Love is the Key!
Part 1 – v28-37
Jesus had numerous encounters with the religious scholars of day. Often their purpose in questioning Jesus was to try and trap him. So we have questions in the previous section about marriage at the resurrection, about paying taxes, about where Jesus got his authority from, and so on.
Here we now have another question. And from the way Jesus responds to his questioner it seems that this was probably a genuine question.
The Jewish scholars / religious leaders and teachers of the time spent much of their life studying the Law and going to amazing lengths to keep it. They had laws about laws. Of course there was the Law that God had given through Moses. However, added to that were thousands of others laws which these scholars had added.
The question “Which is the greatest command?” was a fundamental question which the rabbis often debated. The debate was about whether there was one command which reinforced all the others commands – e.g. “Thou shalt keep every law”. OR was there a command that made all the other commands less important?
Jesus is at Jerusalem in the Temple [11v27] There was a lot of religious ritual going on. There were the sacrifices / burnt offerings / prayers / burning of incense / ritual washing ….. Surrounded by all this religious paraphernalia the question is “What is the most important thing?”
Jesus answers the question by saying there are two greatest commands – Love God / Love your neighbour. Jesus’ reply is not new but is drawn from the OT [Dt.6v4-6; Lev. 19v18]. This would have been very familiar to the Religious teachers.
Jesus’ two replies are really one – love is the key.
Love for the one true God. Love for our neighbour. Two sides of the same coin.
If we say we love God but we do not show love our neighbour then we are hypocrites. 1 John 4:20 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (NIV)
Bear in mind that in the bible love is not some mystical, ethereal feeling. In fact in Hebrew there is no word for ‘love’ as an abstract concept – it is always ‘lovingkindness’ – i.e. acts of love.
Love for God is demonstrated in acts of love to neighbour.
On the other hand if we try to put love for neighbour first / or even leave God out altogether / we end up failing as well.
The teacher of the Law who asked the question understood this – That Love is more important that religious rituals / sacrifices and burnt offering and all the religious trappings that went with it.
Each of us must ask, “Am I guilty of a religious / Christian lifestyle while failing to practically love others?”
This teacher of the Law has come very close to the truth and Jesus commends him “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. The reason – He had not yet acknowledged Jesus as King!
The next few verses take up this point exactly.
Until now they have been questioning Jesus but now he poses a question. Jesus here quotes from the OT – Psalm 110:1 1 [Of David. A psalm.]
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” (NIV)
Israel were looking for a Messiah a king who would be an ancestor of David and who would restore an earthly kingdom of Israel to the glory days of King David.
Israel was under Roman occupation – they longed for liberation. They saw Messiah as a purely human descendant of David. This is true but something was missing. Hence Jesus’ question.
The Teachers of the Law agreed that Psalm 110 was written by David and the ‘my Lord’ referred to God’s anointed / the Messiah.
How come then, says Jesus, can David the honoured ancestor, call his descendant, the Messiah, ‘my Lord’, thus granting him a superior position.
So Jesus presents them with a conundrum – “How can the messiah who comes after King David be superior?”
If you simply take the human line David is greater – he is the Son of David. BUT what the teachers of the Law failed to see was that Messiah was also divine / the Son of God/ and that is why David, under God’s inspiration, calls him ‘my Lord’.
And this Messiah is about to demonstrate in the next week of his life the greatest command. His love God his Father and his love for his human neighbours leads him to the cross in a supreme demonstration of that love.
Part 2 – v38-44.
In this section we have two contrasting pictures – those who reject and those who accept the values of God’s kingdom:-
1st – the teachers of the Law – the religious people. They liked power and position and wealth. And they like to be seen to have it. They would strut about looking important in their smart clothes, demanding respect. The made an outward show of their religiosity while at the same time squeezing every penny they could out of the poor and the widows by demanding more and more religious contributions from they.
Matthew 23:1-7 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the market-places and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’. (NIV)
They made a great show of bringing their offerings to the Temple and making sure all could see their BIG gifts. But they were giving a tiny portion of their great wealth.
2nd – those who accept the values of God’s Kingdom – pictured in the poor widow bringing her two pennies to give.
She willingly and gladly gave to God all she had – all that humanly speaking her life depended on. It is amazing how often it is the poor who are generous and the rich who are miserly.
ILLUS.: In SA the poor Coloured and Black and Asian Churches gave large honorarium. While the rich White church gave a little.
It is interesting to note exactly what Jesus says. He watches these rich people bring big gifts and then the poor widow – then he comments Mark 12:43
43 .., Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. (NIV)
She gave more than all the others put together – just like another woman in ch. 14. Who breaks a very expensive jar of perfume to anoint Jesus.
They gave all.
It is this sacrificial giving that Jesus demonstrated at Calvary – he gave all.
And it is that sort of giving that he asks of us – to give all.
Mark 12:30-31 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 neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV)