Mark's Gospel

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The Great Commandment

(Mark 12:28-34)

The lawyer was an attentive listener. He acknowledged how well Jesus answered the Sadducees' question. The Jewish Law consisted of 613 individual rules and regulations. The question the lawyer put to Jesus was which was the most important. Jesus in his answer linked together the words of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and Leviticus 19:18, 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' We cannot be absolutely certain that Jesus was the first Rabbi to link these two commands together. However, Jesus' answer won the approval of his questioner. Jesus acknowledged his approval, by saying, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of God.' This level of agreement between the two is evidence that Jesus was as good and loyal a Jew as his enemies.

Unlike the Law of Moses, Jesus did not lay down detailed rules to govern the behaviour of Christians in every possible circumstance. He gave two unchangeable principles which apply to every situation and by which all actions are to be judged. Even his own proverbial sayings are to be applied by the rule of love of God and love of neighbour. In contrast the Pharisees laid down detailed rules to cover every conceivable circumstance: the Jewish Law contained 248 'do's and 365 'dont's.

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