One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
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.”
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
An answer given by Jesus that is directly taken from the Word of God. His follow-up comment highlights His intimate knowledge of the kingdom of God. Jesus did not come back this time with another question. He answered directly and surely. In His answer we see clearly who God is and our relationship to Him. God is our Lord, our only Lord, and we respond in love with our whole being when we come to that realization. He is Lord over our body – strength – our mind – thoughts and consequent actions driven by thoughts – our heart – our spirit and emotions found in the very center of our being. We have a responsibility to fulfill before Him and that is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This shows up in our conversation and our actions toward others.
This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” With this statement, the teacher gave a clear understanding of what is important to God. All our efforts through rituals, legalistic demands, are meaningless if we do not grasp who God is and who He says we are and if we do not surrender the ‘self’ to Him. What is redemptive and what brings us back into a relationship with Him is the sacrificing of our control over ourselves. Recognizing that He is Lord and giving honor through obedience to His commands, responding in love to Him is key.
When we fully realize this concept, we realize we are not our own. Self does not rule and the giving of ourselves is generated by love. It is not oppressive but redemptive. We are not bound but set free. When we take hold of this and put it into action in our lives we “are not far from the kingdom of God.”