LEADERS GUIDE Topic: The Greatest Commandment: Part 1
The primary idea you need to keep revisiting during this Following Jesus Pathway is that we are following and being formed by Jesus. This pathway can be learned simply or in great depth. We trust that you as a leader know your people and the dynamics of your group well enough to adapt and impart this topic with grace and wisdom.
This guide is designed to help you and others follow and be formed by Jesus. Remember to keep it Jesus-Centered.
We pray that you will be Spirit-Led and Spirit- Empowered as you lead and learn together.
Brief Commentary and Context
(Answer this question here: What did this mean in the original context and how is it set in the larger story of the Bible?)
The Church Overview: "THREE LOVES" described in "THREE WORDS"
Prayerful (Love God): All of life in God’s presence.
Family (Love One Another): All of life with God’s people.
Mission (Love the World): All of life with God’s passion.
We follow Jesus every day in every area of our life, 24-7. We don’t follow Jesus as individuals only, but as a family of families consumed with His love, power and presence. The primary way we express this shared life is in The Church. Following Jesus means that we love what He loves and share in His dreams. It means we dive deep into His Father, His family, His Spirit, His story and His world. Jesus suffered and died for all people, rich or poor, from all cultures and contexts. His passion was to bring home a hurting humanity and make beautiful a damaged creation. He called all people to follow Him, and called His followers to join His mission.
Brief Commentary for Mark 12:28-34 (Jesus Shares the Greatest Commandment)
Jesus entered Jerusalem where he spent the last week of his life before dying on a Roman cross. On Tuesday of that week he entered the temple area where he came into sharp conflict with the Jewish religious leaders. He spoke to them in deeply convicting parables and they tried to trap him with their questions. At one point an expert in the law overheard their dispute and asked Jesus an honest question, “Which commandment is most important of all?” It isn’t often that Jesus directly answers a question so his response, while predictable for a Jew, provides a shocking confirmation on what God values. “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 commandment greater than these.”
Jesus, recalling Moses' magnificent words, draws together two key passages in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Two commandments that he declares are in a sense one commandment. This is profound and revolutionary. Our love for God and our love for those made in his image are inseparable and of the highest importance. All of Jesus’ other commands are summed up and find their fulfillment in these.
“Interestingly, in Jesus’ conversation with the legal expert, there are two notable additions to the Shema. One is the neighbor-love command. The other is the inclusion of the mind to the list of ways humans are commanded to love God. (In the Shema, Moses lists heart, soul, and might, but not mind because the heart in Hebrew anthropology includes one’s rationality.)” (www.educationalrenaissance.com, Kolby Atchison)
Theologian, N.T. Wright points out that, “Jesus’ answer to the scribe’s question carries another important implication. His ‘first commandment’ is a version of the central Jewish prayer, the Shema (‘Shema’ means ‘listen’, as in ‘Listen, Israel…’). Devout Jews, from Jesus’ own day to our own, pray this prayer regularly every day. Jesus is claiming nothing less than this: that through his work, his teaching, and the things he has come to Jerusalem to achieve, the central prayer and hope of Judaism is being fulfilled. This is not designed as a ‘new religion’, a way of life somehow different from what pious Jews sought after. This is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.” (Mark for Everyone: N.T. Wright, p. 171)
The scribe responded to Jesus with a great affirmation and then took the thought even further declaring whole being love for God and neighbor as better than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. So much is being said in this conclusion. Jesus, standing in the temple during this conversation, had come to replace all offerings by giving his own life, making the temple obsolete. He would make a way for a new covenant by which a new spirit would be put in God’s people moving them to love God and their neighbor.
Jesus commends the expert in the law for answering wisely with the words, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” For each one of us, we are being welcomed by Jesus into what is “most important”. The Kingdom of God perfectly reflects who God is and God is love. By first receiving the love, grace and power of God, each of us can be transformed into those who are able to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves, just like Jesus.
Key Thoughts about Loving God with all our heart-soul-mind-strength.
“In his book The Life We’re Looking For (Penguin Random House, 2022), author Andy Crouch references the Shema to offer a biblically-informed summary of what being fully human involves: “Every human person is a heart-soul-mind-strength complex designed for love” (33).
Crouch distills these four categories as follows:
Heart: the seat of desire and emotion
Soul: the depth of self that is distinctive to each person
Mind: the capacity and inclination to better understand our experience of God and this world
Strength: the ability to work and play with all our being
Together, this four-fold structure of what it means to be human finds its underlying goal to love, first and foremost, God, and also our neighbor. Crouch writes, “Most of all, we are designed for love–primed before we were born to seek out others, wired neurologically to respond with empathy and recognition, coming most alive when we are in relationships of mutual dependence and trust. Love calls out the best in us–it awakens our hearts, it stirs up the depths of our souls, it focuses our minds, it arouses our bodies to action and passion (35)."(www.educationalrenaissance.com, Kolby Atchison)
Core Truths from the topic
Summary Scripture: Matthew 22:36-39 - “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
1 John 4:7-10- “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
1 John 4:19-21- “We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
John 14:21- “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Extra Resources to help you Prepare
Shema Series by Bible Project: 6 short video teachings:
Anyone new in your home church?
Things to Consider:
Is the new individual, or family organically connecting with anyone in your home church? Suggest a coffee hang to begin a deeper connection, or consider having the individual/family over for an easy dinner to get to know them better.
Is the new individual, or family interested in receiving communication via text, or email? If so, have them email email@example.com with their name and phone number.
Do they plan to attend All Navah Gatherings? If yes and it is a new family, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, their children(s) name, DOB and grade to make for a smooth kids ministry check-in process.