World English Bible translation
12:28One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, "What commandment is the greatest of all?"
12:29Jesus answered, "The greatest is, 'Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: 12:30 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.' This is the primary commandment. 12:31 The second is like this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
12:32The scribe said to him, "Truly, teacher, you have said well that he is one, and there is none other but he, 12:33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."
12:34When 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.
Today's passage concludes the section in the Gospel of Mark where various groups question Jesus, putting Him to the test. First the chief priests, scribes and elders questioned His authority. Next the Pharisees questioned Him about paying taxes. Then the Sadducees questioned Him about the resurrection. In Today's Scripture, a single scribe questioned Jesus. This incident is different from the others, though, in that the question is sincere and welcomed.
A scribe comes to Jesus because he has heard the answers that Jesus has given to the other questions. He has been impressed in the answers that Jesus gave to each of these groups that were attempting to trip Him up. So this scribe asks Jesus a legitimate question. "What commandment is the greatest of all."
Jesus gives him not just one commandment, but two that are like one. "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 "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The response of Jesus is a combination of Old Testament scripture from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The love for God was part of the Shema that was recited every day by pious Jews. But Jesus also combines the love of God with the love of neighbor. This coupling of commandments was not totally without precedent. There were other Rabbis that had made the connection between loving God and loving your fellow man. Even the scribe who asked Jesus the original question sees the wisdom of the marriage of these two concepts.
It is not enough to offer God a portion of our lives and our hearts. We must learn to love the Lord with all of our hearts. It is not enough to love God in the abstract. The love of God must lead us to love the people we see every day that were created in His image. The whole of the law is summed up in the commandment to love. We must love the Creator and the creation. There is nothing else that is so important.
Often we can get so busy that we lose sight of our priorities. It can be so hectic that we forget whether we are coming or going sometimes. This passage should be a beacon that helps to lead us back when we become lost in the confusion. Here is a matter of first priority above all else. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. There is nothing in your life that is more important than this.
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