Mark 12: 28b-34
(Sermon for the week of November 5th)
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
"Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied,
"The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all
your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said
to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One
and there is no other than he. 'And 'to love him with all your
heart,with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to
love your neighbor as yourself'is worth more than all burnt
offerings and sacrifices."
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said
to him,"You are not far from the kingdom of God."
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
There is a lot of information to cover in this weeks short Gospel
reading that will lead into a sermon to hopefully induce us to
rearrange our priorities...so here we go.
Our Lord encounters a scribe who may be a Pharisee or a Saducee,
but this scribe is most likely to be a Pharisee based on the
question posed to Jesus. A Saducee at this point did not like the
"out of this world" answers that obviously originate from a man
who is a "teacher" and who is also "wise" and who refuse to
believe the answers come not from a man but from The Messiah.
The Saducees in the previous verses before this reading ask Jesus
about the ressurrection which is an event the Saducees do not
believe in. Saducees did not believe in the resurrection of the
coming Messiah. Jesus is super quick to answer them and goes way
beyond their expectations, and this "teacher" called "Jesus" just
made them look bad. So, it is natural that a Pharisee would ask a
question after this and take a shot. But there is one striking
difference from this Pharisee "scribe" than all the other Pharisees
that taunt Jesus. I believe this "scribe" is actually asking Jesus
an honest question in which the scribe seeks an answer.
To a Pharisee, the question: "which law out of all of our laws is
the greatest?" would be a very real question that would have no
clear answer. I could imagine that this scribe has realized that
this "Teacher" is unique and has backed off of his own human ego
and is truly seeking the wisdom of Jesus.
Let's look at the question the scribe asks...
Why would this scribe ask Jesus this question out of all the
questions one could ask the Messiah if privileged enough to be in
front of Him?
Well, here is something to think about. The GUIDELINES of which
we all have broken ONCE in our life...called the 10 Commandments
seem to be a lot of work to follow.
The Good News of the New Testament is that your debt has been paid
for your perpetual failings at adhering to the commandments God
instructs us to follow. We are instructed not to break any of
God's commandments ONCE ...nor EVER...if we wish to attain eternal
life. Now, if you think the 10 commandments are hard...
wait until you read this!
The 10 Commandments are the source of an immense study and practice
of which the Torah is the center. This is called the "Laws of
the Torah" which we can summarize as "Jewish Law".
Did you know that there are a total of 613 commandments which
include 365 prohibitions and 248 "positive" commandments?
You think 10 are hard to grasp and let alone follow?
Scribes often focus on one of the 10 commandments and devise
"additions and improvements" to them by defining, clarifying,
and creating rules to follow in order to adhere to the commandment
in every situation in life that could possibly arise! And by no
means is their study short of intelligence and thoroughness!
This is an attractive study for some but I must remind you that
the scribes "work" is a study of God's Law BY MEN AND FOR MEN.
NOT BY GOD FOR GOD!
This is one reason for Jesus' stern words for the Saducees and
So to recap this discussion, scribes define and clarify the 10
commandments by creating Jewish Law, and they also try to summarize
the law in a few well chosen words. This is the reason for the
scribe asking Jesus this question. He is honestly seeking an answer
for: "which commandment out of the 10 is the core or center of
them all?" A good question indeed!
Well, it's an answer beyond our human thought and reasoning.
It is also a command.
It seems to be two commands that is really just one and it is
definitely not 613.
Let's look at Jesus' answer:
Jesus begins answering with "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God,
the Lord is one". This is called the "Shema" and is central to
Jewish practice. It is similar to Chrisitans reciting the Lord's
prayer. The Shema is the way that Jews would recognize a teaching
because it is recited often in synagogues and comes from
Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The word Shema means: "To hear".
So, Jesus starts out with the call "to hear" and answers the
scribe's question quickly and clearly.
FIRST: Jesus states; "you shall love the Lord God with all your
heart, soul, mind, and strength".
Allow me to point out the core of this sermon!
What did Jesus answer with first?
To love the Lord God with all your "faculties" OR to love your
neighbor as yourself?
The answer is: FIRST AND FOREMOST TO LOVE THE LORD GOD WITH ALL
YOUR HEART, WITH ALL SOUL, WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR
For, you will not love you neighbor AS YOURSELF if you do not
love God with all your mind, heart, and soul!
So, let's look at this in another light. Will you willingly love
your neighbor AS YOURSELF? Jesus is not commanding us to try our
best. Jesus is not commanding us to hate our neighbor one day and
love him the next. Jesus is not commanding us to be cordial to our
neighbors and just good mannered. He is commanding us to LOVE...
yes...LOVE...your neighbor ..AS IF YOUR NEIGHBOR WAS YOURSELF!!!
Your neighbor is you!?
Yes, and that is how you shall act! This is a work in progress for
90% of Christians and for most of the world!!
How will you ever reach this point in your faith if you do not
love God? You may be able to for 1 day, a week, or a month...
but believe me it won't last if you don't love God with ALL of your
heart, soul, and strength...(Jesus adds in "with all your mind"
from the 10 Commandments which is fitting for people like scribes).
So, without the first "commandment"...the second doesn't happen!
Allow me to say that again...
WITHOUT THE FIRST (Love Your God) THE SECOND DOESN'T HAPPEN (Love
your neighbor as yourself)!
Trying to reconcile your failures at fulfilling the second
commandment by saying: "Yes, I tried my best but I feel I love my
neighbor a lot but, no, sorry I do not love them as much as myself!"
is still a failure at upholding part 2 of the greatest commandment.
Jesus' commands us! LISTEN TO IT! This single commandment has more
wisdom ingrained then you think. This is a subject worthy of a lot
of study, discussion, and prayer.
I could only hope that it will come easy for all of us...
but it is a life long process (and remember that it DOES NOT
HAVE TO BE a life long process by the Grace of God),
a long process for many and a difficult one for all of us.
This one commandment with two parts is far more superior than any
of the hundreds of commandments the scribes come up with for both
partsofthisone commandment require DIRECT ACTION which is the
result of FAITH. ACTION AND FAITH GO HAND IN HAND! Faith is
an action word. Belief is a thought and faith is doing it!
I need to illuminate a portion of this sermon which I hear many
tell incorrectly. I have heard people refer back to the Gospels
and state..."remember the two greatest commandments! OR There are
two duties for Christians...Love God and Love your neighbor!"
Notice how the two are seperated in the logic of mankind?
They are NOT TWO COMMANDS! They are two parts that require each
other in order for the Commandment to be fulfilled!
The scribe asked which ONE of the commandments is greatest and
Jesus seems to give two commandments...
Jesus says "There is no other commandment greater than THESE"
"These" is plural and not singular. "Commandment" is singular.
Jesus is not saying that to love your neighbor as yourself is
the greatest commandment of them all...Jesus is
saying that THESE TWO PARTS FORM THE ONE GREATEST COMMANDMENT!
Jesus asks that our life of faith must take on a selfless one
where we are not looking out for Number 1 which is us...
but instead a life of faith that includes our neighbor on the
same level as we include our own selves in this life. This state
of being or this lesson of faith WILL NOT happen if we do not
love our Lord, GOD!
That is all I want to say THIS TIME on the Greatest Commandment as
told by the Son of God. There is a lot more to say and
I will cover it at another time when we come around to reading
this again in the Gospels.
I want to finish with two more points...The scribe acknowledges
Jesus' answer by stating, "You are right, Teacher..."
Well, in all the other accounts of the Pharisees answering Jesus,
we would find some sort of rebuke...but this Pharisee does not
rebuke or challenge Jesus...and tis answer provides more evidence
that this man who seems to be a Pharisee is asking an honest
Notice the scribe uses the word: "TEACHER". The scribe does not
call Jesus the Messiah, or Son of God, or Son of David, or King,
or anything relating to the Creator...but just ..."Teacher".
What follows after this scribe's statement which begins with
"Teacher"? Jesus replies..."you are not far from the kingdom".
Yes, not far...I guess.
But the scribe is surely NOT IN THE KINGDOM, ENTERING THE KINGDOM,
NOR PROMISED THE KINGDOM. He is just "not too far from..."
How far is far? Two feet? 100 feet? A couple of galaxies away?
Some other plane?
I want to be in the kingdom of heaven and not "near" it!
I strongly believe that Jesus would have answered the scribe
differently here if he would have confessed what Jesus really is...
Our Redeemer...the Messiah!
God Bless you and your families this week.
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