But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:34–40
In the Bible, there are several passages in which Jesus was tempted by a person’s questions. Jesus often countered these questions with additional questions that revealed the other person’s true intentions. In this case, Jesus answered the lawyer’s question by plainly stating what is known as the dual command of love: love God and love your neighbor.
With All Thy Heart
Luke writes, “Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). In this case, Jesus asks a question in return: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (v. 26). The lawyer answered with the same words as in our text: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (v. 27). Jesus testified that this was the correct answer. This is a commandment that we humans are unable to fulfill, but fulfillment of it is needed to inherit eternal life in heaven.
Why did the lawyer ask a question he knew the answer to? The lawyer’s next question is revealing: “who is my neighbour?” (v. 28). Jesus went on to teach the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. Then He asked, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (v. 36). The answer given, “He that shewed mercy on him” (v. 37), revealed that the lawyer could not utter the word “Samaritan.” To the Jews, the Samaritans were considered unclean and the lawyer was unable to rise above this and fulfill the commandment of love, which includes loving our enemies.
Love One Another
Jesus describes clearly the many characteristics of the Scribes and Pharisees who “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2). He warns of their hypocrisy in attempting to closely follow the law while omitting “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (v. 23). We are instructed to show mercy as God has shown mercy unto us.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded His listeners, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15,16). He also spoke how a good tree brings good fruit and a corrupt tree brings evil fruit.
Paul writes to the Galatians about the fruits of the spirit, the first of which is love. Jesus told His disciples “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
Power to Love Comes through the Holy Spirit
When one receives the grace of repentance and follows Jesus, he or she receives a new heart. This fact is often hidden as the believer often feels doubts and sin. The prophet writes: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). The power to love God and love our neighbor does not come from flesh and blood but from the power of the Spirit.
On the final judgment day, the sheep will be separated from the goats. The sheep will receive a call to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Jesus explains, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matt. 25:35,36). The righteous will ask when they did such things (v. 38,39). Jesus the Great Judge will say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (v. 40). Let us remember to act as the Samaritan did while we yet endeavor to follow Jesus’ great commandment and to travel by faith with the power of the gospel. Thus will we one day attain the glory of heaven.