The Pharisees, Sadducees, Jesus and love

Matthew 22:34-40 NLT – But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. [35] One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: [36] “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” [37] Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [40] The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

In this passage there a lot going on, more than we might expect from a surface reading. You see the Pharisees and Sadducees were two sects of Jews at the time of Christ. They had some things in common, but were at odds in some major areas.

The Pharisees loved the Word of God. They studied it intensely and made lots of rules based on their interpretations. They regarded the Word and their rules high above everything and tried very hard to live up to them. Living in righteous way was their highest goal.

The Sadducees regarded the Word highly, but also focussed very heavily on the Temple and worship in the Temple. The Temple was their key focus. As a result they were often at odds with the Pharisees because they did not place any trust in the rules they had created.

In this passage an expert in religious law came and asked Jesus a question, it was one they tried to trap the Pharisees with about which is the most import rule of their over 600 rules. Rather than placing Jesus in a difficult situation, Jesus answered with wisdom and authority.

Jesus told them the most important law was to love God with all of you heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind – a complete love. To give them even more Jesus gave them a bonus commandment – love your neighbour as yourself. He goes on to say that if we obey these two commandments we obey the whole law and everything the prophets said throughout history.

This answer was like hitting a home run in baseball, a big six in cricket or a slam dunk in basketball! No doubt the Sadducees would have been happy that the rules of the Pharisees were reduced to two rules and the Pharisees would have like to see the Sadducees answered so easily.

For us today, Jesus’ words can be an encouragement to us. Of course we are not under the Old Testament law, but we can learn a lot from Jesus’ answer. If we focus our hearts, minds and souls on loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves, we will be on track. We don’t have to worry about what others are doing, we just need to focus on these two things.

So today, let us purpose in our hearts to love God and love our neighbour. It is as simple as that.

God Bless,