To love him . . . and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:33)
Expanded Passage: Mark 12:32–34
Like many Jewish teachers, Jesus would extensively use questions and answers to gauge the understanding of his audience as part of his pedagogy. He would approach their questions satisfactorily in two ways. First, the Lord would ask them questions and see how they responded. Second, he would answer their questions, and the learner would try rephrasing to demonstrate his comprehension. In this episode, the teacher of the law reworded Jesus’ answers and gave the three-fold love of God, neighbors, and oneself precedence over “all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:32–34).
In Jewish liturgy, specific animals of the highest quality were used for the burnt offering. It served to atone for the offeror’s sins and as a means of corporate purification to win God’s approval. Its goal was to mend strained bonds and restore the sinful person closer to the holy God. Jesus’ sacrifice substitutes once for all the “burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Our acts of worship nowadays are worthless without our love for God, our neighbors, and ourselves. When the teacher of the law understands that love transcends everything, Jesus congratulates him on his wise answer, saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34).
If God were to ask how far you are from the kingdom of God, would you answer based on your acts of worship or your love for him, your neighbors, and yourself?
Prioritize your love of God, your neighbors, and yourself over everything.
Handy Calixte is the national director of Christian education for L’Église Wesleyenne d’Haïti. He is pursuing a master of divinity at Wesley Seminary and studying biblical Hebrew at Israel Institute of Biblical Studies.
© 2023 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.