We often hear about speak on, and gloss over the three parts Jesus gave us in “The Greatest Commandment”. But why three things? Why didn’t Jesus just give us one thing? Today, I am going to show you that Jesus was speaking about just one thing but in three parts as the “Greatest Commandment”.
Matthew writes in 22:36, “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
It’s important to note that Pharisees in the time of Jesus were religious “lawyers” or a student of the Law of Moses. We all know that layers in today’s age exist in many if not most cases to prove a point-whether true and honest or not. In today’s passage, this Pharisee put the Lord to a test with a question designed to reveal how much Christ knew about the law.
In reply, to answer the lawyer’s question, Jesus said:
“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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Jesus was quoting from the great Jewish confession of faith called “the Schema”. The confession is called this because it begins with the Hebrew word “schema”, meaning “HEAR:” “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God , the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5; 11:13-21)
The Pharisees knowing the Hebrew Scriptures knew the answer to their own question as it was clarified in Isaiah 33:15; Amos 5:4 and Micah 6:8 and Hab: 2:4. In the big picture when Jesus said to “Love the Lord your God”, he sharply defined he answer in three focussed ways as to how the Pharisees and all people were to understand and live out life on earth in light of God’s Word. As such, Jesus mentions that we are love with all of our HEART, SOUL and MIND. So what does this mean?
We are to “LOVE THE LORD OUR GOD WILL ALL OUR…”
- HEART: Includes our emotions, passions, desires, and motivations.
- SOUL: Simply means our “ALL”.
- And MIND: meaning our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, memory, imagination and intelligence.
In the PHYSICAL this means our senses and actions.
In the NON-PHYSICAL this means our conscience, will, personality, temperament, and spirit.
All of these aspects are inter-related; each facet affecting and influencing the other, We cannot separate one aspect of our being from another. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to look at each one individually so that we can understand ourselves better and therefore love God more fully.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "GREAT" and "FIRST"?
Verses 38-40 go on to say, “This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbors as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law of the Prophets”.
Some Greek texts place “GREAT” before “FIRST”. Nevertheless, love for God takes priority over every other command is the point. Looking at verse 39, this command (love your neighbor) is from Leviticus 19:18 but is not an imperative to love one’s self. People naturally love themselves and are at least somewhat self-centered to begin with. Because we love ourselves, we want the best for ourselves: likewise, we should be concerned for the welfare of others. Lastly, verse 40 wraps up nicely in that the Ten Commandments can be divided into two categories: those dealing with love for God (the first four) and those dealing with the last six). The same way he said for “all the Law and the Prophets”.
IN CONCLUSION: While we often hear about speak on, and gloss over the three things Jesus said about “The Greatest Commandment”, the Bible makes clear that Jesus was speaking about three parts and not as three things. These three things in sum equal the single greatest commandment.
When Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, He was indicating that love for God is to come from every facet of one’s constitution or mental clarity as to how we will live our life. It is unlikely that the Pharisees would have taken exception to this part of His answer. “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” meaning to taking delight in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the phrase “AS YOURSELF” is used to prove the need for cultivating a positive self-image before being able to love others. But Moses and Jesus assume self-love as the basis for the comparison of loving one’s neighbor. When one is cold, he puts on a sweater; when he is hungry, he eats. As one happily meets his own needs, i.e. “loves himself”, he should similarly meet the needs of his neighbor. Those two great commandments are mutually exclusive, for if one loves God he will love what God loves, and God loves people (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 John 4:20).
In the end, if we LOVE the Lord our God with our ALL, we will naturally love our neighbor as ourself. And this is what Jesus meant by the Greatest Commandment.