Passage: Mark 12:28-34
In church we talk a lot about grace. The goodness of God towards us despite us having done nothing to deserve it. We hear how it is freely given, how it can’t be earned. We can’t achieve God’s standard by following the commandments. God’s grace is more significant than the law. And it is all true – but sometimes it can leave us feeling that since everything is already sorted, since God has done everything, we don’t really need to do anything ourselves.
Well this week we’re going to look at how Jesus wants us to obey the commandments.
(Read the passage)
Quiz time – let’s see how much attention you’ve been paying. The religious teacher asks Jesus what the most important commandment is and Jesus’ response is what?
If you’d asked me that, I’d have told you “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind strength and love your neighbour as yourself”. And I’d have been right. Sort of.
You see we usually miss a bit out. This bit “Listen O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord”
Does anyone know what that bit is called?
The “Shema”. The shema was a phrase that the Jewish people were very familiar with. In fact as it was something that they said twice a day. It started like this:
“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
The name “shema” was the first word of the phrase in Hebrew.
We translate it as “listen” or “hear”
But actually it means more than that. It is used over 1000 times in the Old Testament and it means to listen, to receive, to understand and to obey.
So what Jesus is saying is this:
“Listen and understand and obey” The Lord our God is the one and only God, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength.
Jesus isn’t trying to show the religious leader who tried to catch him out how much clever he is.. He is saying to each of us that the most important commandment is something that we shouldn’t just listen to. It is something that we need to put into practice.
It’s something for us to live out daily, one conscious decision after another.
Not so that we can earn our way to God, or deserving of his goodness but as a response to it.
God has shown us incredible love, grace and forgiveness. That should provoke in us a desire to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
The stations that followed this talk were: