My uncle was once invited to deliver a message at a Taiwanese church. As he introduced himself to the congregation, he apologized for his weak voice because he was recently diagnosed with a heart condition.
After the service, a member approached him, saying that he was a Qigong massage therapist and would like to help him improve his heart health. He made an appointment with my uncle to come to his home to provide the treatment.
I happened to be at my uncle’s home when the therapist showed up. He asked him to take off his shoes and socks and began to massage the bottom of his foot. We were surprised why he would rub the foot to treat a heart condition.
Suddenly, my uncle screamed loudly when the therapist pressed on a particular place under his foot. He explained that he barely touched that area without any pressure at all. The tenderness in that spot confirmed his heart trouble.
From then on, the therapist came twice a week to give him a massage to open the acupuncture meridians to improve the follow of energy between his heart and the rest of the body. After a few weeks of treatment, my uncle felt a significant improvement in his well-being.
Even as a former physician, my uncle was surprised, just as I was, that you can heal the heart by massaging a certain part of the feet. Modern education has taught us to think more systematically than systemically, making us fail to see the connection between the body parts, at least not between the heart and the feet.
Ancient medicine sees the entire body as one, which opened my eyes to the “Systems Theory.” Some connections between our body parts are obvious. For example, when you go for a checkup, your doctor would first look at your eyes, tongue, and ears to detect what’s going on with your internal organs. If your eyes are yellow, for example, you might have a liver problem.
If you understand your entire body is one unit, you will look differently at your body, health, and well-being. From there, you can move one step up by seeing your entire family as one unit.
There is a subject of study called “Family Systems,” which considers the whole family as one unit. That means the emotional illness of one of the family members may have something to do with another, or the entire family, which also means you can treat one member of the family and heal the entire.
If you can go one more step up and see the entire humanity as one unit, you are closer to the kingdom of God, and you will be living in heaven on earth. So, today, let’s explore how Jesus taught us to get closer to heaven based on his teaching in this weeks’ scripture lesson.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Mark 12:28-34. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. (Mark 12:28-34).
[This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God.]
I am sure you might wonder why Jesus ended by saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” despite it saying that the scribe answered wisely. It implies that wisdom is useless until it is applied to your life. If he could put his wisdom into practice, he would be in the kingdom of God.
So, let’s look at what this wisdom is and how to apply it in our lives. The passage began by saying,
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” (Mark 12:28).
Soon after Jesus entered Jerusalem, religious leaders from different departments and denominations came to question his authority. He silenced the Pharisees and Sadducees with his wise answers, so now the scribes came to take their turn to investigate him. Scribes were the authorities of the Bible in those days. They could find out if Jesus really knew the Bible.
One of the scribes asked Jesus which he would say to be the most important commandment. The Bible is thick and deep with many commandments. If we can find the most important one, we can put it into our priority to practice. It’s like saying, if there is only one thing we can do in life to make God happy, what would it be?
His question also has a hidden intention. Since Jesus is claiming that he is the Son of God, it makes God more than one. So, this is also a test question, or more precisely a trap question, to find out if Jesus was monotheist or polytheist.
Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ (v. 29-30).
This statement is called Shema—the first prayer or faith statement every Jewish kid had to learn. (Reciting in Hebrew.)
Most people have misunderstood the oneness of God as if He is a lonely God. NRSV makes it even more confusing by translating it into “the Lord alone” in Deuteronomy 6:4.
If you understand God is oneness, you are getting closer to heaven because you will see this world as a broken place—a world of broken relationships among families, friends, communities, and countries.
Jesus said, “The father and I are one.” The religious leaders of Jesus time failed to understand this oneness, so when Jesus said that he was the Son of God, they got offended because Jesus had threatened their monotheism.
The rest of the verse reinforces this oneness if you understand it, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
The word “love” is translated from Greek, “agape,” which has no English equivalent. Many scholars translate it as “sacrificial love,” as exemplified by Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus said,
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).
Since Jesus did lay down his life for us, many scholars concluded that “agape” means “sacrificial love.” However, based on Jesus’ teaching and the context of the Bible as a whole, “agape” love is harmonious love.
I mentioned at the beginning that our entire body is one unit. Its health depends on the harmony of all parts. The condition of one part of the body affects another. Even though we cannot see our hearts, a trained person could diagnose it by looking at other parts of our body, even a spot under our foot. The healing of one part of the body can heal another or even the entire when the harmony is restored.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that life is not a journey but a piece of music, or precisely, an orchestra with God as our conductor. So, to love God means to play our instrument in harmony with the rest of God’s orchestra.
So, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” means you must do everything to maintain the oneness or the harmony.
It seems suddenly the scribe who asked Jesus the question became enlightened. It began to click in him.
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;” (Mark 12:32).
The scripture he had been reciting all his life has begun to make sense. He called Jesus “Teacher.” His humility revealed his wisdom. He said, “Besides him, there is no other.” He had got it. There is nothing out there. Outside of the oneness of God, there is only chaos, disunity, and wars. There is no life outside of this oneness. We are called to maintain harmony.
The first commandment is to know that God is one and to maintain the oneness with God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The question is, how? How do you maintain that harmony? Jesus said the second commandment is equally important.
The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (v. 31).
The key phrase here is “as yourself.” Most people misunderstand this phrase, thinking it means to love someone “as you love yourself.” No! There is a difference between loving others “as yourself” and loving others “as you love yourself.” The former is oneness, and the latter is division. The former is systemic, and the latter is systematic.
Again, using our entire body as one unit as an analogy, loving others “as yourself” means recognizing others as part of you. It’s not two people loving each other but two parts of the body harmonizing together.
In other words, Jesus is saying, if you want to harmonize with God in God’s orchestra, you must also harmonize with the player next to you—your neighbor. It is Jesus’ dream and desire that we become one. He prayed the night of his arrest,
“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” (John 17:22-23a).
It’s so important to understand this oneness because it changes your worldview. It opens your eyes as to how you can worship God. Your sacrifice and your offering have a completely different meaning.
The scribe suddenly got it and said,
and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (v. 33b).
Many people go to church, temple, or house of worship to burn incense, give donations, and offer prayers sacrificially, without harmony with their neighbors. The best incense for God is the incense of harmony. King David wrote:
How wonderful and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1).
It is important to realize that God does not recognize our offering and worship when we live in disharmony with others. Jesus taught us how to put this into practice.
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Mat 5:23-24).
I know it’s not easy to do because we live in a fallen world and have to deal with fallen people, but knowing this truth about God’s oneness will get us closer to the kingdom of God because consciousness is the beginning of a change. Without consciousness, we might continue living in the darkness.
Jesus seemed to be satisfied with what he heard from the scribe.
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (v. 34).
I also hope you are not far from the kingdom of God as you understand the profound meaning of the Great Commandments. The next step is to reconcile with everyone you are in disharmony with.
I know some relationships are easy to reconcile, but others are not so. However, holding grudges does not hurt the other person; it will hurt yourself and damage the harmony of God’s oneness.
If you understand the oneness of God, you will realize that your disharmony is ultimately hurting God. If you understand the oneness of God, you know that you can become an agent of healing, just as the healing of the foot can serve the healing of the heart.
Never think that your role is so small in the great universe that your action wouldn’t mean anything. Have you heard about the Butterfly Effect? It’s a scientific metaphor to describe how the universe is connected as one unit. It says that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in the Amazon Forest could later cause a storm in New Jersey.
There are many theories about where and how the pandemic started, but there is one thing we cannot deny—our entire world is connected. Just as a negative action somewhere can cause a storm elsewhere, a positive action can also have a ripple effect.
Jesus died on the cross on our behalf revealed that we are all connected. He can pay the price for our sins because we are all one. Our heart condition is healed by his servanthood from the lowest place under our feet. Through him, we are reconciled to be one again with God and with one another.
The Great Commandment says you matter to God, and your actions matter to the universe. The change begins with us. It means a small act of reconciliation by you could induce harmony in God’s great orchestra.
Let us hold this profound wisdom in mind and put it into practice to let it bear fruit in our life so that God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
That’s it for today, and I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I do. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.