29 am Thursday, February 18, 2016
We looked at the great commandment a couple weeks ago when talking about the Ten Commandments. But consider Matthew 22 where Jesus identifies the first and second greatest commandments. I want to consider these commands a little more.
It is interesting that the two greatest commandments were given in response to a question by the Pharisees. Jesus was always receiving questions from the Pharisees.
These questions were usually intended to trick Him into saying something they could use against Him. You would think they would get the hint. Jesus answered in a way that silenced them and made them look foolish every single time.
This occasion was no different. The Pharisees wanted to know which commandment was the greatest. Maybe Jesus would say, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Or maybe the prohibition against murder or adultery would top Jesus’ list. No. Jesus refused their trap and essentially said that no command of God can be pitted against another. They are all important. Obedience to all of them is essential for walking in righteousness.
The commands to love the Lord with all that you are and to love your neighbor as yourself sum up the entire law. You cannot love neighbor and murder someone, or even have hatred in your heart toward them. You cannot love God and take His name in vain.
We sometimes like to pit one command against another. We like to think of some commands as more important, usually the ones we are more inclined to observe anyway.
But this is not the way Jesus spoke about the law. He made it very clear that there is a God in heaven. He has revealed His law to mankind. His law is perfect. And He requires perfect obedience to His perfect law. There is no way around His requirements.
This quickly reminds us that we do not measure up. There is no escape route. We need Jesus.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees thought that they were law keepers. They looked at themselves and their level of obedience, and they were proud. Look at us. See how faithful we are to God’s law. They too had elevated some commands as more important than others by their thoughts and actions. While they may not observe some commands, they always kept the most important ones. Or so they thought.
In this passage, Jesus confronts them in their self-righteousness as He did throughout His ministry. He was always pointing to Himself as the only way for man to be made right with God. This was true for the Pharisees. It was true for His disciples. It was true for Jew and Gentile alike. We all need Jesus.
If you are like me, you are tempted to think of yourself as a law keeper. You are tempted to look at the way you live your life and see righteousness. This passage reminds me that I am not righteous. It reminds me that I do not always love God. It reminds me that I do not love others as I should. I need a righteousness that is not my own. I need the righteousness of Jesus. And you do too.
Adam Blosser is the pastor of Drakes Branch Baptist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.