The Most Important

Steven Bouma-Prediger

READ : Mark 12:28-34

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (v. 34)

The questions came fast and furious. First the Pharisees and Herodians. Then the
Sadducees. And now one of the scribes. By what he had said and done in the temple, Jesus
had threatened the whole religious establishment, and now the traps were being set by those who opposed him. This scribe asked Jesus a question every rabbi faced: which of the many commandments was the most important of all?

Quoting the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4, Jesus states that loving God with one’s whole being is the most important thing in the world. He then adds that the next most important commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Surprisingly, given the adversarial context, the scribe responds with words of affirmation. And he goes on to draw a most interesting conclusion: loving God and neighbor are much more important than all the temple sacrifices.

Jesus repays the scribe’s compliment with one of his own: you have spoken wisely and are not far from the kingdom of God. In other words, if we truly love God and neighbor, we are offering the sacrifices God really wants (Micah 6:6-8). For if we love God and neighbor, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, God’s kingdom is realized on earth.


Through your Spirit, O Lord, empower us to love you and to love our neighbors.