“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that He answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and 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.’ And the scribe said, ‘You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. And to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ And when Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to ask Him any more questions.” – Mark 12:28-34
The Pharisees and Scribes in the time of Jesus were not always the bad guys. It is easy for us to lump all the religious leaders into the one category of “enemies of Jesus”. But, many of these men of God were genuinely seeking the truth. They were devout students of the Scriptures and had dedicated their lives to a life of holiness. We even meet a few of these “truth seeking” leaders along the road to the cross. We met a Pharisee named Nicodemus in John chapter 3. We met one of the rulers of the synagogue named Jairus whose daughter Jesus raised from the dead (Mark 5:21-43). We even meet a member of the Sanhedrin Council named Joseph of Arimathea when he helped wrap and bury the body of Jesus (John 19:38-42). And now we meet another. A Scribe who had a legitimate question that he felt was a fair test of the Teacher’s authenticity.
“Which commandment is most important?“
What’s the bottom line? When you cut through all the rites and rituals and the pomp and circumstance of religion, what does it come down to? We know that Jesus saw this as a good question as well because He answered it straight away…no riddles…no parables…no hesitation…
Then Jesus gave a bonus answer, the second most important is LOVE PEOPLE.
Everything else comes under these two commands. In other words Jesus was clarifying that it was about relationships not religion. It is not that religion is bad. It is that the Scripture and religious rituals and principles are for the purpose of reconciling our relationship with God and restoring our relationships with each other. We also need to be reminded that there is an order to this divine healing process.
The Scriptures tell us that if we genuinely love God then we will love people. The Apostle John said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1 John 4:19). “God so loved the world…” and you should too. Maybe this is why Jesus added the second command without a second thought.