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  • Dustin L. McCarty

Reflections on Mark 12:18-34

Two sets of men, one group and one individual. Both had their own agenda.

The first, in a group, set to trip up Jesus and defame him - either by getting him to state something in opposition to one of their core beliefs or to ask such an odd and difficult question that it would confuse him or make him look foolish. They crafted an extreme example of a story, rooted in assumptions they disagreed with, to trick him.

You know the Law, right? The one that says a brother must marry his brother's widow if they didn't have kids so the family line could continue?, there's this guy who has 6 brothers. He marries this girl, right? But they don't have any kids, and he dies! So one of his brothers is obligated to marry the widow. But they don't have any kids either, so the next brother... yea. You get the idea. This goes on until they all have married her and are all dead. Then the widow dies, too. What do you think about that, Jesus? When they are all resurrected from the dead, which guy is married to her? (See! This is some of the problems with you people who believe in the resurrection! You can't explain obvious and simple stuff like this!) You know... it COULD happen!

Their question is a "practical" one. It is a curiosity-satisfying question. It is side-show-esque in nature. If we had this extreme oddity, how would that work? Like a 3rd grader's question to the teacher: So, if Dumbo was real, how big would his ears really have to be for him to fly?" There is no leading to obedience. There are no personal implications (I sincerely doubt that anyone in the group had 3 dead brothers, 3 live brothers, had just married one of their widows, and recently developed a concerning cough... It is silliness.

The second, an individual man, set to discover truth so he could better follow God - Impressed with the manner and wisdom which Jesus embodied while dealing with the group of attempted defamers, asks a question with personal implications: "What is the greatest commandment of all?" "What command most honors God?" "What command should I make certain to never miss or let go or sacrifice?" "What is most important to God?" "What obedience most reveals my desire for God?" "If I could only do one thing right, what would God want it to be?" Jesus answers.

How often have I been in the former group of Sadducees? Asking a theologically impertinent question in attempt to prove my ideological position? Taking a hard stance on an issue that is so secure in God's hands and so far from my own understanding that I should just trust the Creator to keep the details in their proper position when the time comes? Dealing with the fictitious mental construct to test or push the boundaries to a ridiculous end?

How often do I play these silly games and forget to be in awe of the One who does know all the answers. How often to I fail to worship with reverence because I am chasing after a foolish unlikely end? How often am I distracted by the theoretical while near me, my neighbor suffers want? How often am I concerned with Exodus 23:19b or Leviticus 19:28 and miss James 2:15-16 or 1 Thessalonians 4:18 or Isaiah 40:1?

I have a coffee scheduled for today. The impetus of which was dispute over a term and its sufficiency to explain the condition of man's fallen state. I was a Sadducee with full decoration when we made arrangements to meet. Not that I desired to "trick" my friend, but to vigorously discuss or even debate something that was superfluous - to prove that I was right in my conviction. Today, I yearn to be the scribe. To glean from a brother in Christ that which God has for me, and to be an encouragement in my brother's life. That, as God empowers me, I "may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary." (Isaiah 50:4)

God, please continue to protect me from myself.

God, please fulfill the rest of Isaiah 50:4, that I may be a good servant, accomplishing Your desire for me this day by loving You with all that I am and have, and loving my neighbor as myself.

May God continue to bless you, and others through you,

- Dustin