Saturday 4 January 2014

Mark 12:28-44 - Close to the kingdom

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In Mark 12:28-44 we read more of Jesus teaching, but there is a different emphasis this time. Unusually, one of the teachers of the Law understands what he means and is close to the kingdom of heaven in his thinking.

This teacher had been listening to the conversation with the Sadducees and was impressed with Jesus' answer. Presumably, as someone who believed in resurrection, he would not have been sympathetic to Sadducee opinion. But he has a question of his own and asks Jesus which commandment is the greatest.

Jesus gives him the greatest (loving Elohim) and the second greatest (loving other people). Clearly, love is a common factor here, more than anything we are called to love. The Law teacher understands and agrees; he states that love is more important than temple sacrifices. And Jesus commends him.

Why do you suppose nobody else dared to ask him questions after this? Might it be that they were afraid of the answers they might get? This man gave an unconventional answer and was told he was close to the kingdom. But nobody wants to risk being told they are far from the kingdom.

And what do you suppose would have been necessary for the wise teacher to come into the kingdom rather than merely remain close to it? Might that have something to do with the difference between words and actions? Speaking the truth is one thing, living the truth is something else entirely.

Notice in the rest of the passage how Jesus seizes opportunities as they arise. He offers alternative thoughts about what people have said. He warns against outward grandeur. And he explains that sacrificial giving doesn't depend only on how much we give, but also on what we have available to give from.

How can we best encourage others to come into the kingdom? One way might be to tell them these stories [Tweet it!] and others like them. What stories could you tell this week, and who might you tell them to?

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