By Sherry Black

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 12:28-34

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’ — this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Meditation

Previously in the Gospel of Mark, Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees questioned Jesus, hoping to trap him with his own words. In our reading today, a scribe jumps in, but with a real desire to get to the heart of the matter: “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answers with the most fundamental words possible, words that were said by every Jew twice a day: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” But Jesus adds to the original verse in Deuteronomy a phrase about the mind; Jesus wants us to think. To love God with our mind is also to have faith that our minds are creative and investigative — great and wondrous abilities! — for a godly reason.

Jesus continues, “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’” Sounds simple, but there has been much debate here. God is surely the source of love, but how do we balance love of self with love of neighbor? Most of us are inherently selfish and self-centered. But others of us do need to be encouraged in self-love, particularly those who have been abused or believe they have no value. In fact, if we could look deep within the heart, we would probably find that even the selfish do not love themselves as much as they should, in the way that God would wish.

Both commandments are true. We love God, because God first loved us; we love God by loving our neighbor, and our neighbor because of our love for God. We love others because we recognize them as children of God, made in God’s image, and so every one of our “neighbors” are always worthy of love. Each of us is also someone’s neighbor, made in God’s precious image.

“After that no one dared to ask him any question.”

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Fla.
The Diocese of Edinburgh (Scottish Episcopal Church)