42 – True Worship
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall 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 this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
- Burnt offering: A gift burnt on an altar as a sacrifice
- Sacrifice: Killing an animal as an offering to God
What does it mean to worship something?
Do you think it is possible to love God and others in such an extreme way?
Up until now, all that we have seen of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Scribes is that they are jealous of Jesus and try to trick him in order to get rid of him. Therefore, when we hear the words of this man from amongst them, it comes as a bit of a shock to realise that perhaps he really wants to hear what Jesus has to say.
It looks like Jesus has made quite an impression on him in the way he has answered other questions. Therefore, the man asks Jesus what he thinks the most important commandment in the Jewish law is. He doesn’t say why he wants to know the answer – perhaps he wants to make sure that he is keeping it, or perhaps he wants to see what Jesus’s priorities are, or it’s even possible he wants to see if Jesus agrees with what he already thinks.
Once again, Jesus gives an astonishing answer. God had given the law to his people to show the perfect standard that he expected from them. In a way, what Jesus does here is he summarises the law into two commandments. Firstly, we need to recognise God as the true God and to love him to the utmost. Secondly, we must love other people as much as we love ourselves and treat them as we would like to be treated. Surprisingly, the man agrees! He is able to see that these two things need to be the basis for our lives, and that what God wants from us is that we worship him and serve others in our hearts – not only externally.
The question we have to ask is what else did this man have to understand? Jesus recognises that the man is near to the kingdom, but he is not there yet. What does he need to change? It is not enough for us to realise that God asks this of us, unless we also realise that we have failed. Because we have not reached the perfect standard of God, we need someone who has succeeded in doing this to represent us – and that person is Jesus.
Why do you think that these are the most important things in the sight of God?
In which ways are we able to worship God?
that God will enable you to love him with all your being, and to love other people in the same way that you love yourself.