The Greatest Commandment

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Part 61

Mark 12:28-34

The Greatest Commandment

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?”

Having covered the gambit from death to taxes and even marriage, this Scribe weighs in by asking a simple question, yet a question the Jews had missed the answer to for not just years, but centuries.

Jesus was quick to respond by saying: 29 “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 hearts, with all your soul, and 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.” 32 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.

We should be willing to give this Pharisee the benefit of doubt. The scribe chosen to carry out this final plot of the Pharisees to entrap Jesus was apparently honest at heart. He was fair-minded enough to recognize that Jesus had “answered them well.”

Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy, where it says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, The LORD is one!” Literally the text reads Jehovah our God, Jehovah is One. In striking contrast to the nations around them who were polytheists, the Hebrews believed in one true God. This profession of faith has been the watchword of the Hebrew race for more than 3,000 years. The apostle Paul states the same truth as a tenant of Christianity (I Corinthians 8:4-6; Ephesians 4:4-6).

The scribe had to admit that Jesus had spoken well for he said “You are right Teacher.”

The Jewish people had substituted the love of God for the system of sacrifices. The Scribe rightly pointed out burnt offerings had little to do with loving the LORD and more about living up to the letter of the law. For this Christ commends him by stating that he was indeed close to the kingdom of heaven, for he rightly understood the place of the sacrificial system.

So then were did this young Scribe fall short? Perhaps it was in loving his neighbor as himself. Because of sin, our natural tendency is to think of ourselves first, and others second. Christ is saying, “As much as you love yourselves, you need to turn that love you have for self and instead direct that love to those around you. For if you really truly love the LORD as you say, yet continue to love self, more than others, then how is it you can truly love the LORD? After all, Christ gave us the perfect example of how His love for His Father turned self-generated love toward himself into love for all those around Him. Oh, I can hear some of you saying, wait, he couldn’t love himself, he had to love others. But remember Christ was born in the likeness of man, which means He had to daily die to self as we too need to die to self that He could be used by the Father. The Father then directed Him as to when and where to be a servant to others, loving others with the kind of love that you and I direct toward ourselves. Instead of Christ’s love being inward focused it was outward focused, always seeking council of his Father and wanting to be a servant to all that he came in contact with.

Jesus responded to the Scribe by saying: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Today we too are not far from the kingdom of God. Like the scribe of old we know how to Love the LORD, but we continue to hang unto self. Jesus councils us on trying to hang onto self, where he says, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon” Luke 16:13.

The story of the Scribe is open ended, because it is waiting to be written out in the hearts of all those that love God and seek to become servants of God. God is waiting for all his earth children to make up their minds. He is patiently waiting for that decision to finally be made in the heart of each individual that is alive upon the earth. Once that decision has been made, then and only then will Jesus return.

Published by The Bible In Your Hand

Hi, I am Pastor Lester Bentley, a devoted husband, father, and Pastor for the Northeastern Wyoming District of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. I am committed to the great gospel commission as stated in Matthew 28:19, 20.

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