Tuesday, 29 June 2021
“Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:29-31
The Jews in Jesus’ day, had intense debates on God’s commandments—the question being: “Out of all the commands in the Old Testament, which is the most important?” The Rabbis had counted 613 commands in the Old Testament Law. That’s a huge number - but always the issue was which is the most important to obey? Let’s remember this context. Jesus had been involved in disputes and debates with the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. who were all trying to trick and trap him. When the Law expert comes to Jesus with this question, it seemed to be a genuine: “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Straight away Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:4,5. Every Jew every day said this - it was like their creed, part of their daily prayers. ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Alongside He gives another one too- loving one’s neighbour—both constitute the two greatest commands to follow. To love God is to delight in him, to cherish him, to seek to know him. And how are we to love God? Is it just for an hour or so on a Sunday? Is it to be remembered at the time of our prayers? No! It’s much more than all of that. Look at the four ‘alls - all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength-with every part of you! These are to be the sources out of which love for God should flow—to love God with all our will (decisions), emotions (desires), minds (thoughts), and bodies (actions).
It’s such a high standard. We need to love the Lord with all our heart (in our affections and motives); with all our soul (in our very being); with all our mind (in what we think and how we think); with all our strength (in everything that we do, everywhere that we go, in our work).
Jesus continued in Verse 31: ‘The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
It’s not that we only love God and close our eyes to everyone around us. No! Love for God must be coupled with our love for the neighbor. These two must go together. But some go the other way and love neighbors and work very hard for people, but completely ignore God. That’s not what Jesus is saying. Rather God demands love for God and for neighbor, as two sides of a coin.
This is the reflective reading of Christ’s teaching about the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments focus our love towards God; then it continues that the last six commandments are to love your neighbor as yourself. Here take note of ‘as yourself’. Jesus didn’t simply say love your neighbor lightly, but he emphasized to love your neighbor as yourself- treating others as we do ourselves.
We may have failed or fail to keep the Law; but Jesus fully fulfilled the Law of God on our behalf. That gives us a right standing with Him. That does not take away our responsibility of our duty toward God and other people. As children of God, let us seek to do His command.
For Our Confession:
We love God because He first loved us.
(1 John 4:19)