Mark 12:28-34 discusses the first and second greatest commandment. Mark who is writing to a primarily Gentile audience is the only one of the Gospel writers who at the front end of His quote of the greatest commandment includes verse 4 of Deuteronomy 6 in his answer. It states, “Hear/shema, O Israel, the Lord/Adonai our God/Elohenu, the Lord/Adonai is one/echad.”
This part of the greatest commandment is quoted regularly by Jews who take their faith seriously. The Gospel of Matthew which was primarily written to a Jewish audience does not include this portion. So why would Mark include it?
Mark is wanting his Gentile audience to become familiar with this piece of liturgy, which the Jews would have already been very familiar with. It was and is quoted regularly in any synagogue.
The Jews did not need to grow accustomed to hearing this spoken, but the new Gentile believers who were now attending synagogue to hear Moses and the prophets read and learn about their new faith needed to know and become comfortable with it. They needed to know that what they were hearing on a weekly basis was not of human origin but comes straight from the Scriptures.
We need to know why we do things even still today. We need to make sure that we are not doing what we do just for the sake of doing or holding to a man made tradition, but because it is part of our Faith and from Scripture.
Three basic questions we should ask are: 1) Do we do what we do because we have always done it that way or because we see it being done in the pages of Scripture? 2) If we are doing things that are not in Scripture, why are we and when and how did we start? 3) If we are not doing things in Scripture why aren’t we and when and how did we stop?
1 John 2:3-6 states, “Now we know that we have come to know Him by this–if we keep (obey) His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep (obey) His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps (obeys) His word, in him the love of God is truly made perfect. We know that we are in Him by this–whoever claims to abide in Him must walk (live) just as He walked (lived).” Yeshua, the perfect Son of God in whom the love of God was perfect, is our role model on how to live this life. He always obeyed the Father and never broke one of His Father’s commandments. He never broke the Law of the Kingdom. Therefore, He practiced the Shabbat, the Feasts (Moed), the New Moons and all the commands of His Father that applied to Him as a man of Israel. He was not a priest, farmer or women so none of those laws applied to Him.
If He is our perfect example on how to live the life of a citizen of the Kingdom then shouldn’t we live as He lived, in perfect obedience to the Father?
Mark wanted His readers to understand that their salvation/Faith is from the Jews. Even Yeshua said to the women at the well that “salvation is of the Jews”. After all, in the first century we were first known as The Way, a sect of Judaism. Mark wanted them to understand their new Faith and not reinvent it to look more like the pagan world they were familiar with. Unfortunately, much of that was done and now we find ourselves having to ask the three basic questions given above.
Yeshua said in John 14:6, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” We need to keep in mind that loving God has always been tied to obeying Him. This was not a new concept that Yeshua gave.
If we love the God who redeemed us. Than the natural thing to do is obey the One who redeemed us. We are saved by grace, but His grace and obedience to His commands are not opposites. Remember, we are saved unto good works. We are saved with the understanding that obedience comes next.
We have an obligation to the One we love. Our obligation is to live as He says live and to love Him the way He says to love Him. He gets to decide what that love looks like, not us.
It does not matter what is natural to us, what is convenient for us, what is traditional for us. What matters is what He says pleases Him. After all, we do want to please our Father. We do want what we do to be pleasing in His eyes.
Take a chance and try loving Him His way and see what He will do. Be a man or woman after the heart of the One you love. Love Him the way He says He wants to be loved. Don’t get tangled up in the way man says to love Him, the way we have always done it, but search the Scriptures and see what He says.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yeshua (the Living Word) is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So will His ways ever change? No! Let us love Him by His standards, not our own.
So “make the most of every opportunity”. Let’s look at that phrase and what surrounds it. It comes from Ephesians 5:16.
The word for ‘opportunity’ is ‘kairos’ in the Greek, which is the same word used for ‘moed’/feast days in the Septuagint. Let that sink in for a minute. Let’s replace ‘opportunity’ with ‘moed’/feast days in the phrase, “making the most of every moed/feast day.
These set times are opportunities for Elohim’s people to awake from our sleep to do the will of Him who called us. What is that will? If we look earlier in Ephesians 4 we see in verses 23 and 24 that Paul says, that we are “to be made new in our attitude of (our) minds and we are to put on our new selves, which is created to be like Elohim in true righteousness and holiness.” Then at the beginning of chapter 5 he tells us to be “imitators of Elohim”.
We are created in the image of God so we are to imitate Him in all holiness and righteousness by loving as Messiah loved us and became an offering and sacrifice to God (5:2). So the will of God is for us to love in true purity of heart.
We find more of this idea in Romans 13:11-14 that begins by bidding us to understand the present time in which we live because it is time for us to wake up from our slumber because our salvation is near. Then in chapter 15 verses 4-7 we find this, “For everything that was written in the past was written to instruct us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures (the Old Testament whose foundation is the Torah) we might have hope. May the Elohim who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Yeshua the Messiah, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the Elohim and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Accept one another just as Messiah accepted you, in order to bring praise to Elohim.”
So we see that Elohim’s appointed times, His moed, His feast days, are opportunities for us to love one another and come together in unity of heart and word. To have occasion to speak psalms, hymns and spiritual songs together with one heart.
We are called to love Him with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves (to love one another in the body). We are to know the times in which we live and truly the times are evil so let us make the most of the opportunities Elohim gives us in His appointed times to come together and love Him and one another for our salvation, His return and Kingdom, is near.