*Did Jesus categorize the Ten Commandments?
*What is the “first” or great commandment in the eyes of God?
*Why will true Christians be persecuted?
*What are we expected to do with our Christian calling?
*What example did Jesus set at the Passover?
There is a desire on the part of many to categorize the commandments of God. Often, the attempt is to make one of the ten the most important. This was just as true in Jesus’ day as it is in our day. “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together . . . asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28). Jesus replied, “. . . The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (vv. 29-30). Did Jesus categorize any one of the ten? No. Instead, He pointed out that the first requirement toward God is love and complete devotion. This love entails a total dedication of the heart, soul, mind, and strength. What a requirement! It calls for true-heartedness or perfect sincerity, a zeal with the utmost fervor, an understanding based on an enlightened mind that reasons soundly, and a dedication toward God that absorbs one’s whole energy.
How many men have ever loved God to this extent?
Nevertheless, this is the ideal we should hope to attain. The heart represents the innermost feelings of man. It is the symbol of the emotions, of one’s deepest passions and devotion. To love with all one’s heart, Jesus said, can only mean to be true-hearted with an undying sincerity and reverence for God. In brief, no other interest should supercede or compete with this devotion. This is what to love God with all the heart means. One cannot compromise this dedication by having one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom of God. The two are incompatible. Perfect sincerity means perfect devotion toward God. There can be no other interest that rivals our interest in God.
To love with all the soul (Gk. psuche, the vital breath, or life) means to love with all of one’s fervor. This love and devotion is full of zeal and dedication toward God and the things of God. It should become the primary interest in life. The word “soul” merely refers to the physical life-this physical life which should be fully dedicated to God and His way of life. This is what Jesus meant when He said we must love God with all our soul.
But Jesus also said we must love God with all our mind. What did He mean? The mind is the means by which we reason and think. It represents our intellectual capacity or capability. In this context it refers to a mind that has been given spiritual understanding-one that has been spiritually enlightened. It is a mind that understands what God is all about; and most importantly, it is a mind that is devoted to God first and foremost. While we all have other interests, it is important not to allow these interests to become more important than our interest in God. To allow the physical pursuits of this life to rival the things of God is a temptation we must all guard against. God must come first in our minds at all times.
Jesus also said we must love God with all our strength. This means our whole energy must be utilized in this love toward God. It is impossible to love God with all our strength if that energy is divided between the things of God and the things of self-interest. Again, let us be reminded that it is necessary to make a living in this life, to be involved in the pursuit of food, clothing, and shelter. If, however, these pursuits become the all-pervading interest in life, if this is all we think about day and night, and if these desires take the place of God in our lives, our energy will be misdirected and our rewards, in the long run, empty. The physical pursuits of life lead to the physical amenities of life which last only as long as this physical life. But the spiritual things of God are for eternity. This is why we should love God with all our strength.
The above summarizes what Jesus said was the most important commandment of all-love toward God. This is the first commandment. Then, Jesus went on to speak of the second commandment-the love we should have for our fellow man. “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). Our neighbor is our fellow man, not just a person who lives nearby. We are not required to love our neighbor more than ourselves, only as much as ourselves. To attain these goals may seem an impossibility. Nevertheless, it is the ideal we should strive to attain. While many of the teachings of Jesus may seem impossible, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
Jesus’ teachings included warnings about persecution. Why? Because the world does not take kindly to the real truth of God. This is why He said, “But before all these [the events mentioned in the previous verses], they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:12). There are two forms of persecution mentioned here. One is religious persecution-the source, organized religion; the other, civil persecution-the source, the legal system of the land. The real truth of God flies in the face of the established religions of the world, including what is called Christianity. Also, the practice of real Christianity today flies in the face of many man-made laws. These two factors will bring about persecution, Jesus promised. We must be prepared mentally and spiritually for such an eventuality. “And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” (vv. 13-15). Jesus then went on to say that when that time comes even those closest to us will prove to be untrustworthy. “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (vv. 16-17). Those who practice true Christianity must not yield to this persecution. To those alive at this time Jesus said, “But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls” (vv. 18-19).
In Matthew, chapter twenty-four, Jesus instructs us about the God-given responsibility of being called-a responsibility we must maintain right up to the time He returns. Notice what He said. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42). The word “hour” here does not mean a sixty-minute period. It refers simply to a period of time. No one knows when the return of Christ will take place. One of the identifying signs, however, will be the heavenly signs (v. 29). We can be assured we are very near the end when this happens. We must maintain our guard in these last days. “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (vv. 43-44). What are we admonished to do? Jesus tells us, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods” (vv. 45-47). But what if the servant fails to do what he is instructed?
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (vv. 48-51).
A similar lesson is given in Matthew, chapter twenty-five, in the parable of the ten virgins. The real lesson behind these instructions is to be prepared at all times.
For the purpose of this series, a final teaching of Jesus is found in John, chapter thirteen. In Christ’s time period the standard shoe was the sandal. When one entered a home, the feet were usually quite dusty or muddy, depending on the weather. It was the task of the servant to remove the sandals and wash the feet of the guests. This task was delegated to the lowest servant. At the Passover service Jesus washed the disciples’ feet! He then described the meaning of this act by saying, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:13-15). What Jesus is saying is that His true disciples will have the frame of mind of a servant, not that of a master. This is the true humility Jesus requires of all His disciples. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:16-17).