7 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Numbers 4:1–5:31
Mark 12:18-37
Psalm 48:1-14
Proverbs 10:26

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Mark 12:29–31 (CSB): “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other command greater than these.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

A scribe had asked Jesus what the most important command was. In doing so, it put Jesus in what was thought to be a no-win situation.

Mark 12:28 (CSB): “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which command is the most important of all?'”

Here is the reasoning behind the question:

“The rabbis had determined that there were 613 commandments contained in the Pentateuch, one for each letter of the Ten Commandments. Of the 613 commandments, 248 were seen as affirmative and 365 as negative. Those laws were also divided into heavy and light categories, with the heavy laws being more binding than the light ones. The scribes and rabbis, however, had been unable to agree on which were heavy and which were light. This orientation to the law led the Pharisees to think Jesus had devised His own theory. So the Pharisees asked this particular question to get Jesus to incriminate Himself by revealing His unorthodox and unilateral beliefs.” – (The MacArthur Study Bible [electronic ed., p. 1489])

So, if we were to put ourselves in the group that surrounded Jesus and we heard the scribe’s question, every secondary conversation would have immediately stopped. Every eye was fixed on Jesus as hearts skipped a beat and they waited for Jesus’ answer.

As Jesus looked around, opened His mouth, and prepared to give His answer, you could have heard a pin drop.

Mark 12:29–31 (CSB): “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other command greater than these.”

One of the many things that we realize about Jesus is that He loved going to the heart of a matter.

When He spoke about murder, He said that someone who had anger toward someone had essentially committed murder in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22). When He spoke against adultery, He warned that someone who has lustful thoughts has already committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

In fact, we hear this principle throughout the entirety of the Bible. God is always looking at the heart of a matter.

1 Samuel 16:7 (CSB): “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the LORD sees, for humans see what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.'”

So, when Jesus was asked for His opinion on the greatest commandment in the Bible, He naturally went to the heart of the matter. His answer provided the essence of every commandment that God had given.

Mark 12:29–31 (CSB): “Jesus answered, ‘The most important is ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other command greater than these.”

Another helpful tidbit is provided for us when Jesus answered the same question in Matthew 22. Listen to what He said after claiming that we are to love God with everything we’ve got and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Matthew 22:40 (CSB): “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Essentially, Jesus said that every command that God has given was rooted in the commands to love God and others. As noted in a recent post, even the Ten Commandments were separated this way (the first 4 pertain to our relationship with God and the last six pertain to our relationship with others).

Jesus made it clear that the Old Testament Law was rooted in love. The commands were given so that the people of Israel would behave in a way that was loving to God and others. But, if they failed to see this and failed to act out of love, then the laws would simply be an endless set of restrictions for them.

So, Jesus took the opportunity to call Israel back to God’s design. He called people back to the heart of the matter. He called people to love God and love others and to realize that this is God’s whole purpose in all that He commands of us.

What was the response?

Mark 12:32-35 (CSB): “Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, teacher. You have correctly said that he is one, and there is no one else except him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to question him any longer.”

Conclusion

Friend, can it be said that you love God with every part of your being? Can it be said that you care about others in the same way that you care about yourself?

If not, you’ve got work to do. This is the standard to which God has called us.

But, as we develop a heart that is filled with love, we will also realize that this command is for our good. A heart filled with love will create a wellspring of happiness within us and will continually move us in the direction of emotional health.

Once again, we realize that God’s commands are for our good!