Last week we heard about the Pharisees, officials of the Temple, and the Herodians, supporters of the Roman emperor, trying to catch Jesus in a trap about whether the Jewish people should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus did a mighty fine job of turning the tables on them by saying
- “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21)
This week the Sadducees, Jewish people who only believed in the law and not religion, joined the Pharisees to try to trap Jesus once again so that he would be removed from the picture. Like the Herodians and Pharisees, this is another strange alliance between people on the opposite sides of religion and law, but with a common purpose. Conspiracy makes strange bedfellows!
Once again , these two groups confronted Jesus with a question that they hoped would seal is fate:
- One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:35-40)
Jesus’ response to the Pharisee’s question has been called “The Great Commandment”.
Simply put, The Great Commandment states that we are to love God and to love people.
Jewish scholars had determined that there were 613 commandments in the Law; there were 248 commandments which defined what you should do, and 365 defining what you should not do. Let’s face it, almost NO ONE could keep track of all of these, let alone make sure they did what they were supposed to and didn’t do what they were not to do.
And then there were the Ten Commandment.
But Jesus changed all that – he boiled all those laws down into two commandments:
- ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37)
And the second is like it:
- ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:39)
That was Jesus’ message to the religious authorities. He said “Sometimes you have to forget the 613 commandments and do the right thing.” “Sometimes you have to forget your principles and do what is right: LOVE.”
Jesus’ final word was and will always be LOVE.
At his arrest
At his trial.
At his crucifixion.
At his resurrection.
At his ascension.
His final words were always about loving God and extending God’s love to others, especially those hard to love.
Do you love God . . . Do you really love Him? If you do . . . SAY IT, MEAN IT, SHOW IT.
Say it with your words, mean it in your heart and show it with your actions. After all, that’s what God did for us when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross.”*
How do we show our love for God? Let me count the ways. At least three ways:
- Treat with respect the things of God, including His name;
- Spend time in His presence in prayer and worship; and
- Live the way God wants us to live.
But God’s love is not passive; we don’t just sit around and bask in the love of God. We have to do something with that love. We must love others for the love that we have received.
That means we have to love:
- That horrible uncle you have in your family who hates church and those Christian do-gooders…
- That irritating old aunt you have in your family who is always sticking her nose where it does not belong…
- That Christian who always finds wrong in ANYTHING and everything that is going on in the church…
- That lady in the church who never has anything good to say & constantly tries to stir up gossip and trouble…
- That person on your block who drinks too much… who curses too much… who may be obnoxious and hard to deal with…
- That ‘floppy-Bible’ preacher who assures you that you are a horrible sinner and condemned to Hell.
Jesus is calling us to love ALL these people!
This is NOT easy, in fact it is nearly impossible, but if we focus on our loving God, He will help us to love those who are hard to love!*
God had called us to love Him.
God has called us to love one another!
This is how we know what love is : Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…..
- Dear Children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
Quite a challenge isn’t it?
Unless we have a true, faithful love for God, and an earnest love for our fellow human beings… our words of faith are worthless… our witness for Christ is worthless…
LOVE is what makes it all work!
Delivered to In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH