Summary: What is the greatest commandment? Surprise! It’s not one of the Ten Commandments. Let’s look at the two Great Commandments in Mark 12:28-34.
What is the greatest commandment? Purpose: Surprise! It’s not one of the Ten Commandments. Plan: Let’s look at the two Great Commandments in Mark 12:28-34.
613 Commandments (vs. 28)
Mark 12:28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
We could assume the scribe was asking about the Ten Commandments, but there are about 613 commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus responded by mentioning commandments from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, to love God and neighbor.
The Principle of Law (vs. 29-31)
Mark 12:29-31 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Wise Jews taught that the principle or spirit behind God’s law is more important than the letter and that love summarized God’s law. Love of God necessitates love of those whom God loves. Mark adds the word “strength” which Matthew’s version does not have. Why? Simple! Sometimes one word may be better translated with two words.
“you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … ” (Mark 12:30)
Pure hearts are happy (Matthew 5:8). Our treasure reveals our hearts (Matthew 6:21). Our words reveal our hearts (Matthew 12:34). But not always, because some honor God with their lips and not their hearts (Matthew 15:8). A good heart produces good things (Matthew 12:35). Hard hearts cannot understand Jesus’ word (Matthew 13:15). True circumcision is of the heart not the flesh (Romans 2:29; Deuteronomy 10:16).
“you shall love the Lord your God with all your … soul … ” (Mark 12:30)
Soul here means to love God with our affections. Do we love God’s word or the world’s? Do we study the Bible daily? Do we find greater joy hearing God’s word expounded than sports or movies?
“you shall love the Lord your God with all your … mind … ” (Mark 12:30)
God wants us to be thinkers. Much of Jesus’ teaching was reasoning, not mindless dictation. We cannot worship God with our minds if we fail to use them. Biblical Christianity is BOTH emotion AND intellect, hearts and minds, AND soul and strength.
“you shall love the Lord your God with all your … strength.” (Mark 12:30)
It does say that we must love God with all OUR strength, not His. Our relationship with God involves both our efforts AND His help. Because we are totally incapable of having the strength needed, He adds the strength that we don’t have.
Not far From the Kingdom (vs. 32-34)
Mark 12:32-34 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him.
The law expanded on practical love. Jesus told the scribe who understood this, that he was not far from the kingdom. Was he almost there? Did he still have some way to go? Was he closer than others? Such questions caused people to stop and think. Jesus’ enemies were silent.
Christians operate on the spirit of the law, not the letter, and the greatest commandments of the law are summed up in one word, love.
New King James Version (NKJV) Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ruth 1:1-18 “Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.”
Psalm 146 “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.”
Hebrews 9:11-14 “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”