Summary: A series designed to help Christians get back to what’s most important.

Title: Series – High Priority! A series on what is most important. Priority 1 – Living completely for God.

Text: Mark 12.28-34

Task: To invite the congregation to make a renewed commitment to priority one – living for God.

Time: 2/01/09

[Title Slide] Today we start a new series on priorities. Priorities help us to focus on what is important in life. Priorities enable us to weigh our time and resources to accomplish that which we deem worthy of our time and effort. As such priorities are important. Listen to what Paul told disciples of Jesus in Ephesus, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5.15-17)

According to Paul, believers should be concerned with how they spend their time and setting priorities is a good place to start. But with all the priorities people deem as important in life, how does one determine which ones get the time and effort and which ones go to the back seat?

This question is not new. In fact, that is the very question one of the scribes, a Torah teacher, wanted to know in the text we’re going to read. With 613 laws given by God to Moses, the Torah expert and many others had a lot of priorities to be concerned with. And it was overwhelming. And so he did what many did and asked a Rabbi what he thought were the most important ones to be concerned with. He wanted to know if there was a way to simplify all those priorities in a form that would be easier to handle and enable him to faithfully keep all the rest. And so he did what Christ followers should do when trying to determine what to focus their lives on, and that is to ask the Rabbi.

[S] “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. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12.28-34)” [S]

The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

The man in this passage asked a question that was commonly asked of many Rabbi’s. For example someone once asked Rabbi Hillel, who Jesus would have known or at least known about, “Can you tell me the whole law standing on one leg?” Seems like an odd question doesn’t it? But the thought behind the question was that Hillel would have to give a quick answer because he couldn’t maintain his balance on one leg for long. Rabbi Hillel summarized the Torah saying, “What you would hate having done to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.” (The Gospel of Mark, William Barclay, pg. 293.)

Interestingly enough, Jesus’ response to the question was not much all that different from Hillel’s nor was it a brand new teaching. When Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and might and to love your neighbor as yourself he was quoting from, Deuteronomy 6.4-9 and Leviticus 19.18.

Deuteronomy is 6.4-9 is Judaism’s core verse. Many religious Jews in Jesus’ day would recite this command every morning when they rose and every night when they went to bed. Jesus, being a Jewish Rabbi most likely recited these words every morning and evening as well. It was also the first words that many parents taught their children when they learned to speak.

And the first two verses go like this, Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Dt 6.4-5) However, the most authoritative Jewish text reads slightly differently. Instead of Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” [S] it reads, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!” So instead of it being a statement on monotheism it becomes a command for absolute, complete and total allegiance to the LORD God. And that fits much better with the emphasis on the rest of the passage which emphasizes that a person is to obey God with everything a person is and has. [S]

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