May this Christ-Centered Bible-Based Blog be a Blessing to You and Your Family.
Moses’ Greatest Law Command and Jesus’ Grandest Gospel Command
Mark 12:28-38 – “A law theologian (Pharisee) noticed Jesus giving a good (resurrection text) answer to (Sadducees), he asked (testing) Him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is most important?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important (first greatest) is “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 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these (which all the Law and the Prophets hinge upon).’ The Pharisee replied, ‘Well said, Teacher. You are right in saying that God is One and there is no Other but Him. To love God 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.’ When Jesus noticed he had answered thoughtfully, he said, ‘You are not far from God’s Kingdom.’
Jesus asked, ‘Why do the law theologians say that the Messiah is the Son of David? David (King-Prophet) himself speaking by the Holy Spirit declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My Right Hand until I put your enemies under your feet. (Psalm 110). David himself calls Messiah ‘Lord’. How then can his ‘Lord’ Messiah be David’s son? (No one could offer an answer.) Watch out for the law theologians. They enjoy walking around in flowing robes being greeted with (extra noticeable) respect, taking the most prominent synagogue seats and (crave) places of honor at dining events. They devour widows’ houses (strictly following or even bending Moses’ law) and utter verbose prayers for public showoff. They will be punished most severely.’
Jesus’ audience was obsessed with Moses’ commandments. What were they? What exactly did they mean? How were they to be practically applied and enforced in daily life? What were their implications and sub-commandments, statutes, codes of conduct, rules and regulations, etc.? The Pharisees and law theologians made a full-time (overtime) career on studying, debating, enacting, regulating, monitoring, complying and demanding compliance with them.
An expert theologian tried to test Jesus to see if he passed muster by fitting in with this mindset. He asked a potential self-incriminating question that if Jesus answered inappropriately, he would come across as lowering the Pharisaic imposed societal standards and even badmouthing Moses – publicly before witnesses that could get him into legal peril and nailed on charges before the Sanhedrin if serious enough. Many thought that all the commandments were of equal value -law is law, God’s rules are God’s rules. How dare anyone pick and choose or prioritize which are greater or first importance vs. any others. What authority would Jesus (unordained, uncertified, uncredentialed, unschooled, unSanhedrined, unJerusalemed, a smalltown lowly Galilean carpenter) have to pronounce on such a vital issue as a controversial public figure?
It seemed a no-win situation putting Jesus in a guaranteed fix with no escape. Even silence would make Jesus out to be ignorant, hesitant, perhaps not so much from God as he made himself out to be. Jesus needed to get this one right. He had never stumbled before and had always silenced his critics and escaped all attempts to ensnare him.
Of course, Jesus delivered perfectly as always. More than a genius wiseman (super-Solomon) and finest public speaker in history, he had faced ‘either/or yes/no’ questions with a stunningly masterful ‘both/and’ to pass the challenges brilliantly escaping any manmade traps that could dare be set for the Son of God Himself. ‘Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ is unsurpassed in sheer pithy verbal artistry and acute mental science in communicating truth during public debate way beyond merely winning arguments but winning hearts and souls with grand heavenly substance vs. mere grandiose style. Verity vs. verbiage, deep truths from God vs. surface facts, Eternal Life impact vs. momentary impression.
The best course of action with this hugely risky question was not to ‘play checkers’ by superficially choosing one out of the ten commandments as the best or foremost. No matter what legitimate case could be argued for the selection, it would come across leaving the unchosen ones automatically of lesser value or not quite as important before God, Moses or people. It likely would get Jesus into lots of trouble and act as occasion for his enemies to accuse him publicly on valid grounds, expressly by what he actually said or implied by what he left unsaid. He would be in a supreme bind, on the defensive his public image needing serious and perpetual damage control.
But Jesus used supreme strategic and tactical technique teaching God’s truth, instead ‘playing advanced chess’. Rather than favoring any commandment against another, a guaranteed losing proposition, he chose ALL of them in a wonderful summary form as to both their content and intent in God’s sight for ultimate practical utility as the Lord through Moses had all along designed! Why did God issue them? Why did Moses leave them as his main legacy? Why are they the centerpiece of all society? Why should we follow them and keep them and major on them 24/7 not just in outward formality but inward fervency? So how did Jesus handle this tall order speaking for God and Moses and not get it wrong one bit leaving himself open to attack by the sharpest of the sharp lawyers and theologians and politically correct compliance police?
Realize and remember Who we are dealing with here: The Lord our God is One Lord. Realize and remember it’s about relating in love, not regulating in legalities. Realize and remember people are the image of God and should be treated accordingly as God wants them treated and as you want to be treated. Love God 100% every fiber of your being with all you’ve got for as long as you’ve got inside and out to the utmost max. That’s true worship, ultimate obedience, highest fulfillment of the Law from the core.
Stunningly simple and surprisingly disarming. Quoting Moses himself directly as God’s authority to allay all concern or criticism. Quoting the ‘quote above all quotes’, the Shema (from the Hebrew ‘hear, listen’) which was the ultimate Jewish rallying cry, religious anthem, national identity pledge was a stroke of heavenly tact and truth immediately de-escalating the situation, deflating the egos of his opponents and stripping them of any hope of rebuttal or rebuke or refutation. Jesus won the argument, passed the test with just the Shema in itself. But by taking a page from Moses himself, he double-bonded his defense and turned the tables to offense using his opponents’ own moves and momentum against them like a judo master. You come at me with which commandment is greatest? I come back at you that all are great due to love purpose.
With a hint that, guess what gentlemen, you’re not so loving toward me although I will not respond in kind, but with supreme love as God commanded. You are breaking the very commands by trying to trip me up on the commands, so I use the commands back at you the way God intended in loving respect. You disrespectfully want me to lose, I respectfully affectionately want to win you to God’s love, not just beat you in a contest of wits and wills.
The law theologian was clearly surprised and disarmed by Jesus’ response. Perhaps breathtaken at the utter brilliance of the ‘checkmate’ after trying to put Jesus in jeopardy toward embarrassment or worse. Beforehand the Pharisee could have treated Jesus dismissively as an inferior upstart disruptor of the religious political status quo of the Sanhedrin’s hold over God’s people in Moses’ name. Silence Jesus and put him in his place, show him who’s boss and who really speaks for Moses and for God. Whoops! All of a sudden when Jesus more than holds his own against the best of the best theologian (maybe on Nicodemus or Gamaliel level), he wins newfound respect at least as a peer of equal smarts and speaks. Underestimated, now he is re-evaluated and even commended: ‘Well said, teacher. You are so right.’ He was honest enough to even begrudgingly realize and then admit publicly in front of the crowds and his Pharisee colleagues, which took integrity and courage to come out and agree with this man he was appointed to verbally take down and humiliate as a mockingstock to be dismissed.
Maybe with some ego to demonstrate at the least, he was not Jesus’ inferior, he gave rabbinic style scriptural commentary on Jesus’ brief discourse. This outwardly lended Jesus respect as a rabbinic dialog partner worthy of face to face theological discourse (after silencing the liberalized unscriptural Sadducees and amazing the crowds). He offered a finely reasoned scripture-based restatement with interpretation of Moses as quoted and summarized by Jesus. It appears he was paraphrasing a composite of the prophets Samuel and Hosea to elaborate. ‘All burnt offerings and sacrifices’, required by Moses but left unmentioned by Jesus, comes from 1 Samuel 15:22 (Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than animal fat in burnt offerings) and Hosea 6:6 (I desire mercy not sacrifice and acknowledging God more than burnt offerings.) This theologian not only knew his Scriptures but came across as sincere from the heart in applying them readily and synthesizing various strands of Law and Prophets integrating them thoughtfully, properly and truthfully. Whether he actually consistently from the core lived out what he knew as a scholar is unknown. What is known is that he did not know he was up against Someone who was the perfect incarnate embodiment of Lawkeeping-in-Love. Jesus was the Lord carrying out His Own Scripture Law and would judge all mankind, including his opponent, as to how and if they truly kept the Greatest Command. Unknown to the man, Jesus fully knew his heart and how near or far from His Kingdom of Eternal Life By Righteous Faith.
But now things take a galactic twist to another heavenly dimension of spiritual truth: the GOSPEL fulfilling and surpassing the Law. Jesus outranking Moses (as Hebrews insists).
Just when the law theologian tries to pridefully elevate himself in his fellow Pharisee’s eyes as Jesus’ tester/instructor/designated spokesman for Moses evaluating and rating Jesus’ performance (giving him not just a passing grade, but a rabbinic ‘A’ Well Done), Jesus gently and politely pulls ultimate rank by having the last word and last commentary and final pronouncement on the test (the quizzer was, in fact, the pupil being examined by his Lord and Master): ‘You are not far from God’s Kingdom’. BOOM!
Echoes of Nicodemus all over again. As prominent as Nicodemus was as ‘Israel’s Teacher’, he needed to be born again from above by water (John’s baptism of repentance for sin forgiveness) and the Spirit (miracle of God by grace through faith in Gospel Scripture) to be saved for entry as KingJesus-approved into God’s Kingdom. Kingdom citizenship is not automatic or casual or self-willed, but God-willed Gospel-empowered passively birthed from above. It is Christomatic by trusting King Jesus, period.
Now Jesus gives similar verdict to the Nicodemus-like theologian after exchanging views on Greatest Law Command. Nicodemus for all his wisdom and scripture knowledge and Moses-compliance and religious righteousness and reputation was an unforgiven sinner unaware of needing God-debt settlement as yet not trusting Messiah sin-bearer-forgiver-Righteous-Maker. Moses Law could never justify per se, only Moses’ God by mercy could justify. Now that justification would be fulfilled in Jesus lifted up like the bronze serpent lifted up in the desert to save people from a venomous death (John 3:15-16). So too with this latest theologian Pharisee: Unforgiven, unaware of his desperate need for rebirth, clueless that he was not really in God’s Kingdom of Christ by grace through repenting faith (see parable of Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14). Judaism doesn’t save of itself, it points to the Savior. Mosesism doesn’t get one into God’s Kingdom, Moses prophesies about Messiah-King-Savior. Lawkeeping, even the Greatest Command of Love, doesn’t cut it. It’s all about GOSPEL-keeping, trusting Christ, period, to attain eternal life – unachieved, just believed. Conceived by the Holy Spirit in repenting faith as born again = Received as Kingdom Citizen in Christ. Conferred by pure mercy of King Jesus Alone to pardoned liberated sinners who trustingly pledge allegiance to Him as Sworn Sovereign renouncing all others as idols. (1John 5:21)
In unexpected turn of irony, after the law theologian commends Jesus, Jesus now commands the man who commended him. What is the command? To keep Moses’ Greatest Law Commandment? Not even close. Follow the context of the full-text account to find out. See how Jesus tries to win the man who sought to make him lose.
- First, demonstrate stellar skill and sharp savvy to go head to head with the Pharisees’ best and brightest so that even they are forced to admit Jesus is Right (i.e. Righteous). Jesus proves he is Rabbi of Rabbi’s without equal on a surface human level to win respect, gain a hearing and establish credibility as Teacher from God.
- Next, lay out what the Greatest Law Command is for all to see, while implicitly inferring nobody can possibly have hope in keeping and fulfilling it as God intends. Conviction of sin, diagnosis of spiritual condition needing heaven’s only top-down supernatural (not bottom-up natural) remedy. Create a need, desire, awareness of lack.
- Then, encourage what little progress toward Ultimate Saving Gospel Truth is made in sincerity willing to pridelessly learn (whoever humbles himself will be exalted). Though you’re not in My Kingdom, yet you are on this path and gateway now after hearing My Word not far from admittance at My Willing Mercy and Sovereign Grace. Keep going.
- Next, ‘those I love I rebuke and discipline, so be zealous and repent’ (Rev. 3:19). Immediately after commending the Pharisee, he asks them all as a group as well as the crowds about who the Christ is. This is an oblique roundabout way to get everyone thinking about discovering connection between Scripture’s Son of David as Christ and the One now standing right in front of you. Hello? Anyone get the connection God is making before your very eyes and ears? Woman at the well? I who speak to you am He. Blind man? Do you believe in the Son of Man? He is the One now talking to you. Heretofore, lepers and demons cried out Who He was: Son of David, Holy One of God. Now, what do you Pharisees and crowds think after my being among you publicly for three years?? I am standing in God’s Very Temple now after riding into David’s Royal City on a donkey just like King Solomon (first and prophetic prototype Son of David). Do you get it yet? Let it soak in. Wake up and Warm up and Wise up. I Myself Am God’s Christ in the Flesh. To be on the Cross, in the Tomb, Resurrected to Life, Ascended to Heaven, Returning to Judge all humanity as sheep or goats, saved or lost, Paradise or Perdition, Eternal Life or Eternal Punishment, Eden of Glory or Lake of Gory Fiery Fury.
- Then it’s time for another mysterious parable-riddle to both reveal truth to genuine seekers and conceal truth from hypocrites and prideful hardened scoffers: If David calls Christ his Lord, how can you say he is David’s son? Explain to me how this works. Jesus silences everyone’s questions with a Master Rabbi technique: ask the stumper question that drills down deep, gets them thinking and puts them on their heels. Knockout punch. Offbalancing judo throw to the mat. En garde! Touche’! Any genuine humble seeker will want to find out more and follow Jesus to have their curiosity satisfied, leading to epiphany revelation of truth: Jesus is Christ Son of David, David’s Lord in the Flesh as his true disciples realize and grow in relational awareness. The desire is for the law theologian to take this to heart and, like Nicodemus, take the final faith steps from ‘not far from God’s Kingdom’ to ‘Welcome finally into My Kingdom, I Am Your Majesty.’
- Finally, counterintuitively, Jesus issues a blistering condemning warning to the Pharisees who would dare to keep resisting and denying him and his Grandest Gospel Command fulfilling and surpassing and enabling sinners as forgiven to keep Moses’ Greatest Law Command. It’s both and, a package set, not either or merely Moses. Creatures, especially saved forgiven ones, have no right to express ‘Tough Love’ to God ever. And rarely to other creatures unless absolutely necessary. Jesus now finds it absolutely vital to express ‘Tough Love’ to those he is trying to win who always seek to make him lose. Unsaved unpardoned enemy subjects outside God’s Kingdom cannot love 100% or even 1% in pure manner and motive. Forgiveness leads to Forgivenness which gifts the motorizing energy of Christ’s Spirit to Love God and others.
Similar to the Parable of Good Samaritan, the superficial surface level point is about Moses’ Greatest Law Command: Love for God by merciful love to neighbor. Go and do likewise. Of course, no one can who is an unforgiven sinner unaware of his desperate need of God’s Gospel Mercy first and foremost. Thus the absolute vital need of not trying to follow Moses apart from Jesus. Law without Gospel is hopeless. Greatest Law Command is utterly impossible without Grandest Gospel Command.
Only born-again Kingdom citizens can love God 100% and love neighbor as self. Period. He who has ears to hear, listen up. If you don’t trust and love and fear Jesus First and Foremost, you cannot ever hope to love the One Lord the way He desires and Scripture commands and invites. Liberated captives can love their Liberator, but bondaged slaves prisoners to sin cannot begin to love God or anyone but themselves with pure motives 100% righteously to satisfy Heaven’s Christly Scriptural standard.
As Jesus told the Pharisee when the woman was wiping his feet with her tears and hair, “This woman’s many sins are forgiven, demonstrated by the fact of how much she expresses grateful repenting convicting-reborn-faith love to me (and thus God the Forgiver through My Gospel). But you who have been forgiven little love little.”
Christ’s Grandest Gospel Command – The Kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe My Gospel Good News. You must be born again of repenting faith looking to Me as Son of Man lifted up on the cross to save you by faith for eternal life. Believe in the Lord King Jesus and you will be saved. I Am The Way The Truth The Life, no one comes to the Father unless exclusively through Myself, period. This is the work God requires and commands and invites: To believe on Me as the One God sent as Son of Man giving His life as ransom for many calling sinners to repentance. This Gospel Command Invitation is awaiting your R.S.V.P. How will you respond today? Be Gospeled not Lawed. Be Jesused not just Mosesed. Be Loved then Loving. Be Mercied then Merciful. Be Forgiven then Forgiving. Be born again by Christ’s Spirit, then breathe in the Spirit.