Matthew 22:34-40 New International Version
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus was always being tested and more-so by the Pharisees who clothed themselves in self-righteousness.
Here we see where one of their experts in the law decides to try and stump our Lord.
He asks “Teacher, which commandment in the law is greatest?” Jesus answers “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.
How do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Jesus is saying we must truly love God with all of our being; all of our faculties; all of our power. It cannot just be lip-service. It can’t just be words.
Words are cheap and we see that in individuals who don’t live up to what they say. We can say anything. Many have gone down this road before, being believed in everything they said, but being found out that their actions did not agree with their words. Jesus warned the Pharisees of this as follows;
Matthew 15:8 New English Translation
8 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart[a] is far from me
So, words truly are cheap and Jesus knew this. The proof is in our actions; in the living of our lives.
Jesus is saying we must love God from our heart. It cannot just be words. It cannot be anything but from our heart, soul and mind. We must keep our heart pure and our mind purged from thoughts that are not Christ-like. There is an expression used that sums it up. We are what we think. Like, garbage in, garbage out. It stands to reason that what we think translates into what we say and into what we do.
The psalmist states his goal and desire perfectly in Psalm 19:14;
Psalm 19:14 King James Version
14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 New English Translation
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible Commentary, states it this way;
Thou shalt love him supremely, more than all other beings and things, and with all the ardor possible. To love him with all the heart is to fix the affections supremely on him, more strongly than on anything else, and to be willing to give up all that we hold dear at his command,
With all thy soul - Or, with all thy "life." This means, to be willing to give up the life to him, and to devote it all to his service; to live to him, and to be willing to die at his command,
With all thy mind - To submit the "intellect" to his will. To love his law and gospel more than we do the decisions of our own minds. To be willing to submit all our faculties to his teaching and guidance, and to devote to him all our intellectual attainments and all the results of our intellectual efforts.
Jesus says, purge the mind, heart and soul of all unrighteousness and love God with all of ourselves. He says this is the first and greatest of the commandments. I daresay that if we keep this commandment as Jesus tells us, we will have no problem with any of the others.
Next, Jesus says the second is like it; “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Here, Jesus is quoting from the book of Leviticus;
Leviticus 19:18 New International Version
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Looking at the lawyer’s question, he didn’t ask about what comes after the greatest commandment, but Jesus had a purpose in telling him.
If we are going to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind then we logically must have this same love toward our fellow human beings.
In other scripture, Jesus admonished the hypocrites by asking “how can you expect God to forgive you if you will not forgive others?”
In other places He said “it is nothing to love those that love you; everyone does this.” “Rather, you must love those that hate you; that are your enemy.”
Jesus said these two commandments are the greatest and all the law and the prophets depend on these.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus further says “there is no other commandment greater than these.
We are going to see where Jesus expands on this truth when in the Gospel of Luke another expert in the law tries to test him. The expert asks, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks the lawyer a question, then responds with a story about a good Samaritan and loving thy neighbor.