One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall 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 this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Throughout the three years of Christ Jesus’ public ministry on Earth, the Hebrew élites of scribes, rabbis and priests (especially Pharisees) continuously doubted, probed, and tested Him with questions that were meant to trick and entrap. The above passage from Mark 12 was such an instance, as is Matthew 22 which chronicles another test when the Pharisees asked Jesus “which is the great commandment in the law?”.
In both instances, Jesus answered that the first and greatest of all God’s commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
As Mark 12 recounts, afterwards no one among the Hebrew scribes dared ask Jesus any more questions because they knew He is incontestible, and that Moses himself had said the same thing in Deutoronomy 6:2-6:
Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“Fear the LORD, your God,
and keep, throughout the days of your lives,
all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,
and thus have long life.
Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,
that you may grow and prosper the more,
in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,
to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”
With unassailable reasoning and crystal clarity, our Lord clears away the thicket of Judaic laws and rules that had accumulated and encrusted through the centuries by getting to the heart of the matter.
Think about it: If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with every ounce of our strength, then we would obey and be true to His other laws and commandments for the simple reason that we love Him.
The Ten (Commandments) follow the One (Greatest Commandment), logically and naturally.
To borrow a current motto: WWG1WGA!
See also the opposite of the Greatest Commandment of all, “Sunday Devotional: Narcissism, the first and greatest sin“, and this post on why Jews don’t believe in Jesus the Christ.
May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
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