During Jesus’ day, the Scribes were generally antagonistic toward Jesus and his message. However, in the Gospel for the Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 12:28-34), there is one scribe who appears to be open to Jesus and his cause.
He is open to what Jesus has to say, but wants some clarification about the Law, since the Scribes were strict interpreters of the Law. One might guess that the Scribe had heard about Jesus and how he dealt with other people. For example, healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, feeding the hungry, forgiveness of sins, and the list could go on.
All of this good work seems to have come from some sense of the law. So the Scribe asked Jesus directly, perhaps to get a sense of priority of what Jesus thought important enough to heal in relationship to the Law. So he asks, “Which is the greatest of all the commandments?”
Instead of pointing out a list, Jesus goes to “motive.” He begins by stating the all important Jewish prayer the “SHEMA.” (which means “hear”) “Hear, O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:4-5) That is to say, totally. For “loving” means “serving.” Loving God totally is a long tradition for Israel.
After citing the SHEMA prayer, Jesus added “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no commandments greater than these.” In effect, keeping these two (love of God and neighbor) was the same as keeping all ten of the commandments.
Curiously enough, the Scribe agreed with Jesus and pointed out that this love of God and service to neighbor “…is much more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mk. 12:23b) Wow! That was really saying something about motive and perspective. It even enabled Jesus to say to the Scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Keeping the Commandments is a key factor in being a “good guy.” If it can be summed up in “loving God and serving neighbor” as a way of keeping the Commandments, then we can also be called
“good guys” which is what being an effective disciple of Jesus is all about.
All of the above actually comes from the crucial Sinai covenant. What is so important about the Sinai covenant? It firmly established the relationship between God and His people because the covenant was mutual. That is, both God and the people had a responsibility to each other because the Sinai covenant was bi-lateral and conditional. How so?
During Israel’s exodus from Egypt, Moses goes up to God on Mount Sinai who tells him what he is to say to the Israelites . “Now, therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples….” (Exodus 19:5-6) The people agreed to keep the covenant on those terms, (Cf. Ex. 19:7-8) thus making the covenant bi-lateral and conditional.
Keeping the Commandments has long been a challenge, no doubt because of the temptations not to keep them. And as long as we keep them, what Jesus said to the Scribe can be said of us, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Keeping this is mind can actually make each of us a “good guy.”