About six years ago when our now 17 year old son Jon got serious about playing baseball we set up a net in the back of our garage. It’s about 8’ by 8’ and can stop a speeding baseball. Here’s what we do:  I sit on a bucket five feet in front of the net off to one side.  Jon stands directly in front of me – facing me – ready to swing the bat towards the net.  I then take a pile of baseballs and throw them about two feet in front of me and one foot up in the air so it slowly arcs towards him. He crushes it. Into the net. He can’t miss.  We do that 100 times a day. That’s called “Soft Toss.”  Even professional players do this. It gives the batter lots of easy repetitions so they can improve their swing and strengthen those specific muscles.

You’ve probably heard someone say “Wow that was a soft toss,” in reference to an easy question that allowed the one answering to give the best possible response.  Let’s look at two soft tosses pitched to Jesus.

We find the first soft toss in Matthew 22:34-40. A Pharisee who was an expert in the law “tested” Jesus by asking him this question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?”  Wow, what a nice soft toss.  Jesus can do almost anything he wants with this question.  Of course, the difference here between my analogy and what’s actually happening in this scenario, is that the questioner wasn’t trying to give Jesus an easy soft toss. He was trying (as they often did) to trick Jesus. To trap him in a never-ending conundrum of sorts.  I mean, who could choose which of the laws was the most important?  But for Jesus – this was a perfect question that would allow him to go straight to the heart.

We know his home run answer.  “Love God, love people.”  And not only did that summarize all of the law, but also the prophets teachings.  That was not only the greatest single commandment, but the one that summarized everything.

The second soft toss question was thrown to him by the crowds in John 6:28.  It appears the question was innocent, without guile. These crowds had just taken a boat from Tiberius (on the West side of the lake) to the other side – where Jesus had just fed five thousand people by multiplying the fish and bread.  This crowd had heard about miracle and wanted in on the action – I would have surely been in that crowd. But when they got to the place where the miracle had happened, Jesus and his disciples had already moved on.  So the (slightly frustrated) crowd figured Jesus had probably gone back to Capernaum – so they went there looking for him.

When they find him they ask when he had arrived (like that really mattered).  But Jesus called them out on their motives. Ah, it wasn’t the miracles only that they were after – they liked the fresh fish and bread. They were hungry. Fair enough. I still would have been in that crowd.  Jesus then tells them to “work for food that does not spoil” and he even says that he will give them that food.

Slightly confused, surely intrigued and probably genuinely searching, they ask the soft toss question. “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

What a question!  Here’s the hungry – literally and spiritually – crowd asking Jesus this: Just tell us what to DO and we’ll DO it.  I think they were sincere, and Jesus treated them as if they were sincere. He answered straight up:

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  Imagine how many ways Jesus might have answered that question?  How would you answer it today?  What if someone came to you and said “What must I DO to be in?”  Would you answer simply “believe in Jesus?”

Jon never misses when we play soft toss.  He hits 100 out of a 100. That’s the point.

And Jesus didn’t miss with either of these.  That’s the point. He could have done anything with these two questions:  What’s the greatest commandment and what is the work God requires us to do?

The answers?   Love God. Love People. Believe in Me!

Perhaps we have complicated those two home runs of Jesus!