“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:39-40
- You can listen to this sermon here.
In my last post I pointed out the connection between loving and serving God. The prophets regularly warn about the dangers of worshiping God while abusing their fellow citizens. I believe that’s what Jesus had in mind here in Matthew 22. First, love God. Second, love and serve the people God creates.
Jesus himself provided a positive example of this command in John 9. While they’re traveling, Jesus’ disciples spot a man who had been blind since birth and ask Jesus “who sinned, this man or his parents?” The common understanding of the day was that physical health conditions were connected to spiritual actions. Jesus takes the opportunity to correct this understanding.
After teaching them about the lack of connection between spiritual and physical health, Jesus could have just kept on walking. The blind man apparently makes no effort to approach Jesus. But Jesus refuses just to treat him as a prop in an object lesson for his disciples. Before continuing on his journey, Jesus pauses and heals the man’s blindness. That would be significant if that was his only contact with the man, but the story continues.
Now that he can see, the man becomes a bit of a celebrity. He’s taken before the Pharisees who investigate what happened to him. Because the man continues to give credit to Jesus and praise him, the Pharisees ultimately throw him out of the synagogue. Somehow word of these events gets back to Jesus. He immediately goes looking for the man. Before you know it, he’s confessing the Lordship of Jesus and worshiping Him. Jesus’ love for His neighbor results in the neighbor becoming a disciple.
Jesus provides a model of loving our neighbor for us. First, he treats a disadvantaged man as a person, not an object. He compassionately meets the man’s greatest physical need. When others reject and isolate him for telling the truth, Jesus seeks him out. Jesus meets his emotional and social needs. He demonstrates his love for the man a second time. Finally, Jesus reveals His identity as the Messiah, meeting the man’s spiritual needs.
Small actions can have profound unforeseen results.
- Have you witnessed occasions when addressing someone’s physical and/or emotional needs has led to their spiritual needs also being fulfilled?
- Do you struggle to view needy people as people rather than needs? Have you ever triumphed over this temptation? What happened?
- Have you been on the receiving end of someone taking unexpected interest in you personally? What did they do that made an impression?