Jesus spent a lot of time teaching anyone who would listen - even the Pharisees and Sadducees - the religious leaders and zealots of the day. Now, lest you think they were "open" to his teachings, it was more that they wanted to find some way to trip Jesus up in his teaching and discredit him publicly. They were quite jealous of the attention he was getting - after all - they had been the primary "religious" teachers of the day and now they had a little "competition". Our pride is a dangerous thing whenever it puts what we have accomplished, think we know, or even actually "do" know above the potential of learning truth. During one such discussion with the religious leaders, a "teacher of the law" saw that Jesus was pretty good at accurately being able to answer the questions and challenges of the group. He asks what he thinks might be the hardest of questions to answer: "Which of the commands is the most important?" I guess this just how our minds work - some command must be more important or rank higher than another. Jesus wasn't stumped by this line of questioning, but came back quickly with not only the most important, but the second most important! It is just like Jesus to not only give us what we want, but what we also need!
He saw that Jesus gave good answers to their questions. So he asked him, “Which of the commands is the most important?” Jesus answered, “The most important command is this: ‘People of Israel, listen! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second most important command is this: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’ These two commands are the most important.” (Mark 12:28-31 ERV)
The answer the teacher wanted was the "most important" command - numero uno. He didn't expect Jesus to also throw in the second most important - revealing he had a greater hold on truth than the religious crowd gave him credit for. Jesus works this way time after time, giving us not only what we ask for, but what we don't even know we have need of. These religious leaders were working hard to discredit him - challenging him with tough questions it had taken them years of study to understand. Baffled by his "brilliance" in answering each and every one of them, they want him now to "hang his hat" on the one most important answer he can give which supports all the other teachings he has elaborated on up to that point. You see, these religious leaders hadn't treated him, nor those they lived with on a regular basis, with the kindness and dignity God expected. Their religious works were for show, but deep down inside their pride got in the way of them really connecting themselves as "equal" with the sinners all around them. In essence, they might have wanted to know what Jesus considered the most important truth, but they needed to understand how they treated others mattered!
Get relationship right with God - giving him ALL of your heart - not just the part we give him on Sunday mornings, or when someone is looking. Focus on him as the only source of your devotion and dedication - not as much on every passing whim or fancy which is popular in the day. Intently choose to follow his will instead of the constant pull of your own. Submit your thoughts to him and allow him to purify them, filtering out all the "noise" the world adds. Take up the tasks he lays before you and don't seek to accomplish them in your own ability or talent. This is what makes up the first and most important command. The thoughts of the religious zealots would have immediately made them proclaim, "We have this down pat in our lives!" As if to expose the religious pride of the zealots who surrounded him that day, often looking down on those who were not as learned or studied in the scriptures as they were, he counters with the one command which will expose their hearts. To consider another above yourself - to focus on loving with integrity instead of with false pretense - this comes closely on the heels of being rightly related to God.
Jesus isn't into putting another down, but he proclaims truth because nothing but truth can open the blind eyes, crumbling the prideful elevation of thought which keeps others at an arm's distance. He cannot respond with anything clearer which will address how one portrays a self-made confidence which will melt away in the face of the reality of the love of one who truly has the first command correct in their lives. He is revealing they really haven't kept the first command as well as they may have thought! If we love to get something in return for the actions we display, we don't have the first command correct yet! When this man understands that Jesus has answered "well", Jesus rewards this man with something we might otherwise miss in the subsequent verses. Read along: Jesus saw that the man answered him wisely. So he said to him, “You are close to God’s kingdom.” Jesus commends the man for recognizing truth and then he tells him he is close to God's kingdom - he might not have come out to say this man was about to enter into truth fully, but I think he offered it to him that day. The man was getting a deeper revelation into truth than he might have experienced before - we may not know if he embraced the Kingdom of God that day, but we know he was on the verge.
Jesus is always ready to reveal his truth to a willing heart. He isn't into being challenged about truth, but when a hungry and seeking heart comes to him seeking truth - he isn't going to hold back. In fact, he will offer all he has to save but one soul. He will reveal truth and then give not only what we seek, but we don't know we have need of in the first place. This is just what we can expect from Jesus. Maybe we need to lay down our pride long enough to consider the truth he gives. Who knows how close we are to embracing what may prove to be the most liberating of truths we could ever encounter - the kingdom of God is at hand! Just sayin!