“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.”
The Pharisees come up and ask Jesus Which commandment is the greatest? and Jesus’ answer is interesting. He doesn’t point to any one commandment – in fact, he doesn’t quote any single commandment at all; rather, he gives a summary of all the Commandments – love God and love people.
His answer is instructive – the heart of the Commandments is to love; not as an emotional abstraction (“all we need is love!”) but that in the Commandments we find very specific, concrete principles of what love for God and neighbour ought to look like.
God’s high, holy standard for us is encompassed within the Commandments as a whole. You can’t pick out just one and elevate it above all the others – they are designed to work together as a complete ethical system, each commandment flowing out from the previous one all the way back to the first, and summarized into two tables – love for God (the first table) and love for neighbour (the second table).
Jesus also points out that our love for God and neighbour is never finished. Love your God with ALL your heart and ALL your soul and ALL your mind. How’s that working out for ya? If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll find that under the Law there is always more to do.
When we confess our sins before God, we confess this very thing – We have not loved You with our whole hearts; we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves. We have sinned against God and neighbour in thought, word and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
Thanks be to God that we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, who left nothing undone; who is the beginning and end of love! His grace is sufficient and in Him all things are made complete.
2 thoughts on “Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law ”
Mostly I agree. But Jesus was quoting two of the 613 verses that the Pharisees counted as commandments (mitzvah) from the books of Moses. Jesus was teaching that God’s Law can be summarized by those two commandments, as the other 611 are commentary telling us how to love. J.
I hadn’t considered that, that’s a really good point. Thanks!
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