Todays readings.. Exodus 27, Psalms 81&82, Mark 12
In Mark’s Gospel we read how Jesus told parables against the religious leaders with the result “they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people” [12 v.12]. After this, “some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodian’s” tried “to trap him in his talk” [v.13] with a question about whether “it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar” [v.14]. Imagine the atmosphere that was starting to build up!
Then the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, challenge him with a question and he tells them they “know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” [v.24]. Surely that could be said that of nearly all people alive today!?
It is a surprise that in this atmosphere one individual scribe (v.28) comes to Jesus with a positive question about the most important commandment, and is told, “The most important is, ‘Hear O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall 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; ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’” [v.29, 31] This scribe fully agrees and Jesus commends him saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” [v.34]
One lesson here is that Jesus is calling individuals – and we need to approach him as individuals. When a true and wonderful relationship starts to happen, then it is natural, indeed important, that we associate with others of like mind and so increase each other’s strength of heart, soul, mind and strength – of character.
The other lesson is the nature of the love that is expressed in this most important commandment – it is expressed in these four perspectives to illustrate the totality of commitment God is looking for. For some, it is easy to say to others, even to the point of glibness, “I love you”!
The lesson here is that it is folly to have this spirit toward God. Anything less than total commitment means we are “far from the kingdom of God.”