Matthew 22:34-40 The Great Commandment WC McCarter
In chapter twenty-two of Matthew, Jesus is questioned three times. He is first challenged politically on the subject of paying taxes. Secondly, He is challenged theologically on the subject of the resurrection. Lastly, He is challenged legally on the subject of the greatest commandment to be found in the law. These attacks from Christ’s opponents are not surprising for Psalm 2:1-2 says, “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed. . . .”
The challenges that Jesus faced from the supposed religious leaders actually afforded Jesus brilliant opportunities to teach us. Today, we will look at that last challenge. We will find that Christ gives us a Great Commandment to live by. This will be the first of a two sermon series: The Great Commandment and The Great Commission (Matthew 22 and 28) as we move closer to Easter Sunday. The resurrection is the proof of His authority. We must follow all of His commands including The Great Commandment and The Great Commission.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Test (34-36)
Jesus has just silenced the Sadducees after they had tested Him about the resurrection. So, the Pharisees decide that it is their turn to try to make Christ stumble. This is their second stab at it recently because Jesus squashed the attacks of their disciples in verses 15-22 when they questioned Him about paying taxes to Caesar.
The Pharisees decide to test Him about the law. They use a lawyer to do so! This man would have been an expert in the law of the Old Testament.
Which is the great commandment in the law? How will Jesus respond? Will they have finally defeated Him? Will they be able to twist His response so that Christ is shamed? They must have expected some wild, unorthodox answer from Jesus.
The Great Commandment in Two Parts (37-39)
Loving the Lord your God is a quote from Deut 6:5. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind is to love Him completely. It is a way of saying that you are to love God with all of yourself (all of who you are and all of what you have). The heart is the core of one’s being. The soul is the seat of emotion. The mind refers to willingness and intellectual vigor. Remember, God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He does not want empty words or empty rituals. The Scripture teaches that we love God because He first loved us. We can love God because He loved us. We can have a relationship with Him because He first sought us. The other thing that is clear in Scripture is that the one who loves God obeys God. There is no wavering on this point. It is straightforward. The Apostle John teaches in 1 John 2:3-4, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” The person who belongs to God, loves Him and obeys Him. The Bible also shows that a person either loves God or hates Him, no in between.
Loving your neighbor is a quote from Lev 19:18. What Christ means is that this is equally important. It is as if Christ says there is one great commandment, that is, 1a and 1b. This love is measured by the love you have for yourself. If you are hungry, you feed yourself. If you are cold, you cover yourself. If you are sick, you get medicine for yourself. It is a known fact, people love themselves. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Apostle Paul said in Eph 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. . . .” The Apostle John is even more blunt about this vital doctrine of the Christian faith. He asks in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
All the Law and the Prophets (40)
The rest of the commandments “flow” from these two. If all we are to do is merely and outwardly obey commands, we will simply sink into legalism. What Christ commands and requires is that our heart be right. Our attitude must reflect the love of God.
There is a great balance in the great commandment of Christ. We cannot love God to the point that we neglect others. On the other hand, we cannot love others to the point that we neglect God. We can see how the Law (the five books of Moses) may be summed up this way, but how are the prophets? They taught religion of the heart.
Conclusion and Application
Let me tell you something church: love is The Great Commandment. Rom 13:10 reads, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” 1 John 4:7 reads, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” If we can grasp this, we are not far from the kingdom. God wills to perfect His love in us; not simply as individuals, but as a church.
1. Allow this great commandment to renew your priorities in life.
2. Deal with this great commandment by talking with God.
3. Determine to learn more about love from God.
1 Thess 4:9 says, “. . . for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. . . ."
4. Explore new ways of loving others.