The Greatest Commandment

What is the Greatest Commandment that we must keep to inherit Eternal Life? Is there such Greatest Commandment in the world? It sounds intriguing. It could be one of the questions everyone ever thought of at least once in his or her life, if not always.

  • Three Scenes Jesus Answered
  • Jesus Always Quoted
  • God’s Love Alone
  • God’s Sacrifice Alone

Three Scenes Jesus Answered

In the Gospels, we can see it three times.

The first is in the Gospel of Matthew. A Pharisee who was knowledgeable about the laws of Moses challenged Jesus as follows:

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.

Matthew 22:35-38

Perhaps, the Pharisee’s intention was to get the blasphemous statement from Jesus. The answer, however, was orthodox and straightforward. Jesus simply quoted the verses from the Old Testament.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

The second is in the Gospel of Mark. One of the Scribes (a scholar of the laws of Moses) asked Jesus as follows:

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, 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.

Mark 12:28-30

The answer of Jesus was a bit more complete, including the verse, Deuteronomy 6:4.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

Deuteronomy 6:4

The third is in the Gospel of Luke. In this case, however, when a lawyer (a teacher of the law of Moses) asked, Jesus did not answer by himself; instead, requested this lawyer to respond by himself.

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.

Luke 10:25-27

Jesus Always Quoted

When Jesus was challenged with tricky questions, his answer was always the quotes from the Old Testament – the Words of God. He never crafted his opinions unnecessarily.

Even, we can see the same way when he faced the Devil’s three temptations. All Jesus’ answers were the quotes from the Old Testament.

When the Devil challenged Jesus to turn the stones into pieces of bread, he simply quoted the following verse to point out that we live by every word from the mouth of God.

There are two types of bread; one is the bread for living, and the other is the bread for Life.

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Deuteronomy 8:3

When the Devil told Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus’ answer was the verses alone to point out that we should never test God.

(By the way, in this temptation, even the Devil himself cited Psalms 91:12; “They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone,”)

Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

Deuteronomy 6:16

Lastly, the Devil (Satan) challenged Jesus to worship the Devil himself, tempting the possession of the power.

Even for such a tricky temptation, Jesus did not craft his opinion to answer back and win the argument. He simply quoted the verse from the Old Testament, responding as follows:

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Matthew 4:10

Again, Jesus quoted the verses from the Old Testament.

Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

Deuteronomy 6:13

Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

Deuteronomy 10:20

Jesus was never opinionated. Instead of argumentations, his focus was nothing but the Words of God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:3,5

Jesus knew the Greatest Commandment for Eternal Life. Focusing on the Words of God alone, he walked his talk. As mentioned three times in the Gospels, the Greatest Commandment was nothing but as follows:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

God’s Love Alone

What does it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and might? It means that in loving Him, we could completely become selfless, and totally forget ourselves.

If God is everything, there is nothing else at all except Him. In this realization, our ego could be dead in loving Him wholeheartedly; we could no longer seek anything else at all for our own sake.

What we must find is only our selfless love toward God.

We can never love God unless and unless our selfish love diminishes. Only when and if we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and might, then, our self-love could emerge. There is a complete difference between selfish love and self-love.

  • Selfish love is the way that we love ourselves without knowing who God is.
  • Self-love (more strictly, selfless self-love) is the way that we love ourselves by knowing who God is.

If ever we love God in the Greatest Commandment, we could be completely selfless. In being so, we could see God is everything and we are nothing. At this very moment, we could even see:

  • Everything is God.
  • God is everything.

Thus, we could selflessly love everything and everyone, which is God. We as nobody and nothing could selflessly love God, which is everyone and everything, which is what God embraces, and that God is.

Such a realization could lead us to the Second Commandment:

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 neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40

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. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:30-31

We should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But, such loving ourselves should never mean selfish love, but self-love, which is complete selflessness loving and worshiping God. We could only love ourselves and others in the way that we could love God in the Greatest Commandment.

The truth, however, is that our love for God is impossible. It’s only God’s love that can love and save us with His complete selflessness and perfect sacrifices on the Crucifixion.

Meister Eckhart called it the True Obedience, saying only if we completely stop willing for ourselves, God Himself wills on our behalf.

When we go out of ourselves through obedience and strip ourselves of what is ours, then God must enter into us; for when someone wills nothing for themselves, then God must will on their behalf just as he does for himself.

Meister Eckhart

In the same way, only if we could love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and might, then God loves Himself on our behalf with His True Sacrifice. The truth is that due to our limited love (selfishness) and His perfect love (agape, complete selflessness with True Obedience and Sacrifice), God loves Himself on our behalf. That is the Greatest Commandment. That is to say, “We” love God – God loves Himself.

In the same way as well, only if we could love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then the truth is that due to our limited love and His perfect love, God loves everything and everyone (ourselves, neighbors, even enemies).

Let me repeat. Only if we could love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then the truth is that God loves Himself on our behalf. That is the Second Commandment. That is to say, “We” love “ourselves,” “neighbors,” even “enemies.” – God loves Himself.

We can’t love God selflessly, but we falsely and selfishly love Him. We can’t love ourselves selflessly, but we falsely and selfishly love ourselves. We can’t love our neighbors and enemies selflessly, but we falsely and selfishly love them. Such false, selfish love of God, ourselves, neighbors, and enemies is merely one side of the love-hate coin.

We are in the prison of the love and hate. God’s love is our impossibility. Loving God, ourselves, neighbors, and enemies is only possible in His side:

  • Only God loves Himself.
  • Only God sacrifices Himself.

God’s Sacrifice Alone

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:43-45

That is why, in the Gospel of Luke, the lawyer asked Jesus who were our neighbors. Then, Jesus shared the parable of the Good Samaritan.

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 beast, 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 host, 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 10:29-37

In this parable, the Good Samaritan could be a symbol of God’s selfless self-love that can love everything and everyone indiscriminately. It is only that God loves everything and everyone in the way that God loves Himself and that God sacrifices Himself.

If ever we could love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and might, then the truth is that we can’t, but God does on our behalf in His love and sacrifice alone. If ever we could love ourselves, neighbors, even enemies, then the truth is that we can’t, but God does on our behalf in His love and sacrifice alone. Thus, only what we could try in these Commandments is seeking Him alone. Only in so doing, the Kingdom of God, Heaven, and Eternity could emerge.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Matthew 6:33-34

Image by James Chan; Image by Günther Simmermacher; Image by FelixMittermeier; Image by nellyaltenburger; The Good Samaritan, 1890 by Vincent Van Gogh

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