This morning’s reading in the gospel of Mark was just seven short verses . . . but man, some pretty serious food for chewing on here. An encounter between a scribe and a Savior . . . a seeker of truth and a Speaker of truth . . . a King and someone not far from the kingdom. It’s a question and answer period . . . an attempt to take the profound and make it simple — and in doing so, lose none of its profoundness . . . all the commandments boiled down into just two. And in the end, I find myself learning not just from the answer, but also from the questioner.
A scribe, a teacher of the law, has been listening to Jesus debate the Pharisees about the lawfulness of paying taxes to Caesar. He’s been following closely Jesus’ teachings to the Sadducees concerning the resurrection (Mark 12:13-27). And then, he too approaches Jesus. Like the others who had confronted Jesus, it seems from Matthew 22:35 that he intended at first to trap Jesus with his question . . . but from the Mark account you also sense that his heart is more open than Jesus’ previous questioners as he recognizes that Jesus has “answered them well” (12:28). And I’m thinking that’s all the Lord needs in a heart. Even if motives might not be pure, a heart that is at all seeking truth is a heart Jesus can touch.
And so this expert in the law asks him a simple question, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
What a great question . . . “Boil it down for me. What’s at the heart of following God? I’m not bright enough to remember all the commandments . . . I’m not disciplined enough to follow all the commandments. So give it to me in a nutshell . . . which is the first commandment?” And Jesus gives him more than he asks for. In effect, the Lord says, “Your question is a good one, but it comes up short . . . there isn’t just one, but two commandments that are at the heart of God’s law . . .
“‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 ESV)
There it is! Good questions set the stage for great answers. Succinct . . to the point . . . but oh, how far-reaching the implications.
But great truth won’t have great impact if it doesn’t have a great response. Cue the scribe’s response:
“You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. And to love Him with all the heart and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33 ESV)
Bingo!!! Home run!!! This teacher of the law is willing to become a student . . . this debater of truth has a heart that is also seeking truth . . . this tester of Jesus is on his way to becoming a follower of Jesus. By God’s grace, and through the power of the Living Word, he’s getting it.
And so this morning, it’s not just Jesus’ answer that challenges me . . . it’s the scribes openness to Jesus’ answer which has me thinking. Because of the scribes sincere desire for truth, though he may have been antagonistic at first, when he hears truth, he embraces it. Although Jesus may not have lined up with his preconceived ideas of what Messiah should look like . . . although Jesus teachings may have been challenging his biases . . . when he heard truth, he received truth. And so, Jesus says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v 34).
Oh, how I can learn from this scribe. I’ve done some studying . . . I’ve developed some views of Scripture’s teaching . . . I’ve formed some level of theological conclusions on different matters . . . but, how I need to continue to listen for the Master’s voice and be ready to hear His truth. How I need to keep asking the questions . . . seeking the truth . . . desiring wisdom and understanding . . . and then, willingly receive it . . . even when it might not align with my agenda. How I need to continue to be a student and humbly look to Him as the Teacher. How I need to resist the temptation to think I’ve got it all figured out, but continue to seek His voice . . . and when I hear it, to respond, “Well said, Teacher!” How I need a heart Jesus can touch!
By His grace . . . for His glory.