Chasing Greatness

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Introduce myself, family, and why we are here.


As we look to take a deep dive into Matthew 22:34-40, I want to set the stage for the context of the passage. Up until this point in His life, Jesus primarily spent most of His time away from the bustling streets of the Holy city aside from a quick trip as a kid. Jesus had traveled all round the land calling disciples, healing the sick, casting out demons, and teaching scripture as one who had authority. Everyone who was anyone by this time would of heard of this man named Jesus. If we look at Matthew 21:10, we see that His presence had quite the effect on those He was near to. Jesus then heads directly to the temple where effectively delivered an eviction notice to those that were treating the Holy Place of God as a flea market. Jesus then moves to a time of teaching where he facilitated a time of critical thinking as he taught in parables to the masses that had gathered around him.
Then as we find ourselves in chapter 22, Son of God steps into the ring with the religious leaders of the time to go toe-to-toe. Although 3 very different sects of leaders who typically could’t agree on anything, came together and agreed that Jesus was a problem and He had to go.
Round one: Jesus validates Civil and Spiritual Government (Matthew 22:15-22)
Round two: Jesus validates the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33)
Round three: Jesus is quizzed on what the greatest commandment is.


Matthew 22:34–40 CSB
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”


Being right is genuinely important to me. When I was younger, I was pretty sure that I was right regarding absolutely anything and everything simply because I believed I couldn’t be wrong. I also had a pride issue in those days that often kept me from admitting that I was wrong or that I had misunderstood. I could argue just about anything for however long it took.
Then one day, I met my match. Her name is Talor Clark and we have been married for 6 years today.
I quickly found out that I in fact did not know everything about everything. At this point in my life, I am pretty sure that I know nothing about anything.
I vaguely remember our first disagreement. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, but I can tell you I was very passionate about whatever it was and so was Talor. Then I remember that there was a turning point in that conversation where I realized that I was indeed wrong and I had been for sometime. Yet for some reason, i was reluctant to admit I was wrong and pressed on.
So what does my stubbornness have to do with this passage?
I think that the religious leaders were in the same boat I was in. There identity was so wrapped up in being great at understanding/teaching the Law of God, that they were missing the God of the law.
Up until this point in the passage, the Herodians, Pharisees, and Sadducees had been so focused on the fact that the message that Jesus had been preaching was making their entire life’s work obsolete, that they were missing the Messiah that they had read about their entire lives.
Which sounds easy enough to condemn, but when we read passages like this, we have the luxury of context. But I think that many of us tend to lose our way from time to time chasing things that are genuinely good. We chase financial wealth, professional success, cultural acceptance. Again, there in nothing inherently wrong with any of these things.
What I’m saying is sometimes we get so caught up in chasing good things, that we miss God things.
Take our friends in this particular passage as the example. They have spent their entire lives devoting themselves to the Law that came directly from God. These men poured over the words that fill the first 5 books of the Old Testament known as the Torah. Years were spend combing through all 613 laws so that they could recall them verbatim. They sat through counsel meetings to debate and lobby, ultimately dividing the mass about of laws to 248 positive laws and 365 negative ones. They were experts of the Law because they fully committed themselves to the study and understanding of it.
But at what cost? They were so worried about being right, that they ended up getting it wrong.
So the question was posed, maybe with an angle to corner Jesus, or maybe to truly settle the debate, but what is the greatest commandment?

1. Love God

Matthew 22:37 ESV
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.
This time when Jesus was asked a question, He answered directly, as if to not leave it open to interpretation.
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which is the most recited passage in all of the Jewish scriptures.
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 “4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
Jesus speaks to the fact that we are to love God. Pausing there for just a second we should take note that “love” in this passage is translated “agape”.
Agape could be defined as charity. However, we often think of charity nowadays as giving away money or things, which doesn’t encompass all of what agape is about. Agape love is unconcerned with the self and concerned with the greatest good of another. Agape isn’t born just out of emotions, feelings, familiarity, or attraction, but from the will and as a choice. Agape requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.

LOVE is an all-inclusive affection, embracing not only every other affection proper to its object, but all that is proper to be done to its object; for as love spontaneously seeks to please its object, so, in the case of men to God, it is the native well spring of a voluntary obedience.

Jesus commands that we are to love God in 3 specific areas of our life:


The heart has always been a linchpin to faith because it drive so much of who we are and what we do.
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Matthew 6:21 ESV
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It is virtually impossible to be sold out for something that your heart doesn’t belong to. The heart has the power to override every survival instinct, moral responsibility, and logical thought that we have. Whatever we keep in our hearts is what we will love most in life.
Take a moment to reflect on the things that have the full attention of your heart. What are those things and do they honor God? Is God at the top of that list?
Exodus 34:14 ESV
14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),


When Jesus speaks to loving God with all of our soul, He is talking about is putting our feelings and our emotions into our adoration of God. Much like the heart, God really does care about our souls and what they long for. As we are made in the image of God, we are made to be passionate beings.
All throughout scripture the emotions of God’s people seem to move the heart of God:
Jesus wept when He saw those that He cared about mourning the death of his friend. (John 11) (Sadness)
God was filled with pride when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3) (Pride)
God showed mercy to Moses and the Israelites when Moses loved God too much to move on without His presence. (Exodus 33) Devotion
God’s prophet, Elijah, was ticked off about God’s people disobeying him, so he prayed for a drought and God delivered. (1 Kings 17)
The point is, God want our feelings and affection into our relationship with Him


Jesus makes a slight amendment to the passage that the Jewish leaders knew so well:
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 (ESV)
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Matthew 22:37 (ESV)
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.
Jesus quoted the Septuagint almost verbatim, but he substituted mind (dianoia) for the similar sounding “might” (dunameos).
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Chapter 12)
This commands our intellectual nature: Thou shalt put intelligence into thine affection—in opposition to a blind devotion, or mere devoteeism.
Our pursuit of God is not simply emotional in nature, but also one that God wants us to care enough to invest in growing our knowledge of who He is.
SO WHAT: God desires us to love Him with everything that we possibly can. There is not a single facet of our Faith that is passive or that allows us to sit as the world passes us by. TOTAL AND COMPLETE DEVOTION TO GO IN ALL AREAS OF OUR LIFE.

2. Love People

The second of the most important commandments that Jesus gave in this heated debate is to love people as we love our self. Jesus said the this commandment is “like” the first one. The word like in the original language is “homoios” meaning resembling. Note that although it is similar, it is not the same because as with anything, we are never to place any sort of creation to the same level as the Creator.
Much like the first command, Jesus is quoting the Old Testament, this time drawing from Leviticus 19:18.
Leviticus 19:18 ESV
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified; but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbour as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves; in many cases we must deny ourselves for the good of others.

What does it mean to love our neighbors as ourselves? Looking at Ephesians 5:28-31, we get a glimpse of this kind of love.
Ephesians 5:28–31 ESV
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
The way that we treat God’s people reflects the way that we love God and how we interpret His love for us. Unfortunately, we seem to live in a time where the world that we live in seems to know us more for what we stand against rather than what we stand for.
Love for God’s people is often the focal point of New Testament teachings. For example:
1 Peter 4:8–9 ESV
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
John 13:35 ESV
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Sometimes loving people is easier said than done. For instance, here is a list of people that are difficult to love:
People that don’t know how to operate their blinker
The family member who is always judging you
People that actually eat PEEPS at Easter
Coworkers who don’t own up to their mistakes
Alabama fans
Your upstairs neighbors
For real though, at the end of the day, that love that we are called to extend to those around us in not a love that comes with contingencies. Another way that it can be said is that the loves that God calls us to have for those around us is not a choice, but a command.
SO WHAT: The purpose of loving people is to demonstrate the same kind of love that we have experienced from God through His Son.


So what does chasing greatness look like you today?
Maybe for the new believer here today, it looks like loving God’s Word more than social media in the morning. Choosing to wake up and letting God’s Word challenge and grow you. (I have found in my own life that I am not ready to spend time with people until I have spent time with God.)
Maybe responding today looks like taking inventory of the 3 avenues that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 22:37. What owns the most real estate in your heart? Your soul? and your mind? Maybe that response today to lay those things down before God and ask Him to fill those areas in your life.
Maybe that last command, the one about loving you neighbor as yourself, is the one that God has laid heavily on your mind this morning. Maybe you already have a name in your mind that you need to love better or maybe even start loving again.
Matthew 11:28 ESV
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
1 Peter 5:6 ESV
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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