THIS WEEK: You…A Tax Collector…A ‘Sinner’…A Pharisee…A Teacher
Like trained lawyers trying to lead the witness, Jesus opposition surrounded him in the temple courts and peppered him with questions. Would his answers give a reason to condemn him?
The chief priests and elders wanted to know “By whose authority are you doing these things?” (Mark 11:28)
The Herodians wanted to know “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?” (Mark 12:14)
The Sadducees (who don’t believe in resurrection) ask: “At the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Read Jesus’ brilliant responses in Mark 11 & 12)
Then came the teacher of the law as Jesus was finishing his discussion with the Sadducees:
Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 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.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
There was something different about the teacher’s question. He seemed to really want to know. He was impressed with Jesus’ answers to the others, and so he asked a question perhaps others had asked him. “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Don’t we all want to know the answer to this question? Don’t you hope Jesus would say, “Don’t steal” or “Don’t murder”? Then we could feel good because we haven’t committed these “big” sins. Perhaps we’d feel pretty good about being granted an eternal life membership to the kingdom of God.
But Jesus gives a different answer.
Love God. Love your neighbor. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40)
The teacher of the law understood Jesus was the teacher of love. Love for God was more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice. Jesus commends him and says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
We don’t know what happened to this teacher of the law, but I hope I see him in heaven. I hope I can ask him, “What was it like when Jesus found importance to answer your question?”
I wonder if he’ll say, “I’m glad he did. It was that day that I realized that to love God with all of your heart, God has to take over all of your heart. And he did.”
Apply: Am I trying to love God before being filled with the love of God? What happens to the activity of my day if I first filter all my actions behind the questions, “Is this showing love to God? Or “Is this showing love to my neighbor?”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for taking time to answer the question of the teacher of the law and teach him of your love. We all think we can earn your favor and forgiveness, but we can’t. Fill us with a love for you so that we may flow with a love for others! Amen.