I've always liked to watch detective shows. Growing up, two of my favorite detective shows were Columbo and Dragnet. Remember Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet? Sometimes when Sergeant Friday would interview a witness they'd get a little long winded or off topic. Sometimes they would give their own ideas about how to solve the crime. When that happened, Sergeant Friday would say in a very calm, monotone, no-nonsense voice: “Just the facts…just the facts.” In fact, that quote became such a popular catch-phrase or slogan that they started to sell T-shirts with the slogan “Just the Facts.”
In Matthew we read about a Pharisee, described as “an expert in the law,” who asked Jesus what we might call a “Joe Friday—just-the-facts” kind of question.
Matthew 22: 34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[ Deut. 6:5] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Lev. 19:18] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Looking back now, from our 21stcentury vantage point, we understand that when Jesus refers here to “all the law and the Prophets” he was describing the Scripture or Bible known to the Jews of that day…kind of like saying from “A to Z.” Because of course the New Testament was not written yet. SO Jesus’ answer boils down the entire Bible known to the people of that day to just two points.
Two points with a common theme: The great command to love—and not just any kind of love—Godly love.
For those of you who are parents, have you ever left your kid “home alone”? I don’t mean on accident, like what happened to Kevin McCalister in the movie, but when they were old enough and mature enough to be left home overnight or for a weekend. Maybe in their mid or late teens. I remember the first time we left our son and daughter home alone while my husband, Juan, and I went away for a weekend. I made a list of the most important things they needed to know while we were away. Besides the phone numbers of where we were staying, or neighbors & friends phone numbers, I listed things like where our important papers were located and what to do just in case something happened to us.
The book of John chapter 13 records what I find an interesting statement by Jesus about what he wanted his disciples to know before he left them physically.
In John 13:33-35 Jesus said to his disciples:
33 “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer…
34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus said these words during the middle of the Passover service, right after Judas had departed. He had just performed the foot-washing and passed the bread and the cup instituting a new way of keeping Passover – which we now know as the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. Here was Jesus knowing that in just a few hours he’d be facing a terrible beating, and the most humiliating and an excruciatingly slow, painful death. So what did Jesus feel compelled to tell his disciples at that particular time? What was the crucial, important thing—the NEW commandment he wanted them to remember? What was the SIGN he gave so everyone would recognize his followers and disciples?