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.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 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 neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When 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.
Here is another scene with Jesus and some of the religious leaders debating, this time Jesus with some Sadducees. As the debate is ongoing a teacher of the law engages in the debate asking a question of Jesus. I love the fact that this fellow is seemingly only prepared to ask the question because Jesus was giving good answers. His question is straightforward and Jesus’ answer is as well, with the lawyer clarifying Jesus answer with the typical Jewish statement ‘the Lord is One’. This statement was central to what it meant to be a Jew – to truly know God and so Jesus concluding statement to this man that he was not far from the kingdom is not surprising.
The impact of Jesus’ statement is one that intrigues me. We read that the people, remember he had been debating with the Sadducees, did not dare to ask any more questions. I wonder why? Was it because the people were now much better aware that Jesus was not simply a lawyer, good with words but a believer? Was it because the wisdom with which Jesus spoke was irrefutable? Was it because this lawyer had ‘approved’ Jesus? Irrespective of the answer here, and I do not have one, we see the power of a good answer bringing a new level of respect. Often we speak far too much and so cheapen our words. For me this passage reminds me to use my words wisely, say what I mean, mean what I say and don’t embellish!
Father help me to use my words wisely, like Jesus so that others would hold my words with the respect they deserve because I seek to represent You faithfully.
Written by Ps. Richard Botta