We find this same story in the Gospel of Matthew 22:34-40. When we look at Marks account, we see that Jesus’ focus is on a greater commitment from people, not just knowledge and right answers. This, I believe is key. Keep in mind here that in the preceding verses Jesus is engaged in conversation with the Pharisees and the Sadducees at the Temple in Jerusalem (see Mark 11:27). While they are asking Him questions, attempting to slip Him up, they are also in amazement and even agreement at what Jesus says (Mark 12:17, Mark12:32). Let’s look at this closely in the Gospel of Mark:
28 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?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 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 all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 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.
We see in verse 28 that a teacher of the law, actually a scribe (the Greek word used here is “grammateus”, a man learned in the Mosaic law and in the sacred writings, an interpreter and a teacher) heard Jesus speaking with other religious leaders. I must point out that the scribe notices that Jesus is giving good answers. So, he ask Him that question that is so well known and, at least in my mind, the very heart of what God wants from us and for us. To love Him and to love others! The Scribe here, I believe, sincerely ask these questions and was not trying to trick Jesus, but wanted to learn from Him. Keep in mind here that scribes examined the more difficult and subtle questions of the law. I believe that upon hearing Jesus just prior to this exchange, he saw this as an opportunity to seek and answer the ultimate question. The Pharisees had classified over six hundred laws and debated often about the weight of these laws.
The answer that Jesus gives, beginning in verse 29, is out of the Old Testament book Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 4: This is what is known as the Shema, the Hebrew word, “hear”. The Shema became the Jewish confession of faith, recited by pious Jews every morning and every evening. I am told that to this day, the Shema, “‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” is recited at the beginning of every synagogue service.
In verse 30 and 31, Jesus answers with what I believe, are probably the most important words that God has shared with us, “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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ Both of these answers are found also in the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. What mattered were not laws and their relative importance; what mattered was a relationship with the one true God. We see here that the Greek word Jesus uses for love is “agape”. The meaning of this word for love imparts a feeling of joy in a person, to love dearly, to love unselfishly, to be content with and well pleased, a self sacrificial love, as opposed to another word in Greek which means love, “phileo”. Phileo imparts affection, warm feelings, such as the kind expressed with a kiss.
Additionally, to see the full meaning of Jesus answer in verse 31, to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”, we see that the Greek word for neighbor is “plesion”, meaning any other person irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet, any other member of the human family. Jesus said it….why is it often hard to live it?
Look at what the scribe says in verse 32 and 33, he acknowledges, with wisdom, what Jesus has answered. Now, the key to our study here….let’s look at verse 34: “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.”
Here again we see a strong clue that the kingdom is a realm of consciousness in this life in which we daily follow Christ and seek a relationship with Him and that the culmination of this IS an eternal presence before God in heaven. This scribe was obviously touched by the Lord’s answer, came near to the kingdom of God when he accepted Jesus’ teaching that love is central to understanding God and ourselves, and recognized that true obedience comes from the heart.
Today’s CLUE: I believe that Jesus tells us again that the kingdom is a realm of consciousness in this life in which we daily follow Christ and seek a relationship with Him by recognizing that love is central and that true obedience comes from the heart.