Scripture: Mark 12:28-34
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Main Point: Jesus lifted up two commands as the most important. In theory, following these rules should be easy. However, as we live out our faith we find a lot of options and choices emerge out of trying to follow the greatest commandments.
Learning Game: We Didn’t Playtest this at all (25 minutes)
Supplies: Multiple copies of the game
We Didn’t Playtest this at all is a silly game with only two rules. Draw a card and play a card. These cards will have a wide variety of effects. Some of these effects will eliminate a player from a game (because of a shark attack, you see) and others will introduce new rules (like do not use the words "I" "Me" or "you"). Again, this is a silly game. Do stress that players read a card completely before playing it. How someone wins (or loses) is all determined by the cards.
A basic copy of the game plays up to ten players. It can be easily found at online retailers and game stores for between $10-15. There is an expansion deck as well. Mixing those two together and then splitting into two allows for up to twenty people to play. For a small group there is also a version called Legacies that allows the players to actually modify the cards. This means the game changes and grows over repeated plays. This is an especially good fit for a small group that might play together often because the game can get a lot of use beyond this one lesson.
Post Game Debrief (10 minutes)
Use the following questions to prompt discussion:
1. Was that game easy or hard to play?
2. That game only had two rules? What game have you played with the most rules?
3. Which do you prefer a few rules or a lot of rules in a game?
4. The game began with two rules, what are some ways that it evolved over time?
5. Was there any strategy to that game or all luck?
Facilitator Instruction: This game will connect with the scripture, so it is a good idea to gain an understanding of it. The biggest thing to emphasize is how even though the game only had two rules a lot of game play emerged. Yes, most was silly but the end of each game there was more to it than draw a card and play a card. While the game has an enormous amount of luck, there is some strategy in determine what the best card to play each round is. It is likely, that if 3 or more games are played someone will win more than once. Draw out of that person why they think they won.
Biblical Discussion (25 minutes)
Use the following questions to prompt discussion:
1. What are some of the rules you know of in the bible? Which ones are the most important?
Facilitator Instruction: If the group is advanced or really savvy with their biblical knowledge this question can be skipped, as they probably already know what Jesus lifted up as the two greatest commandments.
Explain that the scripture is going to be what Jesus said were the two most important rules. Read Mark 12:28-34
2. Why is loving God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind so important?
Facilitator instruction: The students might not know that this is the Shema, found in Deuteronomy. It may be helpful to share with them that this command was widely regarded as the most important commandment. When it came to having a faith in God, this command is to be considered the starting point. A requirement for faith to be faith is that it must be based in a love for God.
3. This first command comes from Deuteronomy, but in that scripture it does not mention love God with your mind. Why do you think Jesus added that?
Facilitator Instruction: When it comes considering our total being mind was left out. It was added to emphasize that every facet of who we are should be devoted to loving God. If it seems to flow with the discussion, it might be appropriate how we can express love to God with our mind, heart, and strength.
4. Jesus also added love your neighbor as yourself. Why do you think Jesus said this is as important as loving God?
Facilitator Instruction: Some context to add is that this rule also comes from the Old Testament, from Leviticus. However, compared to the first one that everyone knew. The command to love your neighbor as yourself is an obscure one. It is important though, because it is faith put into action. To have faith we must love God, but in order for our faith to have any real power or make a real difference we must put it into practice by loving others.
5. Look at verse 33. Burnt offerings and sacrifices were the primary way that the Jews of this era worshiped and expressed their devotion to God. Why is loving your neighbor more important than those things?
Facilitator Instruction: One of the messages that is consistent throughout scripture is that a changed heart is more important to God than routine acts of worship or devotion. Anyone can go through the acts of making a sacrifice (or attending church) but it takes someone who is obsessed with God’s love to sacrificially give of themselves to help someone else without expecting anything in return.
6. Jesus only lifted up two rules. What do you think, are those rules easy to follow?
7. What can sometimes make following these two rules difficult?
Facilitator Instructions: This is where the game can really connect with the scripture. In the game there were only two rules, but through enacting those two rules the game really evolved and changed over time. However, the two base rules stayed the same. In the same way, if we take these commands seriously the details of how they are carried out will change. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not an action that is always the same. Just like every card played in the game had a different (and unpredictable) effect, loving people will also be different (and unpredictable). The rules for the game were simple but often the impact of those rules were anything but. In the same way, loving God and loving people is simple. However, doing it often requires us to give more of ourselves than we want. What makes it difficult is the level of sacrifice required from us.
8. What do you think is the best strategy for following Jesus’ rules?
Facilitator Instruction: This can connect back to the game as well. Even though the game is random, playing the cards that either gave a win or forced others to lose is the best way to win. In the game the strategy is to play the card that is personally beneficial. Following Jesus’ rules the opposite is true. The winning strategy is to do what helps others the most. Specifically, we show a full love for God and love for others when we sacrifice of ourselves in a way that points others to God’s love. A good follow-up is to ask for examples, and the facilitator should have at least one lined up to share.