Mark 12:28-34 NLTse One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (29) Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. (30) And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ (31) The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (32) The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. (33) And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” (34) Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The main focus of this story rests on the commandments. Jesus sums them up as an unconditional love for God and your neighbor. Before this question, every faction of the religious leaders tried luring Jesus into a debate. Instead Jesus’ answers left them speechless. Finally Jesus simply sent the Sadducees back to scripture for an answer. The situation builds to a conclusion when Jesus explains the commandments point to love for God and fellow human beings. This ended the debate. It was a subject no one could argue with, no matter how apart they seemed to be.
Jesus could tell by the way the man asked the question, he was sincere. There was no introduction attempting to knock Jesus off guard. He was straight forward. Jesus could tell this man sought after God long before this moment.
Jesus watched the man as as the Sadducees asked the question about the woman and seven brothers. Jesus saw the man’s eyes and face drop to the ground when the Sadducees began asking the question. He saw the man’s face lift up and look at Him when Jesus gave His answer, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” The man knew the answer was in the scriptures.
Jesus saw portions of the man’s life as He prayed. He saw the man holding the hands pf his grandchildren. The man not only prayed for a better life for his grandchildren, he searched scriptures daily to be a better example for them. Now the man had another point to contemplate, Moses and the burning bush.
The man remembered, Moses stood on holy ground, on God’s mountain when an angel of the Lord appeared to Him from a burning bush. The Lord spoke to Moses. “I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:6 NLTse). The man remembered how Moses’ fear kept him from accepting God’s assignment to free Israel from Egypt’s bondage. Later Moses asked to see God. Once the relationship with God was established, Moses wanted to draw closer and closer to Him. Now the man could understand God’s love and why Jesus compared it to loving a neighbor. When you love your neighbor, you want to draw close to them, help them, spend time, show concern, share meals, work, faith, and funds. As love grows stronger, no sacrifice seems to large. How do you apply this to God? Moses saw God in the form of a burning bush. Moses heard God’s voice, saw all the miracles, the pillar fire and cloud that shaded and led them everyday. With each conversation, Moses learned more about God and drew closer to Him.
The man began to think of all the ways he saw God everyday in every sunrise and sunset, loving his wife, children and grandchildren, his flocks, fields of grain, all the blessings God sent. The rain, sunlight, plants pushing through the ground from seed, maturing, producing more seed for food and future crops also revealed God’s loving care. Jesus told him. “you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” The man could not think of a thing God withheld from him. As he thought back, he experienced a good life filled with love of a good wife, wealth, security, children, everything Job had, but he was never tested. He wondered why.
After hearing Jesus’ explanation, the man answered, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Jesus knew the man was referring to the prophet Isaiah. “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the LORD. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting– they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. (Isaiah 1:11-19 NLTse).
Jesus also knew the man was attempting to make a point with his colleges. This was an important point Jesus wanted His disciples to learn. You cannot judge people by the groups they associate with. God has followers where he needs them, when He needs them to reach out to others. Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Over the past weeks Jesus has been teaching His disciples about relationships. Having a Sadducee ask this question should have caught their attention. This is what Jesus wanted His disciples to do, ask questions.
Once again Jesus’ answer quoted scripture. If the disciples followed the general rule of looking up every text Jesus quoted, they would have found another lesson about the relationship God always wanted. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6 NLTse). The invitation was still open. It was an offer the disciples were not only about to accept, but announce to the world.