Summary: Love God and love your neighbour, and you’ll likely get the rest right too.
Mark 12:28-34 March 5, 2006 (first of Lent)
The Greatest Commandments
Apprenticing Under the Master
Through Lent, we are going to conclude the series in Mark that I’ve titled “Apprenticing Under the Master.” We’ve tried to look at Jesus’ life like an apprentice would look at the work of a master tradesman and learn. Through Lent, we’ll be looking at the last week of Jesus’ life before the cross. I’m not able to preach from everything in that week, but we will look at some highlights.
Lead up to passage
Mark deals with the last week of Jesus’ life from Chapter 11 to chapter 15. In chapter 11, Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly ridding on a donkey to the chorus of “Hosanna!” In all the gospel accounts, it looks as though he is trying to pick a fight – it is almost as if he is arranging his own death. He goes to the temple and clears our the people who are changing money and selling sacrificial animals in the court of the Gentiles, It is at this point that the religious leaders have had enough of him, and they begin to plot his death. Jesus tells stories; parables, which are obviously directed against the religious leaders. The leaders respond by asking Jesus trick questions. The first question is a question with no right answer, like “When did you stop beating your wife?” It has to do with paying taxes to Caesar. It’s a no win question – the people hated the tax, but if he spoke against it, he would be killed by the Romans for sedition.
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." 16They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
"Caesar’s," they replied.
17Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s."
The next question has to do with the Resurrection – it was really just a trick of logic that was designed to make Jesus look stupid, but he answered it with great insight and wisdom as well.
The next question is different than the others. It seems that one of the scribes forgot that he was supposed to be trying to trick Jesus, and he asked an honest question. We can ask all sorts of questions – we can ask questions that are meant to teach the person that we are asking something. We can ask questions that are meant to trick like these other questions. We can ask questions that are meant to prove our point, or show that the other person is wrong. We can ask questions that are designed to show everyone how intelligent we are. I like a good honest question. Honest questions are what they are, there is no ulterior motive, they are asked jut to receive some information or wisdom that we do not already have. We say in Alpha that there are no stupid questions; maybe there are, but there are no stupid honest questions.
The scribe asks a good, honest question, this is how it goes…
There is scene in the movie “The Dead Poet ‘s Society” where Robin Williams who plays an eccentric English teacher has his boys come out in the courtyard and march in a circle. He compares the way that each of them walks with their character and what motivates them in life. He talks about one boy who really wants to get it right, but the exercise is so strange, that he doesn’t know if he is right. He is walking “am I doing it right?” “I think I’m doing it right,” “no wait I might be wrong,” “No, I must be right,” “am I doing it right?”
Are you the kind of person who wants to make sure that they are doing it right? This is the perfect passage for you. Jesus tells us how to get it right. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commands – Love God, Love you Neighbour. If you can’t remember all the things that God wants you to do and all the things that he doesn’t want you to do, if you can remember to love Him and to love your neighbour, then you will likely do alright.
If you have decisions to make in your life and you aren’t sure about the will of God, these are the first filters that you can put the decision through: does this plan help me to love God with my whole being? Does this plan show love to my neighbour? If you have actions or behaviors in you life that you are not sure about, this is a good filter; does this behavior show love to God and my neighbour?