The Greatest Commandment

Mark 12:28-34

29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” RSV

Deuteronomy 6:4,5 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

One of the enduring mysteries of Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity. We rehearse the Nicene Creed every Sunday because it is the gold standard of our faith.

We rehearse it, not to memorize it because there is a test, but so that it becomes ingrained in our hearts.

It starts We believe in One God.

As you heard from the reading of Deuteronomy chapter 6, it is the source that Jesus quoted when asked the question, “which is the greatest commandment?”

This is referred to as the Shema (or the “Saying”), a central teaching in Judaism, says that the Lord is one: “Hear, OIsrael: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

The opening words of the Bible are In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The notion that there is one God begins right there. The Jews have always been taught there is One God.

Now, we are used to there being One God, but to the nations around Israel, there is a history of idol worship, and this is especially true of Rome and Greece. I remember studying in school about the mythology of the ancient world and it’s huge amount of gods. The planets in our solar system are even named after the Greek gods.

Mercury, Venus (Earth),Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Etc.

Even the planet Vulcan, where Mr. Spock came from, is named for the god of fire and blacksmiths.

St. John Chrysostom, in his commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew wrote, “the saying, There is one God, and there is none other but He, both in the Old Testament and everywhere, is spoken not to the rejection of the Son, but to make the distinction from idols.”

What I want to do today is to look closely as the Commandments of God, and especially the greatest commandment as spoken by our Lord Jesus.

While we are not bound by the Laws of Moses for our salvation, Jesus never canceled the Laws, but said that came to fulfill them. That means our salvation is from the Lord and not the Laws.

Which is fine by me, as some of the laws are just wrong! Bacon for example! I like bacon.

As Jesus pointed out in the Gospel we heard today, the greatest Law, the most important one, is that we love the Lord our God.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

In other words, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And if anyone loves me, he will keep my WORD.”

Here the Greek word is LOGOS. This does not just mean what he says. It means Him, the Spoken Word of God. John wrote in the first chapter, The LOGOS was made flesh and dwelled among us.

There are some who say they believe, but they do not keep the Lord’s WORD. Why, because it’s inconvenient to heed the words of St. Paul. They have separated the writings of St. Paul from the WORD of God, because they simply disagree, and want to make innovations that serve the culture instead of our LORD.

Jesus spoke through St. Paul. The Fathers of the Church included the letters written by Paul in the Bible because they are in harmony with what Jesus taught. If you take Jesus words out of context, you could say that the two commandments were all you needed.

If it’s all about love, then just about anything goes. I don’t think that is what our Lord meant when he said to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you need a guide for Godly behavior, listen to St. Paul in Galations 5.

“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Chrysostom wrote: “For every motive then let us abstain from this, and set our love on God’s praise alone. For thus shall we both attain to honor here, and enjoy the eternal blessings, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.”

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