- The sermon emphasizes the importance of loving Jesus with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, which is considered the greatest commandment.
- The preacher shares a personal testimony of encountering Jesus and encourages believers to nurture a close, affectionate, and understanding relationship with Him.
- The sermon also addresses the second greatest commandment, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, and posits that one cannot truly fulfill this without first loving Jesus completely.
- The sermon concludes with a call to show mercy to others, mirroring the mercy Jesus shows us, and includes a reflection on the Good Samaritan parable.
Well, I like to – this is a little bit unusual – but since my dad is here, I think it is appropriate that I just say a few words, just thanking him for being a dad and a mom as well. For I know what kind of suffering he went through to immigrate with virtually nothing in his pocket. And to, you know, his dad passed away when he was 15, so he was the man of a house of three other siblings and had to be mindful of them. He had to earn money to send back home and to immigrate and to bring his mom and all of his siblings from Korea. They’ve all been established here and blessed in many ways, and now 40 years later, he finally gets to enjoy some rest.
I know it’s going to be tough for my dad to rest, he’s a hard worker, but I pray that this last season of life will be the best season of his life spiritually in every way.
I also thank mom for being the glue and being the quiet supporter of dad. Because I don’t think dad could have achieved all that he did without the support of my mom, I’m just happy that I get to honor them while they’re visiting on this momentous occasion. So hopefully, you’ll get to see them more since they’re retired. They can travel more to California, both of his sons are here, and grandchildren are all here. So hopefully, we’ll get to fellowship more in the years to come.
Okay, if you could turn with me, if there’s nobody else, if you could turn with me to Mark 12, I’ll read a few verses starting in verse…
Mark 12:28-31. And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, this is asking Jesus, which commandment is the most important of all?
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, ESV)
Okay, let’s pray.
Lord, as we consider a new year, we’ve been asking how we should live out this year, what we should focus on in this new year.
Thank you for giving me these most precious verses. As we start out this year, we pray that you would reveal yourself through the truth of your Word because Jesus, you are the Word of God. We ask that you would meet every single one of us in this place. We pray that you would change us and charge us to go forward into this world in this new year.
Thank you, Lord. We avail ourselves to you now. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen..
So, I already kind of answered the question I wanted to start with.
What might God want us to focus on in 2024? I think you already know the answer. Many people have resolutions, goals, dreams, plans, whenever a year ends and a new year begins. But I think for the believer, it’s not a bad place to start.
When Jesus says, “These are the greatest commandments,” I think we would do well. Like if we were on a deserted island, we didn’t have access to the Bible.
If we just remembered and memorized these few verses, and we tried our best over the course of our lives to live them out, I think we would do well in life. I think it’s that monumental what Jesus is saying here. It says in verse 30, 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.
30 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.’ (Mark 12:30, ESV)
This is the first commandment. This is the greatest commandment. This is the most important commandment, bar none. It’s first in terms of being primary.
It’s also first in terms of importance. It is the greatest for a reason. And what is the second greatest commandment? You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31, ESV)
And there is an order here and a priority. So the bulk of this message, I will spend on the greatest, and we will touch upon at the end, the second. And a question that I want you to keep in mind as you listen today is what is the relationship between the greatest and the second greatest commandments? Why are they number one and number two in that order?
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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.’ (Mark 12:29-30, ESV)
And if you concluded that, you wouldn’t be wrong, because Jesus is the way to the Father. But I would say any time it says in scripture, ‘The Lord, Kurios, the Lord your God, love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’
I think, in particular, Jesus is saying he’s talking about himself. So, if I were to rephrase this a bit, love Jesus with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, all of your strength. That is the greatest commandment. Of course, because Jesus and God are one, it includes God the Father. But in particular, when the Lord is mentioned, we should automatically translate, ‘Oh, Jesus is talking about himself.’
Verse 30, it is the Lord your God, Jesus Christ. And so, how does Jesus want to be loved?
It is very obvious in Scripture. Four ways Jesus wants to be loved. First, with all of your heart, with all of my heart. Second, Jesus wants to be loved with all of your soul, and all of my soul. Third, Jesus wants to be loved with all of your mind, with all of my mind. Jesus wants to be loved with all of our collective strength.
And let’s define a bit what it means that Jesus wants to be loved in these four ways.
With all of your heart. The heart is the center of your spiritual life. And so, if you are not born again, if you’re not a believer, if you haven’t met Jesus yet, then this first commandment to love Jesus with your heart, you cannot do until your heart is revived, until it’s regenerated, until you can connect spiritually, heart to heart. You can’t obey this until you meet Jesus. Once you meet him, Jesus says, “I want all of your heart.” That’s what he’s saying.
And then, when it says all of your soul, this can be broadly speaking. We are a body, we are a soul, we are a spirit. But here, it’s focusing on the soul. And that can be broken down even further into mind, will, emotions. But because he talks about mind elsewhere and strength, I think here, in particular, Jesus is saying, love me with affection, your emotions.
So when you come into church and you hear about the Lord Jesus, it’s not a stimulation of your mind. It’s your heart being stirred and affections for Christ being stirred.
You’re not learning information about a principle. You’re trying to connect with a person. And when you meet a person, the affections must be there. Like when you meet your best friend, it’s not a kind of a casual, like a cold meeting. But like if you haven’t seen your best friend in a while, it’s like there’s this immediate affection. It’s like you’re so happy to see that person. It’s been so long. This is what Jesus is saying.
Love me like this, with all of your heart, the center of your spiritual life, but also love me with affection, your emotions, your soul.
He says, “Love me with all of your mind.” It means understand who I am. So when you first meet Jesus, you barely know him. Jesus says, “Understand who I am. Get to know me.” And how do we get to know him? We get to know him through the word of God and through prayer.
Those are the two primary means in which you know, get to understand who Jesus is. And you meditate on Him. You connect with Him, you pray to Him, you must know Scripture, you must pray. These are the ways we love Jesus with our mind.
And then when it says with all of our strength, this is with power, with force. It is not dragging your feet to open up your Bible. This is to the full extent of your ability and strength, you are trying your best to love Jesus.
So heart, soul, mind, and strength. Notice Jesus said it begins with your heart. He wants your heart primarily. It begins with your heart.
So He didn’t start with the mind. If you’re an academic type, you might think, oh, I just need to understand who He is intellectually, read about Him, learn about Him. And there’s no heart that’s engaged, that is drawn to Jesus. There’s no affection that’s being stirred. Jesus says, I don’t want that type of relationship. It starts with the heart for a reason. Because the heart has to come alive in His presence. You have to have affections that are stirred as you spend time with Him.
Then, your mind gets to understand who He is more and more. Like the same way that your spouse, over years and years, you kind of understand all the nuances of the person, what they like, what they dislike. It’s that type of relational knowledge that grows and your mind understands more who He is. But He begins with the heart.
I grew up in church, and so I had some knowledge of Him intellectually. But my heart was cold toward Him. My affections were turned off, and I just went out of habit.
Until I met Him in 1993, November. It was as if I was the only one in the church room, and a spotlight was shining only on me. I heard the shepherd call me by name. My heart was born again. I was able from that point forward to connect with him on a heart-to-heart basis. My affections were stirred so that no one had to check up. Oh, did you read your Bible today? Did you pray today? He’s the love of my life. He swept me off my feet. It’s a romance.
Of course, because I’m affectionate toward him, of course I’m spending time with him. It’s not a tradition. It’s not a chore. It is just life upon life. And that’s my testimony that began since 1993 and has continued off and on for those years.
Scripture teaches us about the importance of the heart in the spiritual life. Like Matthew 15, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13, and he’s talking about religious leaders, Pharisees and scribes who are challenging Jesus. So these are experts at the Old Testament. They’re the preachers and the religious leaders of it.
And this is what Jesus says of them, Matthew 15:7.
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-9, ESV)
How sad it is when preaching is reduced to a heart that is far. It is lip service, maybe words that are coming out that you can find in Scripture, but it’s a commandment, a tradition of man so far removed from my heart and my affections. And it says, “your heart is far from me.”
So, when Jesus says He wants your heart, He’s saying, “I want to be close, heart to heart.” Like there are some family members, when you think of them, your heart is right there with them, right?
Like you, you understand when Jesus says, “I want a heart that’s close, not far.” you understand, because you think of certain people in your family, immediately your heart is there with them. Like if they’re suffering, you’re there with them. You’re, you’re weeping with them. When they’re rejoicing, you’re rejoicing with them. It’s that type of heart to heart connection, because your hearts are close. Other people in your extended family, you think about them and your heart is so far, so far. It’s the same family, but the heart is so far.
Jesus says, “I don’t want to be like that with you. I want your heart to be close to mine.” And we know this even relationally. We know the difference. A heart that’s close to somebody, a heart that’s far from somebody. Jesus says, “I want a heart that’s close.” This is talking about proximity, intimacy.
Is your heart close to Jesus today? That’s the first question He wants to ask all of us. Is your heart close to Jesus today? Is it far from Him? We all know what that feels like.
So, if it’s far from Jesus today, let’s start today. Let’s be close to Jesus in our heart. Matthew 7:21-23 speaks of many workers in the church. They say, “Well, we’ve, Lord, Lord, haven’t we done this for you? Haven’t we cast out demons in your name and prophesied in your name and done mighty works in your name?” These are workers who are doing some tremendous things and even super things for the Lord. And at the end, Jesus says, “I never knew you.”
Working hard in the church doesn’t guarantee that you know Jesus. This is purely relational. And so, what you apply to your closest family member, your spouse, your child, whoever your heart goes to, Jesus says, “I want that. That’s what I’m after. I’m after your heart. It has to be close. Don’t just serve me from a distance. Don’t just give me lip service from a distance. Make sure your heart and my heart are one. The same way that my Father’s heart and my heart are one. I want that with the church.” I want that with you, brother and sister in Christ.
Ephesians was an incredible church. Just read the book of Ephesians. It’s just a tremendous church that was given tremendous revelation from the Lord. It is just packed with wisdom for relationships and so much just favor and blessing that was poured upon this church.
But sadly, we read about how this church ended up. We read about them in Revelation 2. And it says that, I’ll just paraphrase. He starts out with a list of commendations for this church.
He says, “you work really hard.” You’ve endured quite a lot patiently. You haven’t tolerated evil. Some false apostles came to you. You discerned they were false. You exposed them. You kicked them out. Good job. You haven’t grown weary in doing good. This is a great list of commendations.
But Jesus says, “But there’s one thing I hold against you. You’ve lost your first love.” And we might think, okay, well… So the commendation list is pretty tremendous. Shouldn’t it balance out the fact that the first love was lost?
The way Jesus ends that section to the church at Ephesus is, he says, ‘If you don’t recover this first love, you will lose everything.’ Despite all the tremendous things you’ve done, if you’ve lost first love, you’ve lost everything. So repent, return to me. I want your heart.
For those who are married, we understand what being in love is. You’ve experienced it at least one time in your life, maybe multiple times if you had crushes in high school. But you know the intensity of that first love. You know how your heart went out to the person.
We call this, for newlyweds, a honeymoon stage. It’s like that person can do no wrong. Nothing they do bothers you. But at some point, the emotions die down. The flutter of the heart kind of calms down.
And then you just kind of get comfortable. And maybe you kind of start getting annoyed by things that used to not annoy you. And just people drift. The same can happen with Jesus, that you had an intensity. And so to me, that is an indication that you actually met him.
There has to be a period of your life when you are madly in love with Jesus. I can go back to my years, 1993 to about 1996. I was madly in love with Jesus. In 1996, I joined, officially, the staff of a church. That’s when, spiritually, I started falling. Because the church put me to work. And they did not prioritize my love relationship with Jesus.
But when I was on my own, for three years, I was madly in love with Jesus. And so now, when I try to measure my temper with Jesus now.
I know when I’m cold. I know when I’m far because I’ve tasted this kind of first love, and I know I have a long way to go to recover so much of what I’ve lost over the years.
Because like a marriage, even if the emotions die, the affections, the commitment, the love should only deepen and strengthen. It’s maybe the shallow kind of fluttering of the heart might not be there, but everything else should intensify.
That’s a healthy marriage with Jesus as well. Maybe it’s if he should never feel boring. It should never be so familiar.
Oh, Jesus, the guy who died on a cross for my sins and resurrected, and we do Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and it’s so routine, almost. It’s like a marriage with two people who are estranged, living in separate rooms. Jesus says, ‘I don’t want that kind of relationship. I want us to share everything. I want intensity, affection. I want your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Please understand who I am because if you understand me, you’ll be drawn to me even more and put all of your strength.’
Do the best you can to love me with all of your strength. The greatest commandment is to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In relationships, if we try to apply what Jesus is saying about our relationship with him to other relationships, it’s not a perfect correlation. But if you try to apply it to other human relationships, if one of these components is missing, then the relationship will suffer.
If your heart is not with your child, I think the child knows it, you know? If your affections are not there and expressed to the child, the child feels it, the distance. If the thoughts and the understanding of how the child is unique and different and maybe doesn’t fit the plan that I have, if you don’t get to understand who the child is, the child feels it, if the parent is not doing that. If I’m not trying my best as a father, the child understands and thinks, “Well, I’m not that important to my dad.” So, even in human relationships, if any of these components is missing, the relationship suffers.
A child knows it instinctively, like, is my parent’s heart close to me? They know it. You can say, “Oh, I love you,” but they understand instinctively whether the heart is there or not. It’s without words. Is there affection in this parental-child relationship? The child feels it.
Do the parents think about me in the right way? Am I accepted for who I am? Or am I neglected or am I underperforming in the eyes of my parent? The child understands instinctively all these things. So, if any of these components is not working optimally, the relationship suffers.
The parent, are they trying their best when they make a mistake? Do they admit it? Do they try again to do better, to be better? The child sees it all. You don’t have to communicate anything. It’s just the child instinctively knows.
The child knows, am I loved for who I am? Am I accepted unconditionally? Isn’t that the basis of a parental-child relationship? A child knows when love is conditional, when there’s a tiger mom looking, like hovering over me, and looking past me, and not really connecting with the child.
They’re looking at the child and projecting something upon the child, like one day you will be a trophy that I will parade around to my family and friends. The child knows whether it’s a deep heart-to-heart connection or the parent is looking past the child to some projection, some boasting, and it’s just an extension of the parent’s view of himself or herself.
And so, if any of this is missing, heart, soul, mind, and strength, even a little child knows it.
And so, all of our relationships will suffer if the heart is not there, if the soul, affection is not there, if the mind, understanding of the other side is not there, if the strength to do everything I can to love is not there, the other side will feel it.
Going back to the tiger mom, imagine a mom applying the verse that Jesus says, applies only to me, heart, with all of your heart, absolute heart, absolute soul, absolute mind, absolute strength.
Imagine a tiger mom that doesn’t know Jesus, and doesn’t know Jesus is the object of this absolute heart, soul, mind, and strength, and tries to pour it out to a little child. Everything is into the success of this little boy. Little Johnny is an Asian male, he has to go to Harvard, this tiger mom says.
What if Johnny is not that bright? It doesn’t matter. For the mom, Harvard’s the goal, right? He has to learn the alphabet the fastest, he has to start reading before everyone else does.
He has to memorize the multiplication tables two years before everyone else. All the parents here are laughing because you understand we have a little bit of that in all of us, right? After a while, the child is no longer a person. The mom is looking past the child. She only sees Harvard. One day, once the child gets into Harvard, I will be able to brag to everybody. That’s really the name of the game. And the child, without you saying anything, instinctively knows, oh, the heart, soul, mind, and strength of my parent is not with me.
I have a good marriage, but am I supposed to love Jackie with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Absolute everything, Jackie only. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?
If you’re non-Christian and you’re in love, maybe that’s where all of your hope goes into the spouse, perhaps. From morning to night, if it’s me, am I just thinking about Jackie, Jackie, Jackie?
So, if I’m thinking, how can I serve her? All my affections are for her. I don’t care about anybody else. And so, I ignore my kids.
I have nothing left in my tank, because absolutely everything goes only to Jackie. If five of us – me, Jackie, three boys – were in a boat, the boat is sinking. I only try to save Jackie. Boys, you’re on your own, because if you drown, I will have more children.
So, think of how strange that is to try to apply this greatest commandment: love the Lord Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Imagine pouring out everything into another human being. It doesn’t work.
The reason why it doesn’t work is, first of all, you don’t have enough in the tank to love anyone properly. And the other person, if they don’t know Jesus, is not a kind of person that is a proper recipient of this absolute everything of who you are. And you, as the one who is pouring it all out, you will be utterly disappointed if you’re pouring it out to the wrong person.
People who idolize a person, a spouse, child, whomever, you’re either going to damage the person, like the example of the tiger mom, or you’ll be utterly disappointed because you pour out, and it’s like the bucket on the other side is leaking. You just keep pouring it out. It’s never enough. You keep pouring out. It’s never enough.
So many marriages end in divorce because one party is putting all of the hope in the other. People who don’t know Jesus, put all of their hope in the other person. And the other person is like you. They’re sinful.
They’re imperfect. They’re limited. So, what happens? Inevitably, you get disappointed. And so, your heart used to go to that person. It’s no longer going to that person. It goes to your job. It goes to another person. Eventually, they file for divorce.
The relationships in the Bible, God is very wise. He puts boundaries upon relationships. It’s not cookie cutter. And you can go back to a book like Ephesians that I mentioned, like Ephesians 5: Very specific how a husband is supposed to love a wife. Very specific how a wife is supposed to love her husband.
Ephesians 6, children, you’re supposed to do this with your parents: Obey your parents. You’re supposed to do this with your parents. Obey them in the Lord.
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” , (Ephesians 6:1-2, ESV)
Not just obey them, just everything. Only obey them in the Lord. When they’re speaking on the Lord’s behalf, obey them. If they’re trying to do with the Lord’s guidance, and honor them regardless of what kind of parent they are. Honor all parents, that is our duty as children.
That’s in Ephesians 6: children to parents and then parents to children, specifically fathers do not anger your children, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)
So every relationship is unique. It even talks about employees and employers. Employees, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, not because you’re pleasing them, but you’re doing it unto the Lord.
5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, (Ephesians 6:5, ESV)
Everything is unto the Lord. And same with the bosses of these employers, don’t threaten them because remember who is above you, remember who is your boss, you have the same master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What I want to point out is every relationship is unique. We don’t love every person in our life, children, spouse, parents, the same way. The love has some boundaries, right? So we’re never supposed to pour everything to another human being, you’re supposed to love in a very particular way, depending on the relationship of that person to you.
Only Jesus, and I want to underscore this point, only Jesus is the object of your absolute heart, soul, mind, and strength. Only Jesus, only Jesus. For most people, they don’t quite understand. They don’t even try to pour out everything to another person because they’re self-centered, most people.
So, I think there’s only one other thing that somebody may pour out everything to and love that thing more than Jesus, and Jesus himself warns us of what that is. It’s in Matthew 6:19, and I’ll read.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)
See that word, heart? Like, where is your heart moving toward? In this case, it’s whatever you treasure. If you treasure Jesus, guess what? Your heart is close to Jesus. If you treasure money, guess what? Your heart is not with Jesus.
It has drifted to the only other counterfeit God in this world, which we’ll read about in a second, which is money.
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24, ESV)
So, there’s really only two major gods in this world, capital G God, Jesus Christ. We serve him and him alone, or lowercase g god, counterfeit god, which is money.
Money has that ability to require absolutely all of us, absolutely all of our heart. Wherever the treasure is, there your heart is. Absolutely all of your mental energy, your affections, your strength, all of your abilities. If we’re not careful, easily lowercase g God can become your God and my God. That is Jesus’ warning. And so, how does he counsel such people, knowing that this is the pitfall for most of humanity?
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:25-29, ESV)
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30, ESV)
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matthew 6:31, ESV)
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:32-33, ESV)
You might read a verse like this and say, “Well, should we all become pastors? Should we all become missionaries? Do we all have to live in poverty? Do we all have to rely upon the Lord 100% for all the provisions?” That would be a little unreasonable, right?
But in the lot that God has assigned to you, with the amount of energy and time that you have left over at the end of the day, which is different depending on your job, Jesus says, “Love me first with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” He says that’s why it’s first. That’s why he says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness first.”
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
It is great to seek Jesus first. Financially, God’s promise to all of us is our needs are covered. It’s His promise to all of His children.
It says in verse 32, ‘The Father knows that you need them all.’ So, all of your needs, the Father knows about. It’s all covered. It’s guaranteed. Doesn’t mean you’ll live in a rich home.
Doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go on every vacation that you ever wanted, drive the car of your dreams, but God’s promise to His children, if you seek first my kingdom and my righteousness, if you love the Lord Jesus, your God, with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, the Father’s guarantee from heaven is all of your needs guaranteed will be met.
None of you will starve. None of you will be homeless and have no clothing. You may be renters, but all of your needs from the Father, He guarantees that they’ll be met. And I’m living proof of that very verse. I’ve had lean years. I’ve had better years, but always, the Lord comes through.
All my needs, always from the Lord, have been provided. It’s always in different ways, in different seasons. Maybe at some point, I will be doing this full time, no other job, but for now, doing bivocational, that’s okay.
But my needs always, always have been met when I seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
So that is the first and greatest.
In the interest of time, let me just wrap up quickly the second portion, which is love your neighbor as yourself. We know the story. Chapter 10 is the famous story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is saying this parable of the Good Samaritan to a lawyer, and this is not a US lawyer, this is a lawyer, the Bible is the law, and so is that kind of a lawyer.
Again, these are scribes and lawyers; they’re all religious leaders. Pharisees, they’re experts at the Torah, the Old Testament. And this lawyer is putting Jesus to the test.
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, ESV)
And this lawyer is trying to justify himself. He says, “Who’s my neighbor?”
And so Jesus gives him this parable, and this man is attacked by robbers, left for half dead on the side of the road. A priest passes him by, doesn’t come to his aid.
A Levite also sees him, passes him by, and a good Samaritan, who was an enemy of the Jews at the time, this person came, took care of him, and nursed him back to health. And of course, this, if in a spiritual sense, this is a parable about Jesus, because all of us, spiritually speaking, were dead, left for dead on the side of the road, in our sin, hopeless, cut off from God.
But Jesus, our Good Samaritan, came and met us, saved us, and by his wounds, he covered our wounds. He forgave us, and he restored us. And so spiritually, that is the first obvious application of this text. But it ends with verse 36.
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, ESV)
If you’re a pedestrian, you walked across the street, somebody did a hit and run, and you’re lying dead, half dead, unconscious, on the side of the road. What kind of neighbor are you looking for?
You’re looking for somebody who is going to stop what they’re doing and call 911, and be by your side to make sure no other car hits you, and just do whatever it takes to make sure you make it to the hospital. Call the hospital, make sure you’re safe. You want that kind of a neighbor, somebody who shows mercy.
What is our greatest need? And this is an answer to my question that I said at the outset. What is the relationship between the greatest commandment and the second greatest commandment?
And the Lord gave me this answer this week, that I can’t or you can’t, none of us can, do the second greatest commandment until we do the first. If you don’t love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, when this kind of situation arises, you or I will be among the two-thirds of the people who will pass by someone in need of mercy. Only if you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength do you start seeing people as those who are in need of mercy.
Everybody is in a different place socioeconomically, in terms of their life situation, in terms of their family background, in terms of their spiritual journey. Everybody is in a different place. You might be in a better place than other people. You might be in a worse place than other people.
But at a just general principle, Jesus says, “Love me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And when you see others, what do others need? They need mercy.
There may be a time when you are on the mat and you are out of commission, when you are not doing spiritually well. At that point, what is your greatest need? Oh, people to look at you, point fingers, say what’s wrong with you, to curse you, to judge you? Or do you need people like friends to come alongside of you, to pick up the mat and bring you to Jesus in prayer? That is mercy. You need friends like this. We need to be this kind of a neighbor to somebody else.
But how can we consistently step out to a world full of needs when there’s so much need for mercy out there? How can we do this? It is impossible humanly because we don’t have enough in our tank. But if you love the Lord Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and he fills you with his love and compassion and mercy, and you’re a recipient of this, there’s a little bit left over in the tank every time you see a need. And you say, “Oh, let me be like Jesus to this person.”
Jesus did it to me. Other people in the body of Christ did it for me. They showed me mercy. It’s now my turn to be a neighbor. You can’t do the second greatest commandment until you master the first. That’s why it is the first. That’s why it is the most important. That’s why it is the greatest.
Ok, let’s pray.
Father, we thank you for giving us a charge for 2024. You give us two clear commandments that are the greatest. You first ask us to love you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
You want our hearts to be close to you and not far. So Lord, if our heart is far from you, Lord Jesus, on this day we repent. And we ask that we humbly seek you from our heart.
We want to have a heart-to-heart connection with you. We want our soul to love you with all of our affections. Lord, we never want to grow bored of you. We never want to become so familiar with you. We never want to become interested in something else, somebody else. We want our eyes to be fixed on the object of our affection, Jesus Christ.
Lord, we want to understand who you are with all of our mind. We want to come to know the greatness and the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. Paul says, everything else in comparison feels like rubbish. Lord, we want to have that kind of an understanding of how great you are so that we can love you with all of our mind.
Lord, we want to love you with all of our strength. Everything we can do on our part, our abilities, Lord, we’re going to try our best in 2024 to love you, Lord Jesus.
And Lord, once we are doing this on a regular basis, being filled up with compassion and love, Lord, we go out into this world to love neighbors, primarily to show mercy where mercy needs to be shown. And there’s so many people in need of mercy. They just need our kind words. They need us to understand them. They don’t want us to judge them. They don’t want us to be afraid of them. We don’t want to be bothered by them. We want to be attentive to notice when there’s a need that can be met in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our families. Help us to be attentive when there’s someone who is in need of mercy, who crosses paths with us. Thank you, Lord. We pray that you meet us as we partake in the Lord’s Supper. We thank you for your body that was broken for us and your blood that was shed.
Thank you for being our Good Samaritan, patching up our wounds, forgiving our sins, and giving us a new life. We thank you. We praise you. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.