Debates about scripture were not unusual for the rabbis. They regularly devoted themselves to hair-splitting legalism and carried on protracted tedious debates about the commandments. Assessing which of 613 commandments were great and small was likely a daily occurrence. So, it is not unusual for Jesus, teaching in the temple, to be asked which was in a sense the ‘superlative’ one.
Jesus’ answer is stunningly simple and deeply insightful. His answer could be summed up in one word; Love! This thought is perfectly echoed by the Apostle Paul in writing to his friends in Corinth. His incomparable description of the intense unselfish love which is the hallmark of the Jesus follower who is filled with God’s Spirit reaches a crescendo as he writes; ‘So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love’.
This all-encompassing love should be directed towards God, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might’ (Deut 6:5) and towards man. ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Lev 19:18)
Every part of our being must work together in a breath-taking symphony of loving God. The heart, the hub of our very existence which Solomon says from it ‘flow the springs of life’ (Prov 4:23). The soul, the very centre of our emotions must be brought to the table. We then find that there are slight differences in the different accounts in scripture. Moses says ‘all your might’, Matthew writes ‘all your mind’ and John Mark pens ‘all your mind and with all your strength’. However, clearly, the distinct and strong message is that we should Love God with every faculty and fibre of our being gifted to us by God himself.
Our complete sell-out and wild abandonment to this Love of God is accentuated by the triple lock of ‘all… all… all’ or in some translations ‘whole… whole… whole’. There is no room for half-hearted indifference in our relationship with the divine. Jesus reminded the Laodiceans through John, his closest friend while here on earth, that tepid ‘lukewarmness’ made him want to vomit. When the wholehearted unrestrained love of the Father dawns on a fearful and alienated human it cannot birth feeble half-hearted affection but raw raucous love that pervades and infiltrates every aspect of our existence. It is no wonder Paul exclaimed in wild wonder:
‘Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out!’ – Rom 11:33
This most excellent love, birthed in the deepest and teeming overflow of gratitude for God’s epochal shifting gift of extravagant love, must not only reach the heavenlies: it must deluge our fellow human beings. This love for God was to be replicated to our neighbours and, in another teaching, moment surrounded by self-righteous law lovers, Jesus made it clear that neighbours include those who are different in every way including, politically and ethnically. Every human who has and will set foot on planet earth is an image-bearer of God and although the icon is cracked by sin or expression of love for the father is self-sacrificing love for them.
This two-fold command, love God, love others, is the peg that the whole of the ‘law & prophets’ hangs upon. Remove this peg and everything is lost!
Father, help me to discover more and more the depths of our unrelenting love for me. Help me never to be indifferent about sacrifice, obedience and suffering of Jesus your son. I am grateful beyond words that by experiencing your wrath and forsaking I now experience your incessant presence and unfailing and enduring limitless love.
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series