Mark 12:28-34 Bible Study Notes
In Mark 12, Jesus is bombarded with questions from the Jewish religious leaders. The Pharisees asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, and Jesus answered with a clever response. The Sadducees asked about the resurrection, but Jesus knocks down their attacks as well. A scribe approaches, liking what Jesus had just said to the Sadducees, and asks another question. Of course, coming from an expert in the law, the question is a legal one.
The rabbis had declared that there are 613 commands in the OT Scriptures, 248 are positive commands while 365 are prohibitions. They considered some to be lighter and some weightier. So, they saw a distinction between the commands. The lawyer’s question is what is the heaviest, what is the greatest of the commands? Which command does all of the others rest upon. Jesus gives a very normal and standard answer to this but then couples it with another command. Jesus says there is 1A and 1B of the greatest command.
The Great Commandment in Two Parts (37-39)
Loving the Lord your God is a quote from Deut 6:5. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind is to love Him completely. It is a way of saying that you are to love God with all of yourself (all of who you are and all of what you have). The heart is the core of one’s being. As one commentator says, “In the Bible, the ‘heart’ is more than a pumping station. It is the command center of the body, where decisions are made and plans are hatched. It is the center of our inner being, which controls our feelings, emotions, desires, and passions” (Garland). The soul is the source of life, given in the likeness of God. “It is the motivating power that brings the strength of will” (Garland). The mind refers to intellectual vigor. It is where perceptions and reflections take place. Remember, God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He does not want empty words or empty rituals. Strength refers to all of our physical capacities and resources.
The Scripture teaches that we love God because He first loved us. We can love God because He loved us. We can have a relationship with Him because He first sought us. The other thing that is clear in Scripture is that the one who loves God obeys God. There is no wavering on this point. It is straightforward. The Apostle John teaches in 1 John 2:3-4, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” The person who belongs to God, loves Him and obeys Him. The Bible also shows that a person either loves God or hates Him.
Loving your neighbor is a quote from Lev 19:18. What Christ means is that this is equally important. This love is measured by the love you have for yourself. If you are hungry, you feed yourself. If you are cold, you cover yourself. If you are sick, you get medicine for yourself. It is a known fact, people love themselves. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Apostle Paul said in Eph 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. . . .” The Apostle John is even more blunt about this vital doctrine of the Christian faith. He asks in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
At the end of v33, the scribe puts himself in a position of authority to judge over what Jesus has said, and he adds to Jesus’ answer with “is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Yet, Jesus then turns the tables one more time and judges the scribe’s answer by telling him that he is not far from the kingdom. Knowledge must be paired with faith and submission to Christ.