Summary: This is the sixth in a series I preached on the Great Commandment from Mark 12.
October 6, 2002
Love in the Crucible
The young man who leads our Praise and Worship, along with his lovely wife, Becky, has begun a dictionary of sorts filled with words and phrases they find unique to my preaching. I am happy to assist in their deepening education; Andrew is happy to torment me on Tuesday morning at staff meeting whenever they find a new word or phrase to add to their little compilation. With that in mind, we come to our focus verse of the morning, Mark 12:31, wherein Jesus adds a second commandment to the first, but at least according to Mark, Jesus did not say, “here’s a second commandment—and it’s free just for coming!” But He probably meant to! Stand with me as we read Mark 12:28-34.
I pose 4 Questions about the text of the morning:
I. What is the connection between the two commandments?
Jesus’ answer brings Leviticus 19:18 together with Deuteronomy 6:5 to show that love of neighbor is a natural outgrowth of a love for God. Jews of Jesus’ day interpreted Lev. 19 more narrowly than even intended when written, but Jesus broadens beyond their imagination.
Jesus was likely the first teacher to wed these two together, introducing what to His listeners must have been a radical hermeneutic, one of love over law. Notice how Paul picks up on this in Romans 13:8-10 – “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
I John 4:20 says that “If someone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” It is beyond the realm of possibility, in other words, for you to be correct when you say you love God if you are not treating your brother with love.
The way to fulfilling the first commandment is bound up in fulfilling the second. Like two hinges on a door, the two work together. To open one’s life to loving God is to open one’s life to loving one’s neighbor. To allow God to operate in one’s life is also to open oneself to the operation of God in the life of another. This calls to mind Matthew 25:31-46, and reminds us that the way we would treat others is the way we are treating Christ. In this passage, Jesus gives us the perspective that we need to see in the faces of others the face of Christ, that whatever we did or did not do for others, even for the least of them—Jesus mentions the hungry, the sick, the naked, the imprisoned—we do or not do for Him. When you mistreat other people, you mistreat Jesus, for they are created in His image. We demonstrate the reality of the love we claim to have for God in the crucible of loving other people in the daily grind of life.
II. Who is my neighbor?
The Parable of the Good Muslims
It is difficult to imagine more bleak circumstances; the young mother and her small children, truck packed full of all of their belongings, were in process of moving from rural North Carolina to the mother’s childhood home in Connecticut. Life had taken a tragic turn only a few months earlier, as her handsome young husband had been killed during training exercises at Fort Bragg, leaving the young widow with two children under the age of four. Now, at the encouragement of friends that this would truly be best, she had determined to move back home to Connecticut, back to live with her ailing mother. Father had been gone for nine years now, and it seemed the best thing to do in the situation. Old Charlie down at the sporting goods store had promised her that there’d be an opening for her as office help, and while it wasn’t a glamour job, it’d pay the bills until the little family could get its bearings.
A light snow greeted the young family as they awakened on Sunday morning somewhere north of Philly, but determined to move ahead, the young mother bustled the kids off to Denny’s for breakfast. Leaving the restaurant and driving up the New Jersey Turnpike, her thoughts returned again and again to the incredible events of the past few months; she wondered again if it were true, or all just a bad dream. “Well”, she thought, “maybe there’ll be a fresh start in Danbury.”