THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT!

MARK 12:28-40

As we continue our study in Mark, it is Tuesday of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, before He went to the cross of Calvary. And as He is in Jerusalem, at the temple, various Jewish religious groups come by to question Jesus. They weren’t searching for answers, but trying to catch Jesus in the words He spoke to discredit Him in front of the people, possibly having Him arrested for what He said, and maybe even put to death.

Last time we saw Jesus deal and put to silence the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. And Jesus showed them the foolishness of that by taking them to the Scriptures and showing them that God was the God of the living, of those who even have died - like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob! And in this crowd that gathered to hear Jesus, is a man who is amazed at the words Jesus spoke, and it will cause him to come forward and to ask Jesus a question.

MARK 12

VERSE 28

1. The Scribes were the teachers of the Law and they had found 613 individual commandments in the Mosaic Law. There were 365 negative ones and 248 positive ones. And they would argue over which one was the greatest, which one carried the most weight. The Scribes would not only interpret the Scriptures but then they would also teach the people. You might think of them as the Lawyers of their day in regards to the Scriptures.

2. And so this Scribe, hearing the great answers Jesus gave, comes up with this question. I don’t believe he was trying to trick Jesus, but wanted to hear from this teacher what the greatest commandment was, something they had debated for years.

VERSES 29-31

1. Notice that Jesus answers him very directly. Why? Because Jesus knew it was a sincere question, he wasn’t trying to catch Jesus in the words He spoke. Today people feel they can fool God by what they do and what they say. You are making a big mistake if you feel that way. God not only knows the things you do, but He knows the motives behind the things you do! Hebrews 4:12-13 tells us, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." If you don’t let the Word of God deal with the sin in your life, you will give an account of it before God, He knows all!

2. Notice what this man is searching for, the will of God for man! And so Jesus takes him back to the Old Testament and shows him very clearly what God’s will is for our lives. Jesus first quotes from Deuteronomy 6:4, which says "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" It is called the SHEMA, to "hear," and was spoken or prayed in the morning and in the evening by every Jew. They also place the SHEMA in their phylacteries, or prayer boxes that they would bind on their foreheads or on their wrist. And this prayer speaks of one God manifested in three persons, for the word ELOHIM speaks of 2 or more. So the Jews, in contrast to the gentiles, were monotheistic, believing in one God, while the gentiles were polytheistic, believing in many gods.

Once you have established a relationship with the true and living God, you are to give to Him your entire life. He is to reign supremely. There should be no other love that distracts you or moves you away from Him. That is the first commandment and without it, the next commandment can’t be accomplished.

3. The next commandment flows from the first, you are to love others. You see, if you don’t love God, if you have not developed a relationship with Him, then you are not going to be able to treat your fellow man in love. You see, you are to love your enemies, pray for those who take advantage of you, and-so-on. You are to love the unlovable and that can’t happen without the Lord in your life! You see, first you get right with God, and then your relationship with man will be right, you will love him as God has called you to do.

VERSES 32-33

1. This Scribe is once again impressed with the answer that Jesus gave. And it seems like this guy got it. He is saying that to love God is more important than all our activities, our "burnt offerings and sacrifices." In other words, God wants our heart, for without it, all that you do is meaningless before Him, He won’t accept it! That is an amazing statement when you consider that most of the religious leaders felt the exact opposite. They did the outward stuff to impress people, but their hearts were far from God!

VERSE 34

1. The answer the Scribe gave was honest and it was true. That is in stark contrast to what the other religious leaders were saying or refused to say. And Jesus says "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And you think, great, he is so close! But understand this, you can be in the lowest pit of the earth, and another person can be on the highest mountain, and neither one of them can touch the stars, even though one is closer! Did this man ever come to Christ? We don’t know. But understand this, you can know the Bible, you can go to church, but unless you ask Christ into your life, you are not saved. Like many back then, many today are professors’s of God, but not possessors!

2. Finally, these other religious leaders felt they didn’t stand a chance against Jesus and they were silent.

VERSE 35

1. Now Jesus turns the table on these guys and He begins to ask them some questions. And I’m sure they were nervous, knowing how wise Jesus was and how each time He made them look foolish as He shot them down. Now Matthew 22:42 says "...‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The Son of David." It is out of that answer that Jesus asks this second question here in Mark 12:35.

2. Understand that the Scribes were the teachers of the Scriptures besides the interpreters. And they loved the attention they got as they waked around in these long white robes, which showed how pure they were, or so they thought. And Jesus wants them to think about who Christ is. You see, they saw Him to be a man like Moses, as Deuteronomy chapter 18 tells us, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear...I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him." Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. Also, that He would be a descendant of David, as Jeremiah 23:5-6 tells us, "‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."

And Jesus wants them to start thinking about why they believe these things. The reality was, because the Scriptures testify of them. And know that as He has them thinking, He is going to show them the faulty conclusion they came up with in regards to the Messiah, something the Scriptures did not say, yet they believed!

VERSES 36-37

1. Jesus is quoting from Psalm 110:1, and notice that David spoke these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So what point is David, and Jesus making? Understand that David lived in a patriarchal society where the father was always treated with respect and honor. And no matter how old the son was, the father would never call him lord. Now the son would call his father lord, ADONAI, which means master, but it would never be the other way around.

2. And thus, Jesus is asking them "How can this be? How can David call his son Lord?" Because the Messiah was to be much more than the son of David, he was to be the Son of God! Paul said in Romans 1:3-4, "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." You see, not only the seed of David, but the Son of God! So David rightly called him Lord!

3. Now this is the very thing that made these religious leaders mad. In John 10:32-33 we read,

"Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?’ The Jews answered Him, saying, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God." They thought it was blasphemous to say He was God, and yet, even David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is saying that. And Jesus wanted them to think about the faulty conclusion they had come to in regards to the Messiah, by showing them what the Scriptures really say, all that Jesus had been saying for 3½ years, that He is not only the seed of David, but the son of God!

4. Now these religious leaders, instead of hearing and thinking about what Jesus said, are silent. They didn’t want to look at what David said because it went against what they believed. On the other hand, the people were excited. They received this news with joy and I’m sure they were waiting to hear more!

5. Now in Luke 20:45 we are told that Jesus now turns to the common people and began to speak to them. Why? Because the religious leaders didn’t want to hear what Jesus was saying, but the people did. And so Jesus is going to speak to those who will receive His words.

VERSES 38-40

1. Mark only records for us a small portion of what Jesus said to these Scribes, these religious leaders. In Matthew chapter 23 we see it in full, and some 8 times Jesus condemns them for their actions. And the reason He was so hard on them was they were leading the people and the nation to destruction. Yes, they knew the Scriptures, they simply refused to apply them to their lives and change their wrong views or interpretations of the Scriptures. Outwardly they looked good, but inwardly their hearts were far from God.

2. They loved to wear their long white robes to be recognized by the people. It showed that they were above the people or better than them. People do the same today, wear clothes to be recognized by others, to receive a place of honor.

3. They loved the greetings in the market places, "Good morning Rabbi, teacher, father, reverend..." and-so-on. Again, it is no different today.

4. They loved the best seats and deserved them because of their position, who they were, or so they thought. They thought they should be treated special.

5. They took advantage of people, even widows. You see, they held the mortgage to many homes, and when they couldn’t pay, it was taken away from them, and widows would have a tough time paying. Many today rip people off in the name of God, taking advantage of the people.

6. These long prayers were only said to impress the people, they were meaningless before God.

7. No wonder people don’t want anything to do with God. They see all this garbage and think that is what Christianity is all about. Wrong! It is about Jesus! Today, like back then, people are accountable for their actions, they will be judged for them. Listen carefully how Jesus saw right through their empty religious activities. In Matthew 23:27-28 we read "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

Where is your heart? It is easy to come against these religious leaders, but are you in love with Jesus or do you just do things that look good outwardly without a relationship with God? Are you a professor of Jesus or a possessor? He knows your heart and He wants a deep relationship with you!