“Which is the most important commandment?” a young man asks Jesus in today’s Bible reading. (Mark 12:28)
At the time, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had taken the original six hundred, thirteen Laws of Moses — which included the Ten Commandments — and added thousands of additional laws in the Midrash, a commentary on the Mosaic Law. The main idea behind adding the other laws was to “build a fence around the Law” to ensure that no one broke the laws of Moses.
For instance, the Fourth Commandment concerns resting on the Sabbath Day. (Exodus 20:8–11) The rabbis took that one commandment and added thirty-nine categories of qualifications to it. They defined how many steps you could take before you began to “travel”, thus violating the command to “rest” on the Sabbath.
But instead of helping the people to love, worship and obey God, the additional commandments built a bigger stumbling block that kept people from coming to God at all. The focus became on obeying the Law, not having a relationship with God. And that wasn’t good.
So when the young man asked Jesus which was the most important commandment, he wasn’t asking which of the “Big Ten” was the most important. He wasn’t asking which of the six hundred, thirteen was the most important. He was asking which of the thousands of laws was the most important.
And Jesus told Him which was the most important. In fact, the most important commandment is what the rest of the Law is based on. If you can master this one most important commandment, you won’t have to worry about any of the others. The problem is, no one has been able to master this one: Love God with everything you are. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Here and elsewhere, I have referred to Christian Hedonism. It’s a term coined by John Piper, which he expanded in his first book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Given that hedonists are pleasure-seekers, Christian Hedonists recognize that the highest source of pleasure can only be found in a relationship with God. And seeking the highest pleasure in a relationship with God brings the most glory to God.
CS Lewis rightly pointed out that our problem isn’t that we seek pleasure/satisfaction. Our problem is that we are far too easily satisfied. We settle for fleshly pleasures found in relationships with people, experiences, and things. But ultimate satisfaction can only be found in a relationship with God.
Do you pursue a love relationship with God? First of all, do you even have a relationship with God? Do you pursue Him with all that you are? Your heart? Your soul? Your strength?
Spend a few minutes today asking God to show you that your ultimate satisfaction is found in Him. Spend time in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Ask Him to satisfy you with all that He has for you in Jesus Christ.
At the end of today’s Bible reading, we read about the religious leaders questioning of Jesus’ authority: Where does it come from? (Mark 11:27-33) Jesus offers to answer their question if they will answer His own question.
“Regarding John the Baptizer, where did his authority come from?” The religious leaders knew that Jesus had just trapped them. If they said that John’s authority was from God, they would be asked why they didn’t believe. But if they answered that John’s authority didn’t come from God, the people would revolt against them; the people believed that John was sent by God. So the cowards told Jesus they didn’t know where John’s authority came from.
Jesus’ question was one of those critical questions that, when considered with its ramifications, demands an answer. And in refusing to answer the question, one actually does answer the question.
Jesus says, “Neither will I tell you where my authority comes from.” (Mark 11:33)
“What will you do with Jesus?”
That is the key question you can — and should — pose to anyone you’re telling about Jesus. How they answer the question will reveal their answer, even if they try to avoid it, especially if they try to skirt the issue.
Why? Because one day soon — no one knows when — everyone will have to answer that question.
Someone can try to pass off Jesus as a prophet or a good moral teacher. But doing so reveals that they don’t know what Jesus really said. He said that He is the way to God; no one comes to God except by Him. (John 14:6) No other way leads to God. All other religions and philosophies are completely incompatible with Jesus’ claims to be the only way, the only truth, and the only life.
Either Jesus was Who He claimed to be … or He wasn’t. If He wasn’t Who He claimed to be, He isn’t worth following because He’s a liar. But…
But if Jesus was Who He claimed to be, each of us must come to terms with Who He claimed to be and adjust our lives accordingly. If He was Who He claimed to be, He is worthy of worship! He is worth laying down your life for. He is worth forsaking your own way for. He is worth turning away from everything else for.
So what will you do with Jesus?
In today’s Bible reading, the religious leaders confront Jesus about His Disciples’ lack of cleanliness. They observed Jesus’ Disciples eating without washing their hands.
Jesus quickly rebukes them by pointing out that they had turned tradition on its head. Instead of the tradition helping to draw people to God, they had actually replaced God with their religious traditions. (Mark 7:6-13)
Doctors will tell you it’s important to cover your cough and frequently wash your hands with soap, especially to avoid colds and flu. Restaurant restrooms remind employees to wash their hands before returning to work.
While personal hygiene is important, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had made a religion out of it. Rather than letting the tradition of washing remind them of their need for personal holiness, the religious leaders thought it was all about the physical act of washing.
How clean are you? Do you focus on keeping your life clean by obsessing on what you do and don’t do so people can see how clean, how holy you are? Or do you focus on cleaning up your insides, keeping short accounts with God, immediately confessing sin to Him as He reveals it to you?
Focusing on external cleanness makes you look good. Religion looks good. But Jesus points out that relationship is more important than religion. Focusing on the inside will affect the way we behave. But focusing on behavior won’t necessarily help you on the inside.
Today’s Bible reading is Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In it, Jesus reveals the definition of eternal life. “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3 CSB) “I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” John 17:6 CSB)
Eternal life isn’t about religion. It isn’t about behavior change: doing the dos and not doing the don’ts in the Bible. Eternal life is about relationship: knowing and being known. And as such, eternal life doesn’t begin when we cross over to the other side of eternity. It begins the moment we come to know Him on this side of eternity.
Do you know Jesus? Do you have a relationship with Him? How personal is that relationship?
How much time do you spend with Him every day? Not every week, but every single day? As with every other relationship with anyone else, there is no other way to develop a relationship aside from time: logging time in God’s Word and seeking Him in prayer, and practicing the other Spiritual Disciplines.
Hate will drive people to do hateful things. In today’s Bible reading, we read that the chief priests schemed to kill Lazarus because people were following Jesus after seeing Lazarus raised from the dead. (John 12:10-11) Think about that. The chief priests plotted to kill not just Jesus, but Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.
“Don’t murder” was the Sixth Commandment. (Exodus 20:13) By the First Century, the Jewish leaders heaped on hundreds of additional laws to the Mosaic Law through their commentary on the Law and their commentary on the commentary on the Law. That the chief priests could resort to murder reveals how derranged these men had become.
Meanwhile, Lazarus walks around, telling people about his Friend. Many more people believe Jesus as a result of Lazarus’ testimony. It’s hard to argue about Jesus’ authority as the Messiah when one of His most vocal followers walked out of a tomb the day before.
I’ve said it before, you don’t have to be a trained theologian to tell your story to your friends, family, and neighbors. All you have to do is tell what Jesus has done in your life. You may not have been delivered from a physical tomb, but you can tell people how you have been delivered from a life of sin and death. You can tell people about how you once lived as a child of wrath, as God’s enemy. Tell them what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished for you. And invite them to give their lives to Him as you have.