Scripture: Mark 12:28-34
Key verse: (34) “When Jesus saw that he answered wisely he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Reflection: There are all kinds of questions. We ask questions to learn and gain information. We ask questions to test someone’s knowledge. We ask questions to prove someone is wrong or prove ourselves right. The source of our questions can come from mixed motives. Jesus was asked all kinds of questions — some by religious leaders, some by the disciples, some by earnest seekers who were looking for compassion and hope. In our text today, a scribe decided to ask Jesus a question because he was impressed by him. The scribe’s question: “Which commandment is the first of all?” was an easy question to answer for any observant Jew at that time. From the beginning of the history of Israel, it was made very clear that the Lord God is one, to be loved with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Jesus’ answered with the Shema Israel — the centerpiece of morning and evening prayers in Judaism. The word Shema means “hear”. Morning and night, Israel was (and is to this day) called to hear that the Lord God is one and Israel was called to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Jews were to say this prayer and teach it to their children so they would never forget who God was and is. For this reason, this became the most important of all prayers.
Jesus answers the scribe correctly, but the scribe already knew the answer to his question. Yet, he asked it anyway. Why? Was the scribe impressed by Jesus but needed to test Jesus’ orthodoxy? Or did the scribe need a platform to show his approval of Jesus without making himself suspect to others in the religious establishment? We will never know for sure. However, it is the last part of the scribe’s statement that I find interesting. He makes an editorial comment about Jesus’ answer quoting themes found in the Psalms and the prophets. He says that loving God and loving neighbor are more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. That is, loving God is more important than anything else that we might do in worship or programs or personal piety. Without love, everything else we do is empty. This invites us to examine our motives. Why do we do what we do? Is it because we love God and neighbor? Or do we like to put on a show and attract attention to ourselves? Loving God and loving others is all about God – not us. While we are inspired by God to share God’s love, it’s important to remember to keep God at the center. God wants a humble and contrite heart. Jesus affirms what the scribe says. We can only imagine how incredible it was for the scribe to hear he was not far from the kingdom of God. What a powerful affirmation of his faith and Jesus’ ministry. As we seek to live out the commandment to love God and neighbor, let’s focus on what really matters to God.
Prayer: Lord God, we submit to your love. Help us to love you with sincere and humble hearts that we might live out your commands in such a way that others are drawn to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].