“Of all the Commandments, which is the Most Important “?
The gospels tell us that Jesus, during the last days of his life, spent time with his disciples and his closest friends. He also spent a considerable amount of time preaching and teaching at the Temple. He lived until he died, furthering the mission he was given until the end.
In Mark’s gospel we are given a glimpse of some of the exchanges that occurred between Jesus and those who had come to see him at the Temple on Tuesday. Many were astounded that Jesus even had the gall to return the day after he had caused quite a scene by overturning tables and telling people to get out of his Father’s house. By this time, Jesus had angered many and they showed their scorn by challenging and testing Jesus. They wanted to trap him in a statement. When they asked, “Should we pay taxes to Ceasar”?, they were sure they had Jesus cornered. If he answered yes, he could be condemned as a traitor to the Jewish cause. If he answered no, he could be condemned as a traitor to the Romans and turned in.
Through all of this, Jesus stood his ground. He was able to read the hearts of those confronting him and so did not fall for the trickery.
Mark tells of a man who witnessed Jesus’ wisdom: “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that
Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?'” (Mark 12:28)
“The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 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 this.
And the scribe said to him, ‘Right Teacher. You have truly stated that he is one and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offering and sacrifices’.
And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God'”. (Mark 12: 29-34)
This exchange literally stopped the debate, at least for the time being. As Mark relates, “After that, no one would venture to ask him any more questions”. (Mark 12:34)
For such a heated debate to be so suddenly halted, I think there must have been a feeling that something very profound had just happened between the scribe and Jesus. What happened to that scribe? Did he become a disciple of Jesus? And did witnessing this exchange change the minds of anyone else in that angry group at the Temple?
Am I like the scribe who listened to the wisdom Jesus was offering him? Or do I act like those who scoffed and thought they already had all the answers?