Jesus has been both instructing and illustrating about greatness in the Kingdom, and great crowds began to follow him. Most recently he has, for the third time, specifically predicted his death and resurrection, though most did not understand this was the redemptive fulfillment of His life. What is coming is a sham trial, public beating and mocking, and the death of a condemned criminal among criminals. We are now in the last week of Jesus’ life. His entry into Jerusalem, his final instructions to the crowds and to the disciples, and the courage to face the cross contrary to his will but in obedience to the heavenly Father. Final instructions for the disciples include inheriting eternal life and greatness in the Kingdom
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40.
1. Greatest of the Commandments. For all the 513 commands and laws of the Old Testament, the greatest commandment is not what we do, but what we are. We are to be lovers of God. We are designed for that, we are made in His image, and our greatest joys come in restoration of relationship – first beginning in salvation through Jesus and then in obedience, in loving God and His people because of the grace and mercy given to us. No wonder 1 Corinthians affirms: Now remains, faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
2. Loving my Neighbor [Rather] than Myself. This is often misunderstood as permission to become self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and selfish toward my needs and interests before others. After all, if we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others? Now it is true that we need to care for ourselves, and that fundamental care will impact those around us. But it is contrary to everything about the New Testament, and particularly the Good Samaritan of Luke 10 that we are to indulge ourselves, contrary to the life of serving and caring for others. The ‘more religious’ priest and Levite ignored the wounded traveler. The Samaritan took him in, cared for him, made provision for his added care. And when asked by Jesus, who was the one acting toward his neighbor, the answer was ‘the one who took pity on him’. My neighbor is one whose need I see, and whose need I can meet. That is greatness in matters of eternity.
No wonder the early instruction in James is as follows: my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5.
Blessings on you as you make this week count in matters that count the most.
- John Moore