The Great Commandment



Another group of Sadducees had been instructed to ask Jesus entangling questions about angels, but when they beheld the fate of their comrades who had sought to entrap him with questions concerning the resurrection, they very wisely decided to hold their peace; they retired without asking a question. It was the prearranged plan of the confederated Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, and Herodians to fill up the entire day with these entangling questions, hoping thereby to discredit Jesus before the people and at the same time effectively to prevent his having any time for the proclamation of his disturbing teachings.

Then came forward one of the groups of the Pharisees to ask harassing questions, and the spokesman, signaling to Jesus, said: “Master, I am a lawyer, and I would like to ask you which, in your opinion, is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answered: “There is but one commandment, and that one is the greatest of all, and that commandment is: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second commandment is like this first; indeed, it springs directly therefrom, and it is: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these; on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

When the lawyer perceived that Jesus had answered not only in accordance with the highest concept of Jewish religion, but that he had also answered wisely in the sight of the assembled multitude, he thought it the better part of valor openly to commend the Master’s reply. Accordingly, he said: “Of a truth, Master, you have well said that God is one and there is none beside him; and that to love him with all the heart, understanding, and strength, and also to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, is the first and great commandment; and we are agreed that this great commandment is much more to be regarded than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When the lawyer answered thus discreetly, Jesus looked down upon him and said, “My friend, I perceive that you are not far from the kingdom of God.”



Jesus spoke the truth when he referred to this lawyer as being “not far from the kingdom,” for that very night he went out to the Master’s camp near Gethsemane, professed faith in the gospel of the kingdom, and was baptized by Josiah, one of the disciples of Abner.



Two or three other groups of the scribes and Pharisees were present and had intended to ask questions, but they were either disarmed by Jesus’ answer to the lawyer, or they were deterred by the discomfiture of all who had undertaken to ensnare him. After this no man dared to ask him another question in public.

When no more questions were forthcoming, and as the noon hour was near, Jesus did not resume his teaching but was content merely to ask the Pharisees and their associates a question. Said Jesus: “Since you ask no more questions, I would like to ask you one. What do you think of the Deliverer? That is, whose son is he?” After a brief pause one of the scribes answered, “The Messiah is the son of David.” And since Jesus knew that there had been much debate, even among his own disciples, as to whether or not he was the son of David, he asked this further question: “If the Deliverer is indeed the son of David, how is it that, in the Psalm which you accredit to David, he himself, speaking in the spirit, says, ‘The Lord said to my lord, sit on my right hand until I make your enemies the footstool of your feet.’ If David calls him Lord, how then can he be his son?” Although the rulers, the scribes, and the chief priests made no reply to this question, they likewise refrained from asking him any more questions in an effort to entangle him. They never answered this question which Jesus put to them, but after the Master’s death they attempted to escape the difficulty by changing the interpretation of this Psalm so as to make it refer to Abraham instead of the Messiah. Others sought to escape the dilemma by disallowing that David was the author of this so-called Messianic Psalm.

A short time back the Pharisees had enjoyed the manner in which the Sadducees had been silenced by the Master; now the Sadducees were delighted by the failure of the Pharisees; but such rivalry was only momentary; they speedily forgot their time-honored differences in the united effort to stop Jesus’ teachings and doings. But throughout all of these experiences the common people heard him gladly.



--Presented by the Midwayer Commission, from the Urantia Papers.



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