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10.28.2021 Thirsty First Sunday in OT


Harold Copping

(1863 – 1932)

The Question of the Sadducees

"Which Commandment is the most important of all?’ Asked a Teacher of the Law”.

The artist Harold Copping (25 August 1863 - 1 July 1932) was a British artist best known as an illustrator of Biblical scenes.

His 1910 book “The Copping Bible” illustrated by himself became a best-seller.


Mark 12:28-34

28 “‘One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ 29 ‘The most important one’, answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30Love the LORD your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these’. 32 ‘Well said, teacher’, the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices’. 34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’. And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions’”.



In Chapters Eleven and Twelve of his Gospel, Mark continues to recount the questioning of Jesus by the influential or ruling classes. They are typically the Pharisees or Sadducees, who try to “trap him in what he said”[1].

In 12:28-32, a Scribe, who had been listening to the questions put to Jesus thought that He “answered them well”[2]. The question he then asked Jesus is considered by Mark to be a sincere and honest attempt to understand the underlying basis of the ‘Way’ of Jesus, namely, discipleship.

The Question of the Scribe and the Answer of Jesus

In the first part of the answer to the question posed by the Scribe, Jesus shows his orthodoxy as a Jewish Teacher, able to go to the root of things by quoting two Old Testament Traditions, those of the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus[3].

Asked for One Commandment, Jesus Adds a Second

In bringing forward the Second Commandment, Jesus does not make any attempt to join them together. The Two Commandments actually are connected by the word “love”. Their juxtaposition by Jesus was an original theological move.

In the same account in the Gospel of Matthew[4], Jesus prefaces the Second Commandment by saying in relation to the First Commandment that “A second is like it”[5].

All Three Synoptic Gospels record this encounter between Jesus and the Scribe; Matthew and Luke[6] describe the Scribe as more adversarial, coming to ‘test’ Jesus, whereas Mark presents him as more sincere, making an ‘honest attempt’ to understand the teaching of Jesus.

In the Gospel of Luke, however, Jesus does not answer directly, rather He asks the Scribe “What is written in the Law? What do you read there?” The Scribe gives the answer, essentially by saying what Mark has recorded Jesus as saying here (vv. 30-31), but without the Shema (“Hear O Israel”).

In the account of Luke, the Scribe asks further “And who is my neighbour?”[7] In response, Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan to explain the full extent of the concept of ‘neighbour’[8].

The Reaction of the Scribe to the Answer of Jesus

The reaction of the Scribe to the answer of Jesus is positive. He sees how Jesus has combined the Two Commandments given to Israel by Moses (in Deuteronomy and Leviticus). He also hears in the response of Jesus more than what Jesus had said: The Scribe hears the echo of the Prophet Hosea[9] who declared that ‘love, not sacrifice, is what God desires of all people’.

The Response of Jesus to the Reaction of the Scribe

Jesus heard the reaction of the Scribe. He saw that he had answered wisely and described him as ‘not being far’ from the Kingdom of God[10].

Mark shows us that Jesus made the point that mere knowledge of God alone is not enough; mere knowledge brings us near, but not quite into the Kingdom.

The Scribe knew and acknowledged the Law of God at an intellectual level, but he would need to learn how to be obedient to the Law before he would enter the Kingdom of God.


“Love is often a decision in that we want to respond like Jesus,

though we may not feel like it.

Lord, we ask you to give us loving hearts

that reach out to others in your name,

bringing them closer to you.

Lord, enlarge my heart.

Make me more and more sensitive

to the quality of your love.

Show me so dramatically

how much you love me.

Make me a grateful person.

Lord, we pray that the time we spend with God each day

makes us more aware of the people we encounter every day.

We pray that your love for us and our love for God

should flow out from us to the individuals

and the people with whom we interact, work and live.

Dear Lord, to love You is to trust You,

to follow You, to obey You,

to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

Help us be loving today. In the name of Jesus”.


Who is Jesus to me?

Notice what Jesus says are the two most important Commandments: They are about love, not about rules.

Do I sometimes think that rules are the most important thing?

Do I sometimes judge those who break rules?

With what elements of my faith do I struggle?

Is the Commandment to love really the priority for me?

When I am struggling in my life what is my priority?

Jesus tells me to love others as I love myself.

Do I feel called to love myself, as I am?

Or do I feel guilty when I try to do so, feeling I am being selfish?

Jesus seems to imply the contrary: I will not be able to love others unless I love myself.


[1] Mark 12: 13 [2] Mark 12: 28 [3] Deuteronomy 6: 4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. Leviticus 19: 17-18: “You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbour, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord”. [4] Matthew 22: 34-40: “When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. [5] Matthew 22:39 [6] Luke 10:25-28: “Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher’, he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself’. And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live’”. [7] Luke 10:29 [8] Luke 10:30-37 [9] Hosea 6:6: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”. [10] Mark 12:34

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