Lesson 3: Holy Week
Devotion: Read Matthew 22:34-40. The two greatest commandments are fairly simple to understand, but very difficult to put into practice. Both are incredibly important, but we must not forget that loving God comes first. We cannot fulfill the call “to love your neighbor as yourself” if we do not first love God. Putting our family and friends first seems like a way of honoring them, but it is not wise or even very loving in the end. When we make loving our family, friends, or all humanity the first priority in our lives, we turn them into idols. When they are idols, whenever we place that much emphasis on them, we eventually demand that those relationships provide meaning and purpose for our lives. Only God can bring that meaning for which we hunger. Loving God provides the grounding we need to truly love other people. What actions can Christians perform that keep God first? In what situations are we tempted to place someone or something ahead of God? How would you feel if someone demanded you provide their life meaning and purpose?
Personal Worship Option: Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9. As the scripture says, physically write the words of verses 4 and 5 out by hand. Place this copy somewhere in your house, car, office, or school where you will see if for a few days. Reflect on its words each time you see it.
Dig A Little Deeper:
22:34 These verses are a continuation of a test the religious leaders begin in Matthew 22:15. Read 22:15-33 to understand the context of our passage. What is being communicated about the relationship between Jesus and the religious leaders in our reading? Notice Jesus asks a question to them in 22:41!
22:35 Rabbis often ask one another questions and debate answers.
22:37 Jesus’ answer reflects his earlier teachings on the relationship of God’s New Covenant to the Covenant with Abraham (5:17). He quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Both of these passages are quite common in rabbinic theological conversation. Yet, his teaching is radical in two ways. First, his life redefines how the love of God becomes incarnate, serves, and sacrifices for the creation. His teachings tie the New Covenant to the Hebrew Covenant. This brings us back to the major difference between the two Covenants. The first is maintained by maintaining written rules. The second is built on relationship with a living Savior. When we attempt to return to a set of rules, rather than relying on the guidance of the Spirit, we miss the very gift Jesus brings.
Second, he links the love of God to the love of neighbor, saying the latter “is like” the first. Traditional Judaism would assume the first is a much greater commandment. While we would all like to see a perfect balance between these two in our lives, few of us are perfect! To which side of those commandments do you pay more attention: loving God or loving neighbor?