“Most importantly…do this. Love, Jesus”
Jesus, not another like him, number six.
So we are in a series on the life of Jesus - how and what we can learn from him for living today, practices we can draw from his life to strengthen our own. This lesson gives us that, but first some context.
Newsflash - Jesus was not a Christian; Jesus was a Jew.
He did not carry his leather King James Bible to church and sit in a pew. He neither had a Bible, nor worshipped in a church and certainly did not speak English!
Here’s the thing: like so many, I grew up learning about Jesus from the Bible, however, there was a huge gap in what I was taught--I never learned about his Jewish upbringing or the religious practices, traditions and customs he observed.
We know that Mary was highly favored by God and that upon learning she would miraculously conceive a child of the Holy Spirit, she responded in faith. Likewise, her soon to be husband, Joseph, when told Mary would give birth to the Savior, responded in faith and obedience as well. So - Jesus’ earthly parents were righteous Jews, endeavoring to live a devout life before God in a small village of like-minded people in Nazareth.
After Jesus was born, the choices of his young parents reveal the actions of God-fearing, law-keeping first century Jews including Jesus’ circumcision and Mary’s purification at the Temple, their observance of Passover as well. As such, they would have taught Jesus and his younger siblings to pray, beginning with the Shema in the morning (pronounced shimm-ah).
The first place we find the Shema is in Deuteronomy which was written by Moses.
Shema means ‘hear’ or ‘listen’. Do you listen for God’s voice? Hmmm. Notice how Jesus answered the following question: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “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 and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 18.28b-30
How do we love God so completely--heart, soul, mind and strength? Step a little closer.
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart – Delight yourself in him and give yourself over to his great love for you, and then love him in return—from your heart. Love the things that God loves . . .and consider those things which break his heart. May they break your heart, too. The only way to really know his heart is to listen to his voice and hear what he says; he has spoken to you and to me and it is recorded in the pages of Scripture. Love God’s Word, feast on it, and you will surely develop an unparalleled love for God and for the things that make God’s heart beat fast.
Love the Lord thy God with all thy soul – Your soul is the deepest part of you. I think if it were an organ, it would be about an inch below your sternum, above your stomach and way deep inside. Surely, the soul houses the gift of wonder. When the soul is full of the wonderment of God, it allows one to see and love the majesty of God, rather than shrinking God down to a super-sized version of ourselves.
Love the Lord thy God with all thy mind – Your mind will, and surely does override both heart and soul, if it is not tended. Paul said we are to ‘take every thought captive’1, which means we are to rein in our minds lest they run away with our wills. Loving God with all your mind literally means loving God with all your mind, loving God logically and creatively, seriously and humorously, intuitively and thoughtfully.2 Exercise your mind, stretch it, and be a good steward of it by disciplining it. ‘Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy—think on these things,’ Paul wrote.3
Love the Lord thy God with all thy strength – Feed the temple that is your body with nutritious food, rest it, and thoroughly exercise it. And then, serve God. Christianity is not meant to be a spectator sport, nor are we meant to be consumers. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”4 Where are you serving?
While there is so much to distract and deter us from keeping God number one in our hearts and lives, the Shema focuses on loving God daily with our whole selves.
1 - 2 Corinthians 10.5
2 - Mark Batterson, Primal
3 - Philippians 4.8
4 - Ephesians 2.10