The Book of Mark
THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS
Text: MARK 12:28-34
1. Mark 12:28 says, “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?”
2. We know from Matthew 22:35 that this man was a lawyer, i.e., an expert in the law of Moses.
3. He appears to have been an honest and sincere man, and our Lord commended him (Mark 12:34).
4. By his question, he meant “first in importance,” not “first in order.”
5. Our Lord answered him by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
6. These verses are part of what Jews refer to as the “Shema” (Hebrew for “hear”). For orthodox Jews these Scriptures are the centerpiece of their morning and evening prayers, and this is considered their most important prayer.
7. Deuteronomy 6:4 (quoted by our Lord in Mark 12:29) summarizes the monotheistic faith of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”
8. This verse also affirms the triune nature of God. “The LORD (Jehovah) our God (Elohim) is one LORD (Jehovah)” (Deut. 6:4).
9. The Hebrew word translated “one” expresses compound unity. The same word is used in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
10. The Hebrew word for God – Elohim – is the plural of El and is the first name for God given in the Bible, “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
11. Elohim is peculiar to the Hebrew OT and appears in no other Semitic language.
12. By quoting Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, our Lord epitomized all the commandments that deal specifically with man’s duty toward God.
13. Then our Lord added, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31).
14. This “second commandment” is from Leviticus 19:18. This second commandment epitomizes man’s duty toward his fellow man.
15. Our Lord added something to Deuteronomy 6:4 – “and with all thy mind.” (“Might” and “strength” are synonymous.)
16. It has been said that man’s great dominant faculties can be divided under four heads: conscience (heart), affections (soul), intellect (mind), and will (strength).
(1) MAN’S CONSCIENCE – “with all thy heart”
(2) MAN’S AFFECTIONS – “with all thy soul”
(3) MAN’S INTELLECT – “with all thy mind”
(4) MAN’S WILL – “with all thy strength”
I. THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT (12:29, 30).
1. In this context, “first” means “greatest.” This is the greatest commandment. Therefore, the greatest decision that we can make is to accept the Lord Jesus Christ, and love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength.
2. In order to love the Lord with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength, you first must be saved.
3. So allow me to ask – are you saved? Do you put God first in all of the decisions of life? If you do, everything else falls into place.
4. Loving God with all of our heart, and with all of our soul, and with all of our mind, and with all of our strength means we are going to obey Him in all things.
5. This means first getting baptized and becoming a member of a good Bible-preaching church.
6. Then we are to observe the things God has given for us to do in our daily lives – pray, read the Bible, support the local church, support missions, win souls, etc.
7. What is the second greatest commandment of all? “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:31).
8. If you really love your neighbor, you do not want him to go to hell (cf. Luke 10:25-37).
9. If you really love the people in Haiti or in Africa or South America or the Philippines, etc. you want to help them, and their greatest need is spiritual (cf. Mark 16:15, 16).
II. THE GREATEST COMMITMENT.
1. The greatest commitment in this life is to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength (Mark 12:30).
2. The heart is mentioned first. The heart referred to 833 times in the Bible. It refers to the inner man, the seat of personality, man’s conscience.
3. Loving God with all your heart means obeying God; and loving God with all your heart means hating sin.
4. Romans 6:17 says, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”
5. Our Lord, quoting the prophet Isaiah, said, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6).
6. David said, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).
7. The same principle applies to the second great commandment (Mark 12:31). Love means putting others first.
8. Galatians 5:14 says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
9. James 2:8 says, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.”
10. Loving our neighbor with all our heart means we recognize our obligation to help our neighbor – to relieve his wants and to promote his welfare (cf. Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10).
11. Certainly this should be applied to soulwinning and to missions. We are to love God with all our heart, and we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
12. And if we love God we will obey Him, and He has told us to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
13. If we love our neighbor we do not want to see him go to hell.
14. Which brings us to…
III. THE GREATEST ASSIGNMENT
1. We are to love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30).
2. Furthermore, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
3. And if we love God we will obey Him, because Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
4. If we love God we will obey Him, and He has told us to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
5. If we love our neighbor we do not want to see him go to hell.
6. Back in 1865, Hudson Taylor was given a few minutes to address a large conference in Scotland. He told his listeners that in October of 1856 (nine years earlier), he had been travelling on a Chinese ship from Shanghai to Ningpo. Among his fellow-passengers, there was a Chinese man, by the name of Peter, who had spent some years in England. Peter had heard the Gospel but was not saved.
7. Hudson Taylor told the story of this man’s friendliness and of his own efforts to win him to Christ. Nearing the city of Sung-kiang, they were preparing to go ashore together to preach and distribute Gospel tracts, when Mr. Taylor in his cabin was startled by a sudden splash and a cry that told of a man overboard. Springing at once on deck he looked round and realized Peter had fell overboard.
8. “Yes,” exclaimed the boatmen unconcernedly, “it was over there he went down!”
9. Searching everywhere in an agony of suspense, Mr. Taylor caught sight of some fishermen with a dragnet – just the thing needed.
10. “Come,” he cried as hope revived, “come and drag over this spot. A man is drowning!”
11. “Veh bin,” was their amazing reply: “It is not convenient.”
12. “Don’t talk of convenience! Quickly come, or it will be too late.”
13. “We are busy fishing.”
14. “Never mind your fishing! Come – only come at once! I will pay you well.”
15. “How much will you give us?”
16. “Five dollars! Only don’t stand talking. Save the man’s life without delay!”
17. “Too little!” they shouted across the water. “We will not come for less than thirty dollars.”
18. “But I have not so much with me I. I will give you all I’ve got.”
19. “And how much may that be?”
20. “Oh, I don’t know. About fourteen dollars.”
21. Upon this they finally came, and the first time they passed the net through the water they brought up the missing man. But all Mr. Taylor’s efforts to restore respiration were in vain. It was only too plain that Peter had died, sacrificed to the callous indifference of those who might easily have saved him.
22. Hudson Taylor’s biographer, his son Howard Taylor (also a missionary to China), described the audience’s response to this sad story: “A burning sense of indignation swept over the great audience. Could it be that anywhere on earth people were to be found so utterly callous and selfish!”
23. But conviction struck home all the more deeply as Hudson Taylor made his point: “Is the body, then, of so much more value than the soul? We condemn those heathen fishermen. We say they were guilty of the man’s death – because they could easily have saved him, and did not do it. But what of the millions whom we leave to perish, and that eternally? What of the plain command, ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature’?”
24. Loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself means doing your best to reach them with the Gospel.
25. Next, the soul is mentioned (Mark 12:30). Man is an emotional being.
26. If loving God with all our heart speaks of our sense of moral obligation to obey God, then loving God with all our soul speaks of our need to worship Him.
27. Some preaching services touch man’s intellect but do nothing for the soul. On the other hand, some church services are very emotional but the people are not being properly instructed in the Word of God.
28. The “mind” (12:30) deals with man’s rational faculties. Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
29. This renewing work comes as we saturate our minds with the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 5:11-14).
30. This is why our Lord said, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart (conscience), and with all thy soul (emotions), and with all thy mind (intellect), and with all thy strength (will)” (Mark 12:30).
31. This underscores the comprehensiveness of our duty to love God.
32. “And with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). Loving God with all your strength means but making a deliberate decision to obey God and to serve Him no matter what.
I am resolved no longer to linger,
33. Are you resolved?
1. David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.
2. He was born in Connecticut in 1718, and he died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-nine in 1747.
3. Jonathan Edwards preached the funeral sermon and published David Brainerd’s Journal (his diary).
4. David Brainerd said, “I care not where I go or how I live or what I endure so that I may save souls. When I sleep I dream of them; when I awake they are first in my thoughts...no amount of scholastic attainment, or able and profound exposition, of brilliant and stirring eloquence can atone for the absence of a deep, impassioned, sympathetic love for human souls.”