Markby Robert M. Solomon
A teacher of the law-probably a Pharisee-was impressed with the way Jesus handled the Sadducees (v. 28). He then asked Jesus which among the 613 commandments that devout Jews observed was the most important.
Jesus readily answered him by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (v. 30). We are also to love our neighbour as ourselves (v. 31). Jesus summarised the two sections of the Ten Commandments, the first dealing with our vertical relationship with God, and the second dealing with our horizontal relationships with others. By stating the commandments in this way, Jesus put the focus on right relationships marked by love. This was at the heart of biblical religion. The ancient prophets of Israel had spoken against the two sins of the nation: idolatry and social injustice (Amos 2:4-8). These were results of disobeying the commandments of God.
When Jesus becomes our Lord and Saviour, we are given power to turn from idols and ″serve the living and true God″ (1 Thessalonians 1:9). This is what the risen Jesus told Peter when He reinstated him into ministry. Peter was to love Jesus and to love His sheep by feeding them faithfully (John 21:15-17). True religion is seeking holiness and caring for the needy (James 1:27); the motives are love for God and others.
The law teacher commended Jesus for His answer and agreed with Him (vv. 32-33). He honoured Jesus with the title ″Teacher″ (v. 32). He also emphasised what Scripture taught-that to love God and others is more important than ″all burnt offerings and sacrifices″ (v. 33; cf. 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8). Jesus was pleased with the man's responses, for he had ″answered wisely″, and told him, ″You are not far from the kingdom of God″ (v. 34). The man had the right understanding of Scripture and what God required of His people. He also had the right attitude towards Jesus. If he went further and expressed faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah, he would enter the kingdom. He was that close to it-personal faith in Jesus was all that remained.
Why do you think love is at the heart of God's commandments? What does it say about ritualistic and moralistic religion that is motivated by attitudes other than love? Consider your own love for God and others in this light.
Think of people you know who may not be far from the kingdom of God. What keeps them from taking the decisive step into the kingdom? Pray for them by name.