Reflections on Scripture, Spiritual Growth, and Personal Transformation
Thursday, February 3, 2011
The Jesus Creed
Morning Reading - Exodus 31-33
Evening Reading - Matthew 22:23-46
In today's reading from Matthew, we hear Jesus conversing with the Pharisees regarding the "greatest commandment." Jesus responds to the inquiry of the Pharisees by quoting two passages from the Old Testament:
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Every good first century Jew would have been familiar with both of these passages of scripture, but they would not have necessarily linked them together. The first passage from Deuteronomy was known as the shema, which is the Hebrew word for "hear" or "listen." This was the central passage of scripture that affirmed the covenant relationship between Israel and God; it affirmed their commitment to monotheism in the midst of a world dominated by polotheism. The shema was to be recited daily as part of the Jewish practice of prayer.
Yet Jesus surprisingly ammends this central belief of Judaism by adding the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. This combined statement is what New Testament scholar Scot McKnight calls the "Jesus Creed." As McKnight observes, "for Jesus, love of God and love of others is the core. Love, a term almost indefinable, is unconditional regard for a person that prompts and shapes behaviors in order to help that person to become what God desires. Love, when working properly, is both emotion and will, affection and action." If we look at the teaching of Jesus, we find that this combined commandment (love God and love others) is a central theme that provides the foundation for a life of continual spiritual formation.
As we will discover at the end of Matthew's gospel, the Great Commandment to love God and others will compel us to live out the Great Commission to go into the world and make disciples. It is the power of love that motivates us in our missional work.