The Tabernacle Scroll

Issue 124

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matt.22:36, NIV)

Have you ever been in a meeting where there has been a heckler? You know, a ‘wise guy’! Exasperating, isn’t it? Jesus was always surrounded by ‘wise guys’ who made every effort to trip him up. They were the Pharisees and other learned men of the time whom Jesus often rebuked for their lack of understanding despite their claims to great knowledge. The person who asked Jesus this question was a lawyer. It might seem a pretty straightforward and simple question, but the learned man was really trying to lead Jesus into a trap. The Jewish law had grown considerably since its beginnings with Moses. In Jesus’ time, there were apparently 3600 commandments which the Jewish Law contained. (You remember that Jesus referred to how cumbersome these legalists had made the law when he said of them “You tie up burdens on people’s backs but will not lift a finger to help them”). So, which of these commandments was Jesus going to pick as the most important?

Jesus’ answer left the lawyer flabbergasted. Matthew says ‘Jesus replied: “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” ’ (verses 37-40, emphasis mine).

The lawyer was expecting one commandment, but Jesus said that there were two commandments, the second being like the first. Like the first? Yes, meaning with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Now that’s a tall order! But why give two commandments? If Jesus had not spelled it out, we would have been clear about how to relate to God, but confused about how we are to relate to each other (the problem that the Pharisees undoubtedly had).

This “all” emphasis really makes sense. If you hold back from loving your fellowman with your whole self, then the parts of yourself that don’t love him are those parts of yourself that your neighbour does not love either. When you come to think about it, your inability to love your neighbour is a reflection of your inability to love yourself. Why? Because the parts of you that are incapable of loving others are not lovely! What this translates into is that you really can’t live with yourself. If you can’t live with yourself, how can you live with your neighbour?

No wonder Jesus commanded ‘love your neighbour as yourself’! To love our neighbour as God would have us love him requires us to deal with ourselves first!

            Devotional                                                                                                                            Preach The Word The Word with Pastor Joseph Rodrigues