Love God

Image by Bessi from Pixabay 

Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

28 Then one of the scribes approached him. He had been listening to the discussion, and noticing how well Jesus had answered them, he put this question to him, “What are we to consider the greatest commandment of all?” 29-31“The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.” Phillips

This is one of the few times Jesus immediately responded to a question from the crowd. Clearly, Jesus knew this learned man was genuinely seeking an honest response; this was no trick. It was also a ‘softball’ question. Many in the crowd knew the answer.

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4-5—Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strengthNET The second half of the answer comes from Leviticus 19:18. You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourselfNET

The line; You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength, is the first line of the Jewish Shema. The Shema opens morning and evening prayers and all synagogue services. It is a recitation of Deuteronomy 6:5-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41.

Initially, the Shema consisted of only Deuteronomy 6:5, probably during the Babylonian captivity. By the time of Jesus, it was generally in the form still used today.

32-33 “I am well answered,” replied the scribe. “You are absolutely right when you say that there is one God and no other God exists but him; and to love him with the whole of our hearts, the whole of our intelligence and the whole of our energy, and to love our neighbours as ourselves is infinitely more important than all these burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” Phillips

You may notice that the Scribe used different wording; he did not parrot Jesus. The reason? Scribes were professional wordsmiths. The best could write in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin with vocabularies in the 100,000-word range in each. It was second nature to go beyond the expected. Otherwise, why pay him to write for you. As well educated as Paul was, he still paid scribes to write most of his letters because he wanted just the right words to express the theology.

There is another consideration.

34 Then Jesus, noting the thoughtfulness of his reply, said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God!” After this nobody felt like asking him any more questionsPhillips

I don’t think that Jesus was taken by surprise. He knew the scribe was an honest man and I suspect Jesus was pleased that the scribe was willing to go to the trouble to paraphrase the Scripture. Jesus knew he was not just showing off. Besides, the scribe was a welcome relief from the badgering Pharisees.

We do need to consider two more points. The scribe was critical of the Temple worship, built as it was around burnt offerings and sacrifice. Jesus may have agreed with that statement in general terms, knowing that his sacrifice would replace those in Jerusalem. But he never spoke against sacrifices as such and often encouraged people to go to the priests and make the proper sacrifice after being healed of leprosy, etc.

How far from the Kingdom was the scribe? Jesus said, ‘not far.’ Is that as close as Peter? Closer than Judas? We cannot know exactly, but it is not something Jesus said of very many people. Hilary of Poitiers has this thought. The scribe, therefore, is not far from the kingdom of God when he acknowledges the one God who is to be loved above all things. But he is admonished by his own confession in that he does not fully grasp the mystery of the law as being fulfilled in ChristACCS

I’ll give Augustine the last word. This virtue consists in nothing else but in loving what is worthy of loveACCS

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Uncovering God

 

Exodus 34:29-35

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]

Psalm 99

In today’s reading, we learn that God placed a veil between Himself and his people. Only Moses could approach God. The Tabernacle and the Temple contained a veil to separate the resting place of God from the people. In Luke, we see that Jesus removes the veil.

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

The daily readings for Saturday of this week include Luke 10:21-24. Here is 21-22.

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earthESV I thank you for hiding these things from the clever and the intelligent and for showing them to mere children! Phillips Yes, Father, I thank you that it pleased you to do thisCJB Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the SonNJB The Son can introduce the Father to anyone he wants toMSG

I was hung up on the last Greek word in this text, apokalupto, the one every text on my list translated as reveal, as in, those to whom the Son chooses to reveal himNIV Checking Strong’s, I found that the first part of the word, apo, means separation, departure, cessation, completion, reversal. The second part, kalupto, means cover, hide.

What is most interesting is that the two in combination mean to reverse the cover.

God, through His Son, has chosen to uncover Himself and has done it by coming to us as a human so we could see how He meant for us to live life.

After Pentecost, the disciples, all hundred plus, continued to spread Jesus’ Good News. In three of the daily readings for this week, Acts 10:1-33, we see Peter learning a powerful lesson about the extent of reversing the cover. In a trance, he was told to eat unclean animals.

But first, we should take note of Acts 9:44. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named SimonNIV

Joppa was a major port city for international trade. Jews living there were mostly involved in that trade, so came into regular contact with unclean gentiles. Jerusalem looked down on those Jews, even though most of them made regular trips to Jerusalem and the Temple for cleansing rituals. Peter had lived and worked in Capernaum, another place infested with gentiles, so Joppa probably didn’t bother Peter too much.

However, in Joppa, Peter lived in the home of Simon, the tanner. For Jews, there was a hierarchy of the less clean Jews. At the bottom were shepherds and tanners. A righteous Jew would much rather touch a gentile than a tanner. We don’t even know if Simon was a Jew, though the name would suggest he was (the same as Peter’s Jewish name).

It is important to know how reversed the cover was for Peter before the trance. We sometimes have Peter portrayed as a hard-shelled Jew, but he was open to people no Pharisee would get within speaking distance of.

Still, God needed to peel away the last of the curtain. Peter refused the command to eat, but God said, Stop treating as unclean what God has made cleanCJB Peter could be obtuse at times, but he generally figured it out eventually. At the end of this story, Peter was glad to enter the home of the Centurion Cornelius, a Roman and no doubt one who ate pork.

What is the reversing message for us?

God calls us to the unclean of today. To women who have abortions, AIDS carriers, homosexuals, illegal aliens, legal aliens, even politicians. God loves every human on earth. None of us is superior to anyone else. You may want to build a wall to keep the unclean out of the country, but God wants an open border.

Love is the hard choice.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence