In Mark 12, Jesus’ best friends, the Pharisees, decide to pay him a visit. As usual, they enjoyed tea and crumpets, meaningful encouragement, laughter and even a few side hugs. The chapter ends with them singing Kumbaya by a campfire, adding in a brief rendition of “Friends Are Friends Forever” by Michael W. Smith.
Back to reality (read Mark 12:38-40).
The Pharisees wanted to do anything they could to trip Jesus up on His words and teachings. While they were meant to be teachers of the law, they completely missed the spirit of the Law. That’s what Paul explained succinctly and clearly to the Romans:
No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people. Romans 2:29
By verse 28, you can tell that Jesus had their heads spinning. Every question they threw at Him was answered eloquently with Biblical truth. Now they wanted to see if they could get Him to erroneously describe the fundamentals of Judaism. “What commandment is most important?” they asked. He gave them Deuteronomy 6:4 as well as a summary of the rest of the commandments:
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Even the Pharisees couldn’t provide a rebuttal. In fact, one of them agreed (read Mark 12:32-33), and Jesus told him that He was getting closer to the Kingdom (v.34).
As Christ-followers, we need to embrace the command given in Mark 12. There are a lot of important things we do as Christians but none more important than to love Christ and love each other. Paul said he would gladly give up everything in order to know Jesus more intimately (Philippians 3). John recorded Jesus saying that the world will be able to identify His disciples by their love for each other (John 13).
Truthfully, we’re all guilty of over-complicating our faith. This reminder from scripture is especially helpful: don’t over-complicate what Jesus made simple. Love God, love each other.
If a Pharisee could comprehend this, hopefully we can too.
By: Todd Thomas – Worship & College Pastor