Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Inherit Eternal Life, part 2

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (Luke 10:25-28 NASB)

The Pharisees, of which the scribes and lawyers were generally a part, were constantly trying to trick Jesus with their questions. Matthew 22:34-40 records just such an event. The Pharisees had tried to trick Jesus with a question about paying taxes to Rome. When they failed, the Saducees followed by trying to trick Jesus with a question about marriage in heaven. They, too, failed to trick Him and were silenced by the wisdom of His answer. Matthew 22:34-40 records yet another attempt on the part of the Pharisees to confound Jesus. They sent a lawyer (an expert in Jewish law) to Jesus, asking which is the greatest commandment. He quoted from Deuteronomy and He summed up the greatest commandment in this way:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB)

He immediately followed with the second greatest commandment, a portion of a verse from Leviticus:

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NASB)

In this passage from Luke, a lawyer (expert in Jewish law) has come to Jesus, intending to trick Him. "How do I inherit eternal life?" he asked Jesus, who replied by asking, "What does the law say?" He answers with the same verses Jesus has used previously, summing up the law in those two verses from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. This is not as remarkable as we might think. The verse in Deuteronomy is a portion of the Shema, a vital part of the most important prayer in Jewish ritual. (We will look at this in more depth tomorrow.) This prayer was prayed at least twice daily by Jewish men, and both Jesus and the lawyer had heard it and recited it on a daily basis for their entire lives. It had likely become ingrained in them. They knew these words.

The Shema includes a portion on the rewards of obedience, but it is speaking of rewards in this life. There is not specifically a reference to eternal life. Jesus, however, answers with a passage from Leviticus. 

"So you shall keep My statues and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord." Leviticus 18:5 NASB

The word translated as "live" in the Luke passage is zaō and is used to mean "to enjoy real life, to have true life and worthy of the name, active, blessed, endless in the Kingdom of God." What Jesus told the lawyer was that obedience to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself summed it up. If you do that, you have attained the essence of the law and the heart of the gospel, and you will live, both now and in the future. Actually loving God and our neighbor in this way is a challenge to discuss another day, but for now, let's ponder the importance of obedience. Certainly, Jesus was not saying that we could "earn" our way to heaven. That is a gift that comes by grace alone through faith alone, but perhaps we need to understand that LOVE is a vital part of the equation. All the obedience to rules in the world cannot make up for a lack of love.

Pause and consider for a moment the love you have toward the Lord. Do you follow a checklist of rules, as the lawyer did, or is your obedience motivated by the depth of your love for our Lord? Love. It is where our life of faith begins. It is a critical part of the life of faith and cannot be avoided. Love God, love others, and love them with reckless abandon. It's not optional, but is that how we love? 

Selah. Pause and consider, then love.