Mar 07, 2022
In Lenten Devotional - 2022
28 Then approaching, one of the ordained theologians having listened to them debating [and] noticed that he responded well asked him, “What is [the] premier commandment of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is: ‘Hear Israel, God our Lord is one Lord, and you will love your Lord God out of your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind and your whole resource.’ Second is this: ‘You will love those near you as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than these.” 32 So the ordained theologian said to him: “Well, teacher, you speak truth since he is one and there is no other, only him; and to love him out of a whole heart, a whole comprehension and a full resource capacity and to love the neighbor as one’s self is more than all the burnt sacrifices and offerings.” When Jesus observed that he responded thoughtfully he said to him, “You’re not far from the sphere of God’s influence.” And no longer was anyone daring to ask him anything. Walt Wiltscheck’s focus was on Jesus’ final words to a scribe, a type of ordained theologian, associated with the Jewish Temple complex during the week leading to Passover as Mark tells the story. In particular, Walt burrowed in on the phrase not far from as he applied scientific measurement notation to Jesus’ words: “nanometer” (something unthought-of when the scripture was written). His point, of course, is that near, no matter how near, is not the same as within. Walt interprets Jesus to be urging this person to “Keep on going. It’s not far now!” He invites us to assess our own spiritual goals as we continue to take our next step. It is not enough to be on the right trajectory if we are not moving forward. An important reminder to us all: we cannot stand firm if we are to follow Jesus; we must be on the move. We are to embrace change, growth, adventure, courage to take the next steps in trust. In the full text of chapter 12, this is part of a series of what scholars label as “conflict sayings.” Strikingly, there is no conflict in these verses. Two men of faith have an exchange on what it means to be people of faith, and they agree. Of interest in this story is that for all we know, this is Jesus’ first and only exchange with this individual. This exchange is qualitatively different from the other encounters with people of faith in the Temple complex. Here it appears that Jesus and the scribe had found meaningful common ground. What are we to make of the fact that there is no after-story? There’s no invitation for the scribe to follow Jesus, no command about his next steps, only an ambivalent “affirmation.” Does this speak to us in our conflict settings in the faith community?