Genie? (Mark 12:28-34)

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Jesus had caused a stir in towns like Capernaum and Nazareth. His teachings and actions astounded and angered the religious establishment (Mark 3:6).  

But he was now having come to Jerusalem, riding in on a donkey in what felt something like the inauguration of a promised Messiah king (Zechariah 9:9/Mark 11:1-11).   

And having walked into the headquarters of Jewish religion, tearing up the place, effectively pronouncing judgement on the state of affairs at the Temple -Jesus had pulled the proverbial trigger that would lead ultimately to His death on the cross.  

His reputation had proceeded Him, but since arriving in Jerusalem at a high point in their religious calendar, His actions had enraged the Jewish religious leaders.

And so, Jesus had the full attention of all the various religious groups who came to Him in unrelenting waves trying to expose Him, or trap Him in the public space with their crafty questions and wanting to arrest Him (Mark 12:12).  

But one Scribe who most likely shared the angst of his fellow religious brothers was intrigued by Jesus’ handling of the various tricks and traps set by his associates.

Something about Jesus drew him towards Jesus. Mark records that he saw “that He answered them well” (Mark 12:28) and so he decided to risk asking Jesus a real question. One that wasn’t designed to lure Jesus into a trap but to learn; “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28)

Often when Jesus was asked a question with a warped motive, He would answer in an obscure way or would tell a parable exposing the bad heart motive of those asking or even pronounce judgement on those asking. But this man’s question must have felt like a relief to Jesus after the barrage of tricks and traps.

He actually wanted to know Jesus’ answer. And so Jesus gives a succinct answer that helped not just him but helps you and me as Christ Followers to understand what matters most to God. Quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Jesus replies;

The God of the Bible is the only One worthy of worship, adoration and praise. And so we are to;

  • Love God with all our HEART (our emotions/desires)
  • Love God with all our SOUL (our entire body & life)
  • Love God with all our MIND (our thoughts)
  • Love God with all our STRENGTH (our energy)

Almighty God is worthy of nothing less than our wholehearted worship. Every facet of our humanity (Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength) is to bow to God in loving worship that is to be expressed to fullest since facet of our lives is prefaced with the word “all” by Jesus.

There is a holy discontent in my heart, soul & mind. Brothers and sisters, we live in distracted days that seem so at odds with Jesus’ commandment here in Mark 12:31.  

Love for God, worship of God by even those who call themselves Christ-followers is so commonly lukewarm, so partial rather than wholehearted.  

For so many God is like a ‘Genie-in-a-bottle.’  God can stay in His corner of our lives ignored like the Genie concealed in its container until we need him.  

And yet when we have some desire or desperate need, we pick up the bottle and rub it in prayer summonsing God to answer us and act as we desire.  

Lockdown and a Global Pandemic, today again is an opportunity for us to hit the RESET button if we have slipped into such a form of spirituality.

Jesus’ answer to the Scribe reveals God’s desire for us all; it defines what true Christ-followers lives will look like. And it is radical; it is wholehearted. It is the only way to really live, and living this way will never result in regret.

Jesus wants all of YOU, all of ME. Are you distracted, are you lukewarm, are you acting like a consumer rather than a wholehearted worshiper of God?

This is the greatest commandment – love God with all your affections, love God with all your thoughts, make God the centre of your attention, love God with your whole being, your physical body and all the energy you have been given by Him.  

Don’t hold anything back, expend it all, don’t waste your time and energy and focus on anything or anyone else, expend it all on loving and worshipping God. You will never regret that decision!

So, do you need to hit the RESET button today? The Scribe knew that Jesus’ answer to him contained the truth. And that truth of Jesus’ answer is still powerful to transform your life in the present and your experience of life in eternity. It is still powerful to shape your life and to fill your life with that which is truly valuable.

Jesus continued in vs31 to add a second bonus answer to the Scribes question. He had asked for the ‘greatest commandment’ and Jesus answered him, but as a bonus Jesus went further to explain that obedience to the greatest commandment would lead to something else…

True and wholehearted love for God would result in another love – love for other people. You see, love for God transforms who we are and transforms how we treat all other people God made.  

It is utterly inconsistent, therefore to claim that you truly love God if you don’t love all people.  

And, therefore it is also utterly inconsistent for Christ-followers to be complicit or silent about things like racism or Gender-based violence or injustice since all of these evils are rooted not in love but in a lack of love for individuals God created in His image.

To love God fully & to love people sums up all the commandments. We can easily make following Jesus overly complicated, but Jesus makes God’s will exceedingly clear.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states; “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” 

This is our purpose, to love, to honour, to glorify God in all we do. And here in Mark 12, Jesus connects this with how we treat others. If we truly love God, our hearts will be soft toward God, and the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others as God has loved us. This is the whole message of Galatians 5:16-24.

Loving God leads to loving people, being compassionate, merciful, forgiving as we have been forgiven. That’s true godliness, true holiness, the Jesus journey! 

And the only way to get to a life that truly looks like that is to have a life that is overtaken with love for God. And the only way to love God more deeply is to see God more clearly, to see who He is and what He has done for us and to live out your whole life as a response.  #moreinawe

Gareth is one of the elders at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.

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