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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mark 12:28b-34 (Sermon for the week of November 5th)

Mk 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
"Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he. 'And 'to love him with all your heart,with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself'is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him,"You are not far from the kingdom of God."
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.


There is a lot of information to cover in this weeks short Gospel reading that will lead into a sermon to hopefully induce us to rearrange our priorities...so here we go.

Our Lord encounters a scribe who may be a Pharisee or a Saducee, but this scribe is most likely to be a Pharisee based on the question posed to Jesus. A Saducee at this point did not like the "out of this world" answers that obviously originate from a man who is a "teacher" and who is also "wise" and who refuse to believe the answers come not from a man but from The Messiah.

The Saducees in the previous verses before this reading ask Jesus about the ressurrection which is an event the Saducees do not believe in. Saducees did not believe in the ressurrection of the coming Messiah. Jesus is super quick to answer them and goes way beyond their expectations, and this "teacher" called "Jesus" just made them look bad. So, it is natural that a Pharisee would ask a question after this and take a shot. But there is one striking difference from this Pharisee "scribe" than all the other Pharisees that taunt Jesus. I believe this "scribe" is actually asking Jesus an honest question in which the scribe seeks an answer. To a Pharisee, the question: "which law out of all of our laws is the greatest?" would be a very real question that would have no clear answer. I could imagine that this scribe has realized that this "Teacher" is unique and has backed off of his own human ego and is truly seeking the wisdom of Jesus.

Let's look at the question the scribe asks...
Why would this scribe ask Jesus this question out of all the questions one could ask the Messiah if priviledged enough to be in front of Him?
Well, here is something to think about. The moral GUIDELINES of which we all have broken ONCE in our life...called the 10 Commandments seem to be a lot of work to follow. The Good News of the New Testament is that your debt has been paid for your perpetual failings at adhering to the commandments God instructs us to follow. We can't break one of God's commandments ONCE ...nor EVER...if we wish to attain eternal life. Now, if you think the 10 commandments are hard...wait until you read this!

The 10 Commandments are the source of an immense study and practice of which the Torah is the center. This is called the "Laws of the Torah" which we can summarize as "Jewish Law". Did you know that there are a total of 613 commandments which include 365 prohibitions and 248 "positive"commandments? You think 10 are hard to grasp and let alone follow?

Scribes often focus on one of the 10 commandments and devise "additions and improvements" to them by defining, clarifying, and creating rules to follow in order to adhere to the commandment in every situation in life that could possibly arise! And by no means is their study short of intelligence and thoroughness! This is an attractive study for some but I must remind you that the scribes "work" is a study of God's Law BY MEN AND FOR MEN.
This is one reason for Jesus' stern words forthe Saducees and Pharisees.

So to recap this discussion, scribes define and clarify the 10 commandments by creating Jewish Law, and they also try to summarize the law in a few well chosen words. This is the reason for the scribe asking Jesus this question. He is honestly seeking an answer for: "which commandment out of the 10 is the core or center of them all?" A good question indeed!

Jesus' answer? Well, it's an answer beyond our ideas and reasoning.
It is a command. It seems to be two commands that is really just one and is defiently not 613.

Let's look at Jesus' answer:
Jesus begins answering with "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God,the Lord is one". This is called the "Shema" and is central to Jewish practice. It is similar to Chrisitans reciting the Lord's prayer. The Shema is the way that Jews would recognize a teaching because it is recited often in synagogues and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. The word Shema means: "To hear".

So, Jesus starts out with the call "to hear" and answers the scribe's question quickly and clearly.

FIRST: Jesus states; "you shall love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength".

Allow me to point out the core of this sermon!

What did Jesus answer with first?
To love the Lord God with all your "faculties" OR to love your neighbor as yourself?

For, you will not love you neighbor if you do not love God!

So, let's look at this in another light. Will you willingly love your neighbor AS YOURSELF? Jesus is not commanding us to try our best. Jesus is not commanding us to hate our neighbor one day and love him the next. Jesus is not commanding us to be cordial to our neighbors and just good mannered. He is commanding us to LOVE....yes...LOVE...our neighbor ..AS IF YOUR NEIGHBOR WAS YOURSELF!!! Your neighbor is you!? Yes, and that is how you shall act! This is a work in progress for 90% of Christians and for most of the world!!

How will you ever reach this point in your faith if you do not love God? You may be able to for 1 day, a week, or a month...but believe me it won't last if you don't love God with ALL of your heart, soul, and strength...(Jesus adds in "with all your mind" from the 10 Commandments which is fitting for people like scribes).

So, without the first commandment...the second doesn't happen!

Allow me to say that again...


Trying to reconcile your failures at fulfilling the second commandment by saying: "Yes, I tried my best but I feel I love my neighbor a lot but sorry not as much as myself!" This won't make your failings change Jesus' command! LISTEN TO IT! These two commandments have more wisdom than people think. And this is a subject worthy of a lot of study, discussion, and prayer. I could only hope that it will come easy for all of us...but it is a life long process for many and a difficult one for all of us.

These two commandments are superior than any of the hundreds of commandments the scribes come up with for both require ACTION which is the result of FAITH.

The second commandment is also a study in itself, but allow me to offer some more insight.

The scribe asked which ONE of the commandments is greatest and Jesus seems to give two commandments...
Jesus says "There is no other commandment greater than THESE"

"These" is plural and not singular. Jesus is not saying that to love your neighbor as yourself is the greatest commandment of them all...Jesus is saying that THESE TWO PARTS FORM THE ONE GREATEST COMMANDMENT!

Jesus asks that our life of faith must take on a selfless one where we are not looking out for Number 1 which is us...but instead a life of faith that includes our neighbor on the same level as we include our own selves in this life. This state of being or this lesson of faith WILL NOT happen if we do not love our Lord, GOD!

That is all I want to say THIS TIME on these commandments. There is a lot more to say and I will cover it at another time when we come around to reading this again in the Gospels.

I want to finish with two more points...The scribe acknowledges Jesus' answer by stating, "You are right, Teacher..."

Well, in all the other accounts of the Pharisees answering Jesus, we would find some sort of rebuke...but this Pharisee does not rebuke or challenge Jesus...and that is more evidence that this man who seems to be a Pharisee is asking an honest question!

Notice the scribe uses the word: "TEACHER". The scribe does not call Jesus the Messiah, or Son of God, or Son of David, or King, or anything relating to the Creator...but just ..."Teacher".

What follows after this scribe's statement which begins with "Teacher"?
Jesus replies..."you are not far from the kingdom".

Yes, not far...I guess.
But the scribe is surely NOT IN THE KINGDOM, ENTERING THE KINGDOM, OR PROMISED THE KINGDOM. He is just "not too far from..." How far is far? Two feet? 100 feet? A couple of galaxies away? Some other plane?
No thanks!

I want to be in the kingdom of heaven and not "near" it!
I strongly believe that Jesus would have answered the scribe differently here if he would have confessed what Jesus really is...Our Redeemer...the Messiah!

God Bless you and your families this week.



  • i finally ot to read yoour sermon
    your point is well taken about the
    the 2 commandments being one
    you hit it hard ;
    i would of hit it even harder
    but it should get the point across or tlay the foundation for more as we go along
    -------once again
    not only do i like your sermon --
    --but i read it for me personally

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:11 PM  

  • I wonder if you might be interested in my Bible reading Notes, covering the whole of Scripture. You can find them at
    Best Wishes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 AM  

  • I left a message about my Bible reading notes. I have closed each of these blogs. I now have a new blog - "St Andrew's, Bellsmyre".

    By Blogger Charlie Cameron, at 1:57 PM  

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