3rd Sunday in Lent 4 Significant Days: “Significant Questions on Tuesday”
March 7, 2021 Mark 12:28-37
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
If you were here last Sunday, we talked about Jesus ‘clearing the temple’ from Mark 11. And now today in our gospel reading from John 2 we hear about…. Jesus clearing the temple.
It’s a little unintentional overlap in our Lenten theme outline. And, just as a side-note: Jesus did this ‘clearing of the temple’ at least twice. The time we hear of in Mark 11 is during Holy Week; the time in John 2 is during a previous Passover. After Jesus began His 3yr ministry,
He celebrated 3 annual Passover festivals, and the 3rd one ended with His crucifixion & resurrection. Who knows, maybe He cleared the temple all three of those years.
So just to remind you of our theme; we’re talking about ‘4 significant days’; specifically, we’re looking at things that happened during Holy Week; especially on the Mon/Tue/Wed right after Palm Sunday, and heading into MaundyThur/GF/& Easter Sunday.
Last week we heard from Mark 11; that on that Monday, Jesus went to the temple & chased out those who were buying & selling things in the Court of the Gentiles, and overturned the tables of the money-changers. He declared: ‘it is written: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations,”…not a den of thieves. This disturbed the chief priests & scribes, and so they were trying to find a way to destroy Jesus. Of course, by the end of that week, they did find a way.
So this is what Holy Week looks like so far: on Palm Sunday, Jesus rides into Jerusalem and the people welcome him with ‘hosanna to the Son of David’. They’re hoping for a ‘ruling king’, but Jesus is coming as a ‘suffering, serving king’. On Monday, Jesus is -once again- disgusted with how the Jewish leaders have misused God’s House of Prayer as a place to cheat & swindle God’s people for money & influence. And now, after 3 yrs, the leaders are sick of being upstaged by this nobody-rabbi who is gaining popularity & influence over the people.
Now on Tuesday, Jesus is back at the temple & would spend the day teaching about the Kingdom of God. The religious leaders come to Jesus to confront Him with questions; trying to trap Him, and to get some evidence against Him so that the high priest can finally take some action to stop Him. So, here come the Pharisees & Herodians & Sadducees; in come the Scribes, the Chief Priests & the Elders all trying to get Jesus to incriminate himself.
And when they were not being successful at that, they come up with the idea to bribe one of the 12 disciples to be their spy on the inside of Jesus’ group. So, this is Tuesday of Holy Week; a day of teaching, a day of questions, & confrontation. As Mark lays things out, there’s a growing storm between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.
So, in our theme, Monday had ‘significant action’, & Tuesday is a day of ‘significant questions.’ If there are significant Qs there must be insignificant Qs too. You & I ask Qs every day, for various reasons. Some of them are not all that important, such as, /‘What’s for dinner?’ or, /‘what do you think of the weather?’ But on certain days, our questions might be quite important, such as /‘was your biopsy benign’? /‘did you get the job’ ? /‘will you marry me’ ? So, yes, there are ‘non-critical’ questions, and there are ‘life-changing’ questions.
On Tuesday of Holy Week there were a number of questions put to Jesus. Some of those Qs were accusatory, some were a trap, and some were well-intentioned & serious. We’ll just focus on two significant questions asked & answered that day. One is a Q put to Jesus from a scribe, and the other is a Q Jesus asks the crowds in the temple area. So, here are those two Qs on that Tuesday; and I’m reading from Mark 12: 28-37
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In Mark 12, Jesus has just been in a discussion with the Sadducees, who are the Jewish clergy of the day, who did not believe in a resurrection from the dead. A scribe heard Jesus answering the Sadducees, and he was impressed.
A ‘scribe’ was one who’s job was to write or ‘transcribe’ religious writings, such as the Scriptures, and the other teachings of the Jewish scholars & commentators. He would’ve written down hundreds of commandments & rules, of the things that one should do & not do to please God, and to be God’s faithful people in proper worship and in holy living. It seems that this scribe is genuinely interested in this great teacher from Nazareth. And so he comes to Jesus to ask a serious question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Of course, we know that there at ‘Ten’ Commandments; but Jesus responds with a two-part answer that is a summary for ALL of God’s Law, by quoting from Deut.6: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, …soul, …mind and… strength.”
It’s important to notice that the answer to this question does not begin with what WE do; so the most important ‘commandment’ of God for us begins with WHO God is. “The Lord our God,…is one.” He is one divine being. Jesus talked about The Father & The Spirit, & He was The Son; yet, God is one, & the only one to know & obey. The OT Canaanites had many ‘gods’ = they were all false; the NT Greeks & Romans had many gods = they were all fake; there are pretend-gods in our day = imaginary. The only true God has made Himself known thru Abraham, Moses, David & Israel; & finally thru Jesus. There is one true God whom we are to know, love & obey with all that we are & have.
Now, Jesus is not finished answering the scribe’s question. The ‘greatest commandment’ we have for this life actually has two parts. Jesus says, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these”. Here again, Jesus is quoting the Old Testament, Leviticus 19. In those two things, Jesus has correctly summarized all of God’s Law for mankind.
We must also note that Jesus’ answer to the scribe is ‘impossible’ to do. If you & I could love the Lord our God with all of our heart & soul & mind & strength, ‘24//7’, we would never be in violation of the first three commandments. /We would never fail to fear, love, & trust in God above all things. /We would never take His name in vain. /And we would always remember the Sabbath day, keeping it holy in our weekly life.
But we know how weak our love & honor of God can be at times. We know how many times we put ourselves & our things first and God gets the leftovers. We think we have good reasons, but they’re just excuses; & our sin deserves His anger. Our old nature is stubborn against God, which is the underlying reason we can’t keep His OTHER commands.
If we could truly love our neighbor as much as ourselves, we would never break commandments four thru ten. /We would always honor our father and mother, & those in authority. /We would never hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, & never hate another person. /We would never commit adultery, or any immorality, even in our thoughts.
/We would never steal from others, or cheat & take advantage of them. /We would never do or say anything that would hurt our neighbor’s reputation, or put them down, or stick our nose in their personal business. /And we would never ‘covet’ ~ that is: desire their things, or be jealous of what they have.
Here again, we can fall into those sins, sometimes without trying, and sometimes on purpose. That means we break God’s greatest commandment-in-two-parts. And the penalty for that sin is death, & being cut off from God & from life. God’s Great Commandment shows that we need a Savior.
Now, as we heard, this scribe hears Jesus’ teaching & agrees wholeheartedly with Jesus’ truth; and that means that, by the HSp & faith, he truly is ‘not far’ from the kingdom of God. This scribe thought he just had a regular Q to put to this rabbi; but in truth, he has asked a significant Q, and has been drawn by the Father to ask it of the very Son of God & Savior of mankind. He was truly on the very threshold of heaven, standing at the Door.
So now, *would this scribe also believe the truth that no sinner can step thru heaven’s door just by trying to obey the Great Commandment? To break even one commandment is sin; and even one sin disqualifies us from heaven forever. But this scribe is agreeing with the truth of God’s Holy Law, AND he’s talking to only One who can cleanse us of sin, and carry us over that threshold and into God’s eternal kingdom. This scribe has understood the holiness of the Law & is ‘close’ to faith; *will he now understand the grace of the Gospel, and confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, & the heaven-sent Savior?
The truth is, Jesus was the only one able to fulfil God’s two-part Law perfectly, with all His heart, soul, mind & strength; and His life alone is counted as pure love for all ‘neighbors’ at the cross. HE has become our saving faith. For it is by God’s grace you have been saved, thru faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God in Christ; not from our works of the law, so that we have nothing to boast about in ourselves. There is one name under heaven, given among men, by which we will be saved: Jesus. (Eph.2, Acts)
That’s how ‘near’ this scribe was to the kingdom of God. Which is why Jesus now has a significant question of His own, which He put as a challenge to scribes, including the one He just talked to. This question would point to the OT prophecy & miracle of God becoming man in Christ. So, Jesus asked, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?
You see, the scribes were supposed to be the experts in understanding the OT. They taught correctly that the Messiah would come from the lineage of King David. But that’s not all the Christ was.
Because in Ps.110, David writes by the HSp: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’ In other words, ‘God-the-Father said to the Christ, you are my right-hand-man over all things in heaven & on earth.’ But, only God can rule over heaven & earth! So, David referred to both the Father and the coming Messiah as being ‘Lord’ or God. So, the significant Q is: how could this Messiah be both the son of David, and the one God?
There is only one answer to that significant question, and the answer was standing right there, in the flesh, in front of ‘the great throng’ in the temple that Tuesday; and we’re told that ‘they heard Him gladly.’ The answer is found in Isaiah and Luke: He is ‘Immanuel’, God-with-us. Jesus is the God-man; 100% God and 100% man. He is the Word spoken which brought this creation into existence; and He is the promise by which mankind & this creation will be restored at the Last Day.
He is the Almighty; no wonder Jesus could /multiply the bread & fish, /and calm the stormy sea, /and heal the sick and raised the dead. He is ‘light of light, very God of very God.’ And by the end of that Holy Week, He will have given His precious blood for all sinners, and He will have raised himself from the dead in order to guarantee us -and all believers- a real resurrection to eternal life with Him.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, there were a lot of Qs put to Jesus as He was confronted by the religious leaders, who wanted to destroy Him. But Jesus was teaching the truth about the Kingdom of God, and some were listening to His Word and putting their faith in Him.
That has happened again this morning: Jesus has given US His Word, we are listening,
and putting our faith & trust in Him.