Burnt Offerings and Sacrifices

Today's devotion from Mark 12. What is the most important part of our belief? While most of us wouldn't answer in a selfish way, the truth is that far too many believers look at their faith as a series of things they must do in order to benefit by the hands of God. This tendency lends itself to a slow and steady drift to legalism. If our goal is to do things in order to gain, then legalism teaches us the equation. Offer this sacrifice + say this prayer = blessing from God. But the faith God demands is not in that we add blessings or religious status to our lives, but that we utterly give our lives away to Him.

Many of these questioning Jesus did not understand this. When they asked for the greatest command, they were looking for an opening in Jesus' theological posture they could exploit and attack. Unfortunately for them, Jesus had no weakness. When He answered the question, there was no hint of legalism. There was only easily recognizable truth. Jesus pointed them to Deuteronomy 6:4, a verse known as the shema. It was a doxology meant to be taught to children from a young age. Beyond that, it was the basis or summation of the first four of the Ten Commandments.

This is striking about these verses in Mark's Gospel is not that Jesus took them to Scripture, but that Jesus was pleasantly surprised to hear this scribe agree with him. The scribe did not argue with Jesus or try to find some flaw in what He had said. Instead, the man warmly embraced Jesus' words about both the Greatest Command and the second like it, which happens to be the basis for the other six commandments.

In a mob bent on destroying Jesus, He has encountered a seed of faith that contains within it the hope of the Kingdom. Jesus considered the scribes words as wise and encouraged him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Mark 12:34, CSB) This encounter reminds and encourages us because we see that faith can be found in many unexpected places. It may be a scribe numbered among those plotting Jesus' death, or around the water cooler as inappropriate jokes fly. Regardless of place or situation, the gospel can be at work inching the most unlikely toward the Kingdom. For this reason, your testimony matters in all places.