Today Matthew’s record of the life of our Lord reveals how events were building to a climax. Jesus was becoming more challenging in his contact with the Pharisees and Sadducees; he bluntly tells the Sadducees they “are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (22:29) in refusing to believe there will be a resurrection. Those raised, adds Jesus, “neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels …”
There follows a confrontation with the Pharisees: “one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’” (verses 35,36). The answer of Jesus goes right to the heart of his message to all human beings. While belief in the person of Jesus and his coming kingdom is important, indeed our acceptance is essential, Jesus goes beyond this and tells them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and stresses, “This is the great and first commandment” (verses 37,38).
How different life on earth would be if everyone accepted and practiced that commandment. And the second commandment? “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (verse 39). Some are astonished to realize this was not one of the original ten commandments given at Mount Sinai – but it is found in Leviticus 19:18. Actually the first commandment was not given at Mount Sinai either, but can be found in Deuteronomy 6:5, an essential part of Moses’ message just before he died and the people entered the promised land.
The Mosaic Law was primarily a law for a nation and the Pharisees stressed this original law. Christ’s stress is on God’s Law for individuals. The keeping of the second commandment will follow naturally when everyone keeps the first. We must keep them now. Also, as we read today in David’s Psalm 37, “Delight (ourselves) in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act … Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (4,5,7). May our daily reading of His word be a “delight” and the desires of our heart be to experience the endless wonders of His kingdom. The ‘delights’ in today’s world are mere froth in comparison.
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