One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 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 these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
HEAR, O ISRAEL! For the first time, we are given an indication that a scribe appreciates the teaching of Jesus and feels entitled to pose a question. Unlike the previous ones done to test Jesus, the scribe’s query is honest. He has been following the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees.
The scribe asks which is the first of all the 613 commandments of the Torah. Jesus gives as answer the Shema that the Jews recite twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. The complete formulation is found in Dt 6:4-6. This is all about loving one hundred percent the one and only God of Israel.
Jesus does not stop here. He also adds a second that comes from Lv 19:18. It refers to the love of fellow human beings. This second should not be neglected. The Jews may find it more comfortable to do only the first.
The questing scribe agrees with Jesus and adds his own reflection quoting Hosea (6:6), the prophet of social justice.
Jesus affirms him and makes a very important compliment. He is not far from the Kingdom of God, meaning he has learned his catechism well and he must continue studying his faith. He may want to journey with Jesus to learn fully the answer to his question.
The scribe hears Jesus. Do we listen to Jesus?