Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34–40)

Only Jesus could get away with this. He has just taken the entire Old Testament—the full length, breadth, diversity, and penetrating specificity of all God’s commands—and boiled it down to two. Two. Given who he is, given the witness of his own shimmering goodness, he certainly has the right to do so. But perhaps we’ve missed the brilliance of it, and the immense kindness, too.

People have a way of complicating things. Look at what we’ve done to education, taxation, or marriage. We seem committed to making all things complex. The Jews of Jesus’ day had so many rules and regulations it practically immobilized them. “And you experts in the law, woe to you,” Jesus thundered, “because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46 TM). This wasn’t what God intended. The way of holiness was never meant to be a labyrinth of complexity and eventual despair.

 

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