Surely, this was not the only time Jesus was asked this question. Any Rabbi would talk regularly about the commandments and offer his understanding of their importance and interpret them for the people. The Jewish writings are full of commentary on the commandments, and which is the greatest.
The answer Jesus gave was no great shakes. It was pretty much the standard answer. Love God and Love neighbor. And the way people show their love for God and neighbor these days is not very different from the way people showed it back then. We worship, give money, reach out to the poor, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, do justice, love mercy, walk humbly before our God, and so on and on.
But the thing is, love is a feeling. It engenders all sorts of things like commitment, loyalty, compassion and caring; but it is a feeling………… more on that in the next passage. First, we interrupt this message for a commercial announcement…………
Jesus side steps into messianic prophecy. That’s like having a nice conversation about the synoptic gospels and someone says, “Yeah, but in the book of Revelation…”
By that time, people were wondering, asking, thinking that Jesus was a good candidate for Messiah. Roll out the palm branches. Lay your cloaks in the street. The King is coming to town. The Pharisees certainly knew this. They had to be wondering.
Jesus did not answer that question directly. He asked how the Messiah could be David’s son if David called him Lord. Of course, We know. He was David’s son by adoption. Joseph was not his biological father. Again, the Pharisees might have heard rumors, but Matthew had not written down the birth narrative yet so they could not have known for sure.
For them, it had to be a stumper, let me tell you. But for Matthew, and anyone who has read his gospel since (that means us), this commentary on the heels of Love God and Love neighbor says simply that you cannot love God and neighbor and leave Jesus out of the equation.
Do you love Jesus?
I know a woman who, when she was young and in love, I couldn’t get her to shut-up about her boyfriend. After she got married and had children, I could tell she really loved her children. How? I couldn’t get her to shut-up about them. Yet, how many Christians, when they are in public or in a crowd or at work or play are afraid or embarrassed to say “Jesus” out loud? I’m just asking.
Love God and neighbor? Yes, love Jesus. That is what he was telling the Pharisees. You have heard the rumors. If you think there is the slightest chance that I may in fact be the Messiah, why do you hate me so much that you are trying to trick me with your stupid questions? Shouldn’t you love me?
Shouldn’t we love him? Shouldn’t we be able to answer this question, that when all is said and done, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But which of these is the greatest?