“There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Which is the greatest commandment? The one about adultery or killing maybe? Perhaps it’s one of the laws listed in Leviticus? In Mark 12:28-34 we find out.

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
‘Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

This is among my favorite scriptures from the Gospels and I note it often. Why? Because in it Jesus sets our priorities for us and at the same time throttles many of our unjust judgments against others.

Some who call themselves Christians rail against those who break the “lesser” of the commandments, yet fail to show them love. Some who call themselves Christians go to great lengths to call out others for breaking specific laws set out for the Israelites, though they may break others themselves, yet fail to show them love.

Jesus Himself never condemns those who break God’s commandments. He calls them to Himself and through their faith saves them. He forgives them and upon His cross He redeems them. Given the opportunity to stone the adulterous woman, He refuses and sends her on her way, forgiven. It is the repentant and those of faith who are healed and saved, but in every case, Jesus refuses to condemn; He loves them. I suspect He even loves those who do not repent, though they may not reach the Kingdom of God.

Who does Jesus save His wrath for? Those who are self-righteous, publicly pious, who set impossible standards for others to observe yet in secret do not observe themselves, and those who defile the temple — the hypocrites and cheaters. Those who seem to love themselves and their power over others more than they love God or others.

Curiously, when I hear others use scripture to call out others – sinners – I never hear them quote this passage of scripture. I never hear their call to love. I hear only judgment, condemnation, and I hear a lot of call for ridicule or stoning or killing. And clearly that is not what Jesus Himself ever intended.

Jesus calls us as Christians to love. He tells us elsewhere in scripture not to judge and if we are ourselves sinners (we all are!) not to “stone” (in other words, condemn or take any other punitive action against) others. Being a minister or preacher or priest or preacher-wannabe doesn’t give someone license to break ranks with Jesus on this one.

If we are to live in a better world, if we are to leave this world for the Kingdom of God, then we need to obey Jesus’ command to love God and to love one another. Jesus Himself said, “There is no commandment greater than these.”

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16 thoughts on ““There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  1. Do you know Jesus’ priority among the two commandments?

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

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    • Thank you for commenting, Matthew. While Jesus made love of God the first commandment, he followed it up quickly with love of others as second – and He was never asked what was the second of all commandments; He brought it up – so I think we can say that Jesus felt it was right up there with the first in importance in observance. Jesus ministered to people, was compassionate about their care and serving to one another. His mission was to bring God’s love to people and sharing that love among one another, so He paired them as commandments. It begins with loving God but must be followed by loving one another. If you miss the loving of others, you entirely miss Jesus’ point. There is no idolatry in that. And why are you picking on Paul? Paul was an “accuser of our brethren” when he was Saul, before his conversion to Christ, not after. And it was at Paul’s urging that gentiles were allowed to share in the Christian faith.

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      • Alan,
        Thank you for your thoughtful response. While I am generally in agreement with a number of your points, your choice of language reveals some subtle clues which reveal the “Prevailing Evangelical mindset” which I am bringing to light.

        You said QUOTE: ” Jesus made love of God the first commandment,….”
        But I say,
        Jesus did not make all Scripture
        Into one new great commandment.
        He summarized The Law and Prophets
        “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

        Jesus did not make a commandment, he QUOTED two existing commandments, from the Law of Moses, which He came to fulfill, (not to abolish as Paul falsely taught.)
        The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and the one in Leviticus 19:18.

        And Jesus identified one of these two commandments as “first and greatest”, “most important”, while the other one is “the Second.” The are NOT both equally important – one is the most important, and the other one in necessarily of lesser importance.
        You said, QUOTE:
        “Jesus felt it was right up there with the first in importance in observance.”
        Well,
        in normal conversation about most topics, I would say fine, sure, let’s not “nit pick”… However, those are YOUR words, and they are a little too fuzzy for me on this particular topic, when it comes to the words of Jesus quoting two different Laws of Moses. I think we can listen to Jesus speak for himself, without Paul or someone else to filter His words.
        If you think “right up there” means, equal, I must insist that no, it does not. Not according to Jesus.
        The relationship, interrelationship, connection, overlap, and application of these two commandments is something that should be on our minds all day long, every day. But they are two different commandments from the Law, not one new great commandment, and they are not equally important, and not the same. The Second is ONE essential application of the First – one of many. It is not the ONLY application.

        Paul was an “accuser of our brethren” in Corinth, reminding them of their shameful past before they were converted and naming specific “uncool” sins when he wrote to them.
        Jesus never did that with any of his followers. (The woman at the well was not a follower of Jesus when she first met Him. And “Go and sin no more” is not bringing up specific pre-conversion sins, even if the woman caught in adultery happened to be a follower of Jesus already – which is doubtful anyway.)
        If you don’t agree with this observation, please quote me chapter and verse where Jesus brought up specific pre-conversion sins of His followers.

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      • Hi Matthew. Another thoughtful comment – thank you. I’m not up on any “prevailing Evangelical mindset”, so I cannot comment on that. Sorry.

        I think you are missing the forest for the trees. You won’t find anywhere that I said that Jesus was creating commandments. On the contrary, my commentary was solely on Jesus’ response to the question, which is the greatest commandment? He responded with which were the *two* greatest commandments, and He tied them together. Yes, the greatest is to love God. But closely behind it is loving others. And Jesus spent His ministry tying together the love of God and love of others, and spent a predominance of His time ministering to the needs of others, showing the love, compassion, and mercy of the Father and showing how to share that with others.

        If you explore the other pages of this site you will see that I don’t spend any time on the other books of the New Testament, just the Gospels. So you are on your own battling Paul.

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  2. Alan,
    How refreshing that you share the Orthodox perspective to elevate the 4 Gospels above everything else in priority and importance. (As you may know, Eastern Orthodox Churches have a special “Book of the Four Gospels” that is the ONLY book put on the altar in church…..)

    I really have nothing to “disagree” about regarding your last post – yet behind the words, there may be an unstated assumption that is comes from Paul’s false teaching, which directly contradicts Jesus. Paul wrote the Jesus “abolished the Law.”
    Jesus commanded us directly NOT to think that, in the Sermon on the Mount.

    Jesus didn’t combine these two commandments into “One new great commandment” with “two parts”. They are still 2 distinct commandments, from the Law of Moses. And Jesus put at least 3 times as much emphasis on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 compared to Leviticus 19:18. He didn’t emphasize them “equally.”
    The way we love God is different than how we should love people. Worship, prayer, absolute trust and obedience belong to God alone – not people. We should not “love” people that way.

    I understand the order of priority among the 4 Gospels as being
    first, the Apostles Matthew and John,
    followed closely by Mark (as scribe for Peter and other Apostles),
    and lastly Luke the investigative reporter who came later and provided useful biographical details.
    Do you see the Gospels that way?

    Like

    • I believe that if you want to know what Jesus would say or do, go to the source: The Gospels. Of course, Jesus sent out the Apostles to spread the Gospels, but they go beyond the Gospels in their books (or those who wrote them do). So that is why I present only the Gospels here. To provide What Would Jesus Do.

      I agree that we love God differently that we love one another. But Jesus nonetheless commands us to love one another and care for one another. I believe that’s what we’re here for – to do the Father’s will in caring for one another. That’s why Jesus paired the two commandments together. To parse it otherwise is to split hairs. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus spends His time caring for people and He commands us to do the same.

      I haven’t heard of a priority in the order of the Gospels, but Matthew and Mark seem to get more attention, followed by Luke and then John. They are ordered in the Bible as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I could easily be wrong, however.

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      • Alan,
        I believe the words of Jesus in the Gospels give us “a priority in the order of the Gospels.”
        .1)
        Jesus said “My prayer in not for THEM alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through THEIR MESSAGE.” [John 17:20]
        THEM = the 11 Apostles present in the room with Jesus at the Last Supper. Only 3 wrote “Scripture” – Matthew, John, and Peter.

        (Mark is generally understood to be the first teachings of Peter and other Apostles who could not yet write, so Mark served as their scribe. As you know, much of Matthew is identical to Mark, thereby confirming with a second witness that Mark’s testimony is true.)

        Some Eastern Orthodox artwork reflects this order, with the Apostles Matthew and John as the top level, closely followed by Mark, with Luke last.

        .2)
        “Jesus spoke to “the eleven” disciples about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded YOU.” [Matthew 28:20]
        YOU = The same eleven Apostles present at the Last Supper.
        Your thoughts?

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  3. Alan,
    You asked me QUOTE:
    “And why are you picking on Paul? Paul was an “accuser of our brethren” when he was Saul, before his conversion to Christ, not after. And it was at Paul’s urging that gentiles were allowed to share in the Christian faith.”

    I answered you:
    Paul was an “accuser of our brethren” in Corinth, reminding them of their shameful past before they were converted and naming specific “uncool” sins when he wrote to them.
    Jesus never did that with any of his followers.

    If you QUOTE: “don’t spend any time on the other books of the New Testament, just the Gospels.” that is fine. We don’t need to waste time arguing about “what Paul really meant”, etc. etc. But since you asked me, I’ve answered.
    I’m not going to repeat Paul’s malicious gossip when Paul “accused the brethren” in Corinth, but if you want to look it up and verify the evidence, see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
    Do you agree that my observation here, contrasting Paul’s behavior with that of Jesus, is accurate, based on the text of the Bible?

    Like

    • [Note: You don’t have to say “QUOTE” before quoting something. ;-)]

      As I said earlier, I don’t spend time here on the other books of the New Testament, so it’s off topic for this blog. I should have stuck to that rule earlier.

      Like

      • Alan, OK no problem.
        – I understand you need to “pick your battles”, and you want to be Orthodox and focus on the 4 most important Books, the Gospels.
        Your inadvertent comment to me was one of the primary motivations for me to write the following new poem, so I will just share it with you here, and then drop the subject.

        Poem – Looking forward (Rocky)

        Jesus never calls us out
        For what we used to be.
        His voice is so much greater
        Than paul the Pharisee.

        “You are Simon son of John”
        said Jesus, without elaboration.
        No mention of a cloudy past
        No hint of condemnation.

        No accusation against the brothers
        No comments dark and obscure,
        Writing to the Church in Corinth
        “that is what some of you were.”

        Not the voice of the accuser,
        Boss Paul the Pharisee,
        Telling the redeemed people of God
        About what they used to be.

        Jesus never said right is wrong,
        He never said wrong is right.
        He came so we can turn from darkness
        And into His glorious light.

        “Neither do I condemn you” said Jesus,
        to a woman entrapped by dogs.
        The game the dogs play is the same today,
        Except now they do it on blogs.

        “Go and sin no more” said Jesus,
        Don’t relive that history.
        Look forward, not back, don’t dwell on your past.
        “You will be called” Rocky.

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      • Note to my readers:
        I do not accept Matthew’s label for me as Orthodox nor do I ascribe to his view of Paul as Pharisee, nor do I address any of the books of the New Testament other than the Gospels. His views stand alone.

        Like

      • Alan,
        Here are some relevant quotes for explanation, so we can move along and focus on the Gospels….

        Orthodox
        2. Adhering to the Christian faith as expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds.
        [Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition.]

        The Apostles’ Creed
        1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
        2. And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
        3. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary;
        4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell;
        5. The third day He rose again from the dead;
        6. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
        7. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
        8. I believe in the Holy Spirit.
        9. I believe a holy catholic Church, the communion of saints;
        10. The forgiveness of sins;
        11. The resurrection of the body;
        12. And the life everlasting. AMEN.
        http://apostles-creed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Apostles-Creed.pdf

        “Then PAUL….. CALLED OUT in the Sanhedrin, ‘My brothers, I AM A PHARISEE, the son of a Pharisee….” [Acts 23:6, recorded by Luke]

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      • In the Gospels, I see that Jesus often rebuked or admonished His followers for their current sins, but He never brought up or named their specific pre-conversion sins. Do you aree with this observation about the text of the Gospels?

        Like

      • Let’s parse some language here. There were many among Jesus’ followers. There were His disciples, whom He rebuked for their shortcomings but I don’t recall Him calling out their sins. There were those who came to Him for healing, whom He occasionally admonished to sin no more but more frequently acknowledged their faith. I think it is more accurate to say that Jesus never condemned anyone for their sins, past or present, except when He condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy – but then, they were not His followers.

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  4. Alan,
    I appreciate your willingness to open the Gospels and openly discuss them. I’m not sure exactly where to draw the line in some cases between Jesus
    “rebuking for their shortcomings”
    calling out their sins” and
    “condemning” people.

    But Jesus telling Peter “Get behind me Satan” is pretty strong language. I wouldn’t say Jesus “condemned” Peter there, but I would certainly see this as calling out his present sin. (The words of Jesus through the Apostle John in Revelation chapters 2 & 3 are full of rebukes and calling out specific sins in particular churches.) So if Satan spoke once through Peter, the chosen leader of Jesus’ chosen Apostles, Satan could certainly speak through other people at times, even if they are “Christian leaders”, for example.

    The point I am driving at is, how does Jesus see the sins of HIS FOLLOWERS, Pre-conversion sins versus current, Post-conversion sins? I see that Jesus never reminded his followers of any specific pre-conversion sins. Do you agree, based on the text of the Gospels?

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  5. Looking forward – Chapter 2

    “I am he who searches hearts and minds”
    says the Risen Jesus Christ
    “Repent and do what you did at first”
    Don’t be lazy since He paid the price

    Yes, Jesus sees our sins today
    Don’t think that He is blind
    But the words of paul the Pharisee
    Will put you in a bind

    Jesus washed away your sins
    Don’t listen to paul the accuser
    paul abandoned the Church in Corinth
    And then paul became an abuser

    When you put your trust in Jesus
    Yes, your stains were white as snow
    You didn’t need to wear a Scarlet Letter
    Everywhere you go

    “I will repay each of you
    According to your deeds”
    This is Jesus speaking to The Church
    Not a business selling felt needs

    For “those who claim to be apostles”
    Jesus said they must be “tested”
    Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos
    Persevered and were not bested

    They exposed the false teachings
    Of paul the Pharisee
    So the Church in Ephesus rejected paul
    And had a chance to be free

    Bibliography
    All quotes are the words of Jesus,
    in Revelation Chapter 2 (Authored by the Apostle John)

    Like

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