Lesson 44 –
Mark 12:28-34 NRSV
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 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.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
In this chapter, we get a glimpse of just how inquisitive people can be. The people ask Jesus about his stance on taxes, on resurrection and marriage, on the “Son of David,” and the authorities of the day. Jesus is very vibrant and opinionated in this chapter. Even more, this chapter highlights just how malleable and mushy big ideas were. People were often debating and discussing ideas together, hoping to get closer to the truth. In your own devotional period, read this entire chapter. Where can you take your Big Questions like these?
Today’s lesson will focus on radical love.
Read the scripture aloud together. What is happening during this passage?
One of the scribes heard a debate going on. He saw that Jesus was patiently responding to people, so he asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus argued that it was the commandment to love God with our entire being. Secondly, it was that we should “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
The scribe repeated it back and added. “This is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Jesus was impressed with this answer and said, “you are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Why are these commandments important?
These commandments solidify what it means to belong to the community of Christ. They were not yet called “Christians” at this time; that name does not come for hundreds of years later. If you were part of Christ’s community, you would have heard these two things often—
1. We love God with our whole being.
2. We show love to our fellow Earthlings (this includes humans, animals, plants, and land.)
We as Christians would do well to focus on these two commandments. If we love God but do not love other living beings, our faith is empty. And sometimes, it is hard to love other living beings without the strength that comes from God alone.
Of all the things that Jesus could have called “most important,” Jesus focused on holistic faith and compassion for other living beings. Our priorities must become his priorities. When people think of what it means to be a Christian, do they see our love and compassion? Or do they see something else?
How was the scribe “close to the kingdom of God?”
In many vignettes throughout the gospels, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. In this passage, Jesus is impressed with the scribe’s ability to repeat and add to his teachings. The scribe understands the need to love God and love Creation, but also adds that “this is more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In Jesus’ opinion, this was a “wise” answer.
Sometimes in churches, we can miss the point of our gathering. We obsess about the small things and over the wrong things. It does not matter who gave more if we are all giving what we are able. Just because you can give more offerings and sacrifice more does not mean that you are more loved by God. But above giving offerings and sacrifices, Jesus also calls us to do so in love. I Corinthians 13: 1-3 says it this way:
1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
Especially since the pandemic, faith-based mutual aid is seeing a resurgence. Mutual aid is a way for neighbors to support each other without depending on government aid or employment. Many churches have organized to distribute groceries, meals, sanitizer, masks, transportation, and other help is available free of charge.
Mutual aid is a term that refers to shared sacrifice networks that help especially marginalized people survive and thrive. Different organizations use different protocols, but the consistent theme is that a community will collect funds/resources and then distribute them as need arises. It is not charity. It is a way of “creating a way out of no way.”
Mutual aid has multiple roots. It is one way that Black people survived in the wake of slavery. There are documented histories of Concord’s early pastors encouraging Concorders to house the influx of self-freed “runaways.”
Currently, faith-based institutions all across the country are picking up on this legacy. Forefront Church in Brooklyn has a twelve-member care team that focuses on making sure people get the help they need. In the leader’s own words, “the foundation of being a radical Christ follower is truly believing that every human, whether they’re Muslim or Buddhist or anyone, deserves access to power and access to basic necessities of life. For whatever reason, society has not allowed you to have access. So, if I have it, I need to share it.”
Journal: Can you think of a time when love made a big difference in your life?
Closing: Listen to “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” sung by Stevie Wonder
Good morn or evening friends
Here’s your friendly announcer
I have serious news to pass on
What I’m about to say
Could mean the world’s disaster
Could change your joy and laughter
To tears and pain
It’s that love’s in need of love today
Don’t delay, send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ ’round, breakin’ many hearts
Stop it please, before it’s gone too far
The force of evil plans
To make you its possession
And it will if we let it
We all must take
If love and peace you treasure
Then you’ll hear me when I say
We can see evidence of your creativity in the sunset and in the twilight hours. You are a God who makes the world so big that we have to witness it together.
We are in a world that makes people divide each other into “us” and “them.” Sometimes we do it for petty reasons; other times we have to do it out of survival.
Help us to see every living creature around us as our “neighbor.” Show us how abundant love can be when we give it to those most in need.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.