It’s not often that I am thankful for speed limits.  Today I am – because they are simple and standardized.  I mean what if speed limits reflected regional values instead. 

The black and white sign in Texas may say, “Hold your horses, boy.” The speed posted in Pennsylvania Amish country might be, “Keep thine buggy under 15.” In Nevada it may say, “Roll the Dice.”

And what about the legislative loonies in New York?  They might regulate the speed to the decimal level.  “Speed Limit 27.26.”  Unless it’s open country – then it’s 36.79 which lowers one tenth a mph. every ¾ of a mile as it approaches a town. 

The variations and complexity of posted speeds could end up being enormous and impossible.   

What a fun time my wife and I would have as we made that drive. “Jim, you are going 2 one hundredths over the speed limit.  Just look at the speedometer.”    “Uh OK, could you hand me a magnifying glass?”  

Then a yellow sign says, “Men working-reduce your speed by 35%.”  “Uh, Siri what is 35% of 36.79?” 

And if I get pulled over?  “Sir do you know how fast you were going?  “No officer, I am bad with math.”

We need clarity and simplicity when it comes to what is expected of us.

I imagine that is why Jesus helped us out in Matthew 22.

He was being accosted by the religious experts of His day, who were trying to trip Him up with legal trivia.  That is when this happened, “And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  (22:35-36)

A fair question, long debated by the Jewish people.  The specific Old Testament laws that they received from God numbered 613.  How could anyone hope to understand and do them all? 

So, the “experts” conveniently divided them up into “heavy” laws which they deemed most important, and “light” laws which were not.  Folks were expected to obey the heavy ones and not worry about the light. 

If Jesus were to cite one specific law from among the 613, the experts would indict Him for being dismissive of the rest. 

So, He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  (22:37-38)

Brilliant!  He cited the “great Shema” of Israel, from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  This statement of faith was recited daily by every orthodox Jew.  It was simple and comprehensive.  Love the Lord your God with everything you got.  One law that called for complete surrender and devotion to the Lord.    

But then He added something unexpected from Leviticus 19:18 – words that were not recited by the Jews every day.  He said, “The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  (22:39)   

The common denominator in both is the word “love.”  It calls for a heart obedience to the law.  To love God and to love those created in His image.  Both are necessary.  Even the apostle John echoed the same truth (1 John 4:20)

Jesus wrapped it up by saying, “All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  (22:40) This is to say that the entire 613 laws and the rest of the Old Testament are all more specific expressions of these two comprehensive commandments.

This two-part summary covers the ten commandments to be sure.  The first of the 3 relate to our duty to God and the last 7 to our fellow man. 

So, when we drive down the road of life, and we are not completely clear about the speed limit – we should default to love.  “How can I best demonstrate love for my Lord in this situation?”  and “How can I love the person beside me in a way that will bring the greatest benefit to them?”

A PRAYER: Thank’s Lord for such a sweet summary of your expectations for us.

This has been Jim Johnson and

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 

Scripture references are from the NETBible ®