To read the texts click on the texts: Deut 6:2-6; Heb 7:23-28; Mk 12:28-34
The question of the scribe in the Gospel text of today must be seen in the light of the numerous commandments, statutes and ordinances that had become common at the time of Jesus. There was much debate about which was first and most important. According to some there were 613 commandments, 248 of which positive and 365 negative. Thus the question was of great significance to them.
The Great Commandment as explained by Jesus contains three key elements in Christian faith: (a) belief in one God, (b) whole-hearted devotion to God, and (c) love of neighbour.
What does it mean for us today to say “the Lord our God, the Lord is one”? It means one pointed worship of God. This is because we tend sometimes to regard things as God. Some of these may even be good things like our jobs, vehicles, televisions sets, mobile phones, computers, family, political causes or even theological systems. That the Lord our God is one God is a reminder to all of us that only God is and must be absolute. All else is relative, temporary and passing.
The exchange between Jesus and the scribe becomes itself something of an illustration of what love of neighbour means. Even though the exchange occurs in the middle of a dispute (12:28), Jesus and the scribe are able to transcend the party strife and cross the dividing line of hostility to confess a common faith. Because they join together in the conviction that there is no commandment greater than love of God and neighbour, they are able to treat each other as neighbours.
Both the scribe and Jesus have stepped away from the “us” versus “them” categories. Their mutual affirmation is an island of reconciliation in a sea of hostility. The scribe recognizes Jesus as the great Teacher; Jesus recognizes the scribe as a pilgrim moving toward the kingdom. Their lived out common devotion to God and neighbour silences the debate (12:34).
For the larger majority of us it seems easier to love God rather than neighbour. Jesus knew this and that is why though he is asked ONLY the FIRST, he also gives another (which is not really another but like the first). At the end of his reply Jesus says: “There is no commandment greater than these”. By wording it in this manner rather than “There are no commandments greater than these”, Jesus has effectively made it ONE COMMANDMENT.
In other words, if we say we love God, then we must love our neighbour. We cannot have one without the other.