The below sermon is on Mark 12:28-44 and shows us how Jesus corrected wrong thinking. These free inductive notes are intended as supplement to your own study, not a replacement. Feel free to copy, print, or share them. These notes can be helpful for individual study of the Word or for small group Bible studies. We hope your understanding of God’s Word is deeper from them.

Mark 12:28-44

Jesus Corrects Wrong Thinking

In the last few weeks we have been learning about Jesus’ final week. Give a short Review:

  • Mark 11:1-11 – Triumphant Entry

  • Mark 11:12-19 – Jesus Cleanses the Temple

  • Mark 11:27-33 – The religious leaders begin to start testing Jesus. They challenge Him and try to trap Him with various different questions.

  • Mark 12:1-11 – Jesus not only answered their questions, but He also told a parable, condemning them for rejecting Him as Messiah.

  • Mark 12:12-27 – The religious leaders do not give up easily. They continue to test Jesus and try to trap Him.

That brings us to today’s passage. As you can see, there is a lot of wrong thinking on the part of the people. The religious leaders just don’t get it. They are blind guides leading the blind. It is Jesus’ last week of ministry before His death.. In 2 Timothy 3:16 we learn that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” Jesus is the Word. He corrected their wrong thinking. And He corrects our wrong thinking. Let’s look at the first way Jesus corrects them.

Wrong Idea #1 – Serving God is About Following External Rules

At the time of Jesus the Jews had turned their religion into a list of rules to follow. They believed that if you followed these rules then you were a good Jew and deserving of God’s blessings. Some of these rules that they followed were from the Bible, rules on tithing and the Sabbath. Many other rules were rules which they had added to the Scriptures. People began to focus merely on the external act of keeping the rule rather than the internal motivation. The rule was more important than the principle. As a result, following God became robotic. People did not have a relationship with God. Instead they felt burdened by so many rules. Let’s quickly look at two examples we have already studied in Mark of how the people prioritized rules instead of actually loving God and others.

Example #1 – Mark 3:1-6 (Do not read) – In this passage they are angry Jesus heals someone because it is the Sabbath. There is no compassion or care for the person. They are so angry that they want to kill Jesus.

Example #2 – Mark 7:9-13 (Do not read) – In this passage Jesus tells of a habit of some people to neglect taking care of their parents and claim that the money for their parents is given to God. They disobey God’s command to honor their parents in favor of following a supposedly more spiritual rule they had made.

Rules had become more important than compassion and respect.

This scribe may have been trying to trap Jesus like the others, but it appears based on his response that his question was actually a genuine one. He was surrounded with people who cared more about washing hands than saving sinners. Perhaps he was confused by all of the legalistic traditions which they had and he wanted to cut through all of these rules to understand the heart of God. He wanted to know what command was really the most important.

His sincere question gave Jesus a perfect opening to speak to the crowd and correct their thinking which exalted external, rules based religion.

Right Idea #1 – Serving God is About Having the Right Heart Attitude, Love

Jesus gives a clear answer. Loving God is the most important commandment. This commandment comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Read. This is known as the Shema statement. Modern Jews consider it their sacred duty to recite it twice a day.

Jesus says, “Love your God.” Your God. Not just a God. God is personal. He desires a personal and intimate relationship with each of us. He is not an impersonal force (Hindu). He is not a concept. He is not a state of mind (New Age). He is not a psychological security blanket (Chinese). He is not distant and uncaring (Deists). He wants to be your God. He wants to be your Father. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He cares about you as an individual. What is more, He sent His only Son to die for you. Because He is personal, He answers our prayers and He sympathizes with us in the struggles and challenges which we face.

Loving your God is the top commandment. It would seem difficult to rank commandments. And yet Jesus does rank this as the most important command. Why? The answer is simple. This command is the basis for all of the other commands about our relationship with God. What are the first four commands in the Ten Commandments?

  • #1 – Have no other gods before Me – If you love God, you will not serve other gods.

  • #2 – You shall not make idols – If you love God, you will not make idols.

  • #3 – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain – If you love God, you will not take His name in vain. Instead you will love and respect His name.

  • #4 – Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy – If you love God, you will gladly take time off of your other activities to worship Him.

Every command in the Bible is built upon a foundation of love for God. This is taught very clearly in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Love is the underlying principle behind everything we should do as followers of Christ. You are all very familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 which says that if you surrender your body to be burned, but have not love, you are nothing.

So what does it mean to love God with all your heart and soul and strength? Why are these three specific words chosen? What is the deep meaning of each of these three words? Entire sermons have probably been preached on these words. It is very complicated and very deep. So pay close attention. Are you listening? To love God with all your heart and soul and strength means to love him…completely…with everything you have. What would your families or friends say about how much you should love God? In China it is very common to say, “Having a belief is good. Just don’t be too extreme. Love God a little. We are not to love God in this way. Do your friends or relatives think you are extreme in your love for God? Do they? Hopefully the answer is “Yes!” If you are not extreme in their eyes, you do not love God enough. Love Him most. Love Him best. Love Him always. Love Him inside. Love Him outside. Love him with our soul. Our decisions should please him. With our heart. Our emotions should please him. With our strength. Our actions should please him. Do you love Him? Jesus asked this question of Peter three times. Each time he gave Peter something he should do if he loves Him. If you love Him, what will you do? We can get some ideas from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The things listed in verses 6-9 are things which naturally flow out of an all consuming love for God. Love is the cause and these things are the effect:

  • You will treasure His commands in your heart (verse 6). You will think and meditate on them. You will not forget them. Because they are important and you love Him. Would you forget it if your fiancee asked you to meet her at the airport? No, because she is important.

  • You will talk about them wherever you are. It doesn’t only include devotion or Bible study time. But you will naturally talk about the things of God everywhere because you love Him and are thinking about Him. You will share your testimonies and talk about what you have been learning in Scripture. If you have children, you will enjoy sharing with your children about God. There was a famous Russian writer who is an atheist. He tells the reason he is an atheist. When he was a child, he saw a crucifix and Jesus hanging dead on the cross. He didn’t understand why God’s only Son would have to die. So he asked his aunt. She said, “Hush, hush, I am having tea.” If tea is more important than God, then surely God must not be important he concluded. Do you talk about the things of God or are other things more important to you?

  • You will set reminders for yourself about God’s commands and pay attention to remember them wherever you go.

  • You will make your home a place of Scripture.

  • You will live an open lifestyle as a disciple of the Lord.

Application: Do you love God? If so, you will want to spend time with Him. You will want to tell others about Him. You will want to do the things that please Him.

Of course we fall far short of this. If this were the only command in the Bible then we would have each disobeyed it thousands of times already. We have failed.

(If time is short, skip){And that is what Jesus wanted them to understand. No one can keep the law of God. No one can follow all of the commands of God all of the time. This is what the rich young ruler did not understand when he asked, “What can I do to inherit eternal life?” and then told Jesus he had obeyed all of the commands from his youth up. This is what the pharisees did not understand when they zealously washed their hands and limited how many steps they could take on the Sabbath. This is what unbelievers do not understand when they say, “I am a pretty good person.” Do you understand? You cannot do this.}

Knowing you have failed, what should you do?

  1. Pray and ask God’s forgiveness.

  2. Don’t give up. We can grow in our love for God. If you have not been loving God as you should, if you have been loving this world or pleasures or people or money more than God, then take a moment and pray a simple prayer. Pray and confess that you don’t love God enough and ask Him to help you grow in your love for Him.

Jesus’ answer was a buy one get free answer. The scribe asked for the most important and Jesus told Him the most important AND the second most important. The second most important is similar and is a command to love your neighbor as yourself. The original command is found in Leviticus 19:18.

Love your neighbor as yourself

If you look at the Ten Commandments you will notice that the first four are all about our relationship with God. If you love God, you will obey them. The next six are all about our relationship with people. If you truly love your neighbor, you will have no problem obeying them. Telling lies? If you love others, you will not lie to them. Coveting? If you love your neighbor, you will not covet his car, his computer, his phone, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Thus it is no wonder what Jesus said in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.

Remember that Jesus is correcting the people’s false ideas. The religious leaders think that they are OK. But they do not love their neighbors. They look down on the people. They hate foreigners. They refuse to eat with those they call “sinners.” They offered sacrifices, prayed, and attended the temple regularly, but they did not love their neighbors.

Do you love your neighbors as yourself? Remember that Jesus defined a neighbor as anyone whom we may meet in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Is your boss unfair and unkind to you? He is your neighbor and you have to love him as much as your love yourself. Do you have a co-worker who is rude and annoying? He is your neighbor. Do you have a security guard in your complex or your management office that do not do their job? They are your neighbors. Are your parents overly controlling? You must love them as yourself.

This is not a difficult to understand teaching. It is not complicated. It doesn’t even really require my explanation to you. You read the passage and you immediately understand what it means. The question is simple: Are you loving your neighbor? (Names) If you say “yes” would they agree if I asked them?

Discussion Questions:

Who is one person in your life that is difficult to love? Why?

What is one thing you can do in the near future to show love to this person?

Wrong Idea #2 – The Messiah Will be only Human

Read 35-37.

Notice that Jesus pointed out the scribes teaching that the “Christ is the son of David.” In other words, they taught that the Messiah would be a person. They taught that the Messiah would be a physical descendant of David’s. This is true. But they only saw part of the picture. They asserted that the Messiah would be ONLY human. They did not understand that the Messiah would be both human and divine. Not only could they not understand it, but the idea was highly offensive to them. Nothing made them angrier than when Jesus made claims to be divine.

Their perspective was flawed. Their knowledge was incomplete. On the week of His death, Jesus wanted to correct their understanding and teach them that the Messiah is both human and divine. He uses this passage from Psalm 110:1 to make His point.

Right Idea #2 – The Messiah Will be Both Human and Divine

Give one minute for people to write down who each word or pronoun is referring to:

  • Lord – God

  • My Lord – Messiah

  • My right hand – God

  • Your (enemies) – Messiah

  • Your feet – Messiah

God says to the Messiah, Sit at God’s right hand until I make Messiah’s enemies a footstool for Messiah’s feet.”

In Hebrew the first use of “Lord” is YHWH, which means God. The second is Adonai, which means “lord” or “master” (it is also sometimes used to refer to God.)

So what it says is “Yahweh says to my Adonai…”

The first Lord refers to God, the Great I Am, the perfect, eternal Creator of heaven and earth. The second is the Messiah, the Christ.

{See Matthew 22:42. Jesus mentions Christ here, which gives us important context. He was using this verse to directly discuss who the Christ is.}

Read Psalm 110 for what it says about this Messiah:

  • He sits at God’s right hand (1)

  • He will conquer His enemies (1-2)

  • His troops will follow him to battle (3)

  • He is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (4)

  • He will crush kings and judge nations (5-7)

Logic

  1. David is a great king.

  2. He calls his son “My Lord”

  3. Elders did not refer to their descendants in this way. Instead the younger may refer to their elders in this way.

  4. Therefore David’s son is more than just his physical descendant. He is higher than David. He is his master, his Lord. He is divine.

Side point; Jesus had a great respect for the inspiration of Scripture. He says the Holy Spirit inspired David. Then He makes a very important argument based on the details of words and sentence structure in an obscure verse. Thus He believed in the inspiration of the words of Scripture and not just the main ideas. And He used Scripture to argue His point. He used Scripture to correct wrong thinking and we should too.

Point: Jesus is both human and divine. The religious leaders of his day did not understand that and many people do not accept it today. As believers we must hold to these truths and be sensitive whenever we hear any deviation from them. Most cults go astray on one or both these two points.

Wrong Idea #3 – Religious Leaders Should Seek Honor and Recognition

Jesus is a truth speaker. He says this in their very own temple with the religious leaders watching thinking of reasons to kill Him. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day lived for attention and recognition. These are people who would walk into a banquet meal and immediately walk to the most honorable place and sit there without permission. They take advantage of the elderly and unsuspecting. These are people who dressed up in special robes so that others would notice them when they walked about.

{ (If not enough time, skip) In this day and age, many people still dress to be noticed. In the Western world a lot of people color their hair blue or red or pink or other absurd colors. One of the reasons is that they are dying for attention. Sometimes people get tattoos for the same reason or piercings in strange places. Heavy makeup and funky styles are other examples. Even in church people may dress up because they want others to notice how nice they always look. Perhaps a guy dresses up to impress a girl or vice-versa. Ladies especially (but guys too) may spend lots of time in front of the mirror to look just right so that they will turn heads. Unfortunately some ladies wear very little for the same reason. They want attention and feel that they need to expose themselves in order to get it. }

Discussion Question: Should believers dress up? Why or why not? What is the appropriate dress?

These are people who practiced long and fluid greetings and loudly proclaimed these overly spiritual greetings in public to be noticed by others.

“MY MOST BLESSED AND TREASURED BROTHER. I WILL THANK GOD FOR A THOUSAND YEARS THAT I HAD THE HONOR BEYOND COMPARE TO MEET YOU IN THE MARKET TODAY. MAY YOU, YOUR WIFE, YOUR CHILDREN, YOUR DONKEYS, YOUR FISH, AND YOUR CHICKEN FEET RECEIVE THE ETERNAL BLESSING OF THE LORD.”

It is easy to look at these things and laugh. But do we ever act in similar manner? Do we ever casually say “Praise the Lord” because that is the spiritual thing to say? Do we seek to let others know when we have done a good deed so that they will notice us? Do we enjoy and crave the appreciation or attention from others? This desire for recognition is pride. And it is rooted deep in our hearts, so we may not even notice it.

Perhaps you are in a prayer meeting. Many brothers and sisters are watching. So you feel pressure to pray because a good Christian should. Or you pray especially wordy or spiritual sounding prayers to be heard by people. That is prideful. That is seeking the attention of others. The opposite is also true. If you are worried or nervous to pray out loud out of fear of what others will think of you, it is also pride. When you share the gospel, do you make sure your Christian friends know about it so they can see you are being a good Christian? When you visit a friend in the hospital do you make sure others hear about it? When you do the chores, do you make sure your spouse sees that so that she will say “thank you?” We must learn to carefully evaluate our motives and root out this prideful desire for recognition. Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man?

Right Idea #3 – Those Who Focus on External Appearance will be Condemned

How does Jesus correct all of these wrong behaviors? Very simple. Are you listening? Such men will be punished most severely. God is watching. He knows our motivations. We can fool others sometimes, but we cannot fool God.

Wrong Idea #4 – The Amount You Give Is Most Important

Here again the people are focused on the external appearance rather than the internal motivations. Rich people would put in large sums of money. Notice the giving was set up in such a way that people could see how much others gave. This led to a situation described in Matthew 6:2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

These rich people gave a lot. But they did not do it with pure motivations. They intentionally drew attention to themselves so that others would see and praise them for their generosity. Religion turned into impressing others.

In the 2000 years since then, people have not really changed. After the SiChuan earthquake, I recall seeing pictures in the newspaper with celebrities who had a “fan” of money in their hands, which they were donating. Churches too fall in to this trap by writing down the names of people who give or setting up memorials, plaques, or statues for large donors.

Right Idea #4 – God Desires Humble and Sacrificial Giving

Jesus once again corrects their wrong thinking. He shows them that cares about our heart motivations, not only our external behavior.

Show a picture of the coin likely given by the widow. Many of these coins have been found in Judea. You would need about 48 of them just to buy one loaf of bread.

So what do we learn from this wonderful story?

  • God looks at our hearts. He examines our motivations.

  • God desires sacrificial giving.

  • We should not focus on what others think of us. We should focus on what God thinks of us. (Many rich people must have looked down on this widow and her lowly gift.)

  • Even the poorest can give generously. You don’t have to wait until you have more to be generous with what you have.

  • She gave generously because she had great faith that God would take care of her.

Discussion Questions:

How can you grow in your love for God?

Who is one person in your life that is difficult to love? Why?

What is one thing you can do in the near future to show love to this person?

Should believers dress up? Why or why not? What is the appropriate dress?

Since God looks at our hearts, is the amount of money we give important? Why or why not?

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