Here is another Gospel where a person is seeking to be their best in the eyes of God. A valid question, “What is the first of all the commandments?” And Jesus answers him directly stating the first and the second greatest that is very much connected to it. There is no doubt left in the scribes mind about the importance of love here.
This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:
“Well said, teacher.”
Mark’s Gospel—generally considered the first to be written—has a very human quality. Often we seem to be viewing events through the eyes of an actual witness: Jesus sleeping in a boat with his head , looking at the rich young man, or gazing about . Some early Christian writers thought that Mark wrote down what Peter preached, which would certainly account for the eyewitness quality of Mark’s writing. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all relate a discussion about the Great Commandment that took place between Jesus and a scribe. But there are surprising differences in the three accounts. (Well, perhaps not so surprising, if we remember that a few decades had passed between the event and the writing.) Of course, the possibility exists that two or three scribes questioned Jesus at different times regarding the same all-important point. But commentators on the Scriptures consider this unlikely.
Matthew and Luke convey a negative impression of the scribe. He asks his question to “test” Jesus. Mark, instead, presents the scribe as a man who has deeply studied the Law and drawn his own conclusions. He sincerely wants to know whether Jesus’ thoughts on the Great Commandment match his own. He and the Master quickly find themselves on the same wavelength. It’s interesting that the scribe makes explicit what Jesus has implied, by adding: “. . . there is no other than he.” It’s as if this man had been mulling over these truths for years. I’m struck by his final comment: “. . . worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” which Jesus affirms.
In reflecting on this double commandment and its practice today, I get the impression that the pendulum may have swung too far good deeds and ritual. For many people, religion seems to consist only in helping others and not worshiping God. Instead, we’re called to do both, as the two parts of the Great Commandment indicate.