The Lord’s Message:  The Greatest Commandment

The Lord’s Message:  The Greatest Commandment
Date:  March 17, 2024
Where:  Tilghman Methodist Church
Scripture Reference:  Mark 12:28-34

            On the surface, this looks like a commandment that would be easy for us to keep.  It is when we look deeper as to what this would require us to keep that we find that it is a very difficult commandment.

            Let us pray.

            The religious leaders are in the process of quizzing Jesus in order to come up with something to “hang Him on.”  They start off with should we pay taxes to Caesar.  Knowing if Jesus tells them not to pay taxes, then Rome is going to be upset.  If Jesus tells them that they must pay their taxes, then the people are going to be very upset.  Jesus avoids this trap by saying give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.   They move on to a preposterous example of a married woman whose husband dies.  The oldest living brother has to care for the widow.  He dies and the duty falls onto the next brother.  This goes on through seven brothers.  The religious leaders ask Jesus whose’ wife would she be at the resurrection? Jesus tells them that there is no marriage in heaven. So, she would not be a wife of anyone.

            Now, finally the religious leaders get to something that is very important.  In verse 28, one of the leaders asks Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  Jesus responds in verses 29-30 with something that every Hebrew boy is taught, the Shema.  The Shema is the central creed of the Jewish faith.  Then Jesus adds the words of verse 31 to it.

            The religious leader responds with, “Well said, you are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him.  To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

            In other words, simply going through the motions is not enough.  Just attending church is not enough.  Just reading your Bible is not enough.  Just praying is not enough. We need to start with having a relationship with God.  Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  When we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength then we want to attend church and praise God.  We want to read our Bible to understand more about God.  We want to pray to communicate with God. 

Some people are uncomfortable with having a relationship with God.  They view God as some divine police officer looking over their shoulder waiting for them to make a mistake so that He can pounce on them.  Others view God as one who is always causing havoc in their lives.  Still others view God as some one who does not care about them.  No wonder some people have a difficult time loving God.

The truth is that God loves us so much that He was willing to send His only Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us.  He is not some divine police officer, but one who gives us free will to make our own choices on how to live our lives.  He does not want to cause havoc in our lives, but bring us peace, joy, and love.  God cares about each one of us and He hears our prayers.  Psalm 103:8-12, gives us an accurate description of God.

The truth of the matter is that God cares about everybody.  Jesus says this best, Matthew 5:45.  When people come to realize that God is the best friend that they could ever have, then they will be able to love God. 

When we come to understand the truth that God loves us, there is a natural process of passing this love on to others, as Jesus defines as our neighbors.  Jesus says we are to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the problem; Jesus assumes that people love themselves.  Our society is in a sad state, people do not love themselves.  They want to change how they look.  Plastic surgeons are making a fortune changing the looks of people.  People think by having more possessions they will be happy.  People even think by changing their names or their sex then they will be able to love themselves.  That is a tragic situation.  The results are people become depressed, angry all the time, and withdraw from others.  This condition causes people not to be able to love others. 

When we are able to love ourselves and God, the result is that we are able to love others.  We become concerned with people who are struggling to put food on the table.  We become concerned with people who are dealing with an illness.  We become concerned with people who are lonely. We even become concerned with people who do not agree with us.  We become concerned with people who cannot love themselves. 

Our concern should lead to action.  In James 2:14-17, our faith needs to be accompanied by action.  That is why we have a food pantry.  That is why we pray and visit those who are sick.  That is why we visit those who are older.  That is why we pray for God’s blessings on those we may not agree with.  We pray and reach out to those that do not feel that they are loved. 

This is a tall task, but when we are in relationship with God, it becomes a lot easier.  We find that we are not far from the kingdom of God. 

The bottom line is that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Love our neighbor as ourselves.  Let us do exactly that and not simply go through the motions.  Christian Music Artist Matthew West sings a song called:  The Motions.  I would like to read to you some of the lyrics. 

The Motions by Matthew West

This might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break
At least I’ll be feeling something.

‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life.

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all-consuming passion inside of me.

I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions?

            We will not be far from the kingdom of God, if we love God will all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is the greatest commandment.  Let us not simply go through the motions but put our faith into action.  If we do, then my friends, we will grow closer together in faith.  Amen.

March 20, 2024 11:12 am