Are we living by words or in the heart of the Word?
By Pastor Jerry Donovan
The death of John the Baptist in Mark 6:14-30 was arranged by King Herod’s sister-in-law and wife, Herodias, because of her anger for John’s teaching on marital faithfulness. To often the law of the Lord is used as a legal defense to determine correct behavior and belief.
However, Jesus takes the Pharisees outside the literal meaning of words to expose the essence and character of God’s speech to Israel in Mark 10:2-16. It’s not just what God says but what God means when God speaks. In this passage, Jesus brings our memory back to the beginning of creation from Genesis 1:6 “… from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
This sheds light on the motivations of both King Herod and the religious leaders who confirmed morality in public view over pure and repentant hearts. It is not the execution of the law that God wants; instead, it is people that look like and talk like and act like those found in the first chapter of Genesis.
Jesus emerges from Israel’s history carrying in his flesh the very directive of the Father’s law. A new reign is evolving, founded on the principles of promise from years ago and wearing the very skin of those who have been discredited by religious leaders and disenfranchised through the fancy talk around God’s law. To those in desperate need of truthful words, Jesus puts them on and wears them in his very own flesh.
The hope of the Gospel is that Jesus binds the traits of God to the traits of human beings. In his speech and actions, the very essence and nature of God is revealed and put on display. All of God for the least of these. All of God for the unheard, for the unbelieved, for the voiceless, the broken, the chastened, the desperate, the little child, the vulnerable, the woman, the oppressed, the abused, the dejected, the neglected, the ignored, and the patronized.
Though it might seem basic, I believe it is important for us to consider this: what do we learn about God, that God’s heart and nature is fully revealed in a person like Jesus? What do we learn about ourselves when so much of our religious speech does not match the life of the Son of God? What do we learn about the ways in which we have arranged our lives? Are we living by words, or in the heart of the Word?
To be clear, I am not referring to using words from scripture as a defense for our point. I am speaking about the Word who was with God in the beginning. How does the heart of God’s Word compare to our knowledge of God’s word? Unless our lives match God’s heart, the use of God’s word is in vain.
Jesus’s personification of God’s law leads us to step beyond an abstract faith controlled by rigid interpretations into a realm with far more freedom. A place where God’s traits are law and whose command produces love. Where the person of God is shared with the person of humanity. God will not stop until a full unity has taken place. God’s intention is to be united, not to find an easy way out. God’s intention is to bless the vulnerable and abused, not to protect the powerful.
There is something true about God laying under the letters of this law that compels us to learn more. A type of truth that is hard to understand but appealing to the nature of our heart. It is as if we were made for this, made in the image of this truth. When this type of existential truth is presented, we cannot help but turn our ear toward the genesis of good news. We are dying to know who this “other” is and who we are in return.