God, Worthy of Love and Glory (Mark 12:28-34)
I.) Live To The Glory of God
This morning we are faced with the answer to the question everyone desires to know, and that is this, what is the purpose of your existence? What does the One, who gives to all life and breath and all things, expect you to do with the life, and the breath, and the things He has given you? What does God almighty demand of you? He commands you to love Him, and to live for Him, and to enjoy Him with every faculty of your being.
The purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. There is not a single person alive exempt from this command. There also is neither a single person who has ever lived, nor a person whoever will live that has been excused from obeying this charge of God. All things have been created by Him, and all things have been created for Him. He alone is worthy of all honor. He alone is worthy of all praise. He alone is worthy of all glory.
It was Jonathan Edwards that said:
“God glorifies Himself toward the creature also in two ways: 1.) By appearing to…their understanding. 2.) In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which He makes of Himself…God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart.”
This statement from Edwards led John Piper to conclude, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied with Him.” The God of the Bible seeks His own glory, and He will not give it to another.
He says in Exodus 20:3-5:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
In Isaiah 42:8, God declares:
“I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.”
He later says in Isaiah 48:11:
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? and My glory I will not give to another.”
To put it simply, God is all about Himself. It is sin for us to seek our own glory, but not God. For Him to glorify anyone but Himself would be sin. God has been glorifying Himself among the Godhead before He laid the foundations of the earth. Jesus said in John 17:5, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”
One person put it this way, “For human beings self-worship is the worst sin, for God it is the epitome of His righteousness.”
The foundation of the Christian life is before us, and it is a life which is to be characterized by a love and pursuit of God. This genuine love for God will establish and produce a sincere love for fellow our man.
II.) Understanding the Scribes
Let us now consider the text we are in, because this is exactly what Jesus is teaching. We again find ourselves amid a dialogue between Jesus Christ and His opponents; His opponents being the Chief priests, scribes, and elders. They want to destroy Him, and so far, they have attempted to do so by ensnaring Him in a statement over religion and politics hoping He would say something that would result in His execution at the hands of the Romans. He however, has evaded their trap and exposed their hypocrisy.
He was then confronted by the Sadducees, who were the wealthy aristocrats of the time and held all the places of prominence among the temple. They were conservative in their use of the Law, but liberal in their interpretation of it. They denied the reality of the resurrection from the dead believing Moses never taught such a doctrine and so they sought to make Jesus look like a fool by asking an utterly ridiculous question about a woman with seven husbands. Their intention was to make Him look stupid, but they were the ones who were put to silence when Jesus exposed two things about them: They neither understand the Scripture, nor the power of God. We are now faced with a Scribe who for some reason, given the two previous accounts, has the courage to ask Jesus Christ a question.
Scribes, also known as lawyers, doctors of the Law, or teachers of the Law, are often associated with the Pharisees, but they are not necessarily Pharisees. To be a scribe meant that one held an office, whereas to be a Pharisee meant one was a part of a Jewish political party. There were both Scribes of the Pharisees and Scribes of the Sadducees, though it is true that most Scribes were Pharisees.
It is important for us to understand some of the history of the scribes, especially the nature of their office, and their status among the people. The distinctive of their office first came on the seen in the book of Nehemiah with Ezra the scribe, and the Levitical Priests, who took up the task of teaching the Law to the Jews returning from exile. Through time there arose another group of scribes who devoted themselves to the preservation, transcription, and explaining of the Law. When the priests were engulfed by paganism during the Hellenistic period one historian says:
“…the scribes became zealous defenders of the Law and the true teachers of the common people. By New Testament times they held undisputed sway as the recognized exponents of the Law and revered representatives of Judaism. They received the deep respect of the people…Proudly they claimed the positions of first rank, sought the public acclaim of the masses, and dressed in long robes like the nobility…accepting the Law as the basis for the regulation of all life, they made it their primary task to study, interpret, and expound that Law as the rule for daily life.”
The Scribes were well versed in the Law, and filled in areas where the law was not clear, which brought about the self-righteous system of the Pharisees. Matthew 22:34-35 tells us that, “when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him.” Testing here is the Greek word Peirazo (pi-rad-zo), which simply means to examine or to test. It stems from a word that implies to pierce something through. We get the picture of someone trying to test the quality of something by attempting to puncture it. These men are coming after Christ hoping He will give way in some area that will assist them in bringing about His demise.
III.) The Shema
The Scribe of our text heard the argument between Jesus and the Sadducees, “and recognized that He answered them well…” He knew that Jesus was correct in His interpretation of Moses’ writings. He is now going ask a question to test the quality of His teaching regarding the Law of Moses. They believed the gospel Jesus was preaching was contrary to the Law of Moses, so this would have been an attempt to make Him look like an enemy to the Law of God given through Moses.
The Scribes had concluded that there were 613 laws found in the Pentateuch written through Moses by the direction of God. There was constant debate among the legalistic thinkers as to which of the Laws were greatest, so they deemed some more important than others and sought to obtain their own righteousness through obedience to those ones believing it to appease God. This Scribe is coming to Jesus and asking, of the 613 commandments, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” In other words, “What is the greatest commandment so we can direct our attention to it and be obedient to it?” “What should we be doing to be right with God?”
“Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 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. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
Make no mistake about what Jesus did here. He did not throw aside most of the Law. Christ made it clear what His intentions for the Law were in Matthew 5:17-18:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
What is the greatest commandment someone needs to obey to be right before the Living God? They need to love Him with the totality of their being. He must have the preeminence in our hearts. He must be given supremacy through our souls. He must be the dominating object of our minds. He must have the superiority in our strength.
The heart denotes the core of a person. All thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, and endeavors flow through it.
God commands that its flow be directed at Him and no one else. The soul should be understood as the seat of emotion, which means that all our feelings should find their satisfaction in Him only. The mind is the faculty of understanding and means that the mind of the creation is to be consumed with its Creator and none other. The strength of a person is clearly physical ability. Our earthly lives are to be lived for Him and Him alone. God is always to be loved intelligently, emotionally, willingly, and actively. This is the foremost commandment.
The scribe asked for one, but Jesus gives him two, because the great and second commandment from the God we are to love with the entirety of our being is to “love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” We are to love our fellowman. We are to love them sincerely and perfectly in every way.
Understand what Jesus has just done with this scribe. The scribe wants to know, out of all the commandments contained in the Pentateuch, which one was the greatest. Jesus said to him, “All of them!” The 613 laws are summarized by 10, and the 10 are summarized by these 2. In Matthew 22:40, Jesus says, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets.”
IV.) To Love is Better than Sacrifice
“The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”He acknowledged that Jesus is correct. The meaning of his last statement is profound, it is true, and it is this: It is better to love God and obey Him then to disregard God and placate Him through His gracious ceremonial provision for sin.
The reason burnt offerings and sacrifices had to be done is because sin was committed, and the reason sin was committed was because God was not loved with the all the heart, soul, mind, and strength of His people. Rather than seeking to love Him and obey His commandments they would disobey Him and bring an offering to atone for their sin. They would obey the regulations of the sacrifice, but refuse to obey the commandments out of a love for God so a sacrifice would not be necessary.
God says in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.”
Proverbs 21:3 states, “To do righteousness and justice
Is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.”
In Hosea 6:6 He declares, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
The prophet Micah says, “With what shall I come to the Lord
And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Presenting burnt offerings and sacrifices did not demonstrate that you loved God, they were the evidence that you did not. It was the proof that you did not love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and that you did not love your neighbor as yourself. To love and obey is better than sacrifice.
V.) The Gospel makes alive what the Law Kills
This scribe acknowledged this truth, and the text says, “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” To gain access to the kingdom of God, God commands men and women everywhere to love Him whole heartedly throughout the entirety of their lives, and to love their neighbor with utter perfection. This Scribe acknowledged this demand and was striving to live according to it to establish his own righteousness. He was near the kingdom, but not in it.
We must see that, merely acknowledging the demand God places upon all humanity is good, but not satisfactory. Striving to live for God according to His law is great, but it will not achieve salvation. It is realizing your own inability to meet the demand of the law of God which is essential to you entering His kingdom.
What is the Law? It is the expression of who God is. It is God revealing to us His holy character, nature, and will. It is a mirror which reflects to us the perfect righteousness of God. It is God’s standard of Himself that He sets forth and says, “You want to be with Me? Then this is what you must be, and if you are not these things you must die, because I AM good, righteous, and just. You are to be holy for I AM holy!”
What then does the law do with us? It kills us! What happens when His perfect righteousness is reflected upon us? We all die! What happens when God’s glory is the standard we are to measure up to? We fall short! We are incapable of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength throughout our lives, and it is impossible for us to flawlessly love our neighbor as ourselves. The Law does not save us, it exposes us for who we are and demands our death.
Romans 3:20 says, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
Paul says in Romans 7:9-12, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me;for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
Galatians 3:24 reveals that the intent of the law is to show our need of pardon from God’s wrath and to lead us to repentance and faith in the Savior, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.”
The law of God kills, but the gospel of God makes alive. God is both the demander of death and provider of life. The message of the gospel brings to life that which the law kills. Out of His love, the Father gave His Son to save those who do not love Him. Out of His love, the Son willingly gave Himself by becoming a man obedient to the point of death on the cross in the place of those who deserve to die for falling short of God’s glory.
As a Man, He did what we could not and lived a life loving God with the totality of His being. He loved the Lord His God, with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. He loved His neighbor as Himself perfectly and without flaw. He went to the cross a righteous Man yet hung upon it as if He were One cursed by God for never loving Him. He became our sin. He became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse of the Law.
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
He rendered Himself as guilt offering and poured out Himself to death and bore the sin of those incapable of loving God.
Jesus tells this scribe, who acknowledges the command and is striving to keep, but does not realize his inability, that he is not far from the kingdom of God, and “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” Venture literally means that no one had the courage to converse with Him. They were depressed and humiliated.
VI.) God, Worthy of Love and Glory
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 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. This is called Shema, and the entire Law hangs upon it. The self-righteous will never experience its weight, but sinners will be crushed by it. They will see what God requires of them and humbly acknowledge their utter inability. All confidence in themselves and hope for a future will be completely stripped from them. They will have but one request before God, “Have mercy on me a sinner!” In other words, “God, withhold from me what I rightly deserve!” He became our sin to satisfy the penalty for sin we deserve, so we would not have to experience His wrath. The mercy of God is found in Christ! He did this so we might become the righteousness of God in Him, so that we could live eternally with Him.
Why should we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Why should our chief purpose in life be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? He is worthy to be loved!
Romans 5:8-9 says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
1 John 4:10, 19 states, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love him, because He first loved us.”
Though we will falter in our love for Him throughout our lives, His love for us in Christ will never fail. Paul says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Since He first loved us, he must have preeminence in our hearts. All our thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, purposes, and endeavors should be directed at Him and no one else. He must be given supremacy through our souls. All our feelings should find their satisfaction in Him only. He must be the dominating object of our minds. All of our thoughts are to be held captive in Christ and none other. He must have the superiority in our strength. All our physical lives are to be loved for Him and Him alone.
We are to love Him intelligently, emotionally, willingly, and actively. That is the purpose of our lives. We are called to a life of loving and pursuing God, and out of that love and obedience will come a love for others with sincerity of heart.
Matthew Henry said this:
“Love is the leading affection of the soul; the love of God is the leading grace in the renewed soul. Where this is not, nothing else that is good is done, or done aright, or accepted, or done long. Loving God with all our heart, will engage us to everything by which he will be pleased.”
 Acts 17:25
 Mark 12:27
 Ezra 7:6, 10-11, 21; Nehemiah 8
 Zondervan Pictoral Bible Dictionary, Merrill Tenney; Page 761
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 3985
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 4008
 Mark 12:28
 Romans 10:1-3
 Mark 12:29-31
 1 Corinthians 5:21
 Galatians 3:13
 Isaiah 53:10-12
 Mark 12:34
 Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; NT Number: 5111
 Commentary on The Holy Bible, Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott; Page 196