The Greatest Commandment


Series: Mark

Title: 7. The Greatest Commandment Mark 12:28-34


  • 2015-12-12: White Rock Lake

  1. Introduction: Have you ever known someone who absolutely loved to argue? When I was a kid, I loved a good debate, but sometimes I would say things that got me into trouble.
    1. Jewish tradition: Debate
    2. Time setting: Tuesday of Passion Week (the next day, Wednesday, we have no record of what happened; on Thursday, the Passover is celebrated; on the day before, Monday, Jesus had cleansed the temple)
  2. Series of questions asked of Jesus to trap Him
    1. Paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17)
    2. The resurrection and levirate marriage (Mark 12:18-27)
  3. Our main passage:
    1. Mark 12:28
      1. Not necessarily a trap. A common question to discover a rabbi’s thinking about the law.
      2. The rabbis counted 613 commandments in the Torah—248 positive and 365 prohibitions. They often disputed to try to differentiate between heavy (great) and light (little) commands.1
        1. “A Gentile challenged the famous rabbi Hillel (ca. 40 BC-AD 10) to teach him the whole law while standing on one foot. Hillel replied, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole law; the rest is commentary’ ”2
      3. Unlike the previous questions, this was actually a really good question to ask Jesus. Jesus summarizes all of scripture in a neat package.
    2. Vv. 29, 30: The greatest commandment
      1. In Matthew’s version (22:40), Jesus states that these two commandments provide the basis for the entirety of Scripture.
      2. This passage, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, is known as the Shema. Jews would recite it every morning and evening, and at the beginning of every synagogue service.
      3. Jesus expands it to include the mind.
      4. Love for God is described as being with the total being: heart and soul (emotional), mind (mental), and strength (physical). What does this mean?
        1. Emotional:
          1. Love is often thought of in emotional terms.
          2. In general, the Psalms reflect humanity’s emotional connection with God.
          3. An emotional love for God can really bind us tightly to Him
          4. However, without the other elements, it is as unreliable as our emotions are.
        2. Mental:
          1. Reflected in our study and devotion to God, our determination to stick to Him when our emotions aren’t in agreement, and our use of the mind in obeying His commands.
          2. The mind is one of the most powerful parts of our being, and can make or break our relationship to God.
        3. Physical:
          1. Love involves action.
          2. When we love God with everything we’ve got, others will be able to see evidence of it by our actions.
    3. Vv. 31: The second commandment
      1. Quoted from Leviticus 19:18.
      2. Really, this command is two commands: love your neighbor and love yourself.
        1. Love your neighbor:
          1. All those around us (cf. the Good Samaritan)
          2. Matthew 25:31-46 (the sheep and the goats): Our love for others is a reflection of our love for Jesus
          3. Loving those who are difficult to love: Matthew 5:44. It begins with prayer, and then following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
            1. Remember, loving someone is different from liking that person.
            2. Also, there are people we shouldn’t be in contact with. The command to love our neighbor doesn’t mean to be foolish; we should love certain people from a distance.
        2. Love yourself → Self worth
          1. God doesn’t make junk, yet sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves.
          2. If we don’t love ourselves, we don’t have the capacity to truly love others or God.
          3. Loving yourself is quite different from the narcissism that is so prevalent today.
            1. Narcissism is entirely self-focused. True love for self is part of a larger package of loving Gos and loving others.
            2. Comes from a lack of true love for self.
    4. Mark 12:32-34
      1. The scribe recognized that what Jesus had said was truth.
      2. He recognized that relating from a position of love is far superior to mere compliance with rules.
      3. Jesus recognized that he grasped the key principles of the Kingdom of God. I’d like to know whether he ever became a follower of Jesus.
  4. Conclusion: Is there some area in which your commandment-keeping (love) is lacking?


  1. A synthesis of the study notes on this verse in both the NIV Study Bible and the Andrews Study Bible

  2. Andrews Study Bible