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Pretty simple, but…
Dan Krahenbuhl

“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40, NASB95). The Bible can be a pretty overwhelming book. The commandments a staggering expectation to know and keep. So, when Jesus says something like this, I pay attention!  

A “lawyer,” an expert in Jewish religious law, asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. He was testing Jesus (verse 35) who had just silenced some leaders of another religious party who tried to trap Him.  Which commandments were more important or weighty than others were debated among the Jewish religious leaders of the day, so this must have seemed like the perfect question to trap Jesus. This was late in Jesus’ ministry and the religious establishment had progressed from being uncomfortable with Jesus to wanting to get rid of Him.  

Here’s how Jesus answered the “most important commandment” question. “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 foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” Jesus answered with quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  

The Law and the Prophets was the earliest two-part division of the whole Hebrew Bible, which is our Old Testament. The word “depend” (verse 20 above) tells us that Jesus was giving a framework for interpreting the whole Bible, which logically makes sense to include the New Testament as well. Thus, a correct understanding of the meaning and application of all Scripture concludes with loving God and loving people. What’s interesting is that the 10 commandments can be divided into loving God (the first four) and loving others (the last six).  

If we sincerely read and study the Bible, looking at the workings and will of God, it should move us to love Him more and more. We will see not only His love but His justice, we’ll see not only His power but also His goodness, not only His holiness but His mercy, etc. The more we grasp the nature and character of God, the more we should realize the abundance of His mercy and grace toward us, which in turn should move us to extend it to others.  

Jesus is telling the lawyer that if a person maintains a whole-hearted love of God and others, they will be keeping all the commandments. Pretty simple, but pretty hard to do. In fact, no one can fully love God and others, which is why Jesus went to the cross. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty for our failure to keep all of God’s commandments. So, the standard is still love God and love others, but the provision for forgiveness is Jesus’ death on the cross. This provision is received by turning to Christ and personally placing faith in what He did on the cross. Pretty simple, but pretty amazing — actually, pretty love inspiring.

— Reflections appears regularly on the religion page. The column features a variety of local writers, coordinated through the Monroe Area Clergy Group. Dan Krahenbuhl is pastor of Monroe Bible Church.