Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Kingdom Where Love Fulfills All

When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
The Pharisees and Sadducees had both made a run at trapping Jesus in His words — and failed. Now came an expert in the Law of Moses, not to ensnare him, as the others had done, but to examine his teaching. Mark’s Gospel refers to him as a scribe: “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28). It was common for Jews to discuss which were the weightier matters of the law.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” Jesus answered. “This is the first and great commandment.” This was first, not in order of time, but of importance.

“And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the most important commandment is about loving God, then the second must be about loving man, who was created in the image and likeness of God. The second commandment is not separate from the first, but hangs on the first. One cannot keep the first without also keeping the second. John said that whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20).

Then Jesus concluded with the importance of these two commandments: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” That is, everything in the Law and the Prophets — all of the Old Testament — is about these two things.

Remember that the Ten Commandments were given on two tables of stone (Exodus 31:18). Most commentators believe that the first tablet spoke of our obligation toward God, the second of our obligation toward others. When we love God we will have no other gods before us, we will not try to fashion Him according to our own ideas, we will not speak His name in vanity, idleness or arrogance, and we will honor that which He has set apart unto Himself. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will give proper honor to those who have fathered and mothered us, we will not take their lives into our own hands, we will not violate their marriage covenants, we will not take from them what is rightfully theirs, we will not lie against them, and we will not crave for ourselves that which belongs exclusively to them. All the Law is about loving God, and loving all others as ourselves. As Paul notes, following in the footsteps of Jesus, “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

It is not just the Law that hangs on these two great commandments but the Prophets also. Both the Law and the Prophets are all about the kingdom of heaven — the rule and reign of God in the affairs of men. These are the two commandments of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Everything else depends on and is understood by them.

Think back to the rich young man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life. Jesus asked if he knew the commandments, then named some of them, particularly the ones from the second tablet, the ones about loving one’s neighbor as oneself. “I have kept all of these from my youth,” the young man answered. We already know that he really had not learned to keep the first tablet, to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul and mind; he loved his possessions to much for that. As it turns out, he also did not keep the second tablet either, though he was sure he had. He did not love his neighbor as himself, or else he would have listened to Jesus when He told him to sell what he had and give to the poor. So he missed out on the kingdom.

The lawyer who asked which was the greatest commandment was strongly impressed by Jesus’ answer. “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other tan He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:32-33).

Jesus answered, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). The truth of His answer was backed up by the strength of His love.

In the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, the commandment to love fulfills everything else.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.