Updated: Feb 24
Brothers and Sisters!
The great commandment is a term that is used to describe what Yahusha says in Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:27. In these accounts Yahusha is asked what the most important thing for people of Yahuah to do. His answer is brilliant.
In essence what Yahusha does is distill the entire Scripture into one commandment. Well, really it’s two commandments combined into one.
But this passage of Scripture should be a foundational mark for every follower of Yahusha. It deserves a closer look.
Three gospels record Yahusha talking about the great commandment. There are small variations in each of the accounts, but the main details are the same. We will primarily focus on Matthew 22:36-40.
When we read the Scriptures it’s important to read it in context. That means that we read the verses before and after. This gives us a better picture of what is happening.
In Matthew 22, before and after the great commandment, Yahusha is enthralled in a heated conflict with the religious leaders. They are throwing question after question at him trying to trap him in his answers.
As Yahusha continues teaching and the religious leaders keep asking questions a common theme unfolds. They ask, Yahusha answers, and they are astonished. They can’t trip him up. He continually answers perfectly.
This is making the religious leaders look foolish and they are getting angry. In the coming chapters of Matthew we will see them get more and more aggressive at trying to stop Yahusha.
The context of the great commandment is one of building tension. A widening gap between Yahusha and the religious. What’s clear is they have different agendas. The religious want to keep the power for themselves and are placing unnecessary burdens on people. Yahusha came to love and set free. They are at odds.
It’s in this context that we see Yahusha gives us these now famous words. So, what is the greatest commandment in the Scriptures?
After a series of failed attempts to trip Yahusha up the religious leaders select an expert in the law as their spokesman. This guy knew his stuff. He was both an expert in theology and law, and he steps up to test Yahusha and prove his quality. (Matthew 22:34-35)
The Pharisee asks Yahusha a controversial question that was commonly debated among religious experts. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)
Now the Mosaic Law contained 613 commandments. It would be nearly impossible for one to perfectly keep all these laws. So typically the religious would divide the laws into the heavy (more important) and light (less important). The Pharisees taught the Yahudiym that they needed to follow all the laws, but to pay closer attention to the heavy ones.
In essence what this lawyer is asking is, which one of the heavies is most important?
Remember this is a hotly debated topic. The religious leaders are split, they don’t have an answer. And they certainly don’t expect Yahusha to nail it. But he does.
Yahusha answers, “Love Yahuah your Alahiym 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 22:38-40
Yahushas’ answer comes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. And what he’s saying is the greatest commanded isn’t a single commandment, rather two that are tied together. You cannot have one without the other.
The terms Yahusha uses (heart, soul, and mind) are used to cover the WHOLE person. In other words, Yahusha is sayings that we are to love Yahuah with our whole being.
But that’s not all there is to the great commandment. Matthew 22:38 tacks on an “and” that serves to clarify how we live this out. The first command is great because it is primary. But the second is equal in character and quality.
You cannot untie these two from one another. As we love Yahuah with our whole being we must love our neighbors. You cannot do one without the other.
The rest of the Old Testament hangs on these two commandments.
“All the other laws deal with specific applications of one or the other of these two commands. The prophets consistently stressed the importance of heart reality with Yahuah and genuine love for one’s neighbor. Without these two commandments the Old Testament lacks unifying summaries. These are the most important commandments, but they are not the only ones.”
So, what is the greatest commandment in the Scriptures? Love Yahuah, love others. Everything else in the Bible flows from these two commandments.
This was revolutionary. Yahusha brilliantly simplified and explained what we are to do. Everything else is just commentary on how we can love Yahuah and love those around us. That is what we are to do. These are our marching orders.
So, how do we live out the greatest commandment?
It’s important that we don’t lose sight of our motive to live out the great commandment. We don’t do this to earn salvation, but in response to. We love because we were first loved.
I see far too many claimed believers running around trying to do the right things to earn their keep. Unfortunately many called out assemblies have taught this. That we need to do what Yahuah says so that he will love us, accept us, and save us.
But the Scriptures teaches a different approach. We don’t love to earn love; we love because we are loved.
With the proper motivation in mind let’s look at how we can practically live out the great commandment.
When Yahusha says to love the Adonai with all your heart, soul, and mind, he’s talking how loving Yahuah with every single aspect of who we are. No part of our life should be left out.
Maybe that seems a little demanding. And it is. Two things to keep in mind. First, Yahuah has given us the free will to decide to follow him or not. We are not forced. Second, it’s for our benefit. When we live for ourselves it never produces what we hope.
Be honest with yourself. That part of your life that you haven’t given over to Yahuah, is it life giving or life draining? When we ignore what Yahuah says is best, it doesn’t lead to a full life.
The only way to get the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness that Yahuah promised is to give our lives fully to him. Those who choose to follow Yahusha should submit every aspect of their life to Yahuah so that they can experience all that he has for them
Again, this isn’t to earn anything. This is in response to what Yahusha has done. He’s proven his love and commitment to us. He’s shown us that he deeply cares about us. Now it’s our turn to show our trust that what he says for us is indeed what is best.
Our love for Yahuah should not stop with Yahuah, it should flow to those around us. You cannot love Yahuah while neglecting those around you.
While most will certainly agree with the second piece to the great commandment, living it out is another story. Some people are easy to love, others not so much. And we are called not to just love our friends, but also those who are difficult to love.
Lest we forget that we aren’t so easy to love either. Yet Yahuah still loves us.
Our love for Yahuah should be evident in how we treat those around us. Including our enemies.
This is what Yahusha says will be the marker for the true believer. We shall be known for our love for one another (John 13:35).
We are to take the love that Yahuah has shown us and bring it to the world around us.
The beauty of Yahushas’ words is their simplicity. He sums up the entire Scripture in a way no one else could. But that’s not to say the great commandment is easy. It’s simple to understand, but it takes a lifetime to master.
And that’s where Yahuah’s grace comes in. We will all struggle and constantly screw this up. But Yahuah is faithful. He will lift us up when we fall and help us look more like him each day.
We should continually strive to submit every area of our life to Yahuah and love those around us as a response to what Yahuah has done for us. We will never be perfect on this side of heaven, but we will make progress.