What does Mark 12:33 mean?
ESV: And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
NIV: To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'
NASB: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.'
CSB: And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices."
NLT: And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.'
KJV: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Whether by revelation or affirmation, the scribe has succinctly stated what Jesus has been trying to tell the Pharisees for three years: ritual means nothing without obedience of the heart. The scribes have spent centuries adding to the Mosaic law, trying to create a hedge so that the people will obey God and God won't punish the nation. Here, the scribe not only ignores those extra laws, he dismisses the ceremonial law as irrelevant compared to the ethical law of know God, loving Him, and loving others.
Here, a "burnt offering" refers to the offerings the Israelites give that are wholly consumed (Leviticus 1). A "sacrifice" is something the offeror, priests, and/or the priests families eat (Leviticus 2; 7).
The supremacy of love to offerings and sacrifices is well established in the Old Testament. God established the sacrificial system to cover the sins of the Israelites and allow them a ceremonial outlet with which to show their thankfulness. But the sacrificial system would be all but unnecessary if they just obeyed the law (1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 21:3), and the ultimate point of the Law is to show how they are to love God and others (Hosea 6:6).
This message is even more important to Mark's Jewish readers who follow Jesus in the context of their native Judaism. Within ten years of the completion of the Gospel, Jerusalem is under siege. Shortly after, the city is destroyed and the temple torn apart, stone by stone (Mark 13:2). Since that time, Jews have not been able to sacrifice at the temple and have no way to fulfill the Mosaic law except through love (Romans 13:8, 10).
Mark 12:28–34 occurs during the last week before the crucifixion. Jesus spends time in the temple courtyard, teaching the people and debating Jewish religious and civil leaders. Intrigued by how Jesus proves the resurrection of the dead to a group of Sadducees (Mark 12:18–26), a scribe of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:34–35) asks Jesus about the greatest commandment in the Mosaic law. The central idea of Jesus' answer is to love God and love others. But He starts at the beginning of the Shema prayer: acknowledge God is your God and He is one. This story is also in Matthew 22:34–40.
This chapter contains lessons taught by Jesus in various circumstances. He explains the eventual destruction of traditional Judaism, the relationship between secular and sacred obligations, the nature of the resurrection, and the most important of God's commandments. Jesus also expounds on Messianic statements in the Old Testament. Jesus also condemns the glory-seeking shallowness of the scribes, and extolls the virtues of sincere, faith-based giving.
Days before, Jesus has entered Jerusalem, hailed as a hero by the people (Mark 11:1–11). While teaching in the temple courtyard, Jesus shows superior understanding of Scripture over the chief priests, scribes, and elders (Mark 12:27–33), the Pharisees and Herodians (Mark 12:13), the Sadducees (Mark 12:18), and the scribes again (Mark 12:35, 38). Sadly, even in the instance where a scribe does understand Scripture, that is no guarantee he will follow it to its logical conclusion: Jesus (Mark 12:28–34). In contrast, a humble widow exemplifies the faithfulness and piety the leaders lack (Mark 12:41–44). Jesus leaves the temple for the last time to teach the disciples on the Mount of Olives (Mark 13). In Mark 14, He prepares for the crucifixion.
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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