In an earlier write-up titled “Thou shall LOVE the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy Mind.” (Luke 10:27) , I have discussed God’s greatest commandment to mankind. In this write-up, I am going to look at the second greatest commandment of God to mankind. I shall be following Apostle Matthew’s account of the events leading to the question of the doctor of the law.
Before getting into the discussion, it is always good to investigate the background of the questions. “But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” It was Jesus’ second answer to the lawyer’s question that led to the topic of discussion.
In a future article “Who are the Pharisees and the Sadducees?”, I will let you know fully these two groups of people. But for now I will talk briefly about them as part of my comments on this subject of ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGBOUR AS YOURSELF’.
The Sadducees took their name from Zadok, who was high priest a thousand years before the birth of Christ under King David and his son King Solomon. They were believers in God, but their interests were primarily political rather than religious. They were very wealthy and influential people. They were the rich upper class in Isreal.
The Pharisees in general were middle class. They dominated the synagogues. The name Pharisee means literally “separated”. They are supposed to be separated from all uncleaness of soul and body. They were arrogant, greedy for men’s applause, greedy for money, hypocrites above all.
The learned ones among the Pharisees were known as scribes. They were called Rabbi or Masters. They studied Moses and the prophets. They studied scribes who had gone before them; they analyze, refined, applied the law to new circumstances, multiplied its precepts more and more minutely.
God loves man so much. Two example of God’s love for man are (1) God made man in His own image (Gen 1:26-28) and (2) God love the world so much, that HE gave HIS only begotten son, Jesus, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Love is the meaning of man’s relation with God. In the law taught by the scribes there were 613 commandments -248 of thing one must do, 365 of things one must not do. To test Jesus, a doctor of the law asked Him which of these was the greatest one, the fundamental one. This question was to test Jesus’ judgement of values and the extent of His learning as well. It was a tough question the kind you might get in a Doctor of Law examination. But Jesus, the most intelligent man, the Son of God knew the right answers and he answered quoting the scriptures.
For the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted (Deuteronomy 6:5) – “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength”. That, said Jesus, was the “the greatest and the first commandment”. Jesus went further saying “And the second is like unto it” (Matt 22:39) and Jesus quoted from the Book of Leviticus (19:18) – “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself and Jesus concluded His answer by saying “On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40). Thus, Jesus summed up the whole duty of man in the love of God and love of neighbor.
The doctor of law was impressed by Jesus’ answers and he repeated them himself and added: “To love one’s neighbor as oneself is a greater thing than all holocausts and sacrifices.” And Jesus complimented him by saying “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”
But the young lawyer was not finished with Jesus yet. He had accepted love of God and love of neighbor as the two greatest commandments but Evangelist Luke (Luke 10:29) told us that the lawywer willing to justify himself said unto Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? Jesus answered with what has become what is regarded as his most famous parable “The Good Samaritan”.
Evangelist Luke wrote (Luke 10:30-36), and Jesus answering said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his rainment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him. He had compassion on him. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence and gave them to the host, and said unto him, ‘Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spend more, when I come again, I will repay thee’. Which now of these three do you think was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
Samaritans were the next-door neighbours to whom the Jew’s felt so very un-neighbourly. Hatred flowed steadily between these two peoples. What Jesus was saying here is that your neighbor is anyone that you come in contact with everyday or anyone that may need your help is your neighbor. Jesus by this parable taught everybody especially His people the Jews that Samaritans are neighbours of the Jews. The Jews must love the Samaritan and the other people of the world as themselves. Neighbor includes all men and women irrespective of race, colour, religion, sex, etc. There is No one who is not our neighbor, no one whom we are not called upon to love as ourselves. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love”. (I Jn 4:8). Love is not God.
The lawyer answered Jesus question to him by saying (Luke 10:37) “He that showed mercy on him”. Then Jesus said unto him, “Go, and do thou likewise”. Note too, how Jesus answered more than the questions that were actually asked. From “Who is our neighbor He advances to what neighborliness involves – anyone who needs love and help.
To our Heavenly Father who has always proved to be a wonderful Neighbor be our thanks, honor, glory and praise forever. Amen.