Summary: The kingdom of God is all about relationships.
It’s Tuesday on the last week of Christ’s life. During this week, Jesus stayed in Bethany, only 2 miles from Jerusalem, and traveled daily into the city. On Sunday, He triumphantly entered Jerusalem; on Monday, he had run the money changers out of the temple; on Thursday, He would celebrate Passover with His disciples and institute the Lord’s Supper; and on Friday, He would be crucified.
During Passover, thousands of Jews came to Jerusalem; and religious leaders allowed money-changers and the sale of animals in the outer court of the temple (see diagram). Of course, they took a cut of the profits. So animals brought for sacrifice by pilgrims would be found unclean by the priest, meaning an acceptable animal had to be bought from the temple market. And only temple currency was accepted, so people had to exchange their coins for temple coins; and the religious leaders controlled the exchange rate. Quite a racket!
This happened in the outer court - the court of the Gentiles - the place where the Gentiles were to come and worship God. The reason God had raised up Israel (telling Abraham that through him all the nations would be blessed) was going unfulfilled (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:8).
Jesus had done the same thing at the start of His ministry (John 2). He’s back three years later, and does it again. And the religious leaders aren’t happy! So on Tuesday, when He arrived in Jerusalem, He was greeted by religious leaders who sought to trip Him up with questions.
They questioned His authority to do what He was doing. They asked about paying tribute to Caesar. They asked a ridiculous question about the resurrection, wanting to know which of seven men a woman had been married to would be her husband in the after life. These questions were asked in an effort to trip Jesus up, but none did.
In fact, He answered all their questions so well, one of them decided to honor Jesus by asking Him to answer a question that had been debated among the great teachers of Judaism - “Of a1l the commandments, which is the most important?”
Pharisees codified the law into 248 positive & 365 negative commands. There was constant debate over which of the 613 was most important. Some said it was the positive ones and others the negative ones (negative adherents pointed out there was one for each day of the year).
The Pharisees described the law in terms of small and great commands; and if your good deeds outweighed the bad, God would accept you. They taught that people needed to keep the greater commands because with obedience to these they would get more points with God.
Unfortunately, this caused them to be unaware of their utter sinfulness, God’s absolute holiness, and their need of a Savior. This also caused them to misunderstand how one lived life in a God pleasing way. So Jesus turned their world upside down by proclaiming the Good News; and in His answer to this scribe’s question, not only tells how one comes into the kingdom, but how one can see God’s kingdom come. What He says is that the kingdom isn’t about rules, regulations and religion, but relationships; and lays out three kingdom priorities.
Priority #1: Our relationship with God - vs. 29-30
In verses 29 and 30, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4-5. These verses were part of the Shema, a portion of Scripture quoted both morning and evening by devout Jews and worn in leather pouches called phylacteries on the arm and forehead by the Pharisees. There are two things we are told about our relationship with God.
1. We all need a genuine relationship with God - v. 29
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is called the Shema because of the first word, “hear,” is the Hebrew word Shema, the imperative form of shama, which means “to hear and obey.” This is significant.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]!” - Deuteronomy 6:4 (Amplified)
Religious leaders quoted the Shema and wore phylacteries containing the Shema, but most of them never obeyed the Shema. They had never acknowledged the Lord as their one and only God. They still trusted in themselves, their rules, their rituals, and their religiosity; but had never personally acknowledged God as their one Lord and Savior.
The claim made in the Shema was echoed by God in the person of Christ, who said: “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:6 Amplified).
The fact is we can be just like these religious leaders. We can go to church, memorize Scripture, study the Bible, quote Scripture, know a lot about theology, even be involved in ministry, and still never really have trusted Christ alone as our one and only Savior.