Scripture: Mark 2.7, 16, 18, 24
“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Reflection: Keeping The Greatest Commandments
By John Tillman
Jesus wasn’t sinless because he never broke laws. He constantly broke them.
In this one short chapter of Mark he breaks (or supports those who are breaking) five separate laws (some of which were punishable by stoning): he blasphemes, he eats with ceremonially unclean people, he eschews required religious fasting, he defends working on the sabbath, he defends David’s eating of the holy bread.
Richard Baxter (1615-1691) described the interdependence of laws and truth when advising new disciples learning about theology and the scriptures for the first time:
Truths have a dependence on each other; the lesser branches spring out of the greater, and those out of the stock and root. Some laws are but means to other laws, or subservient to them…Therefore it is one of the commonest difficulties among cases of conscience, to know which law is the greater.
According to Baxter, Christ recognized the priority of the greatest laws. We see this in Christ’s teaching. Jesus referred to “lesser” laws with language that exposed their second-tier authority. He often said, “your traditions,” or “Moses permitted,” or “you have heard it said…”
Upon this ground, Christ healed on the Sabbath day, and pleaded for his disciples harvesting the heads of grain, and for David’s eating the shewbread, and told them, that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,” and that “God will have mercy, and not sacrifice.“
Baxter refers to the various laws as if they are parts of an intricate watch—meaningless unless all the parts are in proper order.
Theology is a curious, well-composed frame. Just as it is not enough that you have all the parts of your watch or clock, but you must see that every part is in its proper place, or else it will not go, or answer its end; so it is not enough that you know the various parts of theology or law, unless you know them in their true order and priority.
When Jesus is asked what the two greatest commandments are, his answer tells us how to set our watch by the two guideposts on which hang the entire law—Love God and love others.
*Richard Baxter selections condensed and language updated from A Christian Directory.
Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” — Matthew 7.13-14
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Regaining Love’s Highest Meaning
Even Christians are easily misled into thinking love is primarily a feeling. Yet, it is so much more.
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