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author on December 23rd, 2009

We’ve seen, as we’ve studied Mark’s Gospel, how the Pharisees, Saduccees, and Teachers of the Law mostly hated Jesus and sought to trap Him in His words so they could arrest Him. But this particular teacher, overhearing the conversation, seemed to honestly wish to settle the debate by asking one honest and sincere question.

“Of all the Commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28Mark 12:28
English: World English Bible - WEB

28 One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the greatest of all?”

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)

If you were a parent, you might say, “Honor your father and mother” (Ex. 20:12Ex. 20:12
English: World English Bible - WEB

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.

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). If you were wealthy, you might say, “Do not steal”, or “Do not covet”. (Ex. 20:15, 17Ex. 20:15, 17
English: World English Bible - WEB

15 “You shall not steal. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

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). Maybe someone you loved was murdered, so you’d say “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13Ex. 20:13
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13 “You shall not murder.

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). But these responses reflect only a self-motivated or experiential interpretation of the law.

Jesus gave this sincere teacher a sincere answer – and more!

The teacher demonstrated his agreement with Jesus by stating His words back to Him – rephrased to show that he understood.

If you understand these things as the teacher did, Jesus says “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk. 12:34Mk. 12:34
English: World English Bible - WEB

34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” No one dared ask him any question after that.

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). High praise, coming from Jesus!

Jesus also made sure that another component of the greatest commandment was emphasized – to love your neighbor as yourself. Read Luke 10:29-37Luke 10:29-37
English: World English Bible - WEB

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, 34 came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ 36 Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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to learn who your neighbor is (hint: everyone is your neighbor).

Today, self-love is the mantra of many. Jesus is saying that love for others is equal to love for self. This is a tall order – some of us are not as easy to love. This love is expressed in Jesus’ parable in Luke 10:29-37Luke 10:29-37
English: World English Bible - WEB

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, 34 came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ 36 Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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. One with the means volunteers what he has to help someone he not only doesn’t know, but who was culturally despised by His audience – think of a similar situation in your own life, and imagine the self-love that comes from treating another as you would want to be treated. This love is not demonstrated in giving handouts; it’s demonstrated by meeting a need – a true need.

So, to summarize, we love God by obeying His commands, and we love ourselves by loving others.