Lectionary Sermon (Gospel) for October 31, 2021

Mark 12:28-34  Greatest Commandment or Opportunity

When I was attending Bible college, more advanced students enjoyed going into the common room and ask the question, “Does oinos mean wine or grape juice?” (Baptist college) and then sit back and listen to the argument. Or we would walk into the common room and ask the question, “What does the word foreknowledge mean?” Again, the reaction would be an argument that could go on for hours. Our motivation for do this listening to the arguments from students who had not yet discovered there are some questions that cannot be given a satisfactory answer that is agreed to by all. The arguments created by the questions were not productive. They were not loving. They produced amusement at the expense of others, and they tended to produce arrogance.

Often those who were opposed to Jesus would try to trick him with their questions. However

In our passage we are told a scribe ask Jesus a question. Which commandment is the greatest?

The question of placing the commandments in a hierarchy was an issue of importance to the theologians of Jesus’s day.

In their minds there needs to be an order, a cause/effect answer to every question. Everything was either right or wrong (depending on their interpretations), everything has its place in the order of things.

So, in a system where the law is what is important then this is a good question. The problem is that the whole system the religious of Jesus day was wrong. It wants to classify commandment in order of importance, and I believe God would say that all of God’s commandments are important and unless one seems to contradict the other, they should all be cherished as God’s gift to us. The commandments set parameters and define the best way of life for us. However, one needs to be careful of one’s attitude. We need not think of the commandments as things not to be broken but insight to be cherished and loved. As the Psalmist writes, “I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes. With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth. I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.  (Ps. 119:11-16 NRS)

This should be our attitude towards all God’s commandments.

Of course, loving God and each other is the most important thing we can do as human beings. God’s self-definition is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn. 4:7-8 NRS)

Love of God and neighbors (all other people) is our purpose in this life. Nothing should take a higher priority. If we love God, we will seek to understand God’s will and desires. We will trust God’s word to help us make decisions.

I believe Jesus enjoyed talking to the Scribe. This Scribe was trying to have an honest, open spiritual discussion with Jesus. He had an intellectual, mentally correct understanding of God’s desire and way. However, this would not be enough.

For years I taught that once a person was “saved”, they would always be saved. This was a foundational theological concept to those whose base theology was from the reformer John Calvin and his concept of the eternal security of the believer. I cannot accept for myself the tenets of this theological understanding. To me it puts to much emphasis on the mental, legal, time bound linear thinking.

I think more theologians would agree with me that what God wants more than anything else is a relationship of love. A relationship of love does not depend on contracts, covenants, or agreements. A relationship of love is about trust, commitment, faithfulness, and vulnerability. This is why Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15 NRS) If we love Jesus our service is not a duty it is a delight.

Earlier John writes, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:35 NRS) This Jesus demonstrated himself with those whom he came into contact with. Jesus modelled love and compassion. Jesus