Matthew 22:37 and 39, ESV

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind... You shall love your neighbor as yourself.


Mark 12:13-17, NIrV

13 Later the religious leaders sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus. They wanted to trap him with his own words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of honor. You don’t let other people tell you what to do or say. You don’t care how important they are. But you teach the way of God truthfully. Is it right to pay the royal tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew what they were trying to do. So he asked, “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me a silver coin. Let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin. He asked them, “Whose picture is this? And whose words?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give back to God what belongs to God.”

They were amazed at him.


Because they hated Jesus, the Pharisees set a trap. They asked him a tricky question about paying taxes to Rome, the huge empire that had conquered Jesus' people. If Jesus said, “Pay your taxes,” it would make the crowd angry. The Israelites hated the Romans! But if Jesus said, “Don’t pay your taxes,” the Romans might throw Jesus in jail or even kill him! Jesus expertly avoided the Pharisees’ trap with a clever answer. He told the crowd, “Give Caesar the King things that belong to him (like money with his picture on it). And give God the things that belong to him (everything in whole world).”

+ Why were the Pharisees asking questions of Jesus? (vs. 13)

+ How did the people react to Jesus' answer? (vs. 17)


Mark 12:18-27, NIrV

18 The Sadducees came to Jesus with a question. They do not believe that people rise from the dead. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us about a man who died and didn’t have any children. But he did leave a wife behind. That man’s brother must get married to the widow. He must provide children to carry on his dead brother’s name. 20 There were seven brothers. The first one got married. He died without leaving any children. 21 The second one got married to the widow. He also died and left no child. It was the same with the third one. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 When the dead rise, whose wife will she be? All seven of them were married to her.”

24 Jesus replied, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures. And you do not know the power of God. 25 When the dead rise, they won’t get married. And their parents won’t give them to be married. They will be like the angels in heaven. 26 What about the dead rising? Haven’t you read in the Book of Moses the story of the burning bush? God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Isaac. And I am the God of Jacob.’ (Exodus 3:6) 27 He is not the God of the dead. He is the God of the living. You have made a big mistake!”


The Sadducees were another group that tried trapping Jesus with a tricky question. Deuteronomy 25:5 said this: if a married man died, it was his brother’s duty to marry his wife and care for her. The Sadducees asked Jesus: “What if a woman had seven husbands die? In the future, when God raises them all from the dead, which of the seven would be her husband?” This was a trick question – the Sadducees didn’t actually believe God would raise anybody from the dead! Jesus told these tricksters, “Yes, God will raise people. But no, nobody will be married when that happens.”

+ What did the Sadducees not believe would happen? (vs. 18)

+ What was the answer to the Sadducees’ tricky question? (vs. 25)


Mark 12:28-34, NIrV

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard the Sadducees arguing. He noticed that Jesus had given the Sadducees a good answer. So he asked him, “Which is the most important of all the commandments?”

29 Jesus answered, “Here is the most important one. Moses said, ‘Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) 31 And here is the second one. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18) There is no commandment more important than these.”

32 “You have spoken well, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one. There is no other God but him. 33 To love God with all your heart and mind and strength is very important. So is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. These things are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 Jesus saw that the man had answered wisely. He said to him, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” From then on, no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions.


After two tricky questions, a scribe (a man who studied the Bible carefully), asked Jesus one more: “Which of God’s commands is the most important?” Jesus actually answered with two commands: “You shall love God with all your heart” and “You shall love others as you love yourself.” When the scribe agreed with this answer, Jesus said something strange: “You are not far from God's kingdom.” Here’s what Jesus meant: Knowing these two great commands was important, for sure. But there was something way more important he needed to know: that Jesus was the king of God’s kingdom!

+ What is the most important commandment according to Jesus? (vs. 30)

+ How many more questions did they ask after Jesus' answer? (vs. 34)


Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NIRV

4 Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is the one and only God. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. 6 The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. 7 Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up.


Back when the scribe asked, “What is the most important commandment?” Jesus answered with a Bible verse. He spoke it from memory. The verse came from the fifth book of the Bible: Deuteronomy. This important rule has a special nickname: the First Great Commandment. It says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” That is a fancy way of saying we should love God more than anything else, with every part of us. God wants us to love him with all our hearts, brains, hands, mouths, ears, eyes, toes, and noses. If you have it, love God with it!

+ What does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

+ What were the Israelite parents supposed to do with God’s commands? (vs. 7)


Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 7:12, NIRV

18 “ ‘Do not try to get even. Do not hold anything against any of your people. Instead, love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord.


12 In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you. This is what is written in the Law and in the Prophets.


When a scribe asked Jesus, “What is the single most important commandment?” Jesus actually gave him two answers for the price of one! After telling the scribe about the first great commandment, Jesus spoke of the second great commandment. It comes from the book of Leviticus. This one said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our “neighbor” doesn’t simply mean those who live next door; it includes everyone we meet! In the Bible book of Matthew, Jesus explained this rule in his own words: “Whatever you want others to do to you, that’s what you should do to them.”

+ The second great commandment teaches us to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor?

+ What does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself?” (see Matt. 7:12)


1 John 4:7-12, NIRV

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become a child of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 Here is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world. He sent him so we could receive life through him. 10 Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we should also love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God lives in us. His love is made complete in us.


This week, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and a scribe asked Jesus tough questions about the Bible. The Pharisees asked their tricky question to get Jesus in trouble with the crowd or the Roman rulers. The Sadducees asked a weird question about a woman with seven husbands because they didn’t believe God would raise people from the dead. They wanted Jesus to say that they were right and everyone else was wrong!

But the scribe’s question (“What is the most important commandment?”) wasn’t a tricky trap. And after he answered it, Jesus told the scribe, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” The scribe agreed with Jesus: loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor were the two most important things God commanded his people to do. These rules were more important than any other command in the entire Bible!

Jesus said the scribe “wasn’t far from God’s kingdom.” But he didn’t say that the scribe was actually in God’s kingdom! And that’s because there was something important the scribe didn’t know: who Jesus was and what Jesus came to do!

The two great commandments have one word in common: love. But what exactly is love? That’s what these verses from 1 John tell us about! John tells us that “God is love.” If you want to know what love is, look at who God is and what he’s done. Since “God is love,” every single thing he does is loving.

But there was one thing God did that shows us his love more clearly than anything else. What was this amazing act? He sent his only Son, Jesus, to save us! But how exactly does that show us God’s love?

Every human being, including you, me, and the scribe who asked Jesus a question, have sinned. We’ve disobeyed God’s commands. We’ve failed to love him with all of our hearts. And we’ve failed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Because God is so good and sin is so bad, God is rightly angered by our sin.

But there’s good news: God loved sinners enough to send His only Son to save us. By dying on the cross, God’s Son Jesus paid the price for our sins. We don’t have to ever worry about God’s anger because Jesus took care of it all when he was nailed to the cross!

What does this have to do with God’s kingdom? Many people think, “If I love God with all my heart and love my neighbor, too, I’ll earn my way into God’s kingdom.” But sadly, that’s wrong. We can never love enough to earn a spot in God’s kingdom. 

But don’t forget the good news! God’s love is more than enough for us! If we believe the gospel (that Jesus died for all of our sins on the cross and rose from the dead), God has promised to forgive us and give us a place in his forever kingdom!

+ How did God show that he loved us? (vs. 9-10)

+ Because God loved us and sent Jesus to save us, what should we do? (vs. 11)

© 2023 Andrew Doane. All rights reserved.