(*Due to technical difficulties, only a portion of the sermon was recorded. We apologize for the mishap.)
Thank you choir, beautiful music. Today’s scripture is probably the most important passage in the entire Bible. Of all the teachings of Jesus Christ, It is the core of Jesus’ teaching. Not only is it Jesus teaching but all the teachings in the Bible. This particular passage we read today is the most central message for all of us. It summarizes the essence of what we believe. Love your God and love your neighbor as yourself. That is the core of what we believe. Everything else is secondary. This is the most important, most primary thing to remember, but we have to understand the context from which this passage came from.
Which Commandment Is The First Of All?
Just before this passage, there are stories about religious leaders who corner Jesus with their questions. It’s like hyenas trying to eat up a lion trying to kill a lion. Ferriss, the people from Herod’s, they all came with very, very difficult questions, not because they were interested in the answer, but they wanted to trap Jesus. So He started asking questions one by one, very, very difficult questions they asked. But somehow, Jesus answered each one of them brilliantly. They could not outsmart, outwit Jesus’ wisdom. And the scribe was there all along and the scribe saw how Jesus answered each one of their questions and that’s why he was interested in what Jesus had to say. This time the scribe did not come to trap Jesus, but he was interested in what Jesus had to say. The scripture says, “one of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another and seeing that he, Jesus answered them well. He asked him”, so he saw all that, this time he came with a sincere attitude. He was interested in what Jesus has to say and he asked this question, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Which commandment is the first of all, it was a difficult question to answer. It’s almost like what is the purpose of life? Tell me in one sentence, how can he tell you the purpose of life in one sentence. I mean there were so many commandments all together, 613 commandments in the Bible and then he’s asking which commandment is the most important? What? Which commandment is the first? Unless Jesus really knew about commandments, He would not have been able to answer this question, but Jesus summarized it and answered it with one short sentence, maybe two sentences. The people who know the subject, they can explain it in a simple and easy to understand way, but people who don’t understand the subject, they make it so difficult, so complex, so many words they have to use, but people who really know they can, even expert knowledge, they can just summarize or tell you in a very simple, plain language. And Jesus did that.
The Two Most Important Commandments
Jesus knew the commandments so well inside out he summarized with one sentence. He said, “The first is here o Israel, the Lord our God. The Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The first one they were very familiar with, the Lord is one, and you should love your God with all your heart. They knew it and they recited it every day, it’s called Shima. Twice a day in the morning and the evening. The Lord is one and loves the Lord, so they were very familiar with the first part. But the second part, love your neighbor as yourself. It is in the commandment. It is in Leviticus, but with all other commandments, it is hidden in there with all other commandments. But Jesus took that out and connected it with love your God. Jesus was the first person who took that out connected it with the “love your God” sentence.
The Scribes ‘truth moment’
But when Jesus said that, the scribe had this truth moment. Aha moment. When Jesus said yes, how come I didn’t know it, it was right there, but how come I didn’t know it. He understood immediately that was like a truth moment like truth took over the whole situation. Other people, they were all silent. They didn’t dare to ask questions. You know, sometimes, do you feel that? Certain Bible studies or whatever that truth arrived and everybody’s so quiet, but it’s not dead silence. But it’s creative silence, it’s holy silence that kind of holy silence was there and the scribe understood. But what’s interesting is that Jesus saw somehow the scribe, understood what he was saying. I was wondering what made Jesus see that the scribe understood what Jesus was saying. The scribe almost regurgitated what Jesus said. And then Jesus said to the scribe, when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” After that, no one dares to ask him any questions.
Jesus Complimenting A Religious Leader
I think this is the first time Jesus praised a religious leader. You know, in the scripture Jesus does not compliment people that much. He always says, how long should I stay with you? Oh, men of little faith. And so he’s not really complimenting a lot of people, especially religious leaders. And this is the first time he complimented this religious leader. What does Jesus see in the answer of the scribe? I think the key is verse 33 “to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.” And he added this one. Jesus then said, “This is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” As soon as he said that, Jesus knew that he understands what I’m saying, right now. The scribe brought up the matter with the burnt offering. The scribe was sharp to understand what Jesus was saying. Jesus didn’t just say to love, he saw the problem of his time. He saw the problem of the people and he’s addressing the issue with this, almost like a diagnosis. He was giving a diagnosis to the people and prescription he writes for the people. That is your problem and that the prescription I want to give to you is loving your God and love your neighbor. That’s a prescription. The scribe exactly understood what Jesus was saying.
All You Need Is Love
The problem was not burnt offerings, the problem was their heart. The hearts were hardened. Their hearts were hardened. There are so many people suffering around him, but their hearts were hardened. All they think about is burnt offering. They were incapable of loving God or others. They were self-absorbed. Even love cannot penetrate their heart. My friends, if all our religious activities cannot bring about love within us, they don’t mean much. Religious sentiment will not cut it. Right Doctoring will not cut it. If you don’t have love, those things will not mean anything. A beautiful saying, all you need is love. What we need in this world is love. No matter how much you pray, no matter how much you read the scripture, if that cannot be translated into concrete love, you won’t help us, help humanity, help God. Love has to be restored in this world. The world needs Jesus’ message of love. We should not let the message of hatred, discrimination, and violence take over the world. We should not let that happen.
Tragedy In Pittsburgh
We just experienced another tragedy in Pittsburgh at a Jewish synagogue. 11 people died in the synagogue while worshiping. Even when he was coming off the ambulance, he was still yelling, “kill all the Jews.” He was taken to the hospital, Allegheny general hospital, and three people treated him, did surgery because he was wounded, shot, so they treated him. Ironically, all three people were Jews and one of them was a president of the hospital and he was a member of the ‘tree of life’ synagogue, and the ‘tree of life’ synagogue is what had happened. One male nurse who took care of him. After taking care of him, he embraced the president and he just broke down. But they took care of him. Hearing the news, a Muslim community did fundraising to help the victims and family the goal they set for $25,000. Within six hours, they reached $25,000.