Mark 12:28-34, New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
The Most Important Commandment
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard the Sadducees arguing. He noticed that Jesus had given the Sadducees a good answer. So, he asked him, “Which is the most important of all the commandments?”
29Jesus answered, “Here is the most important one. Moses said, ‘Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) 31And here is the second one. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18) There is no commandment more important than these.”
32“You have spoken well, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one. There is no other God but him. 33To love God with all your heart and mind and strength is very important. So is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. These things are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34Jesus saw that the man had answered wisely. He said to him, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” From then on, no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions.
All Saints Day is one of those special Sundays when we celebrate those who have been faithful throughout their lifetimes. Who do you remember that has been faithful? (Allow children to name people.) (If there is a worship bulletin with names the church is memorializing, bring attention to it.) We remember them because they are a part of us, shaping us, helping us in very real ways. We are who we are because of who they were. We give thanks for those who have already gone to heaven and provided an example of how we should live our lives on earth.
All Saints Day is also the perfect opportunity to say thank you to those who are still with us and give us guidance. With the help and love of all our neighbors, we remember that we are all on our way toward the kin-dom of God.
“What is a neighbor?” (Allow children to give various answers.) Is it just the people who live next door? No. Is it only the fireman? No. Is it only the policeman? No. When we say we live in a neighborhood, what does that mean? (Allow children to answer.) How does God want us to treat our neighbors? (Allow children to answer.)
The Bible has a lot of verses about loving our neighbor. I know that loving our neighbors is important to God, but I wonder how God says we should love them. (Allow children to answer.)
God wants us to love our neighbors like we love ourselves. What do you think God means by that? (Allow children to answer.)
This passage from the Gospel of Mark says loving our neighbor like we love ourselves is the greatest commandment. What does the word “commandment” mean? (Allow children to give their definitions.). Why do you think this is the greatest commandment? (Allow children to respond.)
According to the Super Heroes Bible (NIRV), a commandment is a law or rule that God gives. We have rules in so many different parts of our lives. There are rules when we drive our cars, rules at our jobs, and rules at school. Can you tell me a few rules or laws that we have in life? (Allow children to answer.)
Those are all very good rules. Why do you think people made those rules? Are rules important? Can you imagine what a game of baseball or football would look like without rules? There are many reasons why we have rules.
Rules are a way of making sure that everyone is treated in the right way. We have rules that are designed to keep us safe, and rules to protect our things, and sometimes even rules to protect our feelings.
In today’s Bible verse, the religious leaders of Jesus' day are sitting around and discussing the rules and the law. They especially liked to ask Jesus questions about the law to try to trick him into saying something that would cause people to turn against him. One day, they were asking Jesus questions, and he responded with one good answer after another. One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
Jesus gives two rules that, if you follow carefully, will help you the rest of your life. The first is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor in just the same way that you love yourself.
This rule is so important that we have a special name for it. It is called the “Golden Rule.” Love and treat others in the same way that you would like them to love and treat you.
What a wise answer Jesus gave. If we could just keep those two commandments; if we could just follow those two rules, we wouldn’t have any trouble keeping all the other commandments, would we? (Allow children to answer.)
When we follow God’s commandments and contribute to the kingdom like the saints who have gone before us, we are honoring God and one another.
God of love, help us to love you with all our heart, soul, and strength -- and to love one another as we love ourselves. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.