Whether we like it or not … we live in a world of sound bites and tweets. Everything is short, sweet, and designed to grab your attention. While I’m not a fan of such tactics, I am a fan of the passage this morning. In this passage Jesus compacts the entirety of the Old Testament down to a tweet, a mere 51 words in my preferred English translation. Perhaps we should pay attention. Feel free to read Mark 12:28-34.
Love God. Love Neighbor.
The greatest commandment? Jesus’ answer is brilliant. He quotes two passages of Scripture – Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. And not only that – he still gives the man all ten of the familiar commandments! To love God summarizes the commands to have no other Gods, no false idols, don’t misuse God’s name, and to remember the Sabbath. To love your neighbor summarizes the commands to honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not covet.
For most church folk … we know that we should love God. Let’s dig a little deeper.
You are to love God. Why? Just a few reasons:
- Creator: He created you and everything around you.
- Provider: Everything you have is a gracious gift from God.
- Sustainer: The world is not spinning out of control. Rather, the world is under the watchful eye of its creator.
- Redeemer: Through the death, burial, and resurrection you’ve been offered eternal life.
OK. That make sense. But why are we to love others? Here one good reason:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:8
Kingdom of God.
This particular teacher of the law agrees with Jesus’ teaching. He understands that following God is not about religious rituals, he mentions burnt offerings and sacrifices, but about the condition of your heart. Jesus responds to this acknowledgment with, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
While this might sound like a strange response to us … a mindful reading of Mark’s gospel reveals the kingdom of God around every corner. This was Jesus’ message from the very start. At the beginning of Mark’s gospel we read Jesus’ announcement: The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!
The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the lives of his people. The kingdom reign began with the earthly ministry of Jesus. It was clearly revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It will one day be fully and eternally realized with Jesus’ return. Today we live in the “already but not fully” reality of the kingdom. When we love God and love others we catch a glimpse of the rule of God.
Jesus tells this teacher: You are not far from the kingdom. To be in the kingdom, one must do more than simply give a head nod to Jesus’ teaching. Rather, one must be submitted entirely to his authority. Kingdom citizens voice the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”