It was a premeditated question designed to catch Jesus off-guard; certainly not one that was asked out of a desire to understand and follow Him, but rather as an attempt to trap him into speaking against the Jewish Law.
I refer to Mark 12:28, “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them [Jesus and the Sadducees] debating. He asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
The “teacher of the law” was a scribe, who (along with the Pharisees and Sadducees), made up Israel’s political and religious leadership at the time. Together they had agreed that the written Law of Moses was authoritative scripture, and that any teaching that does not agree would be seen as an offense against their theology. This group of leaders despised Jesus not only for exposing their hypocrisy, but because His popularity threatened their power. They wanted to discredit Him and turn the crowd against Him.
Jesus answered, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31).
At this point, the scribe had to admit that Jesus was right. Jesus’s response not only referred back to Deuteronomy 6:5, which was part of the books accepted by Jewish law, but superseded it. Jesus even commends him for being honest, stating that “he was not far from the Kingdom of God”, (v. 34 ). He was close because he acknowledged the point, but we are never told if he actually came to saving faith. After all, a list of rules and regulations was much easier to keep than a humble and whole-hearted love for God.
In the midst of this law-focused atmosphere, Jesus’s message was clear: A genuine, all-encompassing love for God is what drives obedience.
It is a message to us as believers today. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, we may want to love the Lord, yet none of us do this perfectly. We fight affections for earthly desires and distractions, we struggle with sin, selfishness, pride, laziness…well, the list goes on.
I believe that as we consider our fallible nature against the holiness of God and the standards He requires, it shows us how very imperfect we really are. God said, “Be ye holy, even as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 ). Without being holy this side of heaven, we simply cannot abide with God.
But God, in His mercy, reconciles His holiness and justice with His love for us through Christ, who stood in the gap. He bridged our inability to love God perfectly by taking our punishment on the cross, and exchanging our sinfulness with his righteousness. (Romans 4-5). In so doing, we are now seen by God as justified by faith before Him. That is why the scriptures state that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)
Let us not forget that if we seek to love the Lord with all that we are, our journey cannot, and will not remain stagnant. In the next post, I want to ask this question: What are some ways we (and by “we”, I mean believers, who have been given any faith at all by God), can strive to love the Lord with our whole being? How can we, (as God requires), love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength?
Why do you think Jesus’s answer left then without rebuttal?
Do you think at times we also find ourselves grading our obedience to God’s commands, rather than our motives to obey?
Why do you think this commandment (to love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love you neighbor as yourself) is the most important commandment?