Daily Word

Greatest commandments | Matthew 22:34-40

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, [ t ] a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And 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.’ 38 This is the great and [ u ] foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 Upon these two commandments [ v ] hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40 (NASB)

Sadducees silenced

In the past passage, Jesus silenced the Sadducees in their attempt to discredit Him and His ministry. Earlier, he had silenced the Pharisees. Yet they seem to wanna take another crack at Jesus. Some people just don’t learn. As I listened to Handel’s Messiah recently, the movement based on Malachi 3:2 made me think of these futile confrontations with Jesus.  “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap.” How can these religious leaders expect to oppose the Messiah?!

Next test

Regardless, the Pharisees send an expert in the law. Surely, they thought, since Jesus had no formal scholarly training as they, it would be easy to trap Him. “This scribe is not asking, ‘which laws from the Scriptures need to be obeyed and which can safely be ignored,’ but ‘what is the fundamental premise of the Law on which all the individual commands depend?’” (TGC) It’s actually a very good question.

Greatest commandments?

And of course Jesus knows the answer – seeing as He is the “Word become flesh” (John 1:14). Not only does He answer their question, “What is the great commandment?” but He tells them the 2nd as well. These two, provide the foundation for all the commandments. These are OT quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, respectively. 

“The vertical dimension (the command to love God) connects with the horizontal dimension (the command to love others) and flows from it (cf. 1Jn 4:20–21).” (TGC) They go together. Loving God is #1 because if we don’t, we really cannot love others. God-love is self-sacrificing. It seeks the best for the other, even though they may not deserve it, and even if it costs the lover greatly. 


  • How would you describe your success in fulfilling these two commandments? If we’re honest, we fall way short. And here we thought the Jews had it difficult trying to keep all the laws! Loving God and others with all we have is even more impossible. And just like the law shows us the need for Christ to save us, so these commands show our need for complete dependence on Him.
Love God, Love neighbor. Image from daybydayinourworld.com *

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