We see in this passage that Jesus has been teaching the crowds about the Kingdom of God, telling all sorts of stories and parables. The religious leaders have also turned up to listen to what he has to say, for a very different reason however. They are trying to undermine Jesus’ teaching. They’re looking to set him up, lay their traps and catch him out. Of course, Jesus does not fall for their games. In response to Jesus silencing the Sadducees with his answers, the Pharisees then come together to give it another crack. Yet in true Jesus fashion, his answer leaves the crowds in amazement. The whole of scripture and our very purpose on this earth hinges on these two sentences from the mouth of Jesus. Love God, love people. That’s it. Matthew 22:37-40 reads:
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Now lockdown 2.0 has been here for a little under a week now. I don’t know about you, but it feels very familiar. We have been here before. Being back in this place has had me thinking about the first time around.
So, if it’s not too painful, join me in casting your mind back to March 2020. The world was heading into crisis mode. Almost overnight, the way we live our lives changed for the foreseeable future. Everything we read, watched, listened to, talked about revolved around Covid-19. This was a global crisis, pretty much every nation on the planet was impacted in some way.
Yet, in the midst of this, a wonderful wave of connection began to ripple across the country. All of a sudden, our ever increasingly global network of interaction and connection began to dim. Away from the daily rhythms of busyness and hurry, we began to revisit that age old question, ‘who is my neighbour?’
I don’t know about you, but the importance of the local and the significance of proximity were reinvigorated in me during that time. Mutual aid groups popped up all over, we stood shoulder to shoulder, so to speak, to clap for the NHS, and the well recognised faces of 2/5/10 years gained a name. And as we work our way through this second round of national lockdown, let me pose this question to us again, ‘who is my neighbour?’
Let me share a quick story. A week ago today, with lockdown looming, some of us on the staff team went our onto the high street of Crookes, armed with some lovely locally sourced chocolates and the offer of prayer. We met with people from nearly every shop along the high street. The response we had truly warmed my heart. People were blown away by the kindness that had been shown to them, especially with the uncertainty and trepidation of the next month as most of them were small business owners, some of whom hadn’t been open longer than 2 or 3 months. And wonderfully, we had the opportunity to pray with so many of the people that we met. And what made it all the more special, was their main request was that we would pray for others, not just them. One lady asked that we prayed for her customers, especially those who were elderly and vulnerable, that they would remain well and not feel isolated and alone during this time. Another asked that we would pray for the local community, that they would come together and be united in love and kindness.
All of this reminded me that our neighbours are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father too. We all have the same dad. He loves them, and cares for them and wants to be in communion with them. We are called to do the same. Our faith hinges on Jesus’ words in Matthew 22. Our purpose is to obey these commandments. Love God. Love your neighbour.
So let this be my challenge to us today. First off, pray. Pray for your streets. If you know people already, amazing. Pray for them, tell them you’re praying for them too. People generally love to know that someone cares enough about them that they would pray for them. If you don’t know your neighbours, pray for opportunities to get to know them. Also, pray for your area. Pray for the local business, for schools, for hospitals. There’s been a bunch of folks across the city that have been prayer walking every Wednesday at 9:15am, join in where you are! Prayer really does make a difference.
Secondly, do. Do build relationship with your neighbours. Do try new things, be bold and courageous. Get in touch with others who you see modelling something that works. Ask for help and ideas and resources. Do put your money where your mouth is. It might be too soon to mention this for some, or even too late for others, but why not consider buying locally this Christmas, love your neighbour by buying their stuff. In this passage, Jesus’ words highlight the importance of locality and proximity and his actions echo this. In this season we have an opportunity again to love those around us, as a witness to Jesus’ love for them.
Father, thank you that every person on earth, you have created and you love. Help us to see people through your eyes. Help us to love our neighbours well during this time. Would your kingdom come and your will be done. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 22:34-46
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, ‘What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?’
‘The son of David,’ they replied.
He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says,
‘“The Lord said to my Lord:
‘Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.’”
If then David calls him “Lord”, how can he be his son?’ No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.