So he asks, What is the most important commandment of God’s law? So many scholars in this day thought that they had figured that out–they had created extra laws that, in their opinion, upheld the law. They essentially created a “buffer zone” around the original law, teaching their own commandments as the commandments of God (see Jesus’ discussion on this in Mark 7). But this scribe wants the real answer. He has devoted his life to copying down the words perfectly, but here he wants to know the glue of it all. Bottom line: What is the law all about?
We can all quote the answer. Well, at least half of it. The latter half.
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Eternal One is our God, and the Eternal One is the only God. You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second great commandment is this: ‘Love others in the same way you love yourself.’ The are no commandments more important than these.”
So, the law is all about two things: GOD & LOVE. The reason for all that God commands of His people is that their lives are to show their allegiance to this God, the only God, and to show that His character is one of love. One that poured love out to chose His people, one that deserves all the love that we can give, and one that shares this love with all the inhabitants of the earth. In this way, as He spoke to Abraham, “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” We can look to Jesus as the complete fulfillment of this in His life & on His cross.
But look at the scribe’s reply.
“Teacher, You have spoken the truth. For there is one God and only one God, and to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves are more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice we could ever give.”
I remember once hearing someone speaking on taking up our cross & following Jesus say that we must remember that it is our cross. Jesus doesn’t call us to pick up His cross: His was a cross we could never bear, that is why He bore it for us. That is why I love the way the scribe ends his discussion. It’s as if he knows that anything he has to offer will never be enough. But love is not something we can create or conjure. We typically don’t love on our own, we have to warm up to someone first, right? But when we realize the magnificent, infinitely beautiful love that God has for us and fully submitted to us on the cross and fully freed for us to realize in the resurrection, it releases us to love like He loves. That is how we love Him with all we are, and how we love our neighbor as ourselves, by first feeling His love touch our hearts. And when that happens, everything changes. Love truly does change everything. And the only response to love is more love. If we try and respond to it with our own doings that are disconnected from love, we feel run down and far from freedom. For there are no commandments more important that that of loving this God who loves you so much, and loving His world with the same love He has lavished upon you.
Jesus hears the wisdom of this scribe: “Well said; if you understand that, then the kingdom of God is closer than you think.”
Nobody asked Jesus any more questions after that.