Jesus really upset them this time.
He upended their tables. He turned their questions meant to trap Him into condemnation on their own unbelief and false teaching. He preached a parable that showed their evil intentions and how they would ultimately fail. And now a single teacher of the law who had been listening intently stepped forward with a honest question, a good question: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” (Mark 12:28b)
The answer of Jesus? “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
It was a simple and profound answer.
Historical records suggest that Jesus wasn’t the first teacher who had taught that loving God was the greatest. Nor does it appear that Jesus was the first teacher to highlight loving of neighbor at a level of the greatest. The uniqueness in Jesus’ answer seemed to be the giving of both commandments. Loving God was first. Loving neighbor was second. However, they’re on a level higher than the rest. They also both appear to be entwined. As if the act of loving God was in part loving one’s neighbor and the act of loving one’s neighbor was a part of loving God. Almost as if what we do for the least of these my brothers, we do for Him (Matt. 25:45). Almost as if through loving of neighbor we commune with God, He abides with us, and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:7-21).
If the two commandments highlighted as the greatest are relationally entwined, perhaps their greatness is not based on elevation at the top, but rather indispensability to the foundation at the bottom.
Earlier in Mark 12 we see Jesus telling the parable of the Tenants. Jesus tells them through this parable that the religious leaders of the Jews would kill the Son of God. They would reject God for Jesus is God, just as they had consistently rejected all previous prophets of the Lord. No higher rejection of the greatest commandment to love God exists than to kill Him as a way of stealing His inheritance. He ends His story with “Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord had done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Mark 12:10-11 quoting Psalm 118:22-23).
Jesus is claiming the status of cornerstone. The indispensable, foundational building piece that all the rest is built on. Jesus is our cornerstone because we are unable of our own power, might, will, wealth, and wit to uphold the Law of God. We need a Savior to free us from the fate of not keeping the Law, which is death.
The commandments hardest to uphold was and is loving our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. These are life encompassing commands. These are every second of every day requiring continual perfection commands. And as Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, the Greatest Commandment and the second greatest commandment are the cornerstones of the law. All the weight of the rest of the law rests on these. The greatness, holiness, and glory of God and Jesus’ response of loving obedience uphold and fulfill the entirety of the law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17).
Our first missional commitment as a body of believers is to love. To love God with everything we have. With our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength. To love our neighbor as ourselves. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
“We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Jesus fulfilled the law we could not when we had nothing to give in return. He did it out of obedience to the Father who “so loved the world” (John 3:16). He perfectly lived out the greatest, foundational commandments and is now our cornerstone through which we have a firm foundation to build our faith.
So how is your faith maturing? Does your love for God consume your life? Is He preeminent? Does your love for neighbor identify you as a Christ follower? These are the indispensables. These are the starting blocks. These are the Love of LOVE, REACH, DISCIPLE. Without first committing ourselves to, growing in, and making preeminent in our lives LOVE empowered by Christ, we will not be equipped to REACH or DISCIPLE. So I ask again, does your love for God consume your life?