The Greatest Commandment: Loving God

Scripture Text: Mark 12:28-31

There was once a teacher of the law, a scribe, a theological scholar, who asked Jesus an important question. The scribe had listened to Jesus talking to some Sadducees, a group of Jews who did not believe in a resurrection. This group had come to Jesus to ask him about it, perhaps to test him and hopefully find fault with Jesus. The scribe liked how Jesus answered the Sadducees and then asks Jesus a question:

Mark 12:28–31 28 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?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important 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 and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe asks Jesus, “Of all of God’s commandments, which is the most important one of all?” Think about this – the Bible is a big book. It is full of God’s desires, His commandments and things we ought to know. If you could know what the most important ones are, wouldn’t you want to know that? The scribes in Jesus’s day believed there were over 600 commandments in the Old Testament Law and believed the Jews were obligated to obey each and every one of them. One of their favorite exercises, though, was discussing which of these divine commandments was the greatest. Which ones were the most important. Jesus replied with “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” Notice that the scribe asked for the greatest commandment, and got two – two commandments for the price of one! We will address the first and the greatest commandment in this blog and look at the second greatest commandment next week.

The first thing Jesus says is “the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Why would Jesus state this? What is God’s oneness? Is God’s oneness that important? In short, yes! It is important and it is related to loving Him. This statement about God’s oneness would have been very familiar to the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 from the Old Testament Law. This phrase was called the Shema and devout Jews of Jesus’ day would have recited it twice every day. The phrase, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”, is crucial because our love for God is based on his oneness. The point to this statement is that there is only one God, and no one else. Because God is one, our love for Him must be undivided. Because God is God and the only God, He deserves our undivided, complete love for Him.

Jesus told the scribe, quoting the passage in Deuteronomy, the way to love God is as follows:

  • With all your Heart
  • With all your Soul
  • With all your Mind
  • With all your Strength

How do you love God with all of your “heart,” “soul,” “mind” and “strength”? These terms are just another way of saying “with your whole being”. It represents the idea of total devotion to God. This means He is the most important Person in your life. It means everything else in your life takes a back seat to Him.

What if someone said he/she loved you because you would give that person something he/she wanted? How loved would you feel? Would that be “real love?” When I say I love my wife, she is the object of my love. We may sometimes confuse the person of our love with how that person makes us feel or what we receive from that person. What we may truly love is the affection, attention, or some other benefit we receive from that person. True love always has the person as the object of the love, not what may be received from that person or how that person makes you feel. Loving God is not obeying a list of commandments in hope of receiving His blessings. Real love loves the Giver, not His blessings – loving God for who He is, not for what He does for us. Loving God is being totally committed, totally devoted to Him, because He is the one and only God. Is God your most sacred treasure, more important than anyone or anything else? Our desire should be to have an honest, intimate relationship with the One who gave us life, who wants to know us, and who wants to spend eternity with us.

What do you think is the best way to demonstrate your love for God? To love God completely, with your whole being, is to love and know His Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote the following:

1 John 3:23, 5:3 And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us…For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

The greatest commandment to follow is to love God. We show our love and devotion to God by submitting our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This means He is Lord of our entire being, every facet of our lives. Nothing is more important. No relationship is more important. May our lives be wholly devoted to Jesus, the one who first loved us and died for us. Amen!

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