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The Most Important Rule!

Children's sermon
A Bible. For a little extra “zip,” have a jar or container with 613 pennies in it.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (v. 28)

Hello, everyone! (Let them respond.) I have another story for you today, are you ready? (Let them respond.) Great!

One day, Jesus was talking with some people who had come to see him and learn more about God. While they were talking, a bunch of Pharisees walked up and asked Jesus a question. The Pharisees were important religious people. They were rich, wore fancy robes and clothes, and spent a lot of their time making sure everyone followed the religious laws from the temple. A lot of people were afraid of the Pharisees because when they caught someone breaking a law, they usually made them pay a big fine.

The Pharisees did not like Jesus because he did not follow all of the old religious laws. So, in today's reading they came to try and get him to say something wrong so they could catch him breaking a law. They asked Jesus a question that was a trick question, and no matter how he answered it they knew they could get him.

It was a trap. And in my imagination, I can see the Pharisees standing there. Let’s see if we can see what they looked like. Let’s stand up with our arms folded (have everyone stand with arms folded), with a grin on their faces (have everyone add a smirky grin on their face), just waiting for Jesus to say something wrong. You have seen people do that, haven’t you? That’s how bullies look sometimes, isn’t it? Well, sometimes the Pharisees acted just like bullies, too.

The Pharisees knew that no matter what Jesus said they could find a rule that he was breaking. So, the Pharisees asked Jesus the question and then stood there and waited for him to say something wrong.

But Jesus knew what they were trying to do, and instead of saying something they could punish him for, he looked at them and said, “You people don’t really understand the scriptures or God, do you?” When he was finished talking, the Pharisees looked more like this: (Have everyone stand with their arms at their sides, head down, and turn to walk away.) Everyone in the crowd was happy to see the bullies get taught a lesson.

Then one of the teachers in the crowd came up to Jesus and said, “There are just so many religious rules and laws, it seems like we always end up breaking them and getting into trouble. Can you tell us which is the most important law that we must obey?”

And there were a LOT of laws. The religious leaders had studied the old scriptures and said there were 613 laws people were supposed to obey. That’s a lot of rules, isn’t it? (Let them respond.)

[NOTE: Use this only if you are using the pennies: Let me show you just how much 613 is. (Show the pennies. Pour them into something for the best effect.) This is what 613 looks like. Every penny would be a law. That really is a LOT of laws, isn’t it? (Let them respond.)]

And there were laws about everything. Here are a few of those 613 laws the people were supposed to obey:

• You must love God.
• You must wear tzitzit (tsit’-tsit) on the corners of your clothing. The tzitzit was a little tassel you were supposed to have tied on each corner of your shirt.
• You must recite grace after meals.
• You never say anything mean about someone else.
• You must not reap the entire field. When you harvested your fields or garden, you were supposed to leave a part of the crops for the poor people to come and get.
• You must not remove the entire beard, like the idolaters. Men were not supposed to shave their entire faces.
• You must love everyone, even the stranger.
• You must not yell at your father or mother.
• You must not break a promise.

So, the teacher asked Jesus, “Which of the 613 laws is the most important law?”

Jesus looked at the man and said:

“The most important one is this: ‘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 mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The man asked which law was the most important, but Jesus told him the most important law was to love God and to love your neighbor. That sounds like two laws, doesn’t it? (Let them respond.)

But Jesus was telling the man that those two rules go together. If we want to love God, we have to love other people. And, if we do not love other people, we cannot love God. We can’t do one without the other. Out of all 613 rules, the most important rule was to love God and to love each other.

Sometimes we still wonder about that, don’t we? There are so many rules, and people argue a lot about the rules in the Bible, don’t they? (Let them respond.)

And with all of the rules we have, sometimes we wonder what is the most important rule for us to follow?

It is the same rule Jesus told the teacher: to love God and love each other.

If we want to love God, we need to love other people. If we do not love other people, we cannot love God. We can’t do one without the other.

I hope you will remember how much God loves you, and how much God wants us to show everyone around us how much we love them, too. Everyone…

Let’s have our prayer and ask God to help us remember to do the things God wants us to do to take care of each other.

Dear God, thank you for reminding us how much you love us. Please help us remember that you love all of the people you have created and help us let the people around us know that we love them just like Jesus loves us. Amen.
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