April 15 I Monday
1 Samuel 27-29
“‘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 neighbour as yourself.’” —Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus spent much of the week before His arrest and crucifixion teaching and preaching in the temple. The Pharisees, Sadducees and experts in the Law asked Him question after question, hoping to find in His answers an excuse to arrest Him, but to no avail. After He silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees put together what they thought was the perfect trap.
The question appeared simple: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). There were 613 commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, 365 negative and 248 positive. The Pharisees were not content with that, adding their own laws around the given Law to prevent even accidentally breaking the real Law. Their obsession extended to categorizing the relative importance of each commandment. Different schools thought different commandments were the greatest, which was the context behind asking this question.
The response Jesus gives is not to choose a command and hold it above the others but to give the supreme governing principle that makes any commandment great. That principle is love. We must remember in any discussion of the Law that it is not an arbitrary set of rules but is supremely an expression of the moral character of God. His moral character is ultimately expressed in the statement, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). What God demands can never be detached from what He is. All true expression of the Law of God must involve an expression of the love of God, which we are to direct firstly towards God and secondly towards people, for “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).
This is, of course, an impossible and humanly unreasonable demand! It means that everything upon which our heart is set, everything that preoccupies our soul and everything that captivates our mind will express love for God. As is often true in the teachings of Jesus, He presents the requirements of God in such a way as to expose the inevitable despair that must come to the conscientious person who tries to live this way. We simply cannot love like this on our own.
If the law is summed up in love and God is love, then true righteousness is only possible by the expression of the life of God Himself lived miraculously within the Christian. The Spirit of God alone is the source. The only way we can fulfill the demands of the Law is if we are driven to an honest despair of our own ability and learn to rest in the sufficiency of God alone.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in this Easter Week, may I remember Your teachings on the Law. I cannot do it, but thank You that You can and will live out the Law through me.