Matthew 22:34-40 ESV
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus, Our Model
Jesus is our model for how to love others with God’s love, which we can only do if we are in true relationship with Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, through God-given faith in him. So, how did Jesus love people when he walked the face of this earth?
Many people have this idea that Jesus just accepted everyone right where they were, the way they were, that he hung out with those living in sin, like they were best buddies, that he “stayed in his own lane,” and that he just went around making everyone feel good about themselves right where they were, no matter how they were living at the time.
But, is that true? Is that what the scriptures teach us? Is that a true picture of God’s love for humanity? Is that the kind of “love” that Jesus modeled?
Let’s begin with Matthew 5. Jesus said that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. He said if you lust after someone else (not your spouse), you have committed adultery in your heart. His solution? If a body part of yours causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Why? Because it is better to lose an eye or a hand than to have your whole body go into hell. Pretty strong words there, wouldn’t you say?
Yet, I don’t believe he meant to literally cut off your hand, but he may have, but he was definitely demonstrating the seriousness of sin and of the need to get rid of whatever causes us to sin. He made no excuses for anyone.
In Matthew 6 he warned about being like the hypocrites. He warned against doing things to put on a show (a performance) so that we appear righteous before others. And, he warned about having “light” in us that is really darkness. He went on to say that we can’t serve two masters, for either we will hate the one and love the other, or we will be devoted to the one and despise the other. We can’t have one foot in hell and one in heaven, in other words. Either God is our Lord (owner-master) or he isn’t (cf. Rom. 6:16).
And, in Matthew 7 we learn that we are to enter into God’s eternal kingdom by the narrow (restricted) gate, which few enter. We are not to try to enter via the broad road and gate that many follow, for the broad way that many follow leads to death. But the narrow (restricted) way leads to life.
And, then he went on to say that not everyone who says to him, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father in heaven. That sounds pretty narrow, doesn’t it? That doesn’t sound like Jesus just hanging out with sinners eating, drinking and merry-making. That doesn’t sound like Jesus just accepting everyone for who they are, where they are, and not expecting people to change.
In fact, to those who give lip service only, but who don’t walk in obedience to his commands, one day they will hear, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” That sounds pretty severe, doesn’t it?
And, then he talked about the wise and the foolish. The wise are those who hear his words and who put them into practice. But, the foolish are those who hear the truth, but they don’t put it into practice. The wise will survive the judgment. They will stand in the judgment. But the foolish will not.
The People’s Response
Jesus did a lot of preaching, and he wasn’t voted most popular for what he preached, either. He didn’t have people following him by the thousands. His true followers were few in number. The crowds mainly followed him because of the miracles he performed, or because he fed their bellies.
But, the majority deserted him when his teaching became “too hard,” i.e. when he started talking about having to “eat his flesh and drink his blood,” which were symbolic of his death and suffering on the cross for us, and of our participation with him in death to sin and in suffering for righteousness.
Nonetheless, his ministry was not confined just to preaching. He performed many miracles. He healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, delivered people from demons, comforted the sorrowful, fed the hungry, and he ministered to the truly needy.
And, we need to follow his example in doing likewise, even if it is more on an emotional or spiritual level rather than physical sometimes, depending on the needs, and depending on whether or not our ministry is mainly in person or on the internet, for example.
But, another aspect of Jesus’ ministry that we must realize is that he wasn’t well loved for the things he taught and for some of the things that he did, too. Today he would be accused of teaching “works-based salvation” and “legalism-moralism.”
Today he would be accused of being “hyper-religious,” or of being “narrow minded,” or of being “too serious” and of “not loving” because he told it like it is, i.e. he spoke the truth, but in love. He would be invited out of church gatherings, too, because they are being warned about people like him, i.e. “people with strong convictions.”
And, another thing about Jesus that a lot of people tend to forget is that he wasn’t put to death on that cross for being a “nice guy” who everyone loved and admired and flocked after. He wasn’t killed because he went around just making everyone feel good about themselves, and because he accepted everyone for who they are, the way they are.
The people hated Jesus, he said, because he told them the truth about their sin. The Pharisees hated him on multiple accounts: 1. He didn’t do the things they did, 2. He didn’t follow all their rules, 3. He confronted them in their sins, 4. He publicly chastised them for their hypocrisy, and 5. He claimed to be God, which is who he was/is.
Oh, and they were jealous of him, too, and they were threatened by him and his popularity among the people, for a time. And, they called him crazy and of the devil. Even his own family thought he was crazy, and they attempted to remove him from ministry, but unsuccessfully. His own brothers mocked him. And, eventually the masses turned against him when they shouted “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Loving God and Others
So, this describes the life of one who loved like God loves, because he was God. But, he said if we follow him, and we love like he did, that we, too, will be hated, persecuted, rejected and perhaps even martyred for our faith and for our testimonies for Jesus Christ. So, don’t be surprised if the world hates you, mocks you, thinks you are crazy and wants to put you away or to put you to death.
For, if you love like Jesus, you will be an offense to those who are perishing, including to those who say they love Jesus, but who are not following the Jesus of the scriptures, but one they have created in their own minds and imaginations to make them feel better about themselves.
For, to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, is to love God with your entire being – in all your thinking, believing, emotions, passion, and in your conduct. And, it is to surrender our lives to him, making him truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives. It is to leave our lifestyles of sin behind us, and it is to follow our Lord in walks of obedience to his commands.
And, it is daily dying to sin and self, and daily putting on Christ and his spiritual armor in order to fight off Satan, and in order that we walk by the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness (Lu. 9:23-26; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).
And, to love others as we love ourselves, because we have the love of God living within us, it is to walk the walk that Jesus walked, and to love others like he did, like he modeled for us.
For love does no harm to its neighbor, but only what is beneficial for them and what will lead them to Christ and to purity of devotion to him. For we are, thus, looking out for the welfare of others, which is their wholeness, their peace, and their healing that can only be found in Christ, in submission to him, and in obedience to his commands.
Footprints of Jesus
Lyrics by Mary B. Slade, pub. 1871
Music by Asa B. Everett
Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,
Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling
Lead us to Thee.
Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains,
Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam’s fountains,
Helping the weak.
If they lead through the temple holy,
Preaching the Word;
Or in homes of the poor and lowly,
Serving the Lord.
Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping,
We follow Thee;
Through the gloom of that place of weeping,
If Thy way and its sorrows bearing,
We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing
Our cross of pain.
By and by, through the shining portals,
Turning our feet,
We shall walk, with the glad immortals,
Heav’n’s golden street.
Then, at last, when on high He sees us,
Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus
End at His throne.
Footprints of Jesus,
That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus
Where’er they go.
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