As you come before God today, consciously lay aside any worries and other distractions.
The greatest commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’
32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
When we hear the question ‘which is the greatest commandment?’ our first thought might be to attempt to rank the Ten Commandments. But that is not what Jesus does (vs 29–31). In fact, you won’t find Jesus’ response in the Ten Commandments at all. He first quotes Deuteronomy 6:4,5, while ‘love
your neighbour as yourself’ is taken from Leviticus 19:18.
In some ways it would be easier if the Christian faith were a list of clearly defined commands. If we could just go through the checklist each week and mark off the things we’d done, we’d know for sure how we’re measuring up. Keeping all the Jewish feasts and sacrifices was challenging and costly, but you could walk away knowing you had fulfilled your religious obligations.
Jesus’ emphasis on the two commandments he quotes is another way of saying that what God actually wants is relationship. In Matthew’s version of this event, Jesus adds that ‘All the Law and the Prophets’ are summed up in these two commandments (Matthew 22:40). Yes, there were a lot of rules and regulations in the Old Testament, but fundamentally they were all about having only one Lord and loving him with all your being, then loving others too.
How are you doing at loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? And what about loving others? Ask the Lord to highlight any areas in which he wants you to grow.
Deeper Bible study
‘Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus, / vast, unmeasured, boundless, free, / rolling as a mighty ocean / in its fullness over me.’1
What a marvellous question it was that the teacher of the Law asked Jesus, all those years ago (v 28). Jesus’ answer to that question gives us cause today to meditate on the love of God. His answer causes us to step back from all the detail and remember again that the theme of our faith is love. God is love. His whole basis for creating us, saving us, relating to us, is love – perfect love, at that.2 Moreover, God’s greatest desire for us, the thing that he wills above all, is that we love him in return.
Like the teacher of the Law, we will undoubtedly agree that Jesus’ answer to his question was very good. The challenge lies, perhaps, in the recognition that the love God desires from us is total: he longs for us to love him with our all (v 30). ‘God’s wholehearted love must not be answered in a halfhearted manner.’3 How have you responded to the perfect love of God? Are you able to say that you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (v 30)? It is likely that we all fall short of that glorious aim. We need not despair, but rather meditate again on God’s great love; and pray that we may know the heights and depths of that love4 and that God might far increase our love for him.
For when filled with a wonder at God’s love and committed to love him first and fully, out of that will flow an ability and desire to love our neighbours as best we may (v 31).
Use the verses referenced, or others, to reflect on and bask in God’s love. Turn them into prayers. Seek ways to demonstrate your love to God and others through action.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Ezekiel 48; 1 John 4
Pray for Scripture Union
Pray for Local Mission Partner Great Open Door as they prepare their next assembly tour in Harlow on Thankfulness. Pray for the team and for open doors to deliver this assembly into the schools when the time is right.