September 30, 2016
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
I will leave Jesus’ riddle to the Pharisees for another day. Today I want to zero in on the Pharisees question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
It was not an uncommon question for Rabbi’s to discuss in those days. The answer to that question would tell you a lot about everything else a person thinks. Sort of (but not really) like asking a person these days who they are voting for President. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” After all, there were something like 613 commands in the Law. They wanted to know what was the governing dynamic—what commandment formed the lens through which Jesus saw and understood the other 612 commandments. Would it be “No other gods,” or “remember the sabbath and keep it holy” or “honor your parents,” or another one. Would the governing dynamic be righteousness or holiness or sovereignty or mercy? Thinking people disagreed on this.
Jesus went for a pretty conventional response by quoting the Shema (the core Creed of the Jewish people): “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Then he did something the essence of which we still haven’t grasped. He added a second part to the greatest command: And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ To be sure, this was not new. It came right out of Leviticus. And then this bit of dictum: All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In bringing these two commandments together, Jesus effectively says the following: 1. There is no love of God apart from love of neighbor. 2. There is no love of neighbor apart from the love of God. 3. There is no love of neighbor apart from the love of self. 4. There is no love of self apart from the love of neighbor. 5. There is no love of self apart from the love of God. 6. There is no love of God apart from the love of self.
Everything depends on the God of love and the love of God. This is not circular reasoning. The love of God is the logic of the Godhead. The love of God is the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven. The love of God is the power of the power of the Gospel. This love is not soft and sentimental. It is durable and holy. This love is the beginning of all creation and the end of all things created. This love is not a means to an end. This love is the end and the means.
The New Testament will amplify this time and time again. See Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8; John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 13; and on we could go. See Ephesians 3 and the entirety of 1 John.
In closing, I can’t resist giving you a mini manifesto of sorts from John Wesley that captures this.
“You should be thoroughly aware of this—the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, ‘have you received this or that blessing?’ if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them on a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more but more of that love described in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, until you are carried into Abraham’s bosom.” [From “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection,” Section 25, in answer to Question 33. the last third of the answer]
This is why I pay attention to Wesley. He saw the true vision and he established a people, who through distinctive methods, would become it. As a related aside, one of his approaches was to get good reading material in front of the movers and shakers of his movement.
In that spirit and to that end, we have just released a new collection of resources at Seedbed called Seedlings. They are small booklets that pack a big punch. One in particular I want to reference and commend to you in light of today’s reading is called Sola Sancta Caritas (Latin for “Only Holy Love”) by Dr. Joseph Dongell. I’ll give you the Daily Text Deal: 2 for $2. That’s two for the price of one. Buy one sow one. Use the code HOLYLOVE at checkout to get the deal.
More love, Lord. This is my prayer—more love, and in saying more love I am saying more of you. I want for my life to become defined by the love of God and I want that to be demonstrated through a new kind of love in me for others. And I know that will mean I must come to a new way of loving myself—as you love me. I want this extraordinary miracle to become my every day life. Come Holy Spirit. Please, Jesus, in your name. Amen.
1. What do you see as some of the alternative governing dynamics put forward for the Christian faith?
2. Why do we resist “Love” as the defining center and core meaning of it all?
3. Imagine what it would look like in your every day life to become a person of the extraordinary love of God. Can you see it?
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. email@example.com.