-Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
-Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
-Luke 10:27…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.
These three New Testament Scripture passages all quote Jesus speaking words that would have been familiar to his Jewish hearers, the Shema. They’re words still used repeatedly in Jewish prayers. They all include loving God with your heart and soul which seems obvious. The inclusion of mind and/or strength is the variant that got my attention. I understand the access to mind and strength more than I do heart and soul.
This is the age-old debate: Is it strength of commitment or the exercise of the mind that fills the heart and soul? How do we figure out what’s required of us to prove our sincerity? It would seem even these Bible authors had their own opinion on that. Mind and strength? Mind? Strength? Do I have to choose one or the other?
Hillel was a famous religious leader in Jewish history. He was asked to recite the whole law for a dedicated student who would prove his sincerity and his physical strength by listening to it all while standing on one leg. That’s a funny mind picture isn’t it? Hillel’s short answer was probably pretty welcome to him; “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
This is the whole law…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…” Now go find a comfortable spot, read, study and think. God will begin to write his whole commentary in your mind and on your heart to strengthen your soul
Bartimaeus is sitting by the side of the road begging so an approaching crowd is good but when he hears Jesus is with them he begins to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
*49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
*51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him
*52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
I forgot to add my tag to The Red Thread last Sunday but it would have been something to do with eyesight because I saw a connection between the vision of James and John and blind Bartimaeus. There’s more than one kind of blindness.
It was interesting that Jesus asked the exact same question in both of these stories; “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus really wanted them to focus on their answer to his question. James and John’s vision was of a shared glory. Bartimaeus only knew his vision was dependent on Jesus. Both were responses of faith but are they either/or options?
Instead of making it an either/or option I wonder if the point of these two stories following one another is to show they don’t compete with but complete one another? It’s a new vision of what a whole [holy] person looks like, complete with total dependence AND shared glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 15: 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
My answer to Jesus’s question? I want the complete package, please.
*36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he
*42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here’s the cliff notes: The disciples have left their lives behind to follow Jesus. They believe he is Messiah. They’ve found security in Jesus. He’s been the assurance of their sacrifice but now the question about who can be saved, and how, has rattled them. They’ve spent this time with Jesus waiting for that revelation, learning and seeing firsthand the powers Jesus has…even over death.
Now Jesus is telling the disciples what the chief priests and teachers of the law have planned for him in Jerusalem. It’s not good but it’s also not as real to them as what they’ve been taught their whole lives that Messiah would be revealed as a conquering king. Jesus asks James and John – “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s clear from their reply they’re seeing “glory” in their future, rather than destruction. They don’t see how the final demonstration of Messiah’s power could happen any other way.
It reminded me how easy it is in life to assume we know how Jesus will reveal his power and miss the reality of seeing it happen in our lives.
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 21… “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Isn’t it odd for Jesus to ask “Why do you call me good?” The reality is even the perfect son of God recognized how flawed the human perception of goodness is…even when it comes to approaching God. We can’t help but evaluate God’s promised goodness by His performance. That’s tricky to navigate in the history of the Bible and in our own lives. Jesus asked the rich young man to do more than make the choice between possessions and poverty. The “one thing” he lacked was the ability to see his treasure was the reality of a future with God beyond his own goodness.
• Alpha – Beginning
31…“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”
42 – 48 Dire Warnings & Results
V48 “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ [Isaiah 66:24]
• Omega – Finale
49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other. ”
Alpha (Α) and omega (Ω) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title of Christ and God in the Book of Revelation.
This red thread begins with Jesus telling his disciples once again of what’s in store for him…coming death and resurrection. V31 sounds like an ending, but Christ is the beginning of our journey to God and that’s how the Alpha and Omega came to my mind. ..but there’s that in-between.
We live today with the same life circumstances Jesus was cautioning them about in Mark 9. “Our” life in-between Alpha and Omega is packed with arguing, ambition, acceptance, tolerance and the reality of how critical our choices are. They’re so critical in fact some versions quote Isaiah three times in verses 44 and 46 and 48.
That in-between life is not just filler. It’s time the Alpha has given us for salt and fire to purify our choices and teach us how to be “salt among [ourselves], and be at peace with each other” while we look forward to the last word, the Omega, an eternity lived in the presence of God the Son, God the Spirit and God the Father.
Mark 9 The Red Thread
16 “What are you arguing with them about?
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”…“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
29… This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Here are the characters of the story:
• Religious leaders hassling the disciples for being ineffective
• The frustrated disciples because they’re ineffective
• A devoted father unable to get help for his son
• A frustrated Jesus
It seems studying a red letter version of Mark requires going through the book more slowly to experience how the little parts tucked in along with the big deal parts are tied together with that same red thread of Jesus’s words.
Chapter 9 seems to be about recognizing the challenge that faith is greater than what you currently comprehend. That certainly happened to Peter, James and John on the mountain with Jesus. That challenge continues with the words of the devoted father, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and even the disciples own frustrated words “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Faith wasn’t the issue. It was an issue of maintenance that frustrated Jesus enough to confront them with this truth. It’s prayer that maintains the connection of faith to the power of God…”only by prayer.”