The Foremost Commandment: Matthew 22:34-40
“34) But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35) One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37) And 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 great and foremost commandment. 39) The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40) On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew‬ ‭22‬:‭34‬-‭40‬ ‭
This may have been the same dialogue recorded in Luke 10:25-29. If so, Jesus followed this exchange up with the story of the Good Samaritan not recorded by Matthew.
The lawyer was an expert in the Mosaic Law. He was undoubtedly prodding Jesus about Deuteronomy 6:4-5; ““4) Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This was commonly held to be the corner stone of the Law. It was the foremost of the commandments.
Jesus followed this up by quoting from Leviticus 19:18; “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
Jesus was saying the way you love God will affect the way you treat people. In the Luke 10:29 the lawyer tried justifying himself by asking, “… And who is my neighbor?” That question was met by the story of the Good Samaritan.
Many people divorce in their minds their love for God with the way they treat people, but the New Testament makes it clear that the two are closely connected. John, who was one of the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), shared his profound insight on this theme in 1 John 4:7-21. His time with Jesus had radically changed Him. He came to realize that it was impossible to love God and hate people at the same time.
The Pharisees often used their love of God to excuse their hatred of people. They despised anyone who did not live up to their standard of righteousness.
This dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees was a major indictment against them. When the story of the Good Samaritan is added to the end of this exchange, it became very pointed. Our neighbor is anyone in need.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global ‭