#799 – 613



Traditional Jewish thought stated that there were 613 commandments from God. I’ve barely got the Ten Commandments memorized; I can’t even imagine having to memorize 603 more commandments.

Thankfully, in Mark 12, Jesus simplified things quite a bit for those who wanted to honor God.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Jesus takes a list of over 600 commandments and boils it down to two.

Love God and love others.

I love the simplicity of Jesus’s response. If we really want to do what God tells us to do, then we simply need to love him and love others.

We need to love God by being obedient to him and we need to love others by placing their needs above our own.

We can spend our lifetimes reading the Bible, listening to sermons, reading Christian books and engaging in dialogue with other Christ followers. If all of that activity, though, doesn’t help us better love God or better love others, then we’ve missed the mark.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to follow 613 commandments; he asks us to follow two. And even following those two commandments would be impossible if it weren’t for the grace of God.

Jesus calls us to love God and love others; he also gives us grace, which enables us to love God and love others.

What helps you love God and love others?


2 comments on “#799 – 613”

  1. A discipline of daily prayer helps a lot, even though it’s tough for me to avoid the extremes of (1) turning into legalism or (2) letting it slide altogether for too long.

    Is it so much that Jesus only gave us two commandments to follow, or was saying that the other 611 are only properly understood as derivative from them? I forget his name, but there was a rabbi either roughly contemporaneous with or slightly prior to Jesus, who said something very similar – “Love the Lord and love your neighbor; all the rest is commentary.” (Unless this is just one of those stories preachers like to tell in sermons – but I think there’s textual basis somewhre.)

    Speaking of sermonic anecdotes: Did you know, btw, that there are (at least according to rabbinic midrashim) 613 seeds in the pomegranite, corresponding to the 613 commandments of Torah?

    1. I did not know the pomegranate anecdote. I also don’t know how I’d use it.

      I agree that the two greatest commandments just sum up all of the others. I imagine that if you look at all 611 that they would, at their core, have something to do with loving God or loving others.

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