Love is the Answer

(Mark 12:28-34)

One of the most penetrating answers given to Jesus was given by a scribe. Too often we generalise about people and don’t take account of the fact that not everyone is the same. I am often critical of churches because some of them teach a form of doctrine that does not promote the truth of the New Covenant. But not all do this. Some teach doctrines to keep people in bondage, but not all do this. And some seem more intent on “fleecing the flock” than promoting growth and maturity, but again, not all do this.

gods-love-is-the-answerIn all churches there are ministers truly trying to follow the Lord and his leading. They are teaching the people in their care to the best of their own level of knowledge and experience of the Lord. When I am being critical of some churches and forms of ministry, I should not generalise but wish to point out that it is not the people in the church at fault but the poor quality of the ministry that is at fault. It is the teachers in those churches who do the wrong thing and who teach things that are not consistent with the truth of the covenant that will have to stand to account. Thus it is more important for me that I seek the truth and that I try to present the truth as I see it and know it in these words.

This rather long preamble has much to do with this section of scripture. One of the scribes came to Jesus to ask him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” (Verse 28) That is, which is the most important of the 600-plus commandments. Now this man was a scribe and the generalisation about scribes was that they were opposed to Jesus on many occasions. Likewise we often saw the Pharisees stand opposed to Jesus too. But we also see Nicodemus, who was a ruler and a Pharisee, in John 3 come to Jesus recognising him as the Christ and a believer. He also stood up in Jesus’ defence (John 7:50-53) and he provided the costly ointments for Jesus burial too (John 19:39).

So not all of the Pharisees and not all of the scribes were opposed to Jesus and thus the generalisation that they were is wrong.

In this section of Mark 12, after this scribe asks his question Jesus replies, “The first 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.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Verses 29-31) Then the scribe responds to Jesus, not in contempt, not in opposition, not trying to prove Jesus wrong, but in full agreement. He said, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Verse 32-33)

In saying this he showed that he recognised that all of the ordinances of the law, the rituals of the burnt offerings and sacrifices, are nothing compared to the truth of the law which is love. Love is the most important aspect of the law and it is on love that the law is based. The Pharisees and scribes (but not all of them) wrongfully used the law as a weapon to punish and strike fear into men’s hearts. But Jesus showed the most important aspect of the law was to learn how to live in love. And in living in love we can live in harmony and in relationship with God and our fellow man.

This is the same message in the New Testament. Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, “…love is the fulfilling of the law.” It is in love that we live in accordance with God’s laws. It is in love that our relationship with God is established through Jesus Christ, and we can learn to love as he loves for he loved us first and gave Jesus his Son as sacrifice to bring us to him. Through love for us Jesus died so that we can be saved from sin. Perhaps the most well-known scripture in the Bible, John 3:16 shows us the love God had for man when he says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Love is the answer to all of the questions we have in this world. Love is the fulfilling of the law, it is the basis of our relationships with each other and with God and it is the force that keeps us at peace and in harmony with God and each other.

The scribe in Mark 12 knew this too, for he showed his love in his answer to the Lord. When Jesus saw that he answered well his response was not to that of an opponent, but to a friend, for he said, “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Verse 34)

Love is the thing that will bring us into the kingdom of heaven. Love is the key to life and Jesus saw it and recognised it in this scribe and he told him as much. Love truly is the answer to all things and the love of God will lead us to his eternal light and life.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Sanja Gjenero)

Feeding the Four Thousand

(Mark 8:1-10)

Does Jesus ever leave his people lacking in anything? Will he provide for their needs? Absolutely! Every time. There is nothing that he cannot and will not do for his people.

loaves-and-fishesPeople will generally care for those that they love, whether that is their family, friends, husbands, wives or children. They will do their best to provide what they can if someone they love is in dire need. But sometimes we cannot do much to assist.

However the Lord shows his love for us in that he ALWAYS provides for those he loves; for those who live according to the will of God. Here in this section we see that Jesus had compassion on the crowd. They had been following him and with him for three days with nothing to eat. He could have dismissed them and sent them away, but he said to the disciples to give them something to eat for he was concerned the people might faint from hunger on the way home.

The disciples had a few loaves of bread but said, “How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?” (Verse 4) Now given that the Lord had earlier few the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, you would have thought the disciples would recognise that Jesus could do anything and feeding the four thousand should not have been an issue. But this was a lesson they still had not yet fully learned.

They had seven loaves of bread and found also a few small fish. So again Jesus took the food, blessed and broke it, and there was sufficient to feed the four thousand people plus to gather up seven baskets of leftovers.

This was the second time he had performed this miracle of creating food from thin air. What we gain from this is the knowledge that even today the Lord will and can provide our needs, no matter how impossible they seem, when we put the matter into his hands.

From a personal perspective I have seen the blessing of the Lord in miraculous ways both in my own life and that of those I know. He has always provided for his people, and his hand is not short either. He does not provide the second best to his people but always the very best.

We can take away from this teaching confidence and comfort in the knowledge that the Lord loves us so much that there is nothing he will not provide. We may not get all of our wants, especially if they are not what we need, but we will always have enough of what we need. As King David wrote, and I have quoted in the past, “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)

The feeding of the four thousand is clear evidence of this blessing of the Lord. He gives liberally and plentifully to his people and they will not ever suffer want. As King David said, the people of the Lord who are righteous will never be forsaken and we can take great comfort and be reassured about that when we strike tough times. when the world worries about recession and the fall of the dollar, those who are the people of God can rely on the bounty and love of a faithful Lord and God who has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.” Hence we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Anointing of Jesus

(Matthew 26:6-13)

There are a few principles we can learn from this section of scripture where we see the anointing of Jesus by this woman. We see here a woman came to Jesus while he was in the house of Simon the leper and anointed him with a flask of very expensive ointment.

The disciples were indignant over this matter saying that this was wasteful. They thought it would have been better for the ointment to be sold as it was quite valuable, and then the money could have been used to aid the poor. The intentions of the disciples may have been good, but they were wrong. In other versions of this incident it was Judas who made these claims. He did not care for the poor but he was a thief and was stealing money from the moneybox. (John 12:1-8) No doubt they could have sold this ointment and used it to help the poor, but that was not the path Jesus took in this matter.

Jesus said to the disciples not to be indignant and not to reproach the woman for her actions. Instead he said that this woman had done a beautiful thing for him. In doing this she had done what she could in preparation for his burial. Jesus also made the point that they would always have the poor with them and could use whatever opportunities arose to help them out at other times. But they would not always have Jesus with them in the flesh. There are some principles here that Jesus was making and which we all should consider.

First we must understand that the flask of ointment belonged to the woman. She had the right to do whatever she wanted to do with it. If she wanted to take it and give it to the poor she could have done so. If she wanted to take it to the sea and throw it over a cliff she could have done that too, for it was hers to do with as she pleased. By anointing Jesus with this ointment she was doing what she wanted and was honouring the Lord in a way that was pleasing to her and the Lord.

This same principle is seen in Acts 5:1-5.

1 But a man named Anani’as with his wife Sapphi’ra sold a piece of property,
2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, “Anani’as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?
4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 When Anani’as heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.

The point Peter was making here is that the property that this man and his wife had was at their disposal to do with as they pleased. They did not have to sell it nor did they have to offer all of the proceeds of the sale to the apostles for distribution to the poor. It was theirs to do with as they chose both before and after the sale. Their fault was in lying about the matter to look good. They sold the property and kept part of the money and then lied saying they sold it for a lesser amount than they actually received. They would have been better to have sold it and then offered a part of the proceeds and told the truth about the amount rather than lie to try and impress others or make themselves out to be better than they were. They paid for their lies with their life.

Whatever we own is ours to do with as we choose. We can give it or keep it. When we give it should be given freely and without feeling pushed into giving for then it is no longer a freewill gift. Nor should we give expecting something in return.

No person has the right to judge another for his or her decision to give or not give either. This is what the disciples were doing with this woman who gave her expensive ointment to Jesus. They did not have the right to judge and reproach her over her gift for it was hers to do with as she pleased. And in recognition of her gift, Jesus set them straight and said that she would be remembered always for the gift she gave to him.

The importance of this scripture to us today is to be careful likewise not to judge someone for his or her decision. Whether they give or choose not to is up to them, not us. If their decision is wrong, they will wear the consequences of that decision as Anani’as and Sapphi’ra did. But ultimately it is their decision to do whatever they please with their property. We may hope they use it well as we should try to use our own property well, but it may not always be the case. We may not understand the reasons, but we must accept them for it is worse to judge another person especially as we may not know the circumstances under which they are making their decisions. It is especially important for us not to take the path the apostles took. When a person does give we should not denigrate or minimise the value of the gift as they did for the gift is from the heart and according to the wishes of that person to help as they see fit. We should not judge another persons decision but accept it for what it is as giving is an expression of love. Do not condemn over an expression of love.