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." "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him." (Mark 12:28-32)And in Matthew:
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:35-40)We can compare this with the version in Luke:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:25-28)Jesus confirmed what the scribe quoted and also taught this himself. Why? Because it still illustrates this is the essential teaching of Jesus, as well as the essential teachings of the Prophets. The "expert in the law" asked Jesus, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Then after he states the two commandments Jesus confirms: "Do this and you will live."
"You will live"
In this statement, "you will live" is being translated from the Greek word ζάω (zaō), meaning "to live, breathe, be among the living" and "to enjoy real life." But when used in a metaphorical sense - as Jesus uses it here - the lexicon describes it as meaning "to be in full vigor."
Jesus also used this word in other parts of his teachings, such as:
‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4)
"He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matt. 22:32)
"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:27)
"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” (Luke 20:38)
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me." (John 6:57)We can see from these statements that Jesus doesn't use the words "alive," "live" or "living" lightly.
Jesus is not talking about the physical body being alive. We can see this from "He is not the God of the dead but of the living” - along with this statement:
“Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22)How can dead people bury a dead person? This illustrates the metaphorical use of the word "live" and "living" just as Jesus used "dead" metaphorically in describing those who were burying a dead body.
In other words, Jesus isn't referring to the physical body being alive. He is referring to spiritual life. He is referring to a life that transcends the physical body. Just as a person with a living physical body can still be called "dead" by Jesus, a person can have spiritual life after the body is dead. In other words, spiritual life transcends the life and death of the physical body.
The physical body is simply a vehicle for the person inside. Each of us are spiritual beings who are temporarily encaged within a physical body. When the physical body dies, we leave the physical body and move on.
Where we go depends upon whether we are alive spiritually or not.
So what makes a person spiritually alive then?
Jesus answers that question with his response to the "expert in the law," after the man stated (according to Luke):
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"Thus being alive spiritually, as Jesus indicates, relates simply to whether or not we are loving the Supreme Being. If we are not loving the Supreme Being we are spiritually dead according to Jesus' teachings. If we are loving the Supreme Being then we are spiritually alive according to Jesus' teachings.
Loving God is the litmus
This means that all of the other stuff that surrounds the various sectarian institutions relating to the many rituals and ceremonies can be assessed using this one litmus test: Does that activity help me develop my love for the Supreme Being or not?
This relates directly to whether that activity will allow us to make contact with the Supreme Being. In order to learn to love the Supreme Being we must have contact with Him - and come to know Him. We cannot love someone we do not know.
And we cannot come to know the Supreme Person unless He reveals Himself to us.
You see, it is not as if some ritual will automatically reveal God to us. God is not an object. It is not as though God is locked behind "door number one" that requires a specific key, and as long as we say the right thing or otherwise have the key to unlock the door we can see Him.
God is a person. And He happens to be the Supreme Person. He could, if He wanted to, show Himself to every person in the world individually or simultaneously.
But He doesn't. In fact, He is specifically hiding Himself from us.
And it is for this reason that many people doubt the existence of God. They wonder why, if God exists, can we not see Him? Why do people have to have faith in His existence? Why doesn't He just show Himself?
And this is certainly a viable question. It is an important question, one that most ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers simply avoid.
They avoid the question by telling us that if we don't have faith in God's existence we are going to hell. So they basically threaten us into believing in God.
But can that teaching lead to love of God? Because it is self-centered in nature, it might certainly keep us within the congregation for fear of damnation. But it does not address love for God - the key to eternal life according to Jesus' teachings.
The real answer to the question of why we cannot see God with these physical eyes is because these eyes were designed specifically to not see God. This is because we don't want to see God. We wanted to get away from God. We wanted to forget God.
So He simply granted our wish.
Just think about it. What if we saw God right now as He is - all-powerful, in control and all-attractive. Could we possibly go on with our life as usual - chasing our self-centered goals to be famous, wealthy or the best at whatever skill we've been given? Certainly not. Seeing God as He is would destroy our sense of entitlement.
God designed these physical bodies and this physical world in such a way for us to be able to ignore Him. These bodies and minds are not able to see God because He is allowing us to chase our self-centered dreams around in this illusory world for awhile.
The only problem is that self-centeredness does not fulfill us. No matter what kind of goodies we get - whether it is wealth, fame, good looks, beautiful wife or husband, sex, a big family with lots of kids and grandkids, being the CEO of a multinational business or being the president, we are still unfulfilled. We are still empty. Why?
Because self-centeredness is being dead.
Even though our minds facilitate our self-centeredness by concocting so many means of getting lots of stuff we desire, none of those things will fulfill us. Being empty inside is the same as being spiritually dead.
And we see this all around us. Even among the wealthiest of people who can pretty much do what they want, we see unfulfilled lives. Even among the richest and most famous people we see drug addiction and suicides. If these things - wealth, fame, sex and so on - bring so much happiness why are those who have it all so miserable?
Some will say it is just a small percentage of those who are wealthy and famous - while the rest are all happy. But are they really? The simple fact is, money and fame do not bring fulfillment. This is why, even after someone becomes wealthy and powerful, they are not satisfied. They still look for happiness. Whether they seek happiness in their families or more power and money, what they already have is not satisfying.
Self-centeredness is not satisfying. This is why people with extreme wealth often focus on their family or begin doing charity. Because they find a small glimpse of life within that activity. They see that caring for someone other than themselves brings them a glimpse of happiness.
This illustrates our fundamental nature. We are not self-centered people by nature. We are givers. We are lovers. We are loving servants.
But even if we love and serve others, we still find ourselves unfulfilled when we are serving others' physical bodies. This is because physical bodies are temporary. They grow up, they get sick and they die. Every single one of them. No body lives more than a century or so. Most bodies live to about 70 and then croak.
This means no matter how well we serve others' bodies, it will ultimately end the same:
The body will die.
So there is no ultimate life in serving others' bodies. It provides a glimmer of our real nature, but that's about it.
Our true life is found only when we are loving the Supreme Being, and serving the Supreme Being out of that love. This is our life because this is what we were ultimately designed for. And when we love the Supreme Being we will automatically love His children.
But because love requires freedom of choice, God gave us each the freedom to love Him or not. How could we love someone who forced us to love Him? Or threatened us - if we don't love Him then He will make us suffer.
God doesn't threaten us. Maybe ecclesiastical institutions and their elected teachers will - as they twist and manipulate scripture. But these have nothing to do with love for God.
And whatever our suffering - this is brought on by us. Whatever we do comes back to us in the form of consequences, either in this life or the next.
So in order to come to know the Supreme Being, we have to sincerely want to return to Him. We have to sincerely desire to be with Him. Then He will reveal Himself to us.
And the way to become more sincere in this desire is to engage in devotional practices. These include prayer, praising/singing/reciting His Holy Names, making offerings to Him and otherwise focusing our attention upon Him more and more in our lives.