Summary: Love is the guiding principle for followers of Jesus. Although we might try to complicate the issues, what God requires from us is not complicated - Love God and Love your Neighbor.
A. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that each of us will strive to be thankful people all the time, not just on Thanksgiving Day.
B. As you know, our lives are fraught with many questions, and many answers.
1. Some of the questions and answers are silly and frivolous, others are profound and essential.
C. Here are some questions and answers on the silly side:
1. Someone asked, “Why are there so many Smiths in the phone book?” The friend answered: “Because they all have phones.”
2. Question: What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t work? Answer: A stick.
3. Question: What do you call four bull fighters in quicksand? Answer: Quatro sinko.
4. Question: What kind of coffee was served on the Titanic? Answer: Sanka.
5. Question: What lies at the bottom of the ocean and twitches? Answer: A nervous wreck.
D. As we go through life, we come to realize that both the questions and the answers are important.
1. I heard about a former student who visited his old school, 20 years after his graduation, and met an old Science professor of his.
2. The professor happened to be grading exam papers, and the student was surprised to notice that the questions were exactly the same as they were two decades ago.
3. He asked the professor about the possibility of the leakage of the exam paper such that the students would know the questions in advance.
4. The professor smiled wryly and answered, “Don’t worry about that, although the questions are the same, I change the answers every year.”
E. The good news I have for us today is that although the questions may change from year to year, and generation to generation, the answer remains the same.
1. The answer to so many of the questions that we have in our Christian lives is LOVE.
2. Love is the answer, but sometimes we make things far too complex.
F. There is a story told of a tourist who stopped at an old service station out in the country.
1. Sitting in the sun outside the story was an old man holding a piece of rope.
2. The tourist asked, “Excuse me, sir, what’s the rope for?”
3. The old man replied, “It’s a weather gauge.”
4. Puzzled the tourist asked, “How can a simple piece of rope tell the weather?”
5. “Simple, sonny,” said the old man, “When it swings back and forth, it means the wind is blowing, and when it’s wet it means it’s raining.”
G. See, some things really are simpler than we sometimes make them.
1. During the time of Jesus, the teachers of the Law of Moses had identified a total of 613 commandments in the Old Testament covenant.
2. They concluded that 248 of them were positive commands to be obeying, and 365 of them were prohibitions to be avoiding.
3. One of the favorite pastimes of the Jewish religious leaders was debating among themselves about the commands trying to discern which were the most important ones, or even the most important one.
H. In Mark 12:28 and following, we find a teacher of the Law trying to pull Jesus into this controversy by asking him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
1. “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.”
2. “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 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.”
3. When Jesus saw that we had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
I. Jesus’ answer to the question began with what the Hebrews called the Shema.
1. Shema is the Hebrew word for “hear,” the first word of the passage Jesus quoted.
2. The Shema is found in Deuteronomy 6, “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 strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
3. Every pious Jew started and ended his day by saying the Shema.
4. Since the Shema was so highly revered by the Jews, the first part of Jesus’ answer probably didn’t surprise many people.
5. But what Jesus added was astounding. He added the phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself” which comes from Leviticus 19:18.