Being close to the kingdom
In the Hebrew Bible, there were 613 Laws considered to be at the center being obedient to God. It was impossible to obey them all, and some were subject to interpretation. In Mark Chapter 12 Jesus is in the Temple court in Jerusalem engaged in dialogue with several Sadducees about aspects of the Law. During this discussion, a teacher of the Law asked Jesus: “What is the most important commandment?”(The Contemporary English Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Mk 12:28.) Since there are so many Laws to obey and we cannot follow them all; which ones are the most important?
Jesus considers this a good question. Jesus does not say all of them must be followed. Jesus answers: “The most important one says: ‘People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. 30 You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ 31 The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these.” (The Contemporary English Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Mk 12:29–31.) What Jesus’ answer means is that if you love God, then you must love your neighbor. We can not claim that we love God if we do not love our neighbor. In the Gospel of Luke, this answer Jesus gives leads to the next question; “Who is my neighbor?”
This is the question in our own time. If we place a limit on who we consider our neighbor does that mean God has set a limit on who He loves? If God has no limit on who He loves can the church place limits on who its neighbor is? This question is real for each of us, “Who is our neighbor?” Back to Mark 12 the teacher agrees with Jesus and goes on to add: These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make.”(The Contemporary English Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Mk 12:33.) Obedience to these commandments is more important than the sacrificial offerings made at the Temple. Jesus agrees with the teachers’ observation and conclusion.
Jesus adds this: “You are not far from God’s kingdom.”(The Contemporary English Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Mk 12:34.)
The Kingdom of God is near when we love God with our total being and love “the other” as much as ourselves. We also recall that at the Last Supper Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment: “Love others as I have loved you.” This is the call to the church and all children of God, “love God – Love each other – then the Kingdom of God is near.”
Blessings Pastor Mick