This is post #12 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: When the Pharisees heard how He had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show Him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22: 34-40 (MsgB)
I’m hoping you’re starting to see the pattern here.
From the very first day of Holy Week, the Sunday we call Palm Sunday, right through to the earliest hours of what we now call Good Friday, the Gospel writers are doing their very best to show us the war going on between Jesus, the true Son of God, and those who are masquerading as chosen sons of God.
The names assigned to these son-of-God-imposters (Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.) are irrelevant. In truth, they are nothing but frauds. Men who have taken on the title of religious leaders yet, in fact, know very little about God and know even less about how God works.
Jesus has spent the last three years speaking about and demonstrating, first hand, how much God, the Father, loves His creation and is now about to die on a lonely cross for that very message. Yet here in Jerusalem, those who are called to serve as priests of that same loving God, are spending more time trying to defend their high leadership position than actually humbling themselves before the greatest work of love ever accomplished by that same loving God.
Intriguing, isn’t it?
The religious system that was established by God, called to come alongside God’s people, has now become God’s greatest enemy.
Yet, just to demonstrate the amazing power of God to overcome any challenger or enemy of the Divine, look at today’s passage in Matthew’s Gospel. Here we find a religion scholar coming to Jesus, looking for a creative way to trip up the Son of God, yet what happens through this botched attempt at evil actually turns into one of Jesus’ most brilliant moments. One of His finest statements. One of the deepest truths ever spoken by the Son of God.
Let’s review the scenario one more time.
A Pharisee, whose primary goal is to ask a trick question of Jesus, actually prompts the Master to offer to all of us who want to live a life that glorifies God, an amazing answer to one of our most difficult questions of faith.
“God, what do you really want from me?”
Jesus gives one simple answer that literally blows the doors off any attempt to make religion complicated. An insight into God and His Kingdom that is so deep, so wide, so high, we Christians are still trying to wrap our little pea-brains around it.
Here it is, folks, in plain English. One answer with a dual assignment.
Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love others as you have learned to love yourself.
I like the way Eugene Peterson translates it:
Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. Love others as well as you love yourself.
And then, Jesus says something here that should rock us to the very core.
These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.
So, do you want a summary of everything we need to know about God and how you and I are to respond to this God?
Do you want a simple task to keep in front of you as you attempt to live your life for the glory of God?
Do you want a fresh reminder of what God expects of you on a day-to-day basis?
Here it is…once more.
Love God. Love yourself and love others.
Let me say it again…
Love God. Love yourself and love others.
One Commandment of Love. For the greater glory of God.
Thanks, Mr. Religion Scholar. Despite your evil attempts to entrap Jesus into a deadly snare, you actually ended up prompting the true Son-of-God to give us an amazing one-liner that has resonated throughout all time as the truest way to walk with God, myself and others.
My Prayer: Jesus, thank You for the response You gave this guy. Thank You that You didn’t get mad at him, walk away from him, or scold him for his ignorant, religious agenda. Thank You that Your answer to this man has now made my work of following God a fairly simple process. Love God. Love myself and love others. Now, Holy Spirit, please come to indwell me and empower me to live out these simple acts of love so that I might fulfill Your great commandment. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions to Ponder: So today, which of these two acts of love need the most attention? Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind? Am I learning to love myself as God loves me, so that as I receive God’s gift of love, I’m also empowered to then love others as much as I’m learning to love God and myself? How might learning to live in this simple commandment of love change my life and the way I treat others?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!