Monday, November 2, 2009

All saints day

All Saints Day
Mark 12:28-37
Bror Erickson

[28] And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" [29] Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' [31] The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." [32] And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. [33] And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." [34] And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
[35] And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? [36] David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
" 'The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.'
[37] David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?" And the great throng heard him gladly. Mark 12:28-37 (ESV)

“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Of course if you are not far, you are still not there. That is the catch. The scribe had answered wisely. The scribe was smart enough to see that loving God, and loving your fellow man was much more than the whole sacrificial system. That doesn’t mean that the scribe thought that the sacrificial system should be ignored. He understood that to love God is to worship him in the manner that God had asked to be worshiped. Worshiping God then is never a matter of simply being entertained, creating emotional highs, but will always require a certain amount decorum, order, and reverence for the sacred. But then neither will the kingdom of God be about law alone. For the kingdom of God is far more than the law of God. The Scribe could almost see this, yet even as he was looking at the embodiment of the kingdom of God, he was not there. He was not far from the kingdom of God.
You are not far from the Kingdom of God. It is a peculiar little line that Jesus throws out here. It is almost a bit of a taunt. I don’t mean to make fun of the scribe here. He didn’t really have anyway of knowing that he was looking at the kingdom of God in the flesh. The disciples ate, drank, and listened to every word Jesus said, they saw him do miracles, turn water into wine, etc. yet they barely could conceive that he was the kingdom of God. But Jesus is letting this scribe know that as close as he is to understanding the word of God, he still hasn’t quite got it. He is on the right track, but he isn’t there yet. He has figured out that there is a bit more to it than following every jot and tittle of the law’s letter. He has figured out that God may be a little more concerned with something else than the outward observance of the law. To love God, knowing that he is one, and that there is no other, and to love your neighbor as yourself is much more than all the whole burnt and sin offerings that God had also commanded. But it is still law. And the kingdom of God is much more than law. It is still law when we are told to love.
God commands us to love him, and to love others. Two things about love, one loves by following the ten commandments. The first table informs us how to go about loving God, the second table, how to go about loving our neighbor. People always think that loving God, and neighbor being the “most important” laws, some how frees us from a rigid following of the ten commandments or the rest of those miscellaneous laws one finds stashed here and there in the nooks and crannies of the Old and New Testaments. But nothing could be further from the truth. These laws inform love, they show us how one would act if they truly did love.
But that is the other thing about love, the fact that we have the ten commandments, that we need the ten commandments to show us how to love, shows that we do not actually love. Neither can the law give birth to love. We stand just as condemned by the law to love, as we do any other law of the Old or New Testament. If we truly loved, we would not need the ten commandments to show us how to love. This is why Jesus tells the man that he is not far from the kingdom of God. But the scribe being on the right track has not quite made it around the corner. Then the conversation changes abruptly. Notice how it does that? Jesus tells the scribe you are not far from the kingdom of God, then he starts talking to the people about who the Christ is, and what his relation to David is. On the surface it seems a bit weird, but then when you realize that the Christ is the kingdom of God, and that Jesus is the Kingdom of God incarnate, then you understand. Jesus is trying to bring the man into the kingdom of God. He doesn’t have far to go. Perhaps he can figure it out.
It was commonly understood that the Christ would be the son of David, that is a descendant of David. And of course Jesus is, we have two different genealogies of Jesus, legal and actual showing this in Matthew and Luke. Both though tie Jesus to david as his legal heir. But Jesus wants to show here that the Christ is more than just a man, and a descendant of David, so he quotes David himself concerning the Christ, and asks why does David say the “Lord said to My Lord.”
And now we are back at the beginning talking about who God is, “You are right teacher, you have Truly said that he is one and there is no other beside him.” Perhaps the real question is if God is one, why is he talking to himself in Psalm 110. “The Lord said to My Lord.” And the fact that Jesus talks of David speaking in the Holy Spirit, gives us the entire Trinity, the understanding of which is key to understanding the kingdom of God. Jesus means to show that God is indeed one, and ontologicaly so. He is one in essence and substance, but he is three in person. This allows for the Christ, the messiah, not only to be true man, a descendant of David, but true God, the only begotten Son of the Father. ;Now the great throng hears him gladly, because they are hearing the Gospel, and being given the kingdom of God. They are hearing that the Christ is not mere man, but God himself, and his enemies will be put under his feet to be used as a foot stool in the throne room of heaven as Jesus, the Lord, David’s Lord, your Lord, and My Lord, sits at the right hand of the Father. Now they are beginning to understand the Gospel. It isn’t possible without the trinity you know. Too often the trinity is turned into law, something you have to believe in order to be saved. And yet it is at the heart of the gospel really. Because if the Christ isn’t God, very God of very God, of one substance with the Father, than his death is meaningless, and Jesus does not sit at the right hand of the Father, and his enemies are not made a foot stool for his throne. For his blood is barely sufficient to cover the sins of one man. But when the Christ is God, then his death has the infinite value of God, and is sufficient to ransom all mankind, and put the enemies under his feet. For if Christ is not God, then his death is in fact his defeat. Then the Christ’s only chance would have been to take earthly power, and set up an earthly kingdom. But when the Christ is God, then his death is his victory, and his blood our forgiveness shed in love. Love that gives birth to love in those who believe, for those shose sins are coverd by that blood shed in love.
And now what the law was unable to do, get us to love one another, get us to follow the ten commandments not out of fear, but out of love, love for the God who died for us, and love for our neighbor because our Lord who loves us, and died for us, also loves them.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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