When the Pharisees heard that he had
silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?
He said to him, “’You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’
This is the greatest
and first commandment.
And a second is like
it; ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Now while the
Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:
“What do you think of
the Messiah? Whose son is he? They said to him, “The son of David.”
He said to them, “How
is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
The Lord said to my
Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
If David thus calls
him Lord, how can he be his son?
No one was able to
give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more
May my heart and soul and
lips be ever in God’s service. Amen.
THE CROSS-EXAMINATION THAT CHANGED THE
Let me set the scene of
to-day’s lesson. Christ has been going about the countryside stirring up
the people. They are walking away from their families; leaving their homes,
quitting their jobs: leaving their boats and nets in port while they follow
Jesus and listen to Him teach. Society’s leaders: the governors, the
military, the clergy; the government and the legal establishment don’t know
what to make of all this. The messiah they have been waiting for, for
thousands of years was to come in David’s footsteps: a king, a ruler, to
have dominion over all, to avenge His people’s enemies and to give them
great rewards. Yet this sandal-clad man has no armies, St Michael and the
angelic warriors have not cut a swath before Him. He seems all too human,
just another false prophet . . . and there have been many of them. Recently
there was John the Baptist who many believed was the Messiah. And now,
Was this man taking
advantage of the public: seeking their hard earned monies? Using their
resources – their donkeys, their homes, their loaves and fishes? Was he a
con man? Did the people need protection from this Messiah claimant?
And this so-called
Messiah was attracting great mobs. Mobs get disorderly. Mobs breed
revolution. Blood in the street, chaos, confusion and rebellion were their
very real fears.
What were they to do?
If they drove him out of
town, would the people just follow after him? If they executed Him, would
they create a martyr around which the public might rally?
And He couldn’t REALLY be
the promised messiah . . . could he . . . . ?
The best solution would
be if he could be publicly discredited, proven to be a phony . . . that
would be excellent.
The people would go
Life would get back to
The rabbis and the
lawyers could return to their studies of the Torah and the books of the Old
Testament, and awaiting the coming of the promised one.
These men who met and
worried over these matters were the authorities on the Old Testament
with all its do’s and don’t’s
– restrictions on food,
on who to marry,
and where to live –
each demonstrating God’s
care and concern with guiding his people in their immaturity.
To instruct His people in the way of
righteousness He had provided Ten Commandments and they revered these laws
above all others:
- you shall
have no other God;
you shall build no idols;
you shall not use God’s
name as a profanity;
you shall not work on
Honour your father and
you shall not murder;
envy what others have
Of the ten, nine
contained the very negative, YOU SHALL NOT!
But have you ever
noticed? Laws turn everyone into mini-lawyers looking for a way around
them. Try telling your children “Bedtime is 8:00 p.m.” Then they argue
bedtime means when you start getting ready for bed; a bath, a snack, a story
all are part of bedtime. Speed limits are pushed to see how far you can
exceed them, without getting a ticket.
Through the ages, Jewish rabbis
perfected a method of teaching and learning through questioning everything,
exploring the limits or, as the lawyer who questioned Christ, testing Him
and His claims, to find out who HE really was – and if the questioning
determined heresy or treason . . . so much the better.
stepped forward and demanded of Christ, “Teacher [that is, Rabbi, for since
childhood, Jesus had been acknowledged as a student and teacher of the holy
Torah], which commandment in the law is the greatest?
Instead of selecting
one of the ten given to Moses and his desert peoples, as the lawyer
obviously expected, Christ answered in the positive and gave the
Commandments of the new covenant, to the people for whom He was about to be
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the
greatest and first commandment” – a commandment that takes all the love you
can contain in your entire self for Him alone. But then, refusing to be
limited by his questioner, Christ adds, “And a second is like unto it: ‘You
shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all
the law and the prophets.”
In placing the two great commandments
together, Christ makes it absolutely clear that love, the reality of Jesus,
is ever expanding and non-exclusive. God must be loved before all and at
all costs, but that is the natural state for the Christian. In fact, it is
more a sadly human forgetfulness and laziness that keeps us from loving and
worshipping God as we ought. We get so busy with the mundane and
meaningless that we forget to love and honour all that is important.
But that loving
of God makes it both easy and natural to love others: our parents, our
children, our partner, our pets, even qualities like freedom, equality or
And it is that
love that expands and grows every day to encompass more of God’s people. .
. the love that will be our inheritance forever.
How I love to
imagine the look on that lawyer’s face when his query was turned around on
him . . . when the perfect answer was given and the lawyer silenced. The
answer that changed the law forever after. Before Christ, lawyers
and rabbis were needed to understand the restrictions and requirements of
After the life of
Christ, the answer was always obvious. You no longer need others to know
right from wrong; what is pleasing and what is offensive for a Christian to
engage in before the eyes of the Almighty.
In loving my neighbour as myself [and
Christ told us that everyone is my neighbour] all I have to do is ask
myself, “would I like someone to do this to or for me?”
If the answer is
yes, go ahead, that’s the green light.
If the answer is no,
step way back from the big red stop sign that just popped up.
If you’re not sure,
the amber warns you to think a bit more, maybe ask that neighbour, don’t
Just think how easy
it all is:
Hmmmmmmmmm, if I was
old and sick, would I want a visit?
If I was battling
tired toddlers on the subway, would a an offer of a seat or a helping hand
If I woke up to find
my front steps shoveled after a snow-fall, how upset would I be?
The right answer is
always so obvious.
Or, try these
like my neighbour to steal my money?
Or, sleep with my
Or, rip me off when
Or, splash slush all over
me when driving past?
answers don’t take any theological training.
These questions have
no limitations to argue.
within Christ’s law is a very easy place to be.
And it’s the right
place: RIGHT NEXT TO THE GREAT, LOVING HEART OF JESUS.
e n .