November 16, 2013

{Day 16} Saved and Called: The Greatest Commandment

If you're just popping in on this November series, you can catch up here.
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This would be a terrible series, indeed, if we did not take a look at Jesus' words on the call to the holy life.  He said many things, most of which we will not get to because thirty days is not enough time.  (But don't let me keep you from exploring the Scriptures on your own.  Yes, you should definitely do that!)

Since we've been on a commandments kick, let's take a look at Jesus' responses when people asked Him what the greatest commandment is, or in the second case, what we must do to inherit eternal life.  There are two of these stories recorded in the Bible.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:34-40

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37

Do you know what Jesus does here?  He does the same thing as Micah.  Thinking about the ten commandments, He doesn't pick one of them and say, This is the most important one.  Nope.  He summarizes them.  All four in the first table of the law - instructing us how to honor, respect, and love God - are the greatest commandment.  Jesus summed it up like this:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Then the second greatest races in quickly behind that, summarized in the phrase, love your neighbor as yourself.

In saying those things, Jesus turns what we want to make a ten-point, pat-yourself-on-the-back checklistinto a two-point commission that God's people must daily commit to pursuing and will require complete trust in and dependence on Him.

Jesus didn't raise the bar, He told them how high the bar has always been.  His questioners wanted to make God's law manageable and neat, to be sure they were A.O.K. with the Holy One.  Jesus instructs them: Obedience unto eternal life isn't ultimately about the law, it is about love in relationship, first with your God, then with fellow man.

We need a lifetime to learn to do this.  We need the blood of Jesus to cover all our sins.  We need the Holy Spirit to help us think of God and others before ourselves.  We need the law to remind us how God want his set-apart (holy) people to live set-apart (holy) lives.*

God gives all these things.


*     *     *

Monday, let's take a more in-depth look at the Good Samaritan parable.  I don't know about you, but I can always use a refresher on loving my neighbor.

Have a good weekend.

*For a refresher on what holiness is, click back to Day 7 and Day 8.

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