Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Jesus and the 10 Commandments

Jesus and the Commandments


From the time of their birth, Jewish children began hearing and then reciting what was known as The Shema.
Let us read this together:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Every day from the day of their birth to the day of their death, Jews repeated this passage every morning when they first got up and every night right before they went to bed. The passage is in the book of Deuteronomy right after Moses reads the 10 commandments to God’s people. The verse which follows the Shema says:  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.to teach this to your children. Deuteronomy 6:6-9. By God’s directive, the 10 commandments are to be lived every single day; they are to be talked about and they are to be taught to the children. The Shema was believed to be a summary of what the law was all about so would serve to remind the Jew about the law and how important it was to follow the rules God laid down for them.
Jesus grew up in a Jewish household and as a young Jewish boy he would have had a very scripted upbringing. The education and training of Jewish boys was very strict and adhered to in a specific way. He would have heard the Shema twice a day from the time he was an infant and would have started reciting it himself as soon as he was able. He would have heard the adults speak about the law every day as they were directed; his mother would have started telling him Bible stories from the day he was born and was carried around in the sling the Hebrew women used to care for their infants as they went about their daily chores.
There is not doubt Jesus would have been steeped in the law of Moses and would have included the Shema in his daily life. Yet when Jesus began his ministry, the Law and the following of the law became one of the big questions asked of Jesus repeatedly and in different contexts. And Jesus always insisted on the continued relevance of the commandments and the necessity to continue to make them an important part of our lives.
All of the Gospels tell us a story of a man who is known as the rich young ruler. This young man comes to Jesus and falls on his knees in front of Jesus and says: Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus looks at this wealthy man and says “You know the commandments. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother….(Mark 10:17-19). Here clearly Jesus is reminding the young man the necessity of following the Law - the 10 Commandments. The young man comes back to Jesus with: “But I have followed these all my life.” and Jesus answers “Fine. Now go and sell all you have and give it to the poor.” The scripture reminds us that the man was very wealthy - and the rich young ruler then leaves Jesus acknowledging he just can’t do that - he cannot part with his wealth.
A couple point about what Jesus is saying here. Notice Jesus only listed the second half of the commandments - the ones which are actually the easiest to follow. The ones we know are wrong and the ones that are easily identifiable - murder, stealing, theft - we know those are wrong and we can pretty much have enough self - discipline not to break these rules. The ones Jesus did not mention are the hard ones because Jesus knew this young ruler couldn’t and hadn’t been following those rules: Though shall have no other gods and don’t worship idols. By not being willing to give up his wealth to follow Jesus, the young man was simply saying ‘my wealth is more important to me than following Jesus; my wealth is the god I put before the one true God; my wealth is the idol I

worship.” Right here Jesus is reinforcing the importance of knowing and following the commandments.
The 10 Commandments were also the topic of conversation between Jesus and a Jewish lawyer. The Jews knew and lived the absolute authority of all the Ten Commandments, along with all the other levitical laws that had been imposed on them, some from the biblical account in Leviticus and some of them added by the Jewish authorities. But a topic of conversation among the Jews had arisen which they debated often and is now being asked of Jesus, “was there any priority among the 10 Commandments, was one of the commandments more important to follow than the others; was their an order to the commandments of importance; was one or more commandment the main one to have to follow.” Can’t you see the Jewish men sitting at the city gates - just like men use to sit at Barber shops and discuss the topics of the day - debating whether there was a main commandment and which one was it? Now they asked this of Jesus - partially

because they were really curious what he would say and partially because they wanted Jesus to say something the Jewish leaders could use to have him arrested. So the Jewish lawyer looks at Jesus and says, “Jesus, what is the greatest commandment? which commandment is first of all?”.
Jesus, has he usually does, doesn’t answer the question directly but asks the Jewish lawyer what he thinks and the Jewish lawyer quotes the directive from the Shema - Love God and from Leviticus 19:18 Love your neighbor. And Jesus says “
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:40. Jesus says what we in the modern way of looking at the 10 Commandments have said which is the summary Jesus gave doesn’t replace the 10 Commandments, but it does sort of boil them down into something easy to remember. “Love God and love your neighbor” is certainly a lot easier to recite than listing all the 10 Commandments. What we have done then, in the modern way of looking at Jesus’ words and their relationship to the commandments is to use Jesus’ two directives to categorize the rules. There is two lists, the list which reminds us to love God and the list which reminds us to love our neighbor. How do we love God - we put him first, we don’t worship anything else , we use his name correctly and we put aside a day to worship him. How do we love our neighbor - we honor our parents, we don’t murder anyone, we are faithful to one another, we don’t steal from one another, we don’t lie to one another and we don’t despise our neighbor because they have something we want. I think Jesus’ summary makes it much easier for us to understand what the 10 commandments are all about.
Later Jesus is on a mountain where a great crowd has gathered and he begins to deliver what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus delivers all the ‘blessed ares” and continues with some more information -
reminding us we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Then he says: “
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:17-19
Jesus came not to replace the law, but to fulfill it - ‘fulfill it’ means he is going to live the law perfectly for us. Jesus is going to do what we are not capable of doing - living up to the standards God has set before us.
Just one of the many things Jesus did for us….. but he never says, “I will follow these rules perfectly for you so you don’t have to……” Listen to what he does say: as long as heaven and earth exists, not the smallest detail of this law was to be ignored. Jesus was saying that as long as their are people, as long as their are followers of God, the law still applies and the people of God are to strive to live as God has directed them.
But not only are we to follow them, we are to continue the directive from the Shema where God tells his people to teach ‘them’ the commandments to the children - Jesus reinforces that. See what is says - it speaks more in the negative - not ‘teach your children’ but woe to you if you don’t teach your children! And Jesus reminds us of the answer to the Jewish lawyers question - which one is the greatest commandment?
Jesus says they are all equal, nothing written in the commandments is less important than another part.
That is kind of difficult for us however who live in this age of sentencing during court cases. You get a life sentence for murder and 6 months for stealing. But not in God’s eyes Jesus teaches us…. In God’s eyes dishonoring your parents is just as bad as murder and not honoring the Sabbath is just as bad as stealing….
Jesus reminds us all the commandments are important and we need to try to follow them all as best as we can.
There is one more important aspect of the commandments Jesus gives us. Jesus reminds us the importance of the commandments is not in following the commandments to the letter - it is the attitude and the intent of the commandment that is important. Jesus expands these commands to be much broader that we think of them at first glance - Remember Jimmy Carter’s famous statement in a interview with Playboy magazine ,
"I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times.” He was made fun of a lot for that statement - but he was dead on. This is exactly what Jesus said, “If you wanted to do it in your mind, it is just as if you did it physically.” The attitude and intent. The desire of adultery is breaking the commandment just as if you had done it. Take murder - murder is much more than physically killing someone. Think of how easy it is to murder someone in spirit. Something you say to them that wounds them deeply and changes their view of themselves and what they are capable of doing - killing someone’s self esteem so they never look at themselves the same. Words can murder someone….. Attitude and intent.
Jesus wants us to know that there is much more to loving God and loving neighbor than not breaking in their homes and stealing their jewels, but what we think and how we treat each other is really crucial to our loving God.
Jesus grew up learning and living the commandments and Jesus challenges us to remember to do the same - learn them he says, live them he says, and then he tells us teach them to others. Just as the young Jewish children learned to live these commandments every moment of their life, Jesus tells us to do the same. Amen!!