International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending April 18, 2010
Purpose: To emphasize that love is the ultimate commandment of God.
Scripture Text: Matthew 22:34-40 (NRSV)
(34) When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, (35) and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. (36) ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ (37)He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (38)This is the greatest and first commandment. (39)And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (40)On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Last week we learned from I John the importance of love within the church, and how that act helps to define us as Christians. In today's lesson Christ refines that even more and challenges us not only to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also our enemies, and those that are less fortunate than ourselves, the poor and helpless.
It is important that we understand why the Book of Matthew was written and who the primary audience was at the time of the writing. Matthew's primary audience was the Jews, and Matthew was trying to convince those Jews that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. Matthew is aware that Jesus did not satisfy the vision that most Jews had concerning the Messiah. Matthew's writing was an attempt to correct the perception of the Jews. In writing about Jesus teachings, he divided his book into five different discourses:
1. 5:1-7:29, Sermon on the Mount
2. 10:5-42, Mission Discourse
3. 13:1-53, Parables of the Kingdom of God
4. 18:1-35, Nature of discipleship and Forgiveness
5. 23:1-25:46, Judgment Discourse.
Because Matthew was writing to the Jews he uses more Old Testament scripture references than any of the other gospel writers. The Messiah in Matthew's book was a Messiah that would bring about social change not a conquering King. His book would change the way we viewed God and bring us to a new understanding of righteousness as evidenced by the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount text.
Our text is presented in a slightly different setting in Matthew than it is in Mark. 12:28-34. Matthew has it more confrontational “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Matthew has Jesus simply quoting the familiar Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This is known to the Jews as the “Shema” and was prayed daily by devout Jews, Shema coming from the first word in the passage “hear”.
Jesus also offers a second commandment taken from the Book of Leviticus 19:18, but chooses not to quote the whole verse and the preceding verse which helps define the Old Testament teaching. 17You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself.18You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD. Jesus expands on the neighbor concept when he goes on and relates the parable of the Good Samaritan to include not only your neighbors and kin or anyone in need, but also your enemies, because that is what the Samaritans were considered in Jesus time on earth.
God has given us two types of law: God's moral law which is the Ten Commandments and God's law of love which is what we find in today's lesson. We are obligated to follow both if we sincerely want to be Christ like in our living and in our doing.
Are your actions consistent with what you claim to believe? What do you think it means to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind? Is it possible the following phrase applies to your Christian testimony? “I hear what you are saying, but I see what you are doing.”