“‘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 neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’ (Matthew 22:36–40)
They were testing Jesus.
He had already silenced the wealthy and wise Sadducees and now it was the turn of the Pharisees – those learned men who claimed authority to interpret the laws passed on to people through Moses.
They asked him which law was the most important. His answer was perfect: “‘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 neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’ (Matthew 22:36–40)
In talking about how we should treat our neighbours, Jesus was quoting Levitical law. It’s the same law that the legal expert quotes in Luke 10 before Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story of kindness which transcended the ingrained cultural divisions of the day, Jesus flings wide the concept of ‘who is my neighbour?’ and moves it beyond the narrow, literal understanding of the word that the legal expert would have had, to include anyone in need. Even those who don’t look like us, sound like us, or agree with our beliefs and politics.
Suddenly, there were implications for a whole lot of other Levitical laws referencing neighbours that the legal expert would have known and understood. Well-known keys for how to treat each other with love – which now encompassed a whole lot of people that may have seemed excluded before.
God loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to take on human form and literally move into our human neighbourhood. The gift of Jesus’ birth was, amongst other things, an expression of inclusion and sacrificial love, which was for everyone.
Please join us each day this Advent as we share the run-up to Christmas with our neighbours near and far.
We’ve also included this beautiful, family-friendly animation of the story of the Good Samaritan created for us by one of our wonderful Tearfund teams. Feel free to share it with children, grandchildren, friends, Sunday school and the neighbours.