One of the most penetrating answers given to Jesus was given by a scribe. Too often we generalise about people and don’t take account of the fact that not everyone is the same. I am often critical of churches because some of them teach a form of doctrine that does not promote the truth of the New Covenant. But not all do this. Some teach doctrines to keep people in bondage, but not all do this. And some seem more intent on “fleecing the flock” than promoting growth and maturity, but again, not all do this.
In all churches there are ministers truly trying to follow the Lord and his leading. They are teaching the people in their care to the best of their own level of knowledge and experience of the Lord. When I am being critical of some churches and forms of ministry, I should not generalise but wish to point out that it is not the people in the church at fault but the poor quality of the ministry that is at fault. It is the teachers in those churches who do the wrong thing and who teach things that are not consistent with the truth of the covenant that will have to stand to account. Thus it is more important for me that I seek the truth and that I try to present the truth as I see it and know it in these words.
This rather long preamble has much to do with this section of scripture. One of the scribes came to Jesus to ask him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” (Verse 28) That is, which is the most important of the 600-plus commandments. Now this man was a scribe and the generalisation about scribes was that they were opposed to Jesus on many occasions. Likewise we often saw the Pharisees stand opposed to Jesus too. But we also see Nicodemus, who was a ruler and a Pharisee, in John 3 come to Jesus recognising him as the Christ and a believer. He also stood up in Jesus’ defence (John 7:50-53) and he provided the costly ointments for Jesus burial too (John 19:39).
So not all of the Pharisees and not all of the scribes were opposed to Jesus and thus the generalisation that they were is wrong.
In this section of Mark 12, after this scribe asks his question Jesus replies, “The first is, ‘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 neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Verses 29-31) Then the scribe responds to Jesus, not in contempt, not in opposition, not trying to prove Jesus wrong, but in full agreement. He said, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Verse 32-33)
In saying this he showed that he recognised that all of the ordinances of the law, the rituals of the burnt offerings and sacrifices, are nothing compared to the truth of the law which is love. Love is the most important aspect of the law and it is on love that the law is based. The Pharisees and scribes (but not all of them) wrongfully used the law as a weapon to punish and strike fear into men’s hearts. But Jesus showed the most important aspect of the law was to learn how to live in love. And in living in love we can live in harmony and in relationship with God and our fellow man.
This is the same message in the New Testament. Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, “…love is the fulfilling of the law.” It is in love that we live in accordance with God’s laws. It is in love that our relationship with God is established through Jesus Christ, and we can learn to love as he loves for he loved us first and gave Jesus his Son as sacrifice to bring us to him. Through love for us Jesus died so that we can be saved from sin. Perhaps the most well-known scripture in the Bible, John 3:16 shows us the love God had for man when he says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Love is the answer to all of the questions we have in this world. Love is the fulfilling of the law, it is the basis of our relationships with each other and with God and it is the force that keeps us at peace and in harmony with God and each other.
The scribe in Mark 12 knew this too, for he showed his love in his answer to the Lord. When Jesus saw that he answered well his response was not to that of an opponent, but to a friend, for he said, “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Verse 34)
Love is the thing that will bring us into the kingdom of heaven. Love is the key to life and Jesus saw it and recognised it in this scribe and he told him as much. Love truly is the answer to all things and the love of God will lead us to his eternal light and life.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Sanja Gjenero)