“What Jesus Said About Love”



Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Many of the words in our vocabulary have more than one meaning or use. One of the words on that list is the word love. Oh, it is used in a variety of ways. For example, we might say the word love as we talk about someone we admire or something that captures our attention. We use the word love when we get excited about taking a vacation to a place we have always wanted to visit. Love is also used to express our deep affection for a family member. Yes, the word love is used in several different ways. Jesus used the word love to answer a question, asked by a person who was seeking a sincere answer. He was a man who was interested in doing the right thing and following the commands of God, just as closely as possible. Even though he was a teacher of the Law, and had a good understanding of what it said, he wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. Sometimes we too may know certain things about the Bible and have a good handle on how we need to respond to or obey the commands. And yet it never hurts to go to the source. It is always a good thing when we go to the One who has the right answer. In fact, He truly has the final word. On “Key to the Kingdom,” today, we will focus on what Jesus said as He answered this man's question. He said something very important about love. The man heard and understood plainly what Jesus said. I hope we will, too. I encourage you now to open your heart and your Bible, as we study another one of Jesus' very important statements.



Throughout the Bible, the 10 Commandments receive a great deal of attention. They are recorded two times in the Old Testament, Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy chapter 5. In Exodus chapter 20 God appears before Moses on Mount Sinai, and He presents to him the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone. Moses then takes them to the people. In Deuteronomy chapter 5 the people are leaving Egyptian captivity, and this next generation of people are about to enter into the Promised Land; and so, Moses reminds them of the 10 Commandments. Now, on both occasions additional commands were also given to the people, and together they make up the standard by which they were to live their lives. Well at the beginning of Deuteronomy chapter 6, Moses reminded the people of the importance of keeping God's commands. We find these words in verse 4: <Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul and with all of your mind.> Now that is a great summary statement about all of the laws God expected the people to keep. A good and a pleasing life before God begins with loving God. Well, Jesus also had quite a bit to say about loving God throughout His public ministry. One day a teacher of the Law came to Him with a question. And we read that story in Mark chapter 12, beginning with verse 28: <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?”> Other religious teachers and scribes had been questioning Jesus concerning His identity as God's Son. They wanted to know about His authority and the afterlife and other religious matters. And that was causing somewhat of a stir and controversy and discussion among the teachers and Jesus, himself. Well, this man came with Jesus. He saw and he heard all of that going on, and he genuinely wanted to know the answer to a very important question. He wanted to know, what was the greatest of all commands? What was the most important? What was law or commandment number one, at the top of the list? There were some 613 different laws or commands the people were to follow. 248 of them might be considered positive commands, things the people were to do or to practice. On the other hand, there were some 365 negative commands, things the people were to avoid and not to practice. And out of all of those laws, this man wanted Jesus to tell him what was number one. What was the most important? And here is how Jesus responded, beginning with verse 29: <“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”> According to Jesus, the greatest commandment was to love God, to love God with everything you have. And that was basically a repeat of what we saw there in Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy chapter 5. When Jesus made the statement, to love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength, that essentially made up the totality of a person. All of those aspects come together in order to make a person complete. And so Jesus is saying, love God with your complete person. He said the first and greatest commandment is to be all in. And we know what that means, don't we! It means to hold nothing back. It is to love God with every aspect of our being. It is to make Him our first priority. And God is to receive our greatest devotion and our greatest worship and our greatest obedience. You know, there are many things in this world that, call for our love and for our devotion. They are attractive, and we may even think we cannot live without them. But whatever those things might be, they are never to take the place of loving God with everything we have. Jesus demonstrated His love for the Father through His obedience. He fulfilled God's purposes for Him. Jesus loved His heavenly Father by becoming the way of salvation for all people. In other words, Jesus was all-in when it came to loving God with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength. And that is the example Jesus has left for us to follow, as we walk in His footsteps. Well, Jesus then added a second commandment to this first one: Love your neighbor as yourself. Now, again, Jesus was quoting from the Law. And the man who asked the question knew that, obviously; and that comes from Leviticus chapter 19 verse 18. It was one of those additional commandments that the people were called upon to follow. You know, this exchange that took place between Jesus and this teacher of the Law was taking place in what was called an honor-shame society. And that very simply means that whenever a Jew was presented with an opportunity to help someone who was in need, he was obligated to do that. It was his responsibility and it was to his honor if he did so. On the other hand, if he refused to help someone who was in need, that was to his shame, and other people reminded him of that. The people in his village or his community shamed him because he did not step up to that responsibility. Well, in the Old Testament we find many examples of God commanding the people to help those who are in need, to show mercy and compassion to others, to treat them with proper justice. And again, that was an honor-shame society; and that is still being carried out through many parts of the world today. And that's where Jesus is coming from when He tells this teacher of the Law to love your neighbor as you love yourself. A great illustration of helping one's neighbor is found in the gospel of Luke chapter 10; and this, no doubt, is a familiar story to us. One day, a lawyer (teacher of the Law, as we might call him) asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life. And Jesus basically turned the table on him and He said, “Tell me, how do you read the scripture?” The man responded by saying, “Well, you are to love the Lord, your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But then you are to love your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said, “Yes, that's right.” But then, this teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself and so he asked another question: “Who is my neighbor?” Well, from there, Jesus gave a rather familiar illustration, or story. He told the story about a Jew walking down the road and he was ambushed. He was beaten and robbed and left for dead there on the side of the road. Well, a fellow Jew, a priest, happened to walk by, and he saw his fellow Jew there. And he offered no assistance, but rather he passed by on the other side. Not long after that, another fellow Jew, a Levite, came down that same road. He too saw the man lying there, obviously in need, but he also walked by on the other side. There was a third man, then, who came by, and he saw what was going on. He stopped. He got off his donkey. He bound up the man's wounds. He put him on his donkey and then he took him to the inn. He even paid in advance for his medical needs. And that man was a Samaritan. Now it's important to know the Jews and the Samaritans hated and despised one another in the day of Jesus. They did not like each other. They did not get along. And it would be highly unusual to find a Jew and a Samaritan working together, or even sharing a meal together. But that's where we get the story “The Good Samaritan.” Here was a man who took a chance on helping someone who was not of the same nationality, he was a despised a person. But yet, he ministered to someone who obviously had a need. Well, after telling that story, Jesus then turned to this teacher of the Law and He made this statement, beginning with verse 36: <“Which of these three do you think proved to be the neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” And he said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”> Well, that's a great illustration of what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. It really doesn't matter what that neighbor might look like or the nationality or the background or anything else: Love the people God puts into your life. That reminds me of the words of 1st John chapter 3 and verse 18: <Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.> That was, and still is, the practical aspect of this second commandment which Jesus offered; to back up our claims of loving God by loving the people around us, to put in action our faith and to be a good neighbor to those who might be in need. Well, going back to Mark chapter 12 when asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus focused on two things, loving God and loving people. And those are the two greatest commandments still today. Oh, Jesus made it quite clear. Love is the foundation upon which His followers build their lives. And I believe that He would tell us, even still today, like He told the man in Luke chapter 10, go and do likewise. Well, there is something else here in these words from Jesus, that we might overlook at times. They are found there in His statement, verse 32, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Have you ever thought about the importance of loving yourself? Well, that is not to think too highly of ourselves. It is not to exalt ourselves above other people. It is not to think that we are better than everybody else around us, to the point that we look down upon them. But rather, it is recognizing we are somebody special in the sight of God. We are created in His image. We were formed before we were born into this world. And we now live to bring praise and glory and honor to His name. Yes, we are special, and we are important and we are significant because we belong to God, and He belongs to us. We are His children and we receive great measures of blessings each and every day from His hand. Now, because we are so special to God, therefore, we love in return. We love Him because He first loved us. We love ourselves because He gave Himself to us, in the form of His son Jesus Christ. And oh, that was a great sacrifice; that God, in His love for us, gave to us Jesus Christ so that we could have an opportunity to be a part of His family. And so, as much as we love and respect and take care of ourselves, so too, we are to love and take care of and respect our neighbors, no matter who they might be. And that is the kind of love that Jesus had in mind when He made this statement here in Mark chapter 12. And yet even with that, we recognize our weakness and our need for the Lord. As much as we are valuable and special in the eyes of God, we still need His love and His salvation. We recognize that we all sin. We all fall short. We all make mistakes. None of us can live up to the commands and the laws that God has for us to keep. We can never out-love God; and God knows that. One of the greatest passages that remind us of our need for the Lord is found in Romans chapter 5. Beginning with verse 6, we find these words: <You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.> That may be the most important thought that will ever cross our mind; Jesus loved us, He died for us, even in the midst of our sin. That one statement alone keeps us humble, doesn't it? It helps us keep in perspective God's love for us, and how we are to love Him in return and also love the people that He puts before us. We might even say it like this: When we love our neighbors as ourselves then we demonstrate our love for God. And one way we show our love for God is to love the people around us. Well, those two things go hand in hand. In fact, you cannot have one without the other. The love we have for God, and the love we have for other people, simply flows out of the love that God has for us. So that leads us to ask ourselves some very important questions. Am I loving God with every aspect of my being? Am I really all-in when it comes to loving God? And if so, is that love being demonstrated through my actions and through my love for my neighbor, whoever that neighbor might be. After Jesus teaches this teacher of the Law these things, that man responds back to Him beginning with verse 32 of Mark 12: <Well said, Teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”> It has been kind of odd to look at this and to think this man told Jesus He was right. Well, obviously He was right. He was God's Son. He was always right. But then this man offered his understanding of the sacrificial system. He realized that loving God and loving one's neighbor was more important than making offerings and sacrifices in the temple. You know, that kind of thing was secondary to loving God and to loving people. And that was something emphasized throughout the Old Testament, throughout the Law. The prophets and the teachers, that we read from there in the Old Testament, reminded the people over and over again to show mercy and kindness and to practice justice with their fellow man. They were even to leave the corners of their fields for other people to come in and to harvest and to eat, because they were poor and they were less fortunate. Well, with all of that in mind, Jesus has one final thing to say to this man, in verse 34: < When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”> The end; there's nothing else to the story. And we don't know what happened to this scribe, or teacher, of the Law after that. We don't know if he became a disciple of Jesus, or not. We don't know if he put his faith in Him and followed Him, like the other people. We don't know if he left everything behind and began to become His disciple, like some of those earlier men did. Yes, there are lots of questions that still remain. But Jesus, however, recognized the goodness in this man's heart. He recognized his interest in knowing what the greatest commandment was. And as a result of that, this man was on his way to becoming a part of God's kingdom. Yes, Jesus recognized this man’s sincerity, as he wanted to know the most important thing. And maybe the story does not end with this teacher of the Law making a full commitment to be all-in for Christ, or maybe he did. We don't know. But perhaps the story ends like this so that we can put ourselves into the story, and we can hear the words from Jesus like this teacher of the Law heard them. No doubt, as the scribe thought carefully about what Jesus said to him, we too need to give it our full attention. Where are we when it comes to being either near or far from the kingdom of God? Have we made that decision to receive the free gift of love that God has given to us in the form of His son, Jesus Christ. And if that is the case, then are we loving God with everything we have, with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and if so, then is that being demonstrated by loving our neighbor as our-self, whoever that neighbor might be. I would challenge and encourage all of us, today, to make loving God and loving people the first priority in our life.



Research tells us, every person has at least three basic needs in life. Obviously we need food to eat and water to drink. And the third basic need is, we need to receive love. Yes, we all need love. We need to be made to feel significant and important. We need to feel that we have value and a purpose in this world. Yes, to receive and to give love is important. When we think about the importance of love, we come to a church building like this one where we talk about God's love for us. And as we receive that love, we have an option. We have a decision to make as to whether or not we keep that love for ourselves or share it with other people. When we come into a church building, we talk about that love. We talk about ways we can share it with those in our community, in our neighborhood or around the world. When you are feeling insignificant or unloved or don't have any kind of value or purpose in this world, I would invite you to consider this church, consider the fact that we come together on a regular basis and we talk about the great love God has for all people everywhere. We talk about the importance of loving Him in return. That's the first great command that Jesus gave, to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then we also talk about how we can take that same love and share it with other people. If you are feeling unloved, insignificant, or need a purpose, come and visit us, as we talk about loving God and loving people.



Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast, as we studied what Jesus had to say about love. I trust this message reminded us of what is really important in life. I hope we love God with everything we have, and that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This message is uploaded onto our website, at keytothekingdom.com. There you can access it in written, audio or video format. Other lessons are on the website as well, and they are available at no cost to you. Perhaps you can find those which offer a word of encouragement, as you seek to grow spiritually. Several other items, which might be of interest, are also on the website. Devotional thoughts, inspirational videos, and other teaching material are easily accessible. You may even want to read about our ministry outreach in India. If you would like to download a free app onto your smart phone, you can have immediate access to keytothekingdom.com. Other ways to stay involved with us include Roku® television and Facebook®. All of these media choices are available without any cost, and I hope you will take advantage of those which are most convenient. Additionally, you can always send us an email or call the phone number on the screen. It is a pleasure to share these messages with you on a weekly basis, and I hope they are a blessing. Thank you again for joining us for today's broadcast, and please consider tuning in again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”