- The Law of Moses has 613 commandments, and even though they were all to be kept, the Pharisees used to discuss which of these commandments were more important.
- In the Talmud, Rabbi Simlai writes: “Moses gave Israel 613 commandments, David reduced them to eleven (Psalm 15), Isaiah to six (Isaiah 33:15-16), Micah to three (Micah 6:8), Isaiah again to two (Isaiah 56:1); but it was Habakkuk who gave the most important commandment: ‘The righteous shall live by his faith.'” (Hab 2:4) (Makkot 23b-24a).
- Jesus quotes the “Shema”; Israel’s creed that was recited two or three times a day (Deuteronomy 6:4).
- The first and greatest commandment is to “love God” and if we do that, obedience will automatically follow.
- Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is said to have said “Love God and do what you will.”
- Jesus is trying to show the scribe what is the very “purpose of the Law”. The purpose of the Law is not to punish the transgressor, but for the people of Israel to love God and love their fellow man. But in order to achieve this love of God and fellow man, God instituted rules and laws that prevented the people of Israel from mistreating God and fellow man.
- When Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount that he has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), he means that he has not come to take away the Law but to emphasize the purpose of the Law. Instead of focusing on punishing those who break the Law, Jesus believes that we should focus on fulfilling the purpose of the Law. Instead of retaliating “eye for an eye”, Jesus teaches us to “turn the other cheek“. In this way we show love to our fellow human beings and fulfil the true purpose of the Law instead of spending our time looking for those who have broken the Law.
- If a Christian tries to fulfill the Law by following all the rules and laws of the Law, then the Christian will fail to fulfill the Law. Instead, a Christian should focus on fulfilling the purpose of the Law by loving God and his fellow man. Then the Christian automatically fulfills the Law.
- In other words, instead of punishing those who have violated the Law, we should fulfill the Law by doing good. Instead of retaliating eye for eye, we should turn the other cheek.