Jesus the Divine Teacher
Mark 12:28–34 – “Introducing…Jesus” – July 18, 2021
A reading of Mark 12:28–34.
What’s “the most important” thing? That’s what our scribe asks.
- You could say, “Well, it depends.”
- Are you being attacked by a shark? The most important thing—fight back. Don’t pretend to be dead. They’re happy to eat dead things.
- Are you lost in the Amazon? The most important—S-T-O-P (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan). A plan for drinking water, walk in a straight line.
- Are you getting married and planning a wedding? The most important thing—is the person you’re marrying!
What’s “the most important thing”?
- Jesus has a different answer—it doesn’t “depend.”
- Always the right answer.
- Shark attack, lost in the Amazon, planning a wedding…
- But in the normal things of life:
- As a high school student thinking about post-high school
- A couple that just had their 1st child
- As you realize your health is diminishing and it’s not going to recover in this life
- Jesus’ answer is always the answer.
Let’s set the scene a bit: The gospel of Mark, getting close to the end.
- Written by John Mark the cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10).
- Worked closely with apostle Peter, esp in Rome (1 Pet 5:13).
- Peter is the main source of Mark’s material.
- He’s writing in the 40s or 50s AD, a decade or two after the cross.
- The first gospel, which is why Matthew and Luke model theirs after his.
Mark 12 – End of March, beginning of April, AD 33
- It’s the Tuesday of the last week of Jesus’ life.
- On the Sunday before the triumphal entry (Mark 11).
- On Monday it was cleansing the temple and cursing the fig tree.
- This Tuesday is where Jesus and the Jewish leaders duke it out.
- Wednesday has little that’s recorded.
- Thursday is the Last Supper (Mark 14).
- Friday is his cross and burial.
- On Sunday, five days from the Tuesday of our text is Resurrection Sunday.
Our passage is within the series of debates with the Jewish leaders.
- The Olympics of religious debates.
- This isn’t rec league, it’s the Olympics
- The most elite in terms of education, authority, and prestige.
- The men here are part of a long tradition of teachers and students.
Our series: Introducing…Jesus. Today: Jesus the Divine Teacher. The Divine Teacher of the OT. Of the Law of Moses.
D.A. Carson says…
- Some passages are obscure till we think about them. Then clear.
- Some passages clear till we think about them. Then…more complicated.
- He says this passage is the second type. Love God with all that we are?
- Really—all that we are…
- That’s pretty clear…till we start to think about it: “All my…mind?”
Sermon and Prayer
I. The Most Important Commandment
Meet our main inquisitor: What is a scribe?
- “Scribe” (grammateus) in the OT starts out as a government official of some kind (Exod 5:6; Joshua 1:10).
- Then a government “secretary” (2 Sam 20:25).
- By the time of Ezra, like the NT men we see:
This Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. (Ezra 7:6)
- A scribe was a specialist in the Law of Moses.
These specialists said OT had 613 commandments.
- Extensive and complex.
- Common to discuss how best to summarize the commandments.
- The rabbis would discuss these issues and pass down their teachings.
- One example:
There was another incident involving one Gentile who came before Shammai and said to Shammai: Convert me on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot. Shammai pushed him away with the builder’s cubit in his hand. This was a common measuring stick and Shammai was a builder by trade. The same Gentile came before Hillel. He converted him and said to him: That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.
Babylonian Talmud Sabbat 31a (ca AD 500)
You could give Jesus’ answer on one foot!
His answer isn’t one of the Ten Commandments.
- His answer was from theShema, one of the most recognizable OT passages.
- Jews at the time and many today would say it twice a day.
- Comes from Deuteronomy 6:4–5.
- The last sermon of Moses to the people of God before promised land.
Reminds us WHO we are supposed to love above all things.
- The true and living God: “YHWH Elohim, YHWH is one.”
- This God isn’t like the others.
The 1st century world in Judea was dominated by Rome and Greece.
- 12 “OIympian gods” of Greece (said to dwell atop Mt. Olympus).
- Zeus/Hera, Poseidon/Athena, Ares/Aphrodite, Apollo/Artemis, Hephaestus/Hestia, Hermes/Demeter
- The Roman version—“Pantheon of gods/goddesses”
- Jupiter/Juno, Neptune/Minerva, Mars/Venus, Apollo/Diana, Vulcan/Vesta, Mercury/Ceres
And there were many, many more
- A god or goddess for all occasions
- They were seen as powerful
- But their stories were one long soap opera
- To get them on your side was no easy task
So many, so you end up giving this one a little and that one a little
God says NO! — There is only me, and to me you are to give everything you are.
The emphasis of this “most important” commandment is that we love him with a complete and total and all-encompassing love.
- We love the right God in a complete way.
- Idea here is “ALL THAT YOU ARE FROM THE INSIDE OUT.”
- Love him from the very depths of your being to the practicals of life.
“OUT OF YOUR WHOLE…” (Mark 12:30)
- Out of your whole…heart (not really “with”)
- Out of your whole…soul
- Out of your whole…mind
- Out of your whole…strength
“ALL YOUR HEART” and “ALL YOUR SOUL” are combined a lot in Deuteronomy:
You will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut 4:29)
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 10:12)
“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.” (Deut 11:13–14)
“OUT OF YOUR WHOLE MIND” = Thinking = How we JUDGE, how we EVALUATE, what we THINK about
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)
“OUT OF YOUR WHOLE STRENGTH” = Activities and endeavors and resources of life
Only the true and living God could ask so much of us.
- For anyone or anything else this would be IDOLATRY.
- If you give this kind of FIRST OF ALL loves to something other than God….it becomes LIFE-DESTROYING.
- Your heart and soul and mind shrivel.
- Your love becomes like a cancer that kills.
But when you give this FIRST love above all loves to God—your heart and mind and soul expand.
- It’s life-giving.
- You bring life and blessing to everything else in your life.
But what does it look like? Where do we start?
- Remember it’s a relationship: Talk to him….spend time with him (prayer and Bible, active in church)….be honest with him.
- Remember obedience—do what you know he’s said.
- John 14:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments….Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15, 21)
- Part of loving God is learning what these “commandments” are.
- Praying for help to obey them, confessing to him when we don’t.
Loving God is a lifelong pursuit.
- This isn’t the “10 weeks to lose 10 lbs” kind of thing.
- It’s a long-term, step-by-step, year-by-year pursuit.
- Loving God is the best thing you can do for every person and every endeavor in your life.
II. The Second Most Important Commandment
The scribe asked, “which is the most important of all,” but Jesus immediately adds a “second.” Mark 12:31.
- The scribe didn’t ask about the TWO most important commandments.
- But – This is Jesus as The Divine Teacher.
- Teaching us how to think of our OT, how to think of our Bibles.
We’re accustomed to these two commandments being together.
- Before Jesus there is no record of any Jew doing this.
- A few Jewish writings that combine these ideas—but these likely influenced by Jesus.
Our love for God is most important, but this commandment is a critical “second.”
- Love for God isn’t meant to float out there in the abstract.
- The ideal Christian isn’t the solitary monk.
- Or someone distracted or unconcerned from people because our “mind is occupied with more important things.”
Love for God is to go immediately into love for our neighbor.
Jesus is quoting Leviticus 19:18:
- Like before….not one of the Ten Commandments.
- “Love your neighbor” in a chapter of Lev emphasizing loving fellow Jews.
- They weren’t to despise or mistreat or be unjust to fellow Jesus.
- They were to love their neighbor [Jews] as themselves.
But Jesus is the New Moses—the Divine Teacher.
- He interprets the Law of Moses for us.
In Luke 10 – Jesus also teaches on the two great commandments.
- A lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?”
- That’s the question, isn’t it?
- If I am to “love my neighbor,” it makes a difference who my neighbor is.
- That’s when Jesus gives us the parable of the good Samaritan.
- He tells us, our neighbor is anyone in need who comes across our path.
- To them we extend compassion that responds with action.
Jesus the Divine Teacher doesn’t stop teaching after he ascends.
- He keeps teaching in the NT writings.
- He teaches us more about the SECOND COMMANDMENT.
- It kind of gets broken into two parts.
- If this is the “SECOND MOST IMPORTANT COMMANDMENT,” this is kind of 2A and 2B.
- Galatians 6:10:
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal 6:10)
- 2A = “the household of faith”
- 2B = “the everyone” outside the “household of faith.”
There’s something else about this command to “love our neighbor.”
- It summarizes what other laws require.
- Jesus the Divine Teacher in Romans 13:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom 13:8–10)
Romans 13 shows us the connection between “love your neighbor” and the other commandments.
- When we ask “How do I love my neighbor?” The answer is, “by keeping the other commandments—not commit adultery, not murder, etc.
- But if we’re keeping the other commandments, “love my neighbor,” reminds us our heart matters.
- It’s possible to “not steal” and “not murder” someone and yet still hate them in our heart.
- God is asking for both—actions that are good for my neighbor and affections and thoughts that are loving toward my neighbor.
This idea that “love your neighbor” gets filled out with the Bible’s teaching is critical in our day.
- A lot of people think they get, “love your neighbor.”
- They have a way of doing that—Tolerance.
- Don’t judge people. Accept them.
- It doesn’t matter what life choices they make.
- It doesn’t matter what sexual preferences they have.
- Or what gender identity they choose.
- But Jesus the Divine Teacher says that’s a lie.
- It’s only “love for my neighbor” if it’s consistent with the Bible’s teaching.
- It’s only “love for my neighbor” if it’s consistent with the truth in his Word.
- “Love rejoices with the truth”—1 Cor 13:6.
What does it look like? Where do we start?
- Who is the one person you know you are not loving—either in your actions or in your heart?
- Commit to pray for them for 2 minutes a day
- Paul said, “love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
- Prayer for someone is the very opposite of doing wrong to someone.
III. The Other Commandments
After Jesus’ answer the scribe speaks. He’s very different from the attackers we’ve already encountered—Mark 12:32–34.
First he commends Jesus: “You are right, Teacher…”
- Good to remember not all Jewish leaders opposed Jesus as a criminal.
- Joseph of Arimathea a member of the Jewish Council.
- Luke calls him “a good and righteous man” (Luke 23:50).
- He’s the one who would place Jesus in his own family tomb (Luke 23:53).
- And then Acts 6:7:
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
- That day was like our day—a lot of different opinions about Jesus!
What the scribe says about the Law of Moses we really want to hear—Mark 12:32–33—because Jesus agrees with him.
He says love for God/neighbor is “MUCH MORE than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
- This might seem surprising from a scribe—but this is exactly what the OT itself says.
- An example Hosea 6:6
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
- An important text — Jesus himself cites this against the Pharisees in two places in Matthew.
- The first time they were rebuking Jesus for eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (Matt 9:11).
- He told them, “Go and learn what this means” and then quoted Hosea 6:6.
- The second time the disciples were plucking grain to eat while they were traveling. The Pharisees rebuked them for “working” on the Sabbath.
- Jesus told them again if they had known Hosea 6:6 means they would never have said that (Matthew 12:7).
The scribe and Jesus are telling us the same thing—In the Law of Moses even before Jesus went to the cross, some laws are more important than others.
Doesn’t mean “sacrifices” are unimportant in the OT era—Only that “steadfast love” is more important.
Jesus the Divine Teacher keeps teaching about these OT sacrifices.
- After the cross, we approach these laws very differently.
- See this in Hebews 10:11–12, 14:
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God….For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Heb 10:11–12, 14)
- All those OT sacrifices were a picture of how to take away sins.
- But the sacrifices themselves couldn’t do it.
- Jesus dying on the cross did it!
- Because he died OT sacrifices stopped.
The passage shows us something else about Jesus the Divine Teacher.
- It’s the DIVINE part.
- Jesus commending the scribe: “You are not far from the kingdom of God…” (Mark 12:34).
- Jesus’ authority: Doesn’t just assess his words. He assesses his spiritual state.
- The Divine Teacher—is Divine! He’s the Judge. God himself.
- Jesus’ words: “You are not far.”
- Reminder that knowing the right answer is helpful.
- But it’s not enough.
- You can be “NOT FAR from the kingdom” when you know the right answer, that loving God and loving our neighbor are the most important commandments.
- But to be “IN THE KINGDOM”?
- To be in the kingdom you must believe in the King.
- The most important thing we can do…is love God with all that we are.
- The second most important thing we can do…is to love others as we love ourselves.
- Everything else falls into place when we get these two straight.
- These two are “much more than” everything else (Mark 12:33).
There’s a reason why these two great loves are our vision statement as a church.
- They answer, What does God ask of me? What does he ask of everyone?
- What does he want me to be when I grow up as a Christian?
- What does he want our church to be when it grows up as a church?
- Love God and love others
Call to Action
- Who is the one person you know you are not loving—either in your actions or in your heart?
- Commit to pray for them for 2 minutes a day.
The call to action for us is to OBEY—but saying this and doing it are very different.
- We saw that with the scribe.
- He knew the answer, but at best he was “not far from the kingdom.
- We’ll finish with 1 John 4
- 13 times he mentions “love” (agapē, agapaō):
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us….We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:7–12, 19)
- This is where it all comes together
- My love for God and my love for others doesn’t start with me.
- It starts with God—who “is love”—and his love for me
- We see his love in the greatest display of love—when he “sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live!” (1 John 4:9).
- His great love that took care of our greatest problem—“sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)—no more wrath, no more judgment.
- “In this is love!” (1 John 4:10)
- Believe in Jesus—and encounter a love you never even knew existed.
- In Jesus is love.
Prayer and Closing Song
 Hear at https://resources.thegospelcoalition.org/library/first-commandment-first-sin-mark-12-28-34.
 See The Twelve Patriarchs (Testament of Dan 5:3; Testament of Issachar 5:2; 7:6). But again, these are likely inspired by Jesus’ teaching.