Teaching Religion How to Love Its Neighbor

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-four through forty-six of the twenty-second chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew coming to a close. This particular chapter begun with a parable which Jesus told concerning a certain king who prepared a wedding feast and banquet for his son and invited years to come and attend the celebration. As the parable goes, the first invitation that went out from the king through the mouths and presence of his servants went unheeded and largely ignored as those who were invited went each to their own way. The king—seeing that this first invitation was ignored, neglected, rejected and scorned—sent his servants once more to bid the guests to come unto the wedding supper and to join in the celebration. This second invitation was also neglected, ignored and rejected, as those who were invited each went to their own places. There were those who left the invitation of the king and went unto their farming and fields, while there were others who left the invitation of the king and went unto their merchandise. Jesus goes on to describe a specific remnant of individuals who remained behind and entreated the servings shamefully and with scorn, and actually killed them. Full of wrath and anger towards those who entreated his sergeants spitefully and killed them, the king gathered his armies, marched out against the cities where his servants were killed and utterly and completely destroyed them. Once those who had rejected his invitation and killed his servants were destroyed the king instructed his servants to go into the highways and into the corners of the cities and invite the poor and all those who were otherwise marginalized and neglected. Ultimately the servants of the king did exactly what he had instructed and commanded and invited all the poor and all the neglected, rejected and outcasts that were present within the cities so the banquet could and would be full. At the end of the parable Jesus makes the emphatic and bold statement that many are called but few are chosen.

The twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is actually quite interesting and unique, for not only does it contain a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven and an invitation given to attend the marriage supper prepared by the king, but it also brings us face to face with the continued opposition and the continued animosity of the Pharisees toward Jesus the Christ, as well as His disciples. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we read the words which Jesus spoke in this particular parable for they help set the stage to one of the most distinct and alarming facts concerning the Pharisees and the religious community—namely, that the publicans, the sinners and the prostitutes would enter the kingdom instead of and ahead of them. Jesus—when speaking unto the Pharisees declared in no uncertain terms and without holding anything back—declared unto the Pharisees that the harlots, the publicans and the sinners would in fact enter the kingdom of heaven instead of them, for they despised and rejected it. Those whom the Pharisees condemned Jesus for entertaining and sharing a meal with at the house of Matthew would ultimately be those who would enter into and experience the beauty and the reality of the kingdom of heaven. WHEN RELIGION IS LOCKED OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! WHEN RELIGION IS SEPARATED FROM THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! WHEN RELIGION IS SHUT OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN! Oh it is absolutely tremendous and incredible that religion—the very system that claimed to walk in obedience to the law of Moses, and which even taught the law of Moses to others would be shut out of the kingdom of heaven. How absolutely and incredibly interesting it is that those who claimed obedience to the law of Moses and obedience unto the living God would ultimately be those who would be shut out from the kingdom of heaven and would not be able to have access or entrance to it. The Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, the elders of the people of Israel declared that they obeyed the law of Moses, and yet they also at the same time hated Jesus the Christ, and sought on multiple occasions to utterly kill and destroy Him from their midst. As such, they refused to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and as we will see in the next chapter will shut others out from the kingdom of heaven.

What is so interesting and unique about the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that it completely and utterly sets the stage for that which we read in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel. This particular chapter is absolutely and incredibly unique, for it is essentially the final altercation between Jesus and religion before Jesus indicts the Pharisees and the scribes for their hypocrisy. That which we find in this particular passage of scripture is essentially the final straw that broke the camels back, and that which caused Jesus to rise up and indict the Pharisees and the scribes. In the following chapter—not only do we find Jesus indicting the Pharisees and scribes alone, but it could also be said that Jesus was declaring an indictment against religion and the religious system itself. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which is taking place within this chapter—as well as that which led up to this particular chapter—for all the altercations and incidents which took place between Jesus and the religious system would set the stage and lead to the indictment which would follow in the very next chapter. Consider if you will the three different incidences and altercations which took place within this chapter, as well as that which led up to this point. There are within this particular chapter three distinct incidences and occurrences which took place between Jesus and those which were present within the religious system. Immediately after Jesus finished telling the parable of the king and the invitation, the chapter immediately transitions to Jesus encountering the religious system seeking to entrap and ensnare Him in His talk and in His words in order that they might find grounds to accuse and condemn Him. The first would take place between Jesus, the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians; the second would take place between Jesus and the Sadducees; the third would take place after and would be triggered by the Pharisees hearing how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees when they came unto Him attempting to entangle Him in His speech. Read now and consider the words which are found in this particular chapter within the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning Jesus’ interactions these three separate and distinct occasions one after the other:

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardless not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him, and went their way” (Matthew 22:15-22).

“The same day came to Him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked Him, saying, master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife , deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are was the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine” (Matthew 22:23-33).

“But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).

These three occurrences within the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew bring us face to face with the religious system’s continued attempts to ensnare and entrap Jesus in His words and in His speech. Building upon an earlier reference concerning the Pharisees and how they sought for occasion to kill and destroy Him, we now find the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians rising up against Jesus in order that they might tempt Him in His words and in His speech. Perhaps one of the most interesting realities concerning the Pharisees, the scribes, and the religious system that was present during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus is not only that they took issue and offense to the words which He spoke, but they also took issue and offense to the works which He performed—particularly and especially concerning healing. If you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find example after example and account after account of the Pharisees, the scribes, and the religious system seeking for occasion to ensnare and entrap Jesus in His speech, as well as taking great offense to the works which He performed. What’s more, is that the Pharisees took great issue and great offense to Jesus healing on the Sabbath day, and could not justify within their finite hearts and minds Jesus doing good on the Sabbath. Time and time again the Pharisees and the religious system of His day sought for occasion to tempt Him, to ensnare Him, to entrap Him, and even to accuse Him before His disciples, as well as accusing His disciples before Him. Within this particular passage of Scripture—not only do we find the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians coming unto Jesus in order that they might tempt Him concerning the tribute money given unto Caesar, but we also find the Sadducees coming unto Him asking questions about the resurrection—something which Scripture makes quite clear they did not believe in, nor did they accept. Finally—after these two incidences had taken place and transpired, and after Jesus had silenced both the Sadducees, as well as the disciples of the Pharisees together with the Herodians—the Pharisees themselves came unto Jesus in order that they might once more tempt Him with their words. Towards the end of this passage of Scripture we find the Pharisees gathering themselves and coming unto Jesus, and one from among them who was a lawyer, asked Him a question, in order that he might tempt Him. This particular lawyer proceeded to ask Jesus a question concerning which is the greatest commandment in the law. What had begun with a question concerning paying tribute unto Caesar had now transitioned to the law of Moses itself and what was the greatest commandment.

What is so incredibly telling about this particular encounter between Jesus and this lawyer from among the Pharisees is that it bears some resemblance and similarity to another who came unto Jesus asking Him what good thing He must do in order that he might inherit eternal life and enter into the kingdom of heaven. If you turn and direct your attention to the nineteenth chapter of this same New Testament gospel you will find the account of the rich young ruler who came unto Jesus asking one very simple, and yet one very profound question—“What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” This rich young ruler came unto Jesus first professing Him to be good, and even calling Him Master, and then proceeded to ask Him what good thing He must do in order that he might have eternal life. Consider if you will the exchange which took place between the rich young ruler and Jesus the Christ when He came unto Him asking what good thing he must do in order that he might inherit eternal life:

“And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto Him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and seek that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).

Within this passage of Scripture, we first find this rich young man coming unto Jesus declaring and professing Him to be good, and then asking Him what good thing he must do in order that he might inherit and enter into eternal life. Jesus immediately corrected his thinking and his words by asking why he called Him good, and then proceeded to declare unto him that there was none good but, that is, God in heaven. Almost completely unphased by the words and response which Jesus spoke unto him, this young ruler responded to his declaration that he must keep the commandments by asking Him which commandments. In another place within Scripture we find and read that this question concerning which commandments he must obey was an attempt to justify himself before and in the presence of Jesus, as well as before those who were perhaps present there during this exchange. Jesus would respond to and answer this young man’s questions by speaking concerning the commandments concerning murder, adultery, stealing, lying, honoring father and mother, and finally, loving ones neighbor as themselves. What is interesting and unique about Jesus’ exchange with this young ruler is that Jesus only touched those commandments which dealt with man’s relationship with others. If you read Jesus’ words spoken unto this rich young ruler, you will find that He only mentioned those commandments which dealt with his external relationship with those around him, while completely leaving out the commandments dealing with his relationship with God. This young ruler—upon hearing Jesus’ words concerning the commandments which he needed to keep and obey—proceeded to declare unto Jesus that he had kept all these things from his youth up, before asking Jesus what he still lacked. This is actually quite interesting, for it’s almost as if this young man could sense that Jesus was holding something back from him, and that there was something that he had not yet laid hold of and grasped within his heart and life. There was something that was not yet part of the reality of the life he had built, and he might very well have sensed that—not only in Jesus’ response, but also in Jesus’ body language, and perhaps even in the look within Jesus’ eyes as He undoubtedly looked upon Him with compassion and affection. I can’t help but but be absolutely and completely intrigued by this particular passage, for when this young man asked which commandments he needed to keep in order that he might enter into and inherit eternal life, Jesus proceeded by describing only his relationship to those which were around him. I have to admit there is something here within Jesus’ words which were spoken unto this rich young ruler which I had not seen before. There is something that is present within this passage that warrants strong consideration when you think about Jesus’ words which He spoke unto this young man.

If you read this particular passage of Scripture, you will undoubtedly notice that Jesus declared unto this man that the commandments he needed to keep dealt with his relationship to and with those who were present around him on a daily basis. When revealing the commandments which this young ruler needed to obey, Jesus proceeded to present unto him the commandments concerning his relationship with those who were around him—commandments concerning adultery, murder, stealing, lying, honoring father and mother, and loving his neighbour as himself. What is so incredibly powerful about this particular passage is that this young ruler responded to Jesus by declaring that he had kept all these commandments from his youth up, and was not guilty of breaking of disobeying any of these commandments. Jesus’ final words concerning loving his neighbour as Himself was actually quite interesting, for this young ruler might very well have thought that this was demonstrated by not committing adultery, by not stealing, by not lying, by not murdering, and by honoring his father and mother. This rich young ruler was missing perhaps one of the most important realities concerning loving his neighbour as himself, for to love one’s neighbor as himself would require action on his part—more than what he had previously allowed himself to engage in. Most of the commandments which were given by Jesus unto this particular ruler dealt with that which he abstained from, and that which he did not do unto his neighbours, however, none of these commandments dealt with that which he did unto and for his neighbours. This rich young ruler commended and applauded himself for that which he did not do unto his neighbor, and yet he was completely oblivious to that which he needed to do unto and for his neighbor. In fact, I am completely and utterly convinced that this is why Jesus would respond to him after he declared his obedience to the commandments he had listed by declaring unto him that if he desired to be perfect, he needed to go and sell all that he had, give to the poor, and then he would have treasure in heaven. What’s more, is that if this young ruler would go and sell all that he had and give to the poor, he would then be able to come and follow Him wherever He went. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto this young ruler, for the commandments which He spoke and mentioned unto him dealt exclusively with actions which weren’t committed toward his neighbour, and yet none of those commandments dealt with his relationship to and with his neighbors, and that which he would do for and unto them. I would dare say that it was no coincidence that Jesus declared unto this man that he needed to love his neighbour as himself, for there is not a doubt in my mind that this young ruler loved himself without hesitation and reservation. The fact that this young ruler was very wealthy and rich undoubtedly points to the reality that he loved himself enough to amass great wealth unto and for himself. The problem was not necessarily that he loved himself, but that he was not willing to love others as he loved himself.

I am completely and utterly convinced that this rich young ruler desperately needed to learn and understand the awesome and tremendous fact that being perfect before the Father in heaven not only required him to abstain from adultery, murder, stealing, lying, and the like, but it would also require him to love his neighbour as himself. This young ruler might very well have refrained from lying, from stealing, from murder, and even from adultery, and yet when it came to loving his neighbour as himself, he failed on this one single matter and measure. I do not believe it is any coincidence that Jesus declared unto this young ruler that he needed to love his neighbour as himself, and then declared unto Him that if he would be perfect, he would need to go and sell all that he had, give unto the poor, store up treasure for himself in heaven, and come and follow Jesus. Concerning this concept of loving one’s neighbor as himself, I feel it necessary to call your attention to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, for it is in this chapter where we find Jesus speaking concerning loving our neighbour as ourselves—and not only loving our neighbour as ourselves, but also who our neighbour is. Consider if you will the words which are found written and recorded in the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel written by the beloved physician Luke. It is what we find in this particular passage where we find a certain lawyer standing up from the midst of the crowd before Jesus and tempting Him according to the commandments which were written in the law, and which were the greatest. In fact, I would dare say that what we find and what we read within this particular passage of Scripture is in all reality an addendum to what we find in the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning the lawyer who stood up before Jesus in order that he might tempt Him. Behold and consider the following words which were written in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke beginning with the twenty-fifth verse:

“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beasts, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the hose, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).

It’s incredibly interesting that in the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus speaking unto this rich young ruler concerning loving his neighbor as himself. It’s absolutely intriguing that just a few short chapters later we find Jesus again speaking concerning loving one’s neighbor as themselves, and in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find Jesus again addressing this concept of loving ones neighbor as themselves. In the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, Jesus was tempted by the Pharisees when they proceeded to ask Him which was the greatest of the commandments. Jesus responded unto them by not only declaring that the greatest commandments were to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might, but Jesus also declared unto them that they needed to love their neighbour as themselves. When speaking unto the rich young ruler, Jesus was sure to include in His response to this young man loving his neighbor as himself immediately after presenting him with the commandments in the law which dealt specifically with man’s relationship to and with others. What is truly spectacular and powerful about Jesus’ interaction with this young ruler is that while it might have been true that this young man kept himself from adultery, kept himself from murder, kept himself from stealing, kept himself from lying, and honoured his father and mother, that wasn’t the only way to demonstrate loving his neighbour as himself. In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus didn’t describe who was a neighbour unto us, but rather how we can be a neighbor unto those around Jesus. It’s worth noting and pointing out when reading the New Testament gospel of Luke that Jesus didn’t finish the parable and then speak to the lawyer concerning how others could, would, or even should treat him, but rather how he should treat others. This lawyer asked who his neighbour was, and instead of responding by declaring who this man’s neighbour was, He proceeded to declare unto Jesus how this man could be a neighbour to others. It is far too easy for us to focus all our attention on how others should and could be a neighbour unto us, and yet we take absolutely no responsibility for our actions and how we can and should be a neighbour unto others. When Jesus spoke unto this rich young ruler and declared unto him that he must needs love his neighbour as himself, Jesus instructed him to go and sell all he had, and give unto the poor, and then come and follow him. That which this young man lacked within his life was a wonderful and powerful demonstration of loving his neighbour as himself by doing for his neighbour what he had done for himself. Jesus instructed this young ruler to transition from the place where he would look beyond and past himself, and look unto those around him who were in desperate need—those who did not have the same comforts and securities that he had. When Jesus declared unto him that he needed to love his neighbour as himself, Jesus declared unto him that he needed to sell all he had and distribute unto the poor, and by doing so, he would not only be perfect, and would not only be able to follow Him, but would also truly demonstrate his love for those before and all around him.

IN the twenty-second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the Pharisees coming unto Jesus tempting Him by asking Him concerning which was the greatest commandment within the law of Moses. Jesus, perceiving their wickedness, their hypocrisy and their tempting Him, declared unto them that the greatest commandment in the law was loving the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all the strength, and the second was just like it—namely, loving one’s neighbour as thyself. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to these specific occurrences which describe loving our neighbour as ourselves, for it is more than simply that which we do not do unto them. Loving our neighbour doesn’t simply mean that we do not lie to them, that we do not steal from them, that we do not murder, and that we do not commit adultery. Truly loving our neighbor is actually esteeming them as better than ourselves, and being willing to look beyond and get over ourselves in order that we might truly demonstrate and manifest the love of God, which is displayed by loving our neighbours as ourselves. We demonstrate and prove our love of the Father by loving our neighbor, by esteeming our neighbours above ourselves, and by giving of ourselves unto them. Jesus declared that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and that the second commandment was not only likened unto it, but was also a wonderful and powerful demonstration and manifestation of that first commandment. In fact, I would dare say that we cannot have the first commandment without and apart from the second commandment, and we most certainly cannot have the second commandment without and apart from the first. The entire law of Moses hinges—not only on our willingness to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength, but also loving our neighbour as ourselves. The question is whether or not we truly recognize and understand what it means to love our neighbour as ourselves, and whether we are ready, willing and able to do it without hesitation, without reservations and without any questions asked. Are we truly a people who are willing to love our neighbours as ourselves, or are we those who only look out for and care for ourselves without showing any regard for those who are before and around us?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s