This has gone down in history as one of the greatest spiritual and moral failures of all time. It was a seemingly unforgivable offense. With fear overtaking his faith and trust, Peter denied knowing the Man he had spent his last years following as a faithful, trusted disciple.
Peter had seen it all, from entire villages being healed from disease to the raising of the dead. He had witnessed miracles that were beyond the imagination. He was a first-hand witness as those freed from a lifetime of bondage shouted the praises of Jesus. He saw the look of relief and joy in the eyes as multitudes heard truths that would change the course of their lives forever. Peter saw it all.
Now a short time had passed since Peter’s complete collapse. He was sitting on the shore with the resurrected Christ. John 21 records their conversation. With undiminished love Jesus looks at Peter and asks, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
That was it. No questioning of his level of faith. No testing of his commitment to the mission nor gauging of the size of his courage. Not even requesting a pledge that he would never do something like that again. The question was simply, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
This week as we look at The Law of God and the Law of Christ we examine the key element of commandment keeping and true discipleship – love.
As we reflect back over the teachings of Christ we see the constant tension between formalism and love, between outward compliance to the law at the expense of inward love to God.
The Rich Young Ruler will forever serve as the role model of commandment keeping that misses the mark. His sincere profession of faith without love to God and to his fellow man serves as a warning to us all.
Thankfully we also have the role model of the diminutive Zacchaeus who stands tall as someone whose love for God overflowed into love for his fellow man.
“Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Luke 19:8, 9
Consistent with this truth we find Jesus being tested by the Pharisees. Using a lawyer as their spoke piece they think they have set a trap for Jesus. In their minds He has been elevating the last six commandments above the first four. If they can get Him to acknowledge that they will have ammunition to use against Him. But instead of trapping Him they instead gave another opportunity for the truth to be exposed and for lives to be changed.
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40
Everything hangs upon the post of loving God and loving others. There can be no true obedience without this heaven-born love implanted into our hearts.
“Self-love, love of the world, or an undue affection for any created thing, is idolatry in the sight of God, and separates the affections from him. God requires the heart’s best and holiest affections, and he will accept nothing less. He must reign supreme in the mind and heart.”
“Love to God comprehends love for those who are formed in his own image. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?” Thus Christ taught that the last six commandments are like unto the first. The two commandments which he indicated are two great principles springing from one root. The first cannot be kept and the second broken, nor the second kept while the first is broken.” (Ellen White, 3 Spirit of Prophecy, p. 52)
Love to God and love to man − the essence of commandment keeping.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does “loving God with all your heart” mean to you?
- Is it true that I cannot truly keep the commandments if I don’t love God? Why or why not?
- If you answered no to the above question does that mean that one should not worry about keeping the commandments until they experience love for God? Explain your answer.
- What does “loving our neighbor like ourselves” look like? act like? live like?
- Isn’t it true that I can still praise and worship God sincerely while ignoring my neighbor’s needs? Explain your answer.
- How do we come to love God with all of our heart?
- Properly observing the Sabbath fosters love for God. True or false? Explain your answer.
We close this week with the foundational texts Jesus used in answering the lawyer in Matthew 22. The application has not changed nor has the entire life requirement they describe:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Deuteronomy 10:12, 13
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!