“Teacher! I have a question,” in the temple, a legal expert asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the first one of all?” Jesus replies, . . . “The first one is, . . . to love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, with all your strength.”
Yes, it is the right answer that they expect him to answer. Yes, they knew it that this guy, Jesus from Nazareth, was one of them who understood well what the most important commandment is. He is not a dangerous man to them, and to this temple.
But, Jesus does not stop there, and keeps saying, . . . “And . . . the second is, . . . ”
“Wait! Teacher! We asked just for only one.” “You might misunderstand the question. He asked, which commandment is the most important one? And you answered him already. You gave us one. That’s Enough. And, that is the right answer we have expected from you.”
“The second is, . . . to love neighbor as you love yourself.” Then, Jesus gives them two. . . . .
Why? Why did Jesus give two, not one? And, Now, Here, in the temple of God, Jesus, the Son of God, links ‘to love God’ and ‘to love neighbor,’ and also links ‘to love neighbor’ and ‘to love ourselves.’
Yes, God is Love. So, “God so loved that the world that he gave His Only Son, and sent him into the world,” (John 3:16-17) Yes, God is Love, and Jesus is Love. In John chapter 15 Jesus is saying, . . . “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. . . . This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)
God’s love for the world and for the people was put in action through Jesus Christ who became our ‘Holy Neighbor’ (Walter Brueggemann’s Collected Sermons, vol. 2, p .269-271) to those in need, the weak, the sick, the poor, the powerless, and the victims. And He became a neighbor to a blind beggar sitting by the roadside, and to a man covered with leprosy, bowing with his face to the ground and begging him for healing, to a man sitting at the tax booth, being regarded a sinner.
And He became a neighbor to a woman weeping at Jesus’ feet for her sin and bathing them with her tears, and to a Gentile woman coming to a well to draw water. And He became a neighbor to a woman being caught in adultery and standing before Jesus, and to a woman sitting in a synagogue on the sabbath with an evil spirit that had kept her sick for eighteen years, and she was bent over and could not straighten up at all. And He became a neighbor to a man whose son had been seized by a spirit, and to a man having demons and living in the tombs And He became a neighbor to those sitting on the field without food.
The Son of God became the ‘True Neighbor’ to those who need God’s love, justice, mercy, and grace. And, in Jesus, . . . the people, especially those who being treated as the least and the last become His beloved neighbors whom He loves as God loves His Only Son, and the Son loves the Father.
“Love the Son, Love the World, and Love the Father.” These loves are not three but one in Jesus Christ. “Love God, Love Neighbor, as You Love Yourself.” These three are not separated from each other. These three become one in Jesus Christ who is God, and who is the True, Ultimate, Holy Neighbor to us, and who is the Son whom God loves. And this Our Holy and True Neighbor, Jesus Christ, is calling us today to become a true and good neighbor to one another just as He became a true neighbor to us.
God the Father is Love. God the Son is Love. God the Holy Spirit is also Love. And the Love has come as our neighbor to love us, and also to be loved by us.
“Love God, Love Neighbor as We Love Ourselves.” “Become a good and true neighbor to one another.” This is what Christian life is all about, and this is what the Christian baptism is all about.
We Christians begin this, a new life, at the baptismal font in order to become a good neighbor to others. “You are my son, you are my daughter, whom I love; I am so pleased with you (Mark 1:11).” . . . . The same voice of God, when Jesus was coming up out of the water came from heaven with the Spirit, will say for a new baby being about to be baptized today. Gathering around the baptismal font, and being dipped into the water, today, we look to Jesus Christ, our True and Holy Neighbor, and through Him, we as God’s neighbors also look to others in need in our midst, that we become true and good neighbor to them.
We are not far from the kingdom of God. But not yet. We are not there yet. But we are on the way, remembering all saints and all souls who walked the way before, and encouraging and helping one another on the way, and welcoming others and a new baby joining us to the way and celebrating one another for being a fellow pilgrim to the Kingdom.
“Dad, are we there yet?” . . . . “Not far from there.” . . . . “Mom, are we there yet?” . . . . “Almost there.”
Kids ask, and their parents answer in a car on the highway. Yes, they will be there soon before the night comes. But not yet. Love God, love neighbor as ourselves. We will be there.