International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday May 25, 2014
Purpose: To embody the biblical call and mandate to love God and love neighbor
Background Scripture: Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:35; 6:19
Scripture Text: Mark 12:28-34
Leviticus 19:18 (CEB)
(18) You must not take revenge nor hold a grudge against any of your people; instead, you must love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (CEB)
(4) Israel, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord! (5) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. (6) These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. (7) Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. (8) Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. (9) Write them on your house’s door frames and on your city’s gates.
Mark 12:28-34 (CEB)
(28) One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?"
(29) Jesus replied, "The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, (30) and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (31) The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these."
(32) The legal expert said to him, "Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. (33) And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices."
(34) When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, "You aren’t far from God’s kingdom." After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
At first glance, when you see background text from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, there is a tendency to dismiss it. In the time of Jesus and before, Leviticus was the first book learned by young Jewish boys. The Leviticus we have today is exactly as it was in Jesus time. It is considered, by many, as the gospel of the Old Testament.
The Book of Deuteronomy, is considered the second book of the law. It is viewed as sort of constitution between the LORD God and the nation of Israel. It is written in the form of a treaty between God and Israel. It was delivered just prior to Israel crossing into the “promised land.”
In our text from Mark 12 we find Jesus opening with a parable about the nation of Israel. (1-11) His remarks riled the crowd so much they wanted to kill him, but Jesus escaped. Jesus then spent some time talking about taxes and the doctrine of “resurrection.” Eventually Jesus was ask about the greatest commandment, by a very learned scribe.
In his answer Jesus lays out for us how people of His kingdom should act. In going back and quoting Leviticus and Deuteronomy, what Jesus is saying is, this is not new. This is the way God had originally laid it out to the people of Israel. Being part of God’s kingdom is to live a radical life, where love of God and neighbor are the most important thing we can do.
It is not enough for God’s people just to avoid evil. We are expected, as God’s people, to live positively for good. Living positively for good, means we become “other-centered” instead of “self-centered.”
God created humankind to live in community with others and to interact with the community. As followers of Christ our interaction should reflect the values of the one we claim to be following. If we understand that and then accept Jesus as the Messiah, we are better than the scribe that almost got it, but failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, fell short.
To become part of God’s kingdom, we must act in ways that reflect God’s values and teachings as well as recognizing Jesus as our redeemer. We live our lives in gratitude for the love that has been shown to us from the beginning. Living God’s law of love is more important than our religious practices. Living for Jesus is better than sacrifice.
It is not just our living for Jesus, we must also teach others to live for Jesus, neighbors, friends and family. It should be upmost on our minds, and in our heart. Failing in any of these areas brings our true commitment into question.