Jesus answered the teacher of the Law, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Eyewitness Mark 12:34).
Eyewitness: p. 201
In Your Bible: Deut 6:5,8; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34
Religious leaders often challenged Jesus about what he said: Who to pay taxes to? What about life after death? What is living water? One astute teacher of the Law who seemed to understand more about the truth Jesus was said asked another question. He wanted to know, “Which is the most important commandment”? (Eyewitness Mark 12:28).
He posed his question not to imply that any commandment is little or less important. Rather, which is the first one in God’s eye. In this instance, the religious leaders were trying to capture Jesus in a mistake. But Jesus showed they misunderstood the question altogether.
The Most Important Commandment
Jesus replied, “The most important is, ‘Listen Israel, never forget. The Lord God is our God, the one and only true God. You must love God with all your whole heart, and with all your being, and with all your strength.'” Then he added, “Never seek revenge or carry a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself” (Eyewitness Mark 12:31).
Devout Jew with Phylacteries on head and arm
Moses ‘ statement, “Listen Israel, and never forget. The Lord our God is the one and only true God” – is the essential creed of Judaism, the Shema said by devout Jews in prayers twice a day. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut 6:5) NASB). These passages of the Shema are contained in little leather boxes which the devout Jew wore on his forehead, forearm, and wrist when at prayer. The requirement for wearing these phylacteries is found in Deuteronomy 6:8. For devout Jews, the Shema is also placed in little cylindrical boxes at each door to remind them of God in His coming out and coming in. *
The Second Commandment is Equally Important
The Eyewitness clarifies how to love your neighbor with love from the heart – no hidden grudges! An area often kept in our heart and not divulged. Jesus brought these two commandments together – a new thing for them to hear. No rabbi had done that before!
The teacher of the Law then said something that showied he understood what Jesus was said……..“Teacher you are right in saying [this] and he added, And to love others is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Eyewitness Mark 12:33).
Jesus encouraged the teacher of the Law. He knew this man had nailed the meaning of what he said. The entire Jewish leadership (Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the Law) now had a lot to ponder, and it challenged them.
Jesus emphasized, “All the Law and the prophets are based upon these two commandments” (Eyewitness Matthew 22:40). Love the one true God and love your neighbor as yourself. Which is the most important – both.
Application: Often we think God’s commands are too hard to keep, to do or both. However, the most important (two) commands for the Jews and Christians remain. These pointed questions to Jesus become great learning opportunities for believers. Jesus brought the love your neighbor into the same importance as loving God.
Prayer: Father, I do love you with all my heart, mind and strength. Help me love my neighbor to show I love you fully.
Question: Why so many commandments? How do we begin to understand God giving us guidance and commands on how to live?
* The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 2, William Barclay, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, p. 279.