Summary: This is the first in a series I did on the Great Commandment from Mark 12.
September 1, 2002
“Jesus and the Lawyer”
There are people who swear by…duct tape! They believe that just about anything in the world—golf clubs, tennis shoes, furnaces, skateboards, blue jeans, toddlers—can be fixed by the wise application of duct tape. And they might be right! I once drove a car that I honestly believe had been patched up with duct tape and then painted over! It is truly a marvelous invention, and the home without a healthy supply is just asking for trouble.
But we are in the middle of a remodeling project. Part of the way we are going about this requires that, in our basement bathroom, there is exposed ductwork. And on that ductwork is a substance which I’ve been told is asbestos. I was also told that, if it were taped over, the asbestos would prove no problem. Well, it was ductwork, and so naturally, what does one get with which to tape up ductwork? Duct tape! But guess what? Though duct tape will fix almost anything, what I found out was that, try as I might, I couldn’t get the duct tape to stick to the duct! Duct tape apparently works on everything else except, it would seem, on ducts! Duct tape was designed for a purpose—but sadly, it seems to do everything except what it was designed to do!
The church of Jesus Christ, the church that He said He would build and which would not be beaten by the gates of hell, was designed for a purpose. The church, I would remind you, has nothing to do with a building, except as that building serves as a meeting place. Truth is that church is not something we go to, but something we are! The correct answer, when someone asks, “where is your church?”, is to say, “all over Mercer County!” And as we are all over Mercer County, we have a purpose, as individuals and as a collective body. We have a priority that outstrips all others. And it is that priority that we will be talking about for the next few weeks; it is “Priority One”. Read about it with me in Mark 12:28-34 (stand and pray!).
What can we do without, as a church? Let me ask a few questions…
Do we have to
1. Take the offering by passing a plate?
2. Sit in rows, in pews or chairs, looking at the backs of each other’s heads?
3. Sing praise choruses? Hymns?
4. Meet on Sunday morning?
5. Wear a particular type of clothing?
6. Have an order of service listed in the bulletin?
7. Have a Sunday School, or a children’s ministry?
8. Pray with our eyes closed?
9. Have hymn books in the racks?
All or most of these elements are things to which we are accustomed; it would feel odd to us if these trappings were absent! And yet, the fact is that none of these things or 1001 others are essential to our pleasing God! None! And yet, the Scripture we consider for the next few weeks details an absolute essential! Today, instead of preaching, I’m going to take a few minutes and detail the lay of the land, set the background for our study together over the next few weeks.
Pharisees and Sadducees were theological enemies. In modern parlance, Pharisees were conservatives and Sadducees were liberals. The Sadducees did not believe in a strict understanding of the Law, whereas the Pharisees, while they missed the deeper elements of the Law, were nonetheless committed to it. And yet, though they were opposed to each other, they were collaborators in their opposition to Jesus. In Mark 12, Jesus puts them both in their places; He first deals with the Pharisees and their question about taxes, and then He answers an absurd question asked by the Sadducees, who denied life after death. We can imagine the attitude of some of the Pharisees as they listened to Jesus debate the Sadducees; with football season coming, perhaps this analogy will help: they must have felt something like I feel when the Dallas Cowboys play the Oakland Raiders. If there were any way possible for both of those teams to lose the game, I’d be overjoyed! The Pharisees despised the Sadducees, but they despised Jesus as well!
After Jesus uses the Old Testament Scriptures to reason with the Sadducees and eventually close their mouths, one scribe, a lawyer in fact we learn from the parallel account in Matthew 22, steps forward from the crowd. This is our inquirer, a lawyer. No jokes, please. You know the problem with lawyer jokes, don’t you? Lawyers don’t think they’re funny, and no one else thinks they’re jokes.
I. The Inquirer – A lawyer
At any rate, this was a man who was skilled in his understanding of the Law. It is highly likely that this man was a “cream of the crop” kind of guy, a man highly admired, even, for his facility with the intricacies of the Law. If anyone could be a match for Jesus, perhaps this man could be.