You either get it or you don’t!
Mark 12:28–40 (NKJV): 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?”
29 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.”
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.
35 Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? 36 For David himself said by the Holy Spirit:
‘The LORD said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
37 Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”
And the common people heard Him gladly.
38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
*Translated “first”-πρῶτος (pro’-tos) – Contracted superlative of G4253 (pro or fore); foremost (in time, place, order or importance): – before, beginning, best, chief (-est), first (of all), former.
Translated “of all”- πᾶς (pas)- declension used in this case as “whole”
**Translated “second”- δεύτερος (dyoo’-ter-os) – As the compound of G1417(doo’-o or both); (ordinal) second (in time, place or rank; also adverbially): – afterward, again, second (-arily, time).
Translated “like it”- ὅμοιος (hom’-oy-os)- means same or equal
My Grandfather, when playing horseshoes, a game he both enjoyed and was very good at, always would recite the age old saying, “Close only matters when it comes to playing horseshoes or throwing a hand grenade!”
First, let’s wrap our minds around verses 28-34:
- Jesus is asked a question on the 10 Commandments given to Moses (twice, someone had anger issues!)
- Jesus tells them to love God, love your neighbor, love yourself, but notice that Jesus puts this under one commandment. (Look at the end of verse 31)
- Jesus puts two separate Mosaic Laws into one. Actually, Jesus puts ALL of the Laws of Moses under ONE Commandment.
- Matthew 22:37–40 (NLT): 37 Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
- The language of Mark, the oldest of the Gospels but not of the New Testament (you can thank Paul’s Epistles for that honor) can be confusing in translating from Greek to English. The Greek translation could easily say in verse 29 “the beginning of the whole”, which means something quite deeper than
- Supported by the wording in Matthew 22, Mark records in Greek “again and equal” in verse 31.
- So, According Mark, Jesus says that loving God with everything that is within our being is just the beginning of the whole commandment. Equal to it is loving your neighbor as you learn to love yourself.
Why should any of that matter? Well, it matters greatly. You see, the scribe that asked the question (by the way, a scribe was in charge of replicating Old Testament books, think the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Scrolls of Nag Hammadi) also stated that he believed that these two commandments were more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices (tithing is left out) but Jesus says “You are not far from the kingdom of God” in verse 34. Basically, Jesus says “you’re close but no cigar!”
Well, what’s the issue? Verses 35-40 answers that question. Let’s go back and read it!
- The reason they were close to the kingdom of God was because their actions didn’t line up with their teachings.
- They forgot that being a servant means more than being served.
- Luke 22:27 (NKJV): 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.
- They forgot that compassion means more than eloquent prayers.
- Matthew 9:13But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, [b]to repentance.”
- James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
- James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.
- Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Now, with what you know, listen to the words of Paul to the Romans:
Romans 8:33–39 (NKJV): 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
READING ROMANS 8 IS ABOUT LIVING IN THE SPIRIT OF GOD. THE 10 COMMANDMENTS HAD THE RIGHT SPIRIT BUT THE PEOPLE WHO FOLLOWED THEM HAD THE WRONG ATTITUDE. JESUS PAINTS THE PICTURE OF THE SPIRIT IN THE 10 COMMANDMENT AND TOOK 2 OF THEM AND MADE THEM INTO 1 COMMANDMENT. TO FULFILL THE LAW, ONE MUST FULFILL THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW. THAT IS WHAT THE PEOPLE WERE MISSING! PEOPLE MAKE LAWS THAT WILL EVENTUALLY BE TWISTED TO OPPRESS RATHER THAN ALLOWING PEOPLE TO BE FREE. TO BE FREE FROM SIN MEANS TO BE FREE FROM THE BURDENS. JESUS SHOWED THE WAY, THE ONLY WAY, IN BOTH HIS LIFE AND HIS TEACHINGS. HIS WAY IS THE WAY OF THE KINGDOM!
Want another example?
John 8:1–11 (NKJV): 8 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Perhaps we need to heed Jesus’ example if we claim to be His followers?