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Jesus Provides a Litmus Test for the Greatest Commandment - Mark 12:35-44

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Mark 12:35-44 Jesus gives a litmus test of the greatest commandment for the soldiers in His Army. INTRO Though we are giving our attention this morning to the account recorded for us in the 12th chapter in the Gospel of MARK. I’m going to start us off with a few passages from Luke’s gospel account of Jesus Christ that are in much proximity to the time and place we are currently at in the life of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. It’s a bit of a glance ahead of when Jesus is teaching on the signs of the closing of this age. Turn with me to Luke’s gospel chapter 21 starting with verse 10 reading through verse 19 with special attention on verses 14 and 15. read “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to contradict.” What - a - marvelous promise. And we have seen our Lord demonstrate this over and over again these last few weeks have we not? Discourse after discourse Jesus is having in the temple with adversary after adversary attacking Him with questions who then find themselves…silenced…. not able to contradict the great wisdom by which he answered them. And though this passage is speaking of answering our adversaries during the close of the age…I believe it would also be helpful and well applied to how we give a response to questions asked of us now by those who are not followers of Christ. Especially at a time we find ourselves now where great fear is gripping the soul’s of men and women who have no secure hope. Their world is collapsing all around them and they are frightened. And even if they are not taking seriously the pandemic at hand, ALL other areas where one may have false security in are in dire jeopardy because of it. WE, as christians, want to meet them wherever they are at with a mouth of wisdom from above. NOT with some rehearsed statement. A blanket response with Biblical undertone and a passage of scripture to back it up with. NO,… There is a stark contrast between that and one, being filled with the Spirit of God, whom God puts into their mouth words of wisdom from above to speak in that moment….TRUTH the listener is not able to contradict. WE are instructed not to “Settle it therefore in our minds nor meditate beforehand how to answer, …” JESUS promises to provide the words we are to speak in that moment. He demonstrated it for us and in our passage this morning HE provides instruction for us to be ready and fit for those moments that will….listen…will come. Let’s do a short recap some….of the events leading towards the cross since Jesus’s return to Jerusalem. Remember, once that shift took place where His face is set toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:53, 13:22) toward the cross to atone for His bride. To suffer and be crucified. He is walking distinctly ahead of his disciples to their amazement…pressing hard towards Jerusalem, towards that which he spoke plainly to His disciples would be his death. Where He would be killed. King Jesus arrives to Jerusalem staying with Lazarus, Martha and Mary at Bethany which lies a short distance outside of Jerusalem. He resided there after raising Lazarus from the grave and also the place where Mary anointed His feet with the expensive ointment she intended for His burial…. This would be the day prior (of Holy Week; 6 days before the passover). Holy Week - The full week span in which Jesus enters into Jerusalem, spends time in the temple, is betrayed, arrested, tried, crucified, buried and then raises from the grave on the start of a new week. We are at Day 3 of this week, (a Tuesday) two days before the Last Supper, the Passover meal he shares with the 12 Disciples which takes place on Thursday night…after midnight…early Friday morning…..he would be betrayed, arrested and by the end of that very same day…that FRIDAY…he would be crucified. SO, Day 1 (Sunday) (known as Palm Sunday relating to the palm branches the people gathered from the fields to place before him bestowing praise and honor) This is when King Jesus has His Triumphal entrance to Jerusalem fulfilling prophecy. Day 2 (Monday) King Jesus cleanses the temple - and “People in the temple are astonished at His teaching” Day 3 (Tuesday) where we find ourselves today in the text. King Jesus is questioned on multiple occasions. 1.) First, in sequential order, we have seen His authority called into question by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. 2.) Second He is questioned with malicious intent to induce Him to Treachery by disciples of the Pharisees and some Herodians 3.) Thirdly His Theology is questioned by the Sadducees 4.) And then lastly, and refreshingly… a sincere question - What is the greatest commandment? Asked by a listening scribe. King Jesus repeatedly met these questions with “a mouth and wisdom, which none of his adversaries was able to contradict.” The very thing He promises to provide us when we are in his shoes. HE demonstrated this for us completely and perfectly and now,…..our captain in the Lords army, KING Jesus, provides instruction for His soldiers to be ready and fit to answer likewise. YOU SEE, we have a shift here in the text on this (Day 3) in which these controversies have been taking place. JESUS has more or less been in response mode. Defending truth, exposing their errors at these attacks. Questions have been drilled at Him. All but one with evil intent. Aimed to discredit him, trip him up, or raise a revolt against him. JESUS, our fighting and conquering King, in wisdom turned their attacks upon their own heads. BUT now,…He shifts to the offense. “No one dared to ask him any more questions” (Mark 12:34) Jason ended on that verse last Sunday. It is here where our Lord delivers a challenging question, a stern warning and an example to follow….all of which stem from the last question asked by a listening scribe whom Jesus told “was not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.” Remember the question and answer? What is the greatest commandment? The scribe asked. JESUS replied “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.” Heart, soul, mind and strength loving GOD….always operating together, let’s not miss that. They are never disengaged…always operating together…BUT…each hold a distinct attribute of a soldier of CHRIST. King Jesus, provides instruction for His soldiers to be ready and fit to serve. How does a christian, a soldier in God’s army know they are fit and ready to serve. Know with a settled confidence in God to not meditate beforehand on how we are to answer our adversaries, because we have a trusting resolve in God that He will give us a mouth and wisdom, which none of our adversaries will be able to contradict. Our commander in chief, KING JESUS provides a decisively indicative test to examine ourselves by to know we are ready and fit to serve and to remain so. Stemming from Jesus’s answer to the greatest commandment He now gives a litmus test for it. A decisively indicative test to know whether we are ready and fit soldiers,…by a challenging question, a stern warming and an example to follow. Jesus gives a litmus test of the greatest commandment for the soldiers in His Army And I know this has been a lengthy intro….but I felt it necessary to do so…to establish this firmly. Draw a hard line perhaps if you are taking notes. The foundation is set. Our risen King, the commander in chief of the Lord’s army who went before us, obtained the victory on our behalf at the cross on Calvary, He is not passively lying on his couch like David did during the time kings were at war, BUT is seated at the right hand of the throne of God commanding The Lord’s army, the Christian, His soldiers to fight this fight of faith firm to the end and He is providing for all his ranks a means to know whether they are ready and fit soldiers. At whatever age of spiritual maturity they are. NOT only for a seasoned saint but also for babes in Christ…for every Christian soul whether you came to Christ today OR have walked with Him for decades. The test applies the same. SO let’s give focused attention now to these litmus paper strips,…if you will,…as a means to decisively test the greatest commandment against ourselves to LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength. We start in (verse 35-37) in the 12th chapter of Mark please turn back there if you haven’t already….we start here with a challenging question. A Litmus paper strip for the mind you could say. BODY 1) FIRST POINT - (Mark 12:35-37). Litmus paper strip for the mind Now this question is chiefly directed toward the Pharisees but Jesus asks it of them publicly, same as he was being asked questions…publicly…for all to hear and consider,….He likewise, delivers this question to them among many listening ears. So, with listening ears let’s read his question publicly for us all to hear and consider. (verse 35-37) - read “The great throng, the mass of people gathered around Jesus whom the Pharisees are among, heard him gladly.” BUT we read no answer given by the Pharisees. The scribes teach this concerning the CHRIST…it’s not a new teaching. Matthew’s gospel informs us that he opens this question with “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?… They the Pharisees answered… “the Son of David.” This they new about the coming Messiah… He is the Son of David. JESUS presses the topic deeper. How then can David call him…call the Christ, the coming Messiah, Israel’s promised deliverer?….How can David call Him Lord and yet have him be his son? Be a descendant from the line of David? The Pharisees don’t give an answer. The question is met with silence. It’s the same for both Matthew (22:41-45) and Luke’s (20:41-44) record of this account. I picture this stark contrast of a hardhearted scowl on the faces of the Pharisees to a shining glee on the faces of all the other people who heard him gladly. And not only did they not provide an answer….they didn’t ask him to please explain it. The disciples were often stumped and asked Jesus to explain things to them and He’d explained things to them…I believe if the Pharisees, in reply, were to ask Jesus to explain to them how that is, How David can call him LORD….then JESUS would have answered. “David was in the Spirit…Divinely inspired…when He penned this Psalm (Psalm 110:1-5) indicating that the Messiah would not only be a royal human descendant of king David…but that the Messiah would be David’s Lord…holding a distinctly more prominent role than king David himself….connoting the uniqueness of the Messiah and the greater honor that is due him as the Son of God…God incarnate. Yahweh King who walks on water.” But the answer to the question from the mouth of CHRIST was-not-sought after. They either knew it and didn’t care to seek out what was required of them for this knowledge…or,…they didn’t know the answer and didn’t care to seek to know and understand it. BOTH..Both are equally sinful and not the renewed mind a soldier of Christ is to have to be fit and ready. GOD has provided the Canon of Scripture…The Holy Bible. God’s revelation of Himself to us preserved in written form. HIS WORD. The litmus paper for loving God with all our mind begins with seeking Him in His Word. A seeking that cares to know Him. NOT going through the motions because christians are suppose to read their Bibles but rather a tenacious heartfelt pursuit with vigorous mental effort to seek Him in His word. YES, it’s only by the work of The Holy Spirit where OUR spiritual eyes are opened to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ…the one who takes center stage in the pages of scripture. It is a work of grace by the Holy Spirit given by God……….that comes to the one who sincerely seeks HIM with all their mind. You care to know, you care to pursue, you ask His help to understand, you ponder and meditate on His word BOTH for attaining a firm grasp on understanding it (Psalm 119:15) “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Too have it formed in you so that you think biblically and thereby act accordingly as His image bearer reflecting more of Him who satisfies your soul above all else. You live it out. It is our created purpose. To know Him…the one who created us…and the more we know Him the more we rejoice in Him, the more we enjoy Him and thereby the more abiding satisfaction and peace we have in our lives that bear the great and highly privileged responsibility to reflect HIM in this world. Such a mind, fit on seeking God in His word and ready to obey as TRUTH is revealed is a soldier who LOVES God with all their mind regardless of how long you have followed CHRIST. A 10 yr old saint can love God with all their mind same as a saint who has walked with the Lord for decades. It’s not the measure of mental intellect that constitutes loving God will all your mind it’s the thoughtful mental energy put forth to pursue and meditate on God’s Word with resulting obedience to the revealed truth God has given. Any knowledge of God’s word, great or small, only has virtue so long as it stems from a love for Him. THAT’S what Paul means when he says (1 Corinthians 13:2) “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” From here, our Lord gets a bit more aggressive. The other gospel accounts exhibit it more so than Mark’s, but nevertheless it is something Jesus takes very seriously and gives stern warning to the Pharisees but also a warning all can and should take to heart….and even place as a litmus test for our hearts. 2) SECOND POINT (Mark 12:38-40)- Litmus paper strip for the heart Place your eyes on (verses 38-40). - read What is your religion about? What is the central driving force of all your physical and spiritual life? JESUS sternly rebukes Scribes and in Matthew’s gospel the Pharisees are included. I mean he is raising his voice in doing so and not just a little. Bold exclamation points after the word hypocrites follow each given woe. JESUS hates the evil of those who claim to be lovers of God and don’t live in accordance to it. He hates every evil but this one I believe especially. The Pharisees and Scribes were ones in positions to lead the people in the counsel of God’s word…Looked to as examples of worshipers of God and those who directed people in their worship of God…and instead they abused the people and leveraged their position to draw attention to themselves. Whether it was the distinguishing, eye catching, garments they purposely wore to portray an elite piousness, where they sat at esteemed gatherings, the props given to them when greeted, showboating their ability to pray at length OR exploiting those who were socially discarded while pretending to be pious in the process rather than actually standing up for them…. IT WAS ALL ABOUT THEM…they were at center stage. In short, The DRIVING FORCE OF their religion THE HEART OF IT ALL was all about showcasing themselves. An evil Jesus hates and strictly warns against. “They will receive the greater condemnation.” And there is no misinterpretation of that. Those who should know better because they have the knowledge of God’s Word, God’s Law and YET make their belief system about themselves. “They will receive the greater condemnation.” It’s what the writer in Hebrews says (Hebrews 10:26-31). “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Outraged the spirit of grace. …DID YOU HEAR THAT? outrage and grace in the same sentence.!! The equivalent today is those who leverage their knowledge of God’s word for personal gain. To Bolster whatever selfish ambition is DRIVING THEM. Self Promotion is at the HEART of ALL their religion. Not Christ. They showcase themselves and place Jesus’s name on it. “They will receive the greater condemnation.” And…Equally OUTRAGEOUS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD are those who claim the name of Christ, call themselves Christians, have been baptized, go to church and so forth and YET do not take sin seriously but worse yet give themselves to it with an attitude of I’m saved by grace. It’s all good in the Hood. Neither is likened to a regenerate heart and certainly not a soldier of Christ who loves God with all their heart. It is likened rather to those who would have a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries of God. That is their end. BUT those who love God,…with all their heart….they desire more than anything for their lives to make—much—of—Him. Their religion is about Magnifying the name of Jesus Christ and the gospel. They showcase Jesus’s words and His work…place him at center stage where He belongs. Doing so is at the heart of what DRIVES every decision, every motive, every pursuit. (2 Corinthians 5:9) “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” ( 2 Timothy 2:4) “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” A soldier of Christ, at whatever age they are, young or old, who loves God with all their heart and therefore driven from the heart with aim to please Him in all they do…to the praise and glory of God…is a soldier who is ready and fit to serve. JESUS takes a seat now…in the closing passages or our text this morning. And it’s a seat mindfully selected by Him who places a close eye on an example for us to follow. Demonstrating where our strength is to lie. Our 3rd point I intend to expound on…of a litmus test on loving God with all our strength. 3) THIRD POINT (Mark 12:41-44) Litmus paper strip for our strength Let’s look at these closing passages together shall we? (Verse 41-44) - read NOW, as previously stated, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength always operate together…for this widow’s heart, soul and mind are certainly engaged in this act of love…BUT we can distinctly draw focused attention to her attribute of strength present here which actually is seemingly not present. HER strength, her ability, her vitality is essentially void as an impoverished widow, who possesses only two small copper coins that make a penny…YET she is commended in the giving of those two small copper coins far above all the many rich people who gave large sums out of their abundance. What does she have that they didn’t? They put in large sums. Money can do a lot. We are in a time of crisis as a Nation..right?…MOST, if not all here, will receive a stimulus check from the government as a strengthening aide during this trying time. It likely won’t make the stock markets….STRONG…BUT the intent is to help strengthen the crippling economy some to carry us through this pandemic. And LISTEN, if I receive one, I don’t intend to returning it. It will help buy food, pay bills, compensate for loss of hours not worked…money helps. There is a lot of ability and might money brings. A lot of strengthening to a hurting situation. BUT the large sum they gave didn’t compare to the two small copper coins worth a penny the poor widow gave. What does she have that they didn’t? E-v-e-r-y bit..of her strength, her ability that she possessed…she gives to the Lord. What she does have,…as meager and insignificant as it was,…is given and entrusted entirely to God whom she trusts to provide for her. She is not holding on to any of it. ALL she possessed ….was placed in God. THAT is what Jesus is drawing the disciples attention to…and ours as well I hope. Where does your strength lie? When we are young and full of vigor their is a lot we can accomplish….BUT are we to feel less useful in God’s hands when the aging body steadily depletes our strength. (Psalm 71:9) “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” The Psalmist writes…Is that the trajectory of a soldier of Christ?…strong for Him in their youth but weak for Him in old age or as a new believer even. It is,…if your strength is determined by your state of health or current age or maturity…..BUT it is constant when your strength is supplied by God. (Psalm 84:5-7) “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca (a barren desert) they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools… (implying a mighty force of life and vitality this strength from God brings). They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.” (Strength to strength - all through life; each one - wherever you are at in your walk with Christ) When your strength is in God, it is entirely expended back to Him out of love for Him who is the source of your strength which brings life and vitality wherever you go to His glory. What does this look like in the everyday? Out of passion for Him. ALL that you are able to do, WHATEVER skill and giftedness He has blessed you with AT any age, WHATEVER resources are at your disposal AT ALL hours of the day ARE happily recognized to be at HIS disposal and readily available for His use. This is a soldier of Christ who loves God with all their strength who is fit and ready to serve. CONCLUSION We’ll conclude this morning with the litmus test for the soul. Loving God with all your soul. Which simply is being satisfied in Him. Seeing yourself as a redeemed soul, rescued by JESUS CHRIST. Your Soul is comforted knowing that your life is not your own. YOU gladly lift up your soul to He who has enlisted you in His army. YOU belong to God as His servant who loves God with all their Heart, all their Soul, all their Mind and all their Strength having each operating together in a manner that you are readily tuned in to the Spirit of Christ within to answer with a mouth of wisdom….. …….But wait a minute pastor. My soul longs to operate perpetually in this manner…but I know I fall short…I fall short on each. I’ve failed each litmus test. ME TOO. The gospel answers back however. YOU SEE when we fail to do so, through the gospel of Jesus Christ we are able to love The Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength by Repentance. The heart is struck with conviction of sin, knowledge of the sin comes to our mind to which we confess with the strength of speech as a distressed soul downcast with godly sorrow in need of forgiveness and restoration by the atoning work of Jesus Christ who gave his life and bore our sin on the cross that we may have the assurance of forgiveness and be reconciled to God. TRUE REPENTANCE is loving God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength that restores a soldier of Christ to be fit and ready once again with settled confidence in God to not meditate beforehand on how we are to answer our adversaries, because we have a trusting resolve in God that He will give us a mouth and wisdom, which none of our adversaries will be able to contradict. ….whether it be an adversary at the close of the age, OR our adversary the devil accusing us..…bringing suggestions to fuel ungodly fears… God will supply the words of CHRIST (1 Corinthians 1:24) “who is the power of God and the wisdom of God” to silence your adversaries AND ALSO wisdom to quiet a frightful soul frazzled by events happening around them who need to hear those words of peace and hope spoken through you from CHRIST who is our peace and our only hope. Fellow christian, fellow soldier in Christ…be fit and ready to serve Him. - PRAY COMMUNION Benediction (Joshua 5:13-14)
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