Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Nov 4th)

Pastor's Summary of Mark 12:28-34

The story of the scribe asking about the first commandment is found in all three Synoptics, but with significant differences.  In Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-28, the scribe comes as an adversary to test Jesus, whereas Mark presents the scribe much more favorably. Scribes appear throughout this Gospel in fact in 19 incidents. They appear to be a negative influence. However in this story we have a happy exception. He comes to Jesus because he has seen that Jesus has answered his opponents well. The Sadducees have tried to stump Jesus with a question about the resurrection, in which they do not believe. There is a strong possibility that this scribe is a Pharisee, and Pharisees do believe in the resurrection. If the scribe is a Pharisees, he must be pleased to see Jesus get the best of the Sadducces on that question.

The scribe is asking not which commandment is first of many, but rather which commandment defines the core of Torah law--stands at its center--summarizes it. Is there one law that is the key to all the laws?

Jewish law includes 613 commandments (365 prohibitions and 248 positive commandments).  Scribes examine each law in minute detail, and devise complex rules to help people understand how to obey each law in every conceivable situation.

A number of prophets and rabbis had tried to summarize the law. "What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). "What you hate for yourself, do not to your neighbor. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary" (Hillel). "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" Lev. 19:18.

Jesus answers by stressing agape love which is doing rather than feeling. Agape requires action--requires us to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion. The person who loves God will participate in worship--will try to obey God--will seek opportunities to serve God. "Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself".There is no other commandment greater than these." Two commanmdments (love God and love one's neighbor).

Christ calls us to balance these two great commandments. The person who loves God but does not love neighbor is gravely deficient. "If a man says, 'I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn't love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (I John 4:20-21) So the love of God will result in loving one's neighbor.