The great commandment Jesus cites today is so familiar to us that we might miss the serious consequences exposed by this discussion.
First, throughout Mark’s Gospel, the scribes have been constant antagonists to Jesus’s mission. They test, question, mock, and now, in this chapter, start plotting his arrest. So today, when one of them asks Jesus a question, we can safely presume it’s a trap. But the tone of this conversation in Mark remains mutually respectful and even gracious. Something different is happening here.To love your neighbor is to love those outside your immediate circle, those who are unlike you, those you don’t know or trust, those you might even despise.W ithout love for God and others, even one’s enemies, liturgical participation… Click To Tweet
Second, to the Shema, the central daily prayer for Jews, Jesus adds Leviticus 19:18, which reads in full: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” In this context, loving one’s self does not mean inward focused self-care but love of one’s own family. To love your neighbor is to love those outside your immediate circle, those who are unlike you, those you don’t know or trust, those you might even despise.
Third, the scribe does a “yes, and” move, affirming Jesus’s response and building on it by connecting the dual commandment to ritual practice. Without love for God and others, even one’s enemies, liturgical participation, as the scribe rightly said, is worth less.
Now this once-familiar commandment is no longer so simple or so inconsequential.