A’scribe’-ing to Jesus – Sunday, 31st Week in ordinary time –Mk 12:28-34
The fourth round of attacks on Jesus was led by the Sadducees who, as we are told have been shut down and shut up. Now that the big guns have been silenced, it seems there is no one left to question Jesus; but there was!
The man in question was a scribe; a copyist and an interpreter of the law. The scribes were professionals at spelling out the letter of the Law while often ignoring the spirit behind it, bringing them in sharp conflict with Jesus. But they studied and interpreted the books with unwavering devotion. This is why the Jews and Semitic religions are often referred to as ‘people of the book’.
The scribe in our pericope seems to be one with a mind of his own. He has been hovering in the temple, listening to the Jesus haters who came in attack formation, wave after wave. He stands in admiration of Jesus for His ability to ‘answer them well’.
His admiration could have stemmed from the fact that he was part of the Pharisee party and if that was so, Jesus has just shut up the scribe’s rivals, the Sadducees, with a brilliant answer. Perhaps his admiration may have been intellectual; he himself being a man of letter, found in this simple carpenter intelligence par excellence.
Whatever be his motivation, there is no doubt that a curiosity to get to know Jesus had crept in. He directs his question not to trap Jesus but to get to know what he stands for. In asking Jesus ‘which is the greatest commandment’, he was throwing Jesus a question that was often asked to all Jewish religious leaders.
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