Read: Matthew 22
When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching. (Matthew 22:33, NLT)
Like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when Jesus spoke, people listened. They were often left with the same reaction that Matthew 22:22 & 33 recorded: They were mesmerized. There was just something about this rabbi they had never encountered before among Israel’s many notable religious teachers.
What was it that the crowds were so amazed and astonished at whenever they heard Jesus teach? Was it Jesus’ winsome personality and his engaging speaking ability that awed them? For sure, Jesus’ charisma and confidence were of a caliber that would impress even the most discriminating audience. Was it the miracles that often attended his exposition of the Scripture? Certainly that would have impressed the people listening, since no other religious authority had been able to pull off signs and wonders in their sessions.
For sure, those were factors in the public’s attraction to Jesus, but what really touched them at the core was how Jesus brought the long-awaited Kingdom of God easily within their grasp. Furthermore, the incredible profundity of the absolute simplicity of Jesus’ summary of the entire law of God into two simple, doable commands was music to their ears:
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Amazingly, the people in Jesus’ day had never heard God’s Word explained that way before. Instead, they had been led to believe that the law of God was comprised of a list of rules and regulations that had to be religiously followed in exacting detail in order for anyone to be pleasing to God. Unfortunately, this list of rules had become an ever-expanding playbook, and the goalpost of obedience kept getting moved further and further away from the worshiper’s ability to score.
But then Jesus came along and said that the entire law of God, rather than being a complex list of rules and unending regulations, could be simply obeyed by one important thing: Love for God! Loving God—to joyfully reverence him, to gratefully obey him, to gladly concern yourself with the things that concern him, and to authenticate that love for God by treating other people as you, yourself, expect to be treated—that was what it meant to fulfill the entire law of God!
That, Jesus said, was the whole law, the greatest obligation, the best and most satisfying use of life; that was the only thing people really needed to worry about; that was the one important thing in life that they needed to get right: Simply love the Lord God with all of your heart! Really, what Jesus was saying was summed up quite nicely a few centuries later by St. Augustine, who put it this way,
“Love God, and do what you want.”
Come to think of it, the complete profundity of the absolute simplicity of that one important thing amazes and astonishes me, too. Count me in with the crowd of the impressed!
“We cannot help conforming ourselves to what we love.” ~Francis de Sales
What If God Took Over?
The entire law, the greatest obligation, the best and most satisfying use of your life is simply love the Lord God with all of our heart! Is that true of you? Take a few moments to express your love to God—he loves to hear from you!