July 27

Text: Matthew 22:34-36

But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (NASB)

Most of us are familiar with the statement, “This is not over!”  The statement is usually made after a defeat by the defeated.  The defeated declare that the loss is not the “end” of the matter—this was only an event, not a surrender.  “You may have won this event, but we are not defeated—we will be back!”  It is a statement of determination and of optimism concerning the future.

Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were determined.  They would not surrender!  Though Jesus had defeated both in his last encounter with each, they were determined to defeat Jesus.  They would have “the last word!”  When everything was over, they would have the final victory over Jesus!

By Jewish count, the Law or Covenant of Moses was composed of 613 separate commands.  Of those 365 were negative and 248 were positive.  There was frequent Jewish debate about which law was the most important.  Since there were so many “laws,” and those “laws” were not of equal importance, a devout Jew must be certain not to neglect the important.

The lawyer mentioned here was an acknowledged expert in the Law of Moses.  The question’s purpose seems to have been to discredit Jesus as qualified to speak about the meaning of the Law of Moses.

Jesus’ answer acknowledged there was a relative importance of commands.  The two instructions that formed the basis for all instructions were (1) to love God with all your being (Deuteronomy 6:5) and (2) to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).  Love of God and neighbor would result in obeying all the instructions God gave in the law and prophets.

Interestingly, the basis for obedience in the entire Bible is the same.  Love of God and love for people result in obeying God.  The motivation for obedience before the Law of Moses, in the Law of Moses, and in Christianity is the same—love for God and love for people.

Suggestion for reflection: When we “win” at the price of our own destruction, “winning” is meaningless. (Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.)

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