Chapter 16: The Two Great Commandments

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 112–15

Map Chp. 16

The Later Judean Ministry






The Seventy Return





The Two Great Commandments; Parable of the Good Samaritan




Bethany, Judea

Jesus Visits Mary and Martha





Instructions to Disciples on Prayer




Accused Again of Casting Out an Evil Spirit by the Power of Satan




Another Discourse on Cleanliness




Interpretive Commentary

(16-1) Luke 10:17. The Significance of the Calling of the Seventy

“The order of the Seventy is a special calling of Elders for the preaching of the Gospel in all the world, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles. A quorum consists of seventy members, of which seven are chosen as presidents. The difference between the Seventies and the Elders is that the former are ‘traveling ministers’ and the latter are ‘standing ministers’ to the Church.” (Widtsoe, comp., Priesthood and Church Government, p. 115; see also D&C 107:25.)

(16-2) Luke 10:21. Who Are the “Babes” to Whom the Father Gives Revelation?

“Compared with the learned men of the time, such as the rabbis and scribes, whose knowledge served but to harden their hearts against the truth, these devoted servants were as babes in humility, trust, and faith. Such children were and are among the nobles of the kingdom.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 428.)

(16-3) Luke 10:27, 29, 36. How Did Many Jewish Leaders in the Day of Jesus Interpret the Term Neighbor?

Among the sacred laws left on record by Moses was the command to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18.) Centuries later, in laying down for the people narrow and uninspired interpretations of this command, the rabbis wrote:

“We are not to contrive the death of the Gentiles, but if they are in any danger of death we are not bound to deliver them, e.g. if any of them fall into the sea you need not take him out, for such a one is not thy neighbour.” (Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 751.)

(16-4) Luke 10:38–42. The Devotion of Mary and Martha

“There was no reproof of Martha’s desire to provide well; nor any sanction of possible neglect on Mary’s part. We must suppose that Mary had been a willing helper before the master’s arrival; but now that He had come, she chose to remain with Him. Had she been culpably neglectful of her duty, Jesus would not have commended her course. He desired not well-served meals and material comforts only, but the company of the sisters, and above all their receptive attention to what He had to say. He had more to give them than they could possibly provide for Him. Jesus loved the two sisters and their brother as well. Both these women were devoted to Jesus, and each expressed herself in her own way. Martha was of a practical turn, concerned in material service; she was by nature hospitable and self-denying. Mary, contemplative and more spiritually inclined, showed her devotion through the service of companionship and appreciation.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 433.)

(16-5) Luke 11:1–4. “Teach Us to Pray”

No doubt the apostles, being faithful Jews, were themselves men of prayer; yet as they watched Jesus in prayer, they were so humbled and impressed as to ask, when he had finished, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Here he gave them a simple pattern, the same as had been given in the Sermon on the Mount. It taught them “how Deity might appropriately be addressed in prayer, of the praise and adoration that should be extended to him, and of the type and kind of petitions men should make to him. As far as it goes it is one of the most concise, expressive, and beautiful statements found in the scriptures. It does not, however, reach the heights of one of Jesus’ later prayers among the Jews, the great Intercessory Prayer (John 17), nor does it compare with some of the prayers he uttered among the Nephites. (3 Ne. 19.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:235.)

Perhaps even more helpful than the short sample itself were the pertinent guidelines and counsel he then gave them. (See Luke 11:5–13.)

(16-6) Compare Luke 11:4 with Matthew 6:12. A Lost Sentence in Luke

As you have noticed, the Lord’s prayer as rendered in Luke is missing these great sanctifying words: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., explained:

“The prayer as given in Luke has been considerably tampered with.

“Scholars affirm the changes … stem from the pen of Marcion, the heretic of almost 1800 years ago. (CR, Apr. 1954, p. 42.)

It is noteworthy that in the Inspired Version, the Luke account includes the expression of reverence and humility that is missing in the King James Version.

(16-7) Luke 11:5–13. The Parable of the Friend at Midnight

“The parable is regarded by some as a difficult one to apply, since it deals with the selfish and comfort-loving element of human nature, and apparently uses this to symbolize God’s deliberate delay. The explanation, however, is clear when the context is duly considered. The Lord’s lesson was, that if man, with all his selfishness and disinclination to give, will nevertheless grant what his neighbor with proper purpose asks and continues to ask in spite of objection and temporary refusal, with assured certainty will God grant what is persistently asked in faith and with righteous intent. No parallelism lies between man’s selfish refusal and God’s wise and beneficent waiting. There must be a consciousness of real need for prayer, and real trust in God, to make prayer effective; and in mercy the Father sometimes delays the granting that the asking may be more fervent. But in the words of Jesus: ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 435.)

(16-8) Luke 11:24–26. “The Last State of That Man Is Worse than the First”

“Does this mean that the man who has quit smoking or drinking or had sex pollutions finds life empty for a time? The things which engaged him and caught his fancy and occupied his thoughts are gone, and better substitutions have not yet filled the void. This is Satan’s opportunity. The man makes a start but may find the loss of the yesterday’s habits so great that he is enticed to return to his evil ways, and his lot thus becomes infinitely worsened.” (Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 172.)

(16-9) Luke 11:32. The Men of Nineveh Shall Rise up in Judgment and Condemn This Generation

“It shall be as though heathen and Gentile nations, those without the law and the light which Israel had, shall rise up in judgment against the chosen seed, whose opportunities to do right were far greater. The heathens of Nineveh repented when a man preached to them, but God’s covenant race, the chosen of the whole earth, refused to repent when the very Son of God came among them.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:278.)

(16-10) Luke 11:47–49. Are There Modern-Day Sepulchre Builders?

“… do you also build sepulchres for the dead prophets and tombs for those who have passed away long ago and disregard the living ones?” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Oct. 1949, p. 123.)

“Even in the Church many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Instructor, Aug. 1960, p. 257.)

(16-11) Luke 11:52. Jesus Decries the Loss of the Fulness of the Scriptures

What did Jesus mean by the “key to knowledge”? The Prophet Joseph Smith gives this clarification:

‘‘Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures; ye enter not in yourselves into the kingdom; and those who were entering in, ye hindered.” (Luke 11:53, Inspired Version. Italics added.)

“The devil wages war against the scriptures. He hates them, perverts their plain meanings, and destroys them when he can. He entices those who heed his temptings to delete and discard, to change and corrupt, to alter and amend. …

“Accordingly, Jesus is here heaping wo upon those who have contaminated and destroyed scriptures which would have guided and enlightened the Jews.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:624–25.)

Do This and Thou Shalt Live

The mission of our Redeemer enables us to secure the kind of life that he and his Father possess—eternal life. Though we have many things to do in order to prepare for such life, we have fortunately been given the “master formula,” which embodies every law and requirement leading to exaltation. Let us now consider some of these points regarding what we must do to “live.”

At two different points in the ministry of Jesus we read of the two great commandments. It is the first of these two occasions that you have studied in the reading block for this lesson. (Luke 10:25–28.) Here, a lawyer asked what he should do to gain eternal life, and Jesus had the man answer his own question by reciting from the ancient scriptures. (Compare Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.) It was on the second occasion, however, that Jesus himself listed these two commands and gave them the place of preeminence among all the requirements of the gospel. Read Matthew 22:35–39.

Why is love of God the first commandment? (See D&C 64:34.) How does the second commandment naturally flow from the first?

Now continue and read Matthew 22:40.

The Ten Commandments might be used as a simple illustration of how all the requirements for salvation may be traced to our responsibility to love God and man. Read Deuteronomy 5:6–21, and identify those commandments which pertain primarily to our responsibilities to God and those relating to our relationship to our fellowmen. How does the Savior summarize the Ten Commandments in the first and second great commandments?

(16-12) Putting the First Commandments First

As you have seen, the Ten Commandments place devotion to the Lord at the top of the list. We find this same devotion first on other important lists as well. For example:

“We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” (First Article of Faith. Italics added.)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (First of the Beatitudes as recorded in the Book of Mormon [3 Nephi 12:3]. Italics added.)

“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ [first principle of the gospel]. …” (Fourth Article of Faith. Italics added.)

With this idea in mind, you will begin to notice, if you have not already done so, that the primary message of the scriptures is that we should love the Lord with all our hearts. Elder Ezra Taft Benson, speaking of this greatest of all blessings and responsibilities, pointed out:

“The world largely ignores the first and great commandment—to love God—but talks a lot about loving their brother. …

“… But only those who know and love God can best love and serve his children, for only God fully understands his children and knows what is best for their welfare. Therefore, one needs to be in tune with God to best help his children. …

“Therefore, if you desire to help your fellowmen the most, then you must put the first commandment first.

“When we fail to put the love of God first, we are easily deceived by crafty men who profess a great love of humanity. … (CR, Oct. 1967, p. 35.)