What Is The Most Important Commandment?

Mark 12:28-34 is one of my favourite examples of Jesus outwitting the questions of the priests, pharisees, teachers etc that were designed to trap or trick him.

28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The 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. 33To 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.”

34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

This is paralleled in Matthew 22:34-40:

34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Mark gives greater insight into it than Matthew though as you can see, so lets go back to Mark. I quite like this particular example because if you look at what Jesus says is the most important commandment:

29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

This covers the first 4 commandments in Exodus 20 which all relate to our individual relationship with God:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The command that Jesus says is the second most important is:

31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

This effectively encompasses the remaining 6 commandments in Exodus 20 that all relate to our relationship with our neighbour, or in other words, our relationship with the people around us:

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

So when Jesus answered this question, he was basically saying all of the commandments that are about our relationship with God are the most important, all those that are about our relationship with people on earth are also extremely important and come in second behind our relationship with God. In essence, all of the commandments are therefore important with 4 tied for first place and 6 tied for second place.

The other reason I like these verses is that the teacher of the law actually acknowledges Jesus answer as being correct, rather than simply getting upset about being outwitted as they do in many other places.

32“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To 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.”

This to me shows that while many of them may have been bent on trying to knock Jesus off to the extent of being blinded to what he was actually saying, not all were. Some could see the logic in what Jesus said and acknowledged it as correct.

Leave a comment

en_AUEnglish (Australia)
es_ESEspañol en_AUEnglish (Australia)