Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 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.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,“‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at my right hand,until I put your enemies under your feet.”’37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people tputting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
I was going to handle the last part of Mark in 4 or 5 separate devotions- but as I re-read through them, I saw a unifying thread of the whole section. I now want to concentrate on a big picture observation and break it into 2 parts.
We have already looked at the questions and disputes that began the first part of this chapter where Jesus answers his critics even though the exercise was no real pursuit of knowledge. In this piece one of the scribes seems to walk up and hear this 'debate' going on and notices that Jesus had answered well.
He also asks a question, but it doesn't take long to realize that this is an honest exchange that produces fruit.
My first observation is how tired I am of the 'talking head', opinionated dominated, talking points debates that are the main focal point of our news and information. It is all such a facade. Is is pointless and problematic.
To have two sides sit down and talk over each other in a 2 minute exchange provides nothing of substance but an excuse to run another commercial.
I have written on this before, but our country is dangerously divided as far a media representation and polling shows. My belief is that these pointless point counterpoints are contributing to the divide.
This is not going to change anytime soon- so what do we do about this other than turn off the TV more (which is a great idea).
The verse here says the scribe walked up and heard them disputing one another and the scene is likely Jesus surrounded by skeptics, answering with authority, but the opponents not being swayed.
Jesus does answer. And in verse 37 we see a great throng hears him gladly. So in Jesus's mind, He still speaks the truth, the opponents don't care for truth, but the audience is helped.
A FRUITFUL DISCUSSION
But there is a significant change in the situation at this point.
The scribe asks, Which commandment is the most important of all?
The previous questions were traps about theological applications and presumptions, all intended to put Jesus in a bad light as either a rebel against Rome or a fool.
But the big questions are the ultimate questions. They are the ones that make you either fish or cut bait.
Of course Jesus answers quickly. It is the Shema- the passage in Deuteronomy that every Hebrew knew like the back of their hand. These were the words they had said repetitively over and over from the time of their youth.
Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy more than any other book.
We spend so much time arguing about minor details that we have already made up our mind about anyway. I can't count how many times I have been called or approached by an adult who wanted an answer and I gave them my so called logic or reasons and they gave me their counter logic and reasons and neither moved an inch. Though privately I think all thinking adults reflect and move in subtle modifications over time- we just don't do it openly, especially when challenged.
Big questions. These are the ones that deserve more time and thoughtful discourse.
None bigger than this:
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.”
How do WE do on this great commandment?
nyaaaaaaaa- before you answer consider a few things.
- This is a COMMAND.
Can you command love? Isn't it a feeling?
In our culture, we seem to no longer care about a command. In the end we will do as we see the value in doing so. It is rare that anyone ever does something that they don't want to do.
Scripture doesn't really care if we feel like doing it or not. A will to do something and the obedient act that follows should progress with or without the mood.
Eugene H. Peterson remarks about this in his book "Long Obedience":
We live in what one writer has called 'the age of sensation'. We think that if we don't feel something there can be no authenticity in doing it. But the wisdom of God says something different: that we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves in a new way of acting. (For example) Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship. WHEN WE OBEY THE COMMAND TO PRAISE GOD in worship, our deep essential need to be in a relationship with God is nurtured. (pg. 54 emphasis mine)Have you considered that you have two big commands hovering over you right now and pressing on you that are really just one BIG command? Love God and love others.
And the intensity of that love? ALL IN.
Want it ground and pressed even harder? Have you ever stopped and shuddered at Matthew 10:37-39?
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And wwhoever does not take his cross and xfollow me is not worthy of me. 39 yWhoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
- THIS is a Life Long Barometer: The Scripture indicates that humans can grow and fade, ebb and flow, have seasons of success and slippage- our relationship never changes but there are times we have to return to that first love.
- THIS is a Goal: Something to shoot for. Loving with an all out effort.
- It is OK to be Honest: I have written on this before:
There is a famous story, before his discovery moment of Romans 1:17, that Martin Luther was struggling with the Eucharist. He was spilling wine and handling the elements in a sloppy and improper way. The bishop over him exclaimed in disgust, "Why man, don't you love God?!" Luther replied honestly, "Love God? Sometimes I hate Him!"
- Talk is cheap- It is not what we say about our response it is our actions that answer this.
For example- Remember how Jesus restored Peter with His 3 fold question and command.
John 21:15 When they had ufinished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, v“Simon, wson of John, xdo you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed ymy lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, z“Tend ymy sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him athe third time, “Do you love me?”and he said to him, “Lord, byou know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed cmy sheep.
At the end of this passage we will be pointed to an act that is not in proportion to the world's system, but over the top in terms of sacrifice and commitment. “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
So I am going to close this post as a part 1 of 2 devotional about the big question.
Before I write again, I want you and I to do some heart searching.
Do I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Do I love my neighbor?
Do I worship God with a praise that pours out of my love and devotion?
Is love a feeling? How do I measure love?
Have I fed Jesus's lambs or tended His sheep?
Do I ever obey Christ because I am compelled to follow His command?
If these questions depress you....hold on for part 2...