Starting in August (this Wednesday) we will be looking back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. We still have room for your submissions! Follow this link to submit. You can submit more than one post by refreshing the form when you are done. — John
Scripture: Mark 12.28; 34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Reflection: The Gift of Noticing
By John Tillman
Among all the debates and arguments with Christ that are recorded in scripture, one has always stood out to me and grown more important as I’ve grown older—the wise teacher of the law.
When I was younger, I was more interested in who this man was. Could it be Nicodemus, who came to Jesus at night? Could it be Joseph of Arimathea? As I’ve grown older, I care less about his identity and more about his amazing gift of noticing the good in a perceived enemy.
Our culture is so adversarial, every interaction seems a zero-sum game. A guaranteed, click-driving word for content is “destroys.” (As in, destroying your opponent. Sometimes this motivates people to literally attempt to destroy your opponents.)
Our culture sees debate not as a learning experience but as a path to the domination of others through destruction. We have little in common with the rabbinical system of religious debate and question-driven teaching that Jesus knew. This process was normal and typically genial and healthy. We see it with Christ’s first visit to the temple as a child and throughout his ministry.
There were times (including in this chapter) Christ’s enemies attempted to get Jesus to say something that they could use to prove criminal intent. But, as the other religious leaders lost their objectivity in their attempts to discredit Jesus, the wise teacher found a better path.
Matthew’s account of this event leaves out the context of Mark—causing the question to seem more adversarial. But in Mark, the interaction plays out as more of a search for knowledge than an attack. The men connect with each other across their differences through the gift of noticing.
The wise teacher is not listening to attack or to destroy. He is not listening to craft a counter-argument. Through opposition and questioning we see him find in Jesus a kinship and common ground of faith. The teacher notices Jesus; Jesus notices him.
Jesus came to seek and to save not to seek and destroy.
When we face opposition, when we question and argue, when we are confronted in debate, may we receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of noticing. May we notice our opposition, seeking to understand them, seeking to see them as Christ does. When we do, we will find how greatly they are loved by Jesus, who sees them.
Prayer: The Greeting
Whom have I in heaven but you? And having you I desire nothing upon this earth. — Psalm 73.25
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
By posting, liking, and retweeting articles about our ideological rivals being “destroyed” we are revealing not our ideological righteousness, but our theological sinfulness.
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post.
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post made you think?