Today’s passages from Leviticus could be cause for some to say that God is a discriminatory God…discriminating against those priests who are handicapped with regard to offering sacrifices to God. Not so…God had specific requirements in that no imperfect animals would be used for sacrifice and, similarly, there was a requirement for priests. Not as an insult…rather, because God was perfect, the one who is to serve was to be closely matched. Priests were held to a higher standard than all others. It is important to note that those priests with “blemishes” were indeed cared for, protected and supported with food from the sacrifices. They were not abandoned and, indeed, provided other necessary services within the Tabernacle. The overall duties of the priests were God-decreed and were focused on helping the people draw near to God and worship him alone. The priest was not a position of power – they were not allowed money or land so as not to distract them from their God-ordained purpose.
And with this detailed description of the holiness required of those who serve God for the people of God, we move to Psalm 22. It is a prayer of lament – one that provides us with a link between OT and NT and the passion of our Lord, Jesus the Christ. The Gospel writers cite Psalm 22 and allude to it in their crucifixion accounts. However, Psalm 22 carries more, not simply because it appears in the NT – it is important because the NT writers used it for its deep and intense expression of suffering and…faith.
So we come to Mark 12…after talking about the high standards of the priests and the depth of faith seen in Psalm 22, there is the reality of the number of rules and regulations that Jews of the day tried to live by – 613 to be exact. For a perspective on this, just think about how many rules and regulations you must try to live by when you get behind the wheel of a car – If you think the number is small, just take a glance at the Illinois Rules of the Road. And yet, Jesus summarizes all of God’s laws in response to that challenging question…love God and love your neighbor as yourself – in this order. Let this provide a focus for your day…every day. And when you find yourself in a tough situation regarding what to do or how to respond, ask yourself which path provides the best love for God and love for others.
We are indeed blemished people one and all with each of us held to a high standard by the God who loves us…who made himself real to us in Jesus so that we could not only know his love…but also his grace and forgiveness. Because, on our own we will not succeed so, that high standard? Love God and love others!