30 AND YOU SHALL 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, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NASB)
This is Jesus answer when asked about the greatest commandment. The scribe asking it agreed with Jesus answer, and the scribe commented that God wanted this obedience more than all sacrifices. Jesus told the scribe that he was close to the kingdom of God.
For the Jews that he spoke to, this would have been a summary of the Old Covenant Law. This was their standard, and anything short required repentance and sacrifice. The scribe’s comments seem to indicate that he understood the concept that sacrifices were not an end unto themselves. They were required, because we could not keep this law perfectly. God preferred obedience, rather than sacrifice. Knowing this, the scribe was close to accepting who Jesus was. Perhaps when Peter spoke at Pentecost, this scribe accepted the Gospel and became a believer.
How can we apply this passage as New Covenant believers? We are not under a law of rules and regulations, but under the law of love. Does this passage not detail the “requirements” of the law of love? We, too, cannot keep this law perfectly, but our sacrifice has been made by Jesus, God Himself. Therefore, we are free to live this out (with the Holy Spirit’s help) without the shame and guilt of condemnation.