One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, The Lord is one. 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: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34 NIV

Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest. He responds with the Jewish statement of faith, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”(Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Then he adds “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18). Matthew records for us that Jesus says, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” Matthew 22:40. This was another way of saying the entire Old Testament is summed up in these two commandments.

The questioner in Mark 12 approves of Jesus’ answer, and he agrees that we should love God with our heart, with our understanding and with our strength. This statement is similar to David’s in Psalm 51. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings, the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” Psalm 51:16-17. God desires a relationship with us. This includes our bodies – or our strength, he desires our minds- or our understanding, and he desires our hearts – or our souls, thoughts, feelings – the very essence of who we are. God desires our honesty about our sin, about who we are in relation to God, and about who God is.

The following two sections of Mark 12 focus on Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, who desires a relationship with us, and a short story about a widow and her gift to God. Jesus observes the widow putting two small coins into the temple treasury and he commends her to the disciples because she has given to God all the money she has to live on. The attitude of this widow illustrates for us what it looks like to love God with all of our heart, all of our body, all of our soul, and all of our mind.

Jesus has an honest exchange with the questioner in Mark 12. He tells him he is not far from the Kingdom of God. Then he illustrates loving God with everything we are through the story of the widow. What about you? Are there areas of your life that need to be given to God to control? Do you love God with your whole being?

By Grace Hunter