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 12:28)
If you were a parent, you might say, “Honor your father and mother” (Ex. 20:12). If you were wealthy, you might say, “Do not steal”, or “Do not covet”. (Ex. 20:15, 17). Maybe someone you loved was murdered, so you’d say “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). But these responses reflect only a self-motivated or experiential interpretation of the law.
Jesus gave this sincere teacher a sincere answer – and more!
- “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” (Deut. 6:4-5)
- “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18)
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. 12:34). 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 10:29-37 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 10:29-37. 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.