Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)
The leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod tried to test and trapped Jesus because Jesus plainly spoke out against them. Jesus exposed their hearts and criticized their hypocritical lives, which are completely hidden from the people at that time. Jesus told them “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7) Jesus continued, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13-14)
Thus, the religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus. But they were afraid of the crowd. Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them as well as us, who live in this 21st century. This also reminds us Jesus’s another teaching “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) We, as followers of Jesus Christ, need to be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. Of course, this cannot be done by our own might and strength. Only is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit because we are weak and always fall short of the glory of God. We are simply sinful. Despite all efforts, no human knowledge could trap Jesus.
The one of the teachers of religious law was standing there watching what’s happening. He realized that Jesus was not an ordinary teacher. He started thinking Jesus must be the true teacher that he was always looking for. Thus, he decided to ask about the most puzzling question in heart, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28b)
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
The greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. That is, we love God with all ourselves including all that we have. This is plainly obvious when we truly acknowledge that we are simply His. Who we are, what we are, and what we have are all from Him — our True Father of provision, grace and mercy with His one-sided love. Give thanks to God. Then God wants for us to share the love that we receive with other by loving others as ourselves. As a living being, loving ourselves is the very nature of ourselves, which is impossible to be separated from the very nature of existence of ourselves except those very exceptionally few. Even Jesus told that There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13) Sacrificial love or even dying of others is beyond of most of us. Only is possible when the power of God’s love is in full control on us.
By the way, loving your neighbor is not a new commandment of Jesus Christ. The Old Testaments also says, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18b) When this is given as law and commandments to the Israelites, God provided detailed instructions also. “Love your neighbor” was actually the summary of God commandments about neighbors. Here are the God’s commandments about neighbors:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:9-18)
Be generous toward neighbors especially those who are poor, not to steal or covert neighbors’ possession, not to oppress those neighbors because they are venerable to us, not to show partiality in any reasons, not to take vengeance even though they might first do harm to us. Along the deed of the good Samaritan, who showed mercy to the person robbed, these are the short list of what “love your neighbor” is really meant and how to love neighbors. Do we do this rather minimal requirements of loving neighbors as ourselves?
Praise God! Give thanks to Jesus. Jesus demonstrated His love by dying on cross for us. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He demonstrated this love. Why? He truly loved us regardless who we are and what we have done. This is the God’s love. Therefore, we love others, which is our responsibility, who are deeply indebted in His love.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)