Friday, October 26, 2018

Devotional: Correcting an Inadequate View of Jesus, Mark 12:18-37

Mark 12.18-37 outline

The main theme of the Gospel of Mark is that Jesus is the Divine Son of God but that his kingdom must go through the cross before it fully realizes and experiences his glory. The problem is that this idea is so different from what the religious leaders, and even Jesus’ own disciples, expect that Jesus constantly needs to explain, in various ways, who he is and what his kingdom is all about. In this section Jesus continues to deal with these inadequate views about his identity and about the kingdom he is announcing. The titles Messiah and Son of David are inadequate to fully explain Jesus’ identity and mission. Jesus challenges them to expand their understanding by identifying himself with the mysterious lord (Adonai) who sits at the right hand of the Father (YHWH) and will rule with all creation at his feet (12:35-37). Here Mark challenges us to expand our view of Jesus and recognize him as LORD and God. Jesus is the One who rules next to the Father and to follow him is to draw near, get to know, and love the Father. Devotion to Jesus now prepares us for the age of resurrection that is to come.

This discussion begins with a question from a delegation of Sadducees, the political, priestly partly within the Jewish leadership (12:18-27). They were the more theologically liberal group who denied the idea of bodily resurrection. They tended to be more concerned with wealth and political power. They mocked Jesus by proposing an absurd view of what life after resurrection would be like. Jesus begins and ends his answer by saying that they are deceived and do not understand the scriptures because they deny the power of God. Resurrection life will not just be a continuation of this one. It will have a different quality so it is foolish to speculate on what it will be like. What we know from scripture is that, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we will be with God. The power of God will bring in the age to come and implied here is that they will see it when Jesus rises from the dead. In the meantime, we prepare for the resurrection by following the risen Jesus now.

The next paragraph deals with this proper response (12:28-34). One of the scribes asks Jesus, then “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus responds with the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), the basic creed of the Jews: to recognize who God is and love him with all one’s being. Jesus then adds a second “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:19) These commandments sum up the totality of the Old Testament and make the point that an intimate relationship with the Father that trusts his promises is the most important thing. The new family and new order that Jesus is beginning will not be about buildings, ritual or nationality but about devotion to God and caring for and building up his people. This should be our focus.

So how do you view Jesus? In Jesus, the God who rules from heaven has come close to the people he has created. He calls us to devote our whole being to God by following him on his path through the cross to resurrection and the glory of the age to come. He calls us to draw near to him and then serve others as he served those around him. In doing this we experience the resurrection power of God and get to see a little of the age to come now. That is what Jesus is all about.


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