Sunday

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ (v.36)

Matthew 22: 34-46 Sunday 25 October 2020

Psalm 1

Background

People in most countries around the world today are conflicted in their attitude and behaviour as they face the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a real tension between our personal liberty and rights on the one hand, and on the other the responsibilities we have towards others in the community. This is particularly acute as the people we mix with may have a range of health needs. Do my personal rights necessarily conflict with community responsibilities?

 Of course, this dilemma between rights and responsibilities is not new. It affects everyone who lives in any community at any time. Usually, laws in a democratic society strive to keep an acceptable balance, with politicians as well as ‘ordinary’ people in the street ready to protest if they feel the scales are weighted too heavily one way or the other. So what guidelines might we follow as Christians?

 Today’s reading from Matthew 22 is very similar to the preamble to the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10. In both gospels Jesus is asked a question by a lawyer. In Luke’s account Jesus asks the lawyer what the law says about inheriting eternal life; in Matthew’s gospel it is Jesus himself who answers the question “which commandment in the law is the greatest?” The answer is essentially the same: love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.

 These two commandments are the basis for any Christian who is living in community. Followers of Jesus Christ will acknowledge the love that is at the very heart of the creation that we call God; the love that continues to create daily and which now involves you and me; the love which is at the heart of God’s kingdom both now and into eternity. As we re-affirm our love for God, we can do no other than affirm our love for the part of God’s creation in which we exist. Moreover, when filled with God’s spirit, we realise that we can be co-creators with God, which includes the building up of each other in love.

 Verses 41 to 46 in the passage appear to be a complicated word play exercise! What is actually being expressed is Jesus confirming his authority. To be called “son of David” is inadequate; the Messiah is the “son of God”. Jesus appears to be saying that his listeners need to heed his words of authority – specifically here, to follow the commands to love God as well as one’s neighbour as oneself.

 To Ponder:

  • When we see people behaving towards one another in a spirit of kindness and gentleness, do we also see a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, or in the final words of StF hymn 32 “…and earth is turned to heaven”?
  • In your prayers today, give thanks to God for the times recently when you have been aware of people loving their neighbours – sometimes sacrificially.
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