Mark 12: 28-31
28 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?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Every Jew knew it and they still do.
So we are not surprised that Jesus, being Jewish has this answer to what is the greatest commandment.
The Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4-9
It’s the first passage children recite. It is prayed twice a day and at the end of festivals.
It starts with the word Shema = Listen or Hear.
Understand, consider, allow the words to sink in and then decide to do something with them.
Those words are that the Lord is one. So resist idolatry. Only worship the Lord nothing else. Love God alone. Don’t give your allegiance to other gods and idols that demand your time and energy. God deserves your best, your total love. This love is not emotional only but it is an action word that demands loyalty and faithfulness. Love needs action for it to be love.
Moses continues in Deuteronomy with laws based on our love for God. These laws which were primarily about order within community were not trying to earn God’s favour but a demonstration of our love for Him.
That’s why Jesus said the second important commandment is to love others.
So the shema is a worship prayer of declaring there is only one God for you and He is God alone. It is also a worship prayer of commitment that you will demonstrate your love for Him by your love for others.
Shema, it’s worth a memorisation.