Jesus spoke this in response to one of the Jewish officials asking him this question:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:29-30)
Then one of the scribes approached – after hearing their argument, and seeing that Jesus answered wisely – and asked him, “What is the most important instruction of all?” (Mark 12:28)This is a critical question one might be asking a spiritual teacher. Someone who is speaking numerous instructions ought to be asked which of their instructions is most important. Which instruction takes priority over the others?
Thus we find that loving the Supreme Being is the ultimate instruction. The compass that should guide our lives. The pathway that secures our journey home, back to the spiritual realm.
Loving God is the only thing that will make us happyThis is Jesus' primary teaching because loving God is the only thing that will bring us satisfaction. We seek satisfaction through achieving fame, wealth, family and so many other material things. But none of these satisfy us because only love for God will truly satisfy us.
You see, the Supreme Being created us to exchange loving relationships with Him. This is our purpose for being created. But love also requires the freedom to love or not to love. So each of us has this freedom to love God or not.
Yet as soon as we choose to love God we become fulfilled from within. The empty heart that constantly seeks happiness through matter immediately becomes full. This is because the Supreme Being is the Perfect Person. He is the "one" we are always seeking. He is the soul mate that we yearn for throughout our lives.
Love of God is an ancient teachingWe also see from this statement that Jesus' response was not his own teaching. He was quoting Moses from Deuteronomy 6:4 and 6:5, practically word for word.
Why is this important? Because we know from this that Jesus was not making up new teachings. He wasn't inventing a new philosophy. He wasn't creating a new doctrine.
Yet this is completely diametrical with sectarian teachers of today's institutions that insist that Jesus came out with a new doctrine - one that differentiated from the doctrine of the Jewish Prophets before him.
But if we closely analyze the scriptures apart from these speculative interpretations of sectarian teachers, we see a completely different situation. We see that Jesus closely adhered to the teachings of the Prophets. He constantly quoted the teachings of the Prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, David and Moses. He also discussed the lives of other Prophets such as Jonah and Abraham. Jesus was, in fact, a close adherent to the teachings of the Prophets:
"Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Scripture or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish, but to complete." (Matthew 5:17)Many have interpreted this statement to be that the Prophets predicted Jesus and he was fulfilling those predictions. But this is not what Jesus is saying. The Greek word is πληρόω (plēroō) - which means "to render full, i.e. to complete - to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure."
Jesus is saying that his life and teachings would elaborate on the teachings of the Prophets, and carry out the teachings of the Prophets. Jesus isn't speaking of their predictions. He is speaking of their teachings - what is in the Scriptures. Jesus is saying that his teachings would elaborate on their teachings. And his activities would be illustrating the teachings of the Prophets.
Jesus' life illustrated love for GodIn particular, we can see that Jesus' activities illustrated this particular instruction to love God. Jesus' entire life was dedicated to the Supreme Being. He walked the countryside bare-footed in the hot desert to teach people about God. He did not have a house, or a job, or savings. He completely relied upon and dedicated his life to the Supreme Being. Why?
Because Jesus loves the Supreme Being. It is not that he was doing these things to impress others. He was doing all of this because he wanted to please the Supreme Being:
“My food is to do what pleases Him who sent me and to complete His work." (John 4:34)
"By myself I can do nothing; As I hear, I make choices, and my choices are just because I do not seek to please myself but to please Him who sent me." (John 5:30)We can see clearly that Jesus' purpose was to please the Supreme Being. Because he loves the Supreme Being. Jesus was fulfilling or completing the teaching of Moses to love the Supreme Being. Jesus said this clearly:
"But so that the world may know that I love the Creator, I do exactly what the Creator instructs me. Let’s get up and leave this place.” (John 14:31)And Jesus' litmus test of others was also their love of God:
"But I know you – that you do not have the love of God in your hearts." (John 5:42)So we see how Jesus is completing the teachings of the Prophets. Yet many sectarian teachers will still say that Jesus' teachings departed from the teachings of the Prophets in that Jesus emphasized love for God.
Such a statement runs contrary to the teachings of the Prophets.
The Prophets taught love for GodPractically every Prophet discussed love for the Supreme Being as the central purpose of life. Moses stated this numerous times, in fact:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)
"Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always." (Deut 11:1)
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today - to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut 11:13)
"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow - to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him - " (Deut. 11:22)
"because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today - to love the LORD your God and to walk always in His ways - " (Deut. 19:19)
"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws" (Deut. 30:16)
"and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life...." (Deut. 30:20)Moses' disciple Joshua also taught this:
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)
"So be very careful to love the LORD your God." (Joshua 23:11)And David:
"Love the LORD, all His saints!" (Psalms 31:23)
"Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalms 97:10)We find so many other instances of the Prophets speaking of loving the Supreme Being, or expressing their love for God.
'Fear God' in the Old Testament is a mistranslationIn some cases, we find that sectarian translators translated the Hebrew word יָרֵא (yare') to "fear" as in "fear God."
In reality, this Hebrew word also means "to revere" and "to stand in awe of, be awed" and "to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe" according to the lexicon. In these instances, the context of fear is thus awe - not fear as if one is afraid for one's life - or afraid that one will be harmed in some way.
Thus we find these cases of translations to "fear God" should be "revere God" or "be in awe of God."
Because frankly, fear is not consistent with love. We can certainly revere the one we love. And we can be in awe of the one we love. But fear is not the appropriate description of this feeling that so many Prophets had for God as they worshiped Him with love.
Understanding this, we can emphatically state that every Prophet was a lover of the Supreme Being, and taught love of God to their students.
And Jesus also accepted his own teacher, John the Baptist, as a Prophet:
As they were leaving, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John: “What did you go into the wilderness to see – a reed twisting in the wind? What then did you go out to see – a man clothed in silk robes? Those who wear silk clothing live in kings’ palaces. Who then did you go out to see – a Prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a Prophet." (Matt. 11:7-9)For this reason, we can also state that not only was Jesus passing on the teachings of the Prophets. He was also illustrating them with his own life. And love of God is Jesus' primary teaching, reflecting the teachings of the Prophets.
Furthermore, we can state with clarity that sectarian interpretations that differentiate the teachings of Jesus from those of the Prophets are fundamentally wrong with respect to the Scriptures.
There is only one Supreme Being - as Jesus and Moses describe above:
"the LORD our God is our only Lord."