Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Then He made a humble entry to Jerusalem on a young donkey with his disciples. People threw their garments over the donkey, and Jesus sat on it. Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!
Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!” (Mark 11:9-10)
Then Jesus arrived at the temple, and entered into it. He saw the temple was turned into a market place. He stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17)
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill Him. But they were afraid of Him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. However, as Jesus got into the temple, they challenged Jesus, and demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?” Jesus replied, I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!” This silenced them because they were afraid of the people around. They could not deny John’s baptism before the people.
Then Jesus began teaching and revealing the true nature of the religious leaders at that time, who were self-serving and self-centered instead of serving the God with their hearts and minds. On the other hand, the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus into saying something for which He could be arrested. Thus, they sent their people to ask: Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus answered, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Mark 12:17), which completely amazed them and silenced again.
One of the teachers of religious law was standing there carefully listening to His teaching. Jesus was teaching with real authority–quite unlike the teachers of religious law. Although the teacher knew a lot about the laws, he had one question, always lingering in his mind. Among the numerous laws, if one law is picked, which one should be. In other words, which law is the most important? With courage, he approached to Jesus, and asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied without hesitation: “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Jesus started his answer by telling, “The LORD our God is the one and only LORD.” Before doing anything, the first thing we have to do is to believe that Our God is the one and only God. There is no other god before Him. Yes, this is the foundation of all our faith and belief.
Then Jesus continued, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) This is not a suggestion or recommendation. We must love the LORD with everything that we have – heart, soul, mind and our physical strength.
Jesus warned before “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24) Our love to God cannot be divided, because God is one and only one God. Especially, the word “love” in this verse and the word “love” in the above (i.e., Mark 12:30) are an identical word, which is “agape” love. The same word is also used in the well-known verse: For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). The agape love is not cheap. God sacrificed His one and only Son to save us from the eternal death with His agape love.
We all remember Jesus healed Peter, who was deeply hurt after denying Jesus three times. Jesus approached Peter with this very agape love, and He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter could not answer because he failed not just once, but three times. Peter cowardly denied Jesus in order to save him in fear. Thus, Peter honestly answered to Jesus, “I love you (with phileo love).” That is, I loved you not as you loved us on cross, but at most, I could love you as I love my other human brothers. It was true, and is still true. Peter is not alone. We are all humans, and we cannot love Jesus as Jesus loved us because it is beyond our human domain. Our love is easily conditional as Peter did. Peter opportunistically chose his love: protecting himself instead of loving and protecting Jesus. Peter was weak and coward. However, after Peter received the Holy Spirit, he was completely transformed. He truly loved Jesus as Jesus loved him on the cross. The transformed Peter was able to convert three thousands one evening. He boldly proclaimed the Jesus’ love without fear and hesitation till his own death on cross.
Jesus, then, continued, “the second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Surprisingly, the word choice of the “love” is also the same agape, the love of God. This gives a profound meaning to us. We should love our fellow Christians and non-Christians with the love of Jesus, not the love that Peter had. Can we really love our neighbors as Jesus loves us? The answer is obviously no, as long as we try to love others with our own might and effort. We simply are not capable of loving others as Jesus loves us. Only is it possible when we are under complete control of the Holy Spirit.
Oh, God. Please pour your Holy Spirit on us. We want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we are just sinful mortals. However, in you and your spirit, we are no long a mere sinful mortal, but we are transformed to your holy instrument so that we can love our neighbors and even enemies as Jesus loves us. Help us and be merciful to us. We need you. We want to love you and others as Jesus loves us. Continue transform us day by day to be your humble and holy instrument completely filled with the love of Jesus. May your name be glorified through our lives in you. Amen.
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
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