Devotional by Lauren Webb
Scripture for Today: Mark 12:33-34 (NIV), “…and to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God. And no one dared to question him any longer.”
Old University Hall smelled faintly of musty air and lemon polish. The wooden seats creaked as attendees shifted back and forth, waiting for the debate. The topic was a hot button issue with emotions running high.
The panel included top theologians, professors, and ministers with multiple books in circulation on the subject. Speakers reviewed notes, while people from multiple denominations filled the audience, hoping to hear wisdom or have their point proven.
In the balcony, two men who were not previously acquainted ended up sharing the only space left. They sat on the floor shoulder to shoulder. Like most forced encounters, it was a little awkward, and they spent some time delicately finding out where the other stood on the issue.
Then one man said, “You tell me about the Jesus you know, and I’ll tell you about the Jesus I know.”
I remember thinking how brave this was, and yet how presumptuous. Here we were in a great Christian institution, obviously drawn to a Christian theological issue. The conversation grabbed my interest and brought Mark 12 to mind.
If you haven’t read Mark 12:28-34 recently, take some time now. The section of Scripture I usually focus on is Jesus’ first two answers. Where there is a commanding principle in the soul, there is then a disposition in everything we do. Simply put, if we love God, we will love people.
However, it is the third statement Jesus makes that causes my breath to catch.
Here we find a debate in full swing. Both sides (Pharisees and Sadducees) were included in the top religious minds of the time. They were the authority on matters of the law. To say they despised one another would be an understatement.
However, one man (in verse 28) must have been different, for it seems he did not ask Jesus about the most important command in order to stir up trouble, to prove his own worth, or to sway the argument to his side. This man seems to ask Jesus for the sake of getting to know Him better. It was from this disposition that Christ saw he answered wisely.
Christ’s response was piercing: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
It is terrifying to think about being so close, but still not a part of the very real and very present kingdom of God. He was missing one thing. He did not know who he was talking to. He didn’t know the real Jesus. He didn’t know that Jesus was both God and his Savior.
There are people I dearly love who are like this scribe in Mark 12. They have the right words, and they attend all the right programming. But they do not know the real Jesus.
Wherever you serve right now—whether in student ministry, connection ministry, preschool ministry, or you’re a Bible study leader, make sure you ask those in your care who Jesus is to them. Do it from a place of love and unbiased assumptions, but always ask the question.
There is great hope for those who make good use of the light they have and go as far as that will carry them. God’s grace will lead them on to His eternal kingdom and salvation. But we have a deep responsibility to share with those around us who we know the real Jesus to be.
What became of the scribe or the man in the balcony we do not know, but we are hopeful that they willingly took the hint to really examine who they have put their trust in. Our prayer is that both men found that the greatest command of the Old Testament is also the greatest command of the gospel.
And because this is our commanding principle in the soul, there is then a disposition in everything we do. So, always be sure to ask the question.
Prayer Challenge: Ask God to give you three people to pray for who need to know the real HIM. Write their names down. Pray for them every day. Ask God for the opportunity to share with them who He is and how wonderful His love is.
Practice Challenge: Find three friends to practice sharing about who Jesus is to you. Tell them up front you need to practice getting it out. Get some feedback. Where can you be clearer? How can you be more open with body language and facial expressions?