Prepare Our Hearts – September 1, 2021

A mid-week devotional from Central Presbyterian Church helping us to help prepare our hearts for the day ahead.  If you would like to receive these in your inbox, please let us know. Find the complete archive here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Mark 12:35-37

Whose Son Is the Christ?
35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at my right hand,    until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

If you are like me, when you hear the word “scribe,” the first thing that comes to mind is someone who writes things down all day long. And while scribes in the time of Jesus were indeed specially entrusted to create copies of the Old Testament, they were much more than human Xerox machines. First century Jewish scribes were THE authorities on the Word of God, and everyone knew it. In part to signify their superiority over the commoners, Scribes wore stunningly bright, white garments that practically screamed “look-at-my-holiness” and drew every eye in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the heavily-trafficked Jerusalem streets. All other normal citizens were required to stand as the scribes passed out of respect for their unparalleled education and personal conduct, with only tradesman actively busy in work being exempt.

The scribes, Pharisees, and other temple leaders were highly revered for their knowledge of the Scriptures, but Jesus saw past the displays of pomp and circumstance and right into their self-righteous hearts. These experts were supposed to be the ones who were nearest to the Lord, the only ones who could be entrusted to safeguard God’s Word and lead God’s people into proper and acceptable worship, but despite their grave responsibility and spiritual authority, the scribes cared far more about their own comfort and keeping up appearances than anything else.
In the hundreds of years since God had last spoken through the prophets, many people had begun to wonder when, or even if, God would fulfill His promise of sending the Anointed One, or Messiah, that He had promised in prophesies like 2 Samuel 7, Isaiah 9, Jeremiah 23, and many others. During that inter-testamental period, many leaders, like Judas of Galilee, attempted to claim the title of Messiah and lead military revolts aimed at expelling the occupying Roman forces. Predictably, the Roman’s easily squashed the rebellions and there was often collateral damage when it came to civilian casualties and property destruction. 

When it came to the Messiah, the common people were looking for a military leader who, like the Israelites thought they had found in Saul, would be an imposing soldier and model king. The masses wanted freedom and independence, to be out from under the thumb of Caesar and his empire. The scribes and Pharisees, on the other hand, had arraigned a rather convenient compromise with Rome. The religious elite were free to operate the temple and police the people religiously provided they did not encourage or advocate dissidence. The Messiah the Scribes and Pharisees looked for, if they were even interested at all, would be someone like themselves, who understood the political climate, practiced ostentatious holiness, and preached a message of compliance. They believed Messiah would be little more than a better version of themselves; a great man indeed, but a man nonetheless.

Teaching in the temple courts during the final week of his earthly ministry, Jesus asked the “experts” about David’s prophecy in Psalm 110. Everyone understood that this was a Psalm written by King David, and if King David was referring to his own heir as Lord, didn’t that mean that the Messiah could not be merely human? Mustn’t it mean that God Himself was planning to come down in their midst, that the eternal Creator had promised to put on flesh and dwell with His finite creation?
In essence, Jesus asked, “Hey, experts of the scriptures, how are we supposed to understand this scripture?” Their stunned silence spoke volumes and exposed their faithless religion for the facade that it always was. Although Jesus had dared to challenge their religious authorities, Mark tells us “the crowd received Him gladly.” The empty traditions of the Pharisees and scribes had turned religious obedience into nothing more than a performance, grand demonstrations of sacrifice and lengthy prayers lacking any heart, passion, or true power. 

Doesn’t the same thing still happen today when we look to God or religion only to affirm our own agendas and programs, our own politics and plans? If I worship a God who fits neatly into all of my preconceived boxes, then I am most likely worshipping an idol created in my own image and likeness, as opposed to the God who made me in His. God promises that when we seek Him we will find Him, but only when we seek Him with all of our hearts. And when we encounter God as He is, we are always the ones who will come away changed more into His image, never the other way around.

Prayer for Today:
Gracious Father, we come to You as we are, weak and frail as we may be. And we come seeking You as You are, the Almighty, Infinite, Sovereign Creator. When we encounter You, we can not be anything but humbled and reminded of our complete inadequacy and Your all-sufficiency. Forgive us for the times when we have tried to co-opt You for our purposes rather than submitting to Your purposes for us. May You form and fashion us more and more into the image of Your Son, the son of David and Lord of all. We offer this in His perfect and precious name, the name of Jesus. Amen.