We don’t like hearing about laws. Modern culture looks sideways at laws, and we are immersed in that culture. Many of the lawmakers we hear or read of are usually flawed people, at a large distance from us, and are often hardly worthy of respect. So what about Jesus? Consider the following two laws spoken of by Jesus:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:36-40
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
– John 13:34-35
Here we see several profound and radical truths. Profound, because they cover so much of scripture in so few words; radical, because they turn the world as we know it on its head. At their heart, both sets of teaching have love at their core. Both deal with three different subjects: God, me, and you. You cannot remove any one of those three from the formula and have the same world-changing power that God has worked into the gospel.
Jesus places two commandments from the Old Testament side by side. Look carefully. By saying the second is “like” the first, He is saying that they are together. Throughout history, they have been fused as one “great commandment.” We cannot be pleasing to God if we love our neighbor well, but don’t love God; we cannot be pleasing to God if we love Him well, but don’t love our neighbor. (Luke’s telling of the Great Commandment is followed by the parable of the Good Samaritan for a reason.) We are bound by God to immense love, and on this hangs all the teaching of the Old Testament.
As those who cling to Jesus, we see a further commandment, that is, to love one another as Jesus has loved us. That means that I love you not because you’ve done something to make me love you, but because Jesus has done something to make me love you. This stands apart from you doing anything to make me love you. My behavior toward you is a serious matter between Jesus and me. By it, the world gets turned upside down. By it, the world will know that we are Jesus’ disciples.
Three of Jesus’ disciples have an extra description besides their names and family in the list of disciples in Matthew 10:1-4. Matthew the Tax Collector, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the Betrayer. Jesus hand-picked this group out of those who were following Him. Consider that Matthew was seen as a traitor and collaborator in the Roman domination of Israel. Then consider that Simon was part of the movement that was eager to spill Roman blood, and the blood of those who were allies of the Romans. These men had to eat meals together. By their love for one another, all those who saw them and knew them were astounded. Jesus asked them to love one another as He loved them both. May the Lord have mercy on us and help us to have this kind of love as well.