the Jesus Creed | Mark 12.28-34
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 to him, “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 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 | ESV
That’s the number of commandments the rabbis counted in the Old Testament law.
If memory serves me right, 365 were negative (one-a-day prohibitions!) and the balance negative (that would be 248).
They were endlessly analyzed, defined, extrapolated, calculated, and ranked.
Which is the greatest?
Perhaps rabbis leaning into the priesthood, temple, and ritual would find one answer, more socially conscious Pharisees another, desert dwelling Essenes another, wild-eyed Zealots still another.
“Honor your father and your mother”?
“Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk”?
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment”?
“When you build a new house make a parapet for your roof”?
“Make for yourself tassels on the four corners of your garments”?
“If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long”?
That one actually sounds pretty important too – in fact it contains the same motivational promise attached to honoring your parents.
613 contestant commandments. Which is crowned “queen commandment”?
So it was quite the crowded field that Jesus was asked to survey when he was asked, “Which is the greatest?” It was the game they played every day and twice on Saturday in synagogue.
And Jesus chanted the songbird prayer they chanted three times a day, every day of their lives – which would be something like us humming “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
Not exactly theologically deep.
And then, he added a verse. Love God. Love others.
That is all.
This is our theological center.
This is the spiritual crossroads from which all else flows.
Any journey that does not commence from this point is the wrong journey.
The lawyer popping the question, impressed with Jesus’ chanted response, gushed out his own agreement.
To see this is to stand on the threshold of kingdom come.
All other questions stopped.
No more debate.
Only a path to embrace and a Master to follow in it…
Based on how we really live and talk, what would you say we really regard as the greatest commandment? How about you? What is your true “prime directive”? How does it show?
Lord, stun me into silence in the midst of all my debates and questionings and doings, and impress upon me the majesty and primacy of Love. Write more deeply upon my heart “Love God, Love Others.” Get into my bones, marrow, sinews, guts. Make it viscerally core to my very being. Make love the DNA that doesn’t just refine me but that totally redefines me. Daily. Moment by moment. Through Jesus.