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.”
Matthew has Jesus making the same declaration on the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-40 and we covered that on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 almost two weeks ago. Nonetheless, this is different, quite different.
In Matthew, Jesus did not preface His answer about the greatest commandment with the statement Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Turns out this is first stated in Deuteronomy 6:4 and immediately followed by And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Thus it was entirely appropriate that Jesus would lead with Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. A little more searching revealed this was expected to be recited twice daily by devout Jews in the days of Moses and many still do it to this day to keep up a defense against any form of the polytheisms and pantheisms of the heathen world. It is considered a great statement of the national faith of Israel in One Living and Personal God—”One Jehovah!” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)
There is more to the differences between Matthew and Mark in Jesus answering this question. In Matthew the questioner is identified as a Pharisee, an expert in the law, but in Mark the questioner is identified as a teacher of the law. Not so different as one would expect a teach of the law to be an expert in the law as well. Then in Matthew we move directly to the question Jesus asks of the Pharisees, What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he? In Mark before this question is asked, the teacher of the law replies to Jesus, Well said, teacher. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. 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 offerings and sacrifices.
Jesus approved of this answer and replied to him saying, You are not far from the kingdom of God. After that no one dared to ask Him any more questions. Why would Jesus say the teacher’s answer showed he was not far from the kingdom of heaven? I believe it is because the teacher saw beyond the traditions and added laws of the Pharisees that love of God and love of your neighbor was more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. This teacher of the law was close to what John would teach years later
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16
Thus we know why we should love God with all of our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves, because God is love! As Paul said Christ’s love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14). It’s Monday, may you let Christ’s love compel you to love with all your heart.