Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jesus' Commandments

Psalm 71:3 says,
Be my strong refuge,
to which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
for You are my rock and my fortress.

True confessions: I used to HATE Psalm 119. All that talk about "loving God's law." I hated His law. It condemned me. It showed me how I failed. It told me to do things I could not do. It showed me how the things I did were contrary to God's desires. The Bible could speak of "loving God's law" and pastors could preach on it, but I disagreed. How could anybody love the thing that damned?

And yet, it is God's law. It must be good. It must.
But that didn't matter to me. It condemned. I hated it.

I know people who say they "love God's law." Many of them are people who love it because they see it as their instruction manual to get to heaven. "Here's the plan. Follow the plan. Do what it says. All will be well."

A long time ago, John Mark loved God's law that way. He came to Jesus to inquire about heaven (Mark 10). He announced to Jesus that he had kept the commandments. (Jesus didn't seem to think that was enough, though. Or maybe Jesus was of the opinion that Mark hadn't really kept those commandments; maybe Mark wasn't there for the Sermon on the Mount.)

This is the general way it works. Either we pat ourselves on the back for keeping the law, expecting God to be oh-so-happy with what good little Christians we are. Or we despair because the law demands what we cannot give.

Pastor talks sometimes about Jesus' commands as differentiated from Moses' commands. (Now, he is not saying that Moses' commands are not God's commands. They most certainly are. They are, however, commands of law.) Pastor pointed out that Jesus commanded His apostles to forgive sins (John 20) and to baptize (Matthew 28) and to preach (Luke 24) and to eat His body and blood (Mark 14). These are "commands" of the gospel. These are commands that are sweet and life-giving and comforting.

But it was something I'd never heard before.
This took some pondering.
For a couple of years.

So it was immensely satisfying to note in Psalm 71 that the Lord has given the commandment to save me.


  1. John Mark was the rich young ruler? I never heard that before. How do you know?

  2. Hi, Ashley. I hadn't heard it either until I got to hanging out with pastors who like their saints days. ;-)

    There is no way to know for sure, but it's one of those things that I've just heard often, and that seems to fit very well with the rest of the story. This is a pretty detailed incident in Mark's gospel. Mark's family's home was spacious enough to serve as "headquarters" for much of what was going on in the church of Jerusalem. (As in, Mark's home was probably the location of the "upper room" of the Last Supper, of Pentecost, and where the disciples were praying when God sprung Peter from prison.) It is also held that John Mark was the boy who ran away naked in the Garden of Gethsemane. That would fit very well with Mark coming to Jesus, going away sad, coming back to hear more, becoming a disciple and even one of the Seventy, and going out on missionary journeys.