Tyler David speaks on Mark 12:28-34
Series: The Gospel of Mark
What did God care about most? We all have an answer to that question, because we each take certain commands of God more serious than others.
What do you think God values most?
What We Think is Most Important?
When you break certain commands, your negative emotions show what you believe is most important to God. Certain ones make you feel more shame, sadness or sorrow. They reveal to us what we value and love.
Some of us think what God values most is people feeling loved. When somebody makes you feel unloved, you have anger and frustration towards him or her. When you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, you can’t think about anything else. You’re anxious about it all day.
For others, it’s Bible reading. When you read your Bible you feel great. If you don’t read your Bible, you feel really guilty. If I were to ask you how you and God were doing? Your mind would immediately go to how your Bible reading has been going.
For others it could be managing your finances, your time or social justice. All of us have these things God has said that we take more serious than others.
The scribe asked Jesus what He would say was the most important command of God. Jesus’ answer teaches us that the word of God is two things:
Purpose of God’s Commandments
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. Mark 12:28-34 (ESV)
The Scribe’s question was very practical for him to ask, because scribes were teachers of the law. They would spend their time putting all the different commandments into categories and tiers of importance. It was his work, his life.
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.” Mark 12:29-31 (ESV)
Jesus responded to his question with two inseparable demands. The purpose of the law was:
When Jesus says this, we tend to think He’s lowering the bar and making it easier for us. He doesn’t care about all those commandments and rules. He only cares about love!
Jesus was actually making God’s word more stringent and demanding. He was raising the bar for what obedience should look like.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17 (ESV)
He didn’t say commands were bad. They’re the means by which we love God supremely and love others greatly. It is through obeying them that we begin to demonstrate our love for God and people.
Both Right Actions and a Right Heart
What God wants from us is right actions from a right heart, all the time.
He doesn’t just want right actions with no heart, to mindlessly obey Him without love, passion or devotion. He also doesn’t want a right heart with no action. To profess our love and devotion, yet never actually obey what He says.
He wants both.
Like every other relationship, we want both. You don’t want the person you love to serve you begrudgingly. To listen to you, but not care about what you’re saying. You want their actions to be sourced in love. But you also don’t just want a right heart with no action. You don’t want someone who always talks about how much they love you, but never actually does anything to show it. Someone can profess their love all they want, but if it never produces right actions, you begin to question how genuine their love really is.
Every healthy relationship wants both. The same is true for God.
Created to Obey
All of humanity was made to live in conscious submission to the Word of God. We were made to live in such a way that His word would be honored at all points in time. When you see and long for relationships that don’t break, or for companies that don’t collapse, for bank accounts that aren’t empty, for a world without disease or sickness, you’re longing for a place that only exists under submission to the Word of God.
You’re longing for what we lost in Genesis chapter one and two. That’s the only time humanity actually obeyed God all the time. God spoke and things came into being. He spoke direction, order, vitality, diversity and joy into creation. He spoke and everything did as they were told. He spoke to His image bearers, giving them direction, instruction and wisdom. They knew one another not in jealously, frustration or arrogance, but in love, service, transparency and joy. We see this and know that’s what we all want. But it only comes when God’s word is obeyed all the time.
When we rebelled against God and humanity fell, how did Satan deceive us? What did he say? He questioned the very thing that had brought life to us, God’s Word. His first question was, “Did God really say...?” Now, our first thought is usually, “Is God’s Word really that accurate, or true or trustworthy?” What destroyed us then, and now, is that we don’t trust or obey His Word.
We were made to live in obedience to His Word.
The Weight of Obedience
We have been ruined by that rebellion so long ago. The Word of God, which should bring joy, now brings an unbearable weight to us. He wants us to have right action from a right heart, all the time. But it just feels impossible to do.
Because it is.
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8 (ESV)
The demands of His word are too much for us. This is why we pick and choose what we value and follow. If we actually sat under all of what His word said, we wouldn’t be able to stand. But the problem is not with the Word of God. It’s with how broken and ruined we are. We still have longings for the life of chapters one and two of Genesis. Yet, we can’t obey God. We’re utterly hopeless.
That’s why Jesus came to us. He had to give us the kingdom that none of us could enter into on our own. If we’re ever going to regain that world, where God is always loved supremely and people are loved greatly, He has to let us in. He has to find a way for us. This is what the Scribe missed.
He recognized the greatness and importance of the Word of God. But he failed to recognize the greatness and importance of God’s King talking to him.
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.” Mark 12:32-34 (ESV)
Jesus raised the bar for obedience and faithfulness and the scribe agreed with Him. Because he agreed, Jesus said, “You’re not far from the kingdom of God.” He was on the right track. But Jesus didn’t say he was in it. Rather, he was not far from it. He was on the outside, looking into the kingdom.
He wasn’t in the kingdom, because he didn’t recognize God’s Christ. You don’t get into the kingdom just by recognizing God’s word as being valuable and good. You get into the kingdom by recognizing the worth of the King of that kingdom.
Trusting in the King
How often do we confuse the two? How often we make it about knowing the Bible, instead of interacting with the God of the Bible?
Jesus is the only way to enter the kingdom of God. He’s the only one who has obeyed and loved God supremely. He’s the King and the doorway to the kingdom.
If you’ve trusted Christ, you’re in this kingdom.
There’s coming a day when Jesus will come back. On that day, it’ll be easy to obey Jesus.
Weighty Yet Joyful
Until that day, it’s still difficult and weighty to obey. The commands of God are weighty, because the standard is so high. Jesus is now the standard. That is what we’re aiming for. We have to love God supremely and others greatly all the time. It’s not about just reading your Bible. It’s reading your Bible out of a supreme love for God. It’s not just serving others, but serving them out of love.
But it’s also joyful to obey the commands of God, because we’re not building or creating anything. All we’re doing is reinforcing what’s already been given to us. You obey God not to ensure a relationship with Him, but because you already have a relationship. You obey not to be given an inheritance, but because you have already been given an inheritance. You don’t obey to create, but rather to reinforce what’s already true.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 (ESV)
You don’t imitate God to become a child, you do it because you are a child. You obey and follow Him, because you’re already His. Our obedience reinforces who we are. It reminds us of who we are in Christ.
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:3-4 (ESV)
Jesus may increase the weight of obeying God’s Word, but then He bears it on our behalf. You’ll start loving God supremely when you begin to realize that Jesus already did it for you.
What are those things in your life that you know are keeping you from loving God supremely? What’s keeping you from living like you were made to live in obedience to God?
Don’t let the weight of obeying God keep you from the joy of obeying God.