And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him…
I. True RELIGIOUS INQUIRY IS ENCOURAGED BY CANDOUR AND SPIRITUAL INSIGHT ON THE PART OF RELIGIOUS TEACHERS. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees came together top the same place." when they saw the disscomfiture of the Sadducees; and "then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying." Mark introduces him as one of the scribes. In the one Gospel the motive and encouragement are represented as experienced by the Pharisaic party in general; in the other they are represented as individually felt and acted upon. There were, therefore, elements of earnestness and spirituality amongst the Pharisees, and these were called forth by our Saviours teaching. They were now in a more favorable attitude for receiving the truth than they had ever been before. As to the idea expressed by "tempting," it need not be understood in a sinister sense, but generally as proving, testing, etc. Our Lord did not crush the spirit of inquiry, but courted it. They felt that there was more in him than they could explain, and that his knowledge of Scripture was spiritual and profound, and therefore they wished to discover what he could possibly have to tell them that was not already taught by Moses or his prophetic exponents. He had all but converted his enemies and critics into his disciples. He had infected them with his own spirit of religious earnestness. Of this mood the "lawyer" was the mouthpiece. He pushes inquiry to its highest point, and desires to know the chief duties of religion.
II. THE BEST MODE OF ANSWERING SUCH INQUIRY IS THAT WHICH PRESENTS THE SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE OF DUTY, OR TRUE RELIGION IN ITS UNITY AND UNIVERSALITY. "Deuteronomy 6:4. This is not given as a part of the Law of Moses, but as the principle of all service. Leviticus 19:18 contains a similar principle for all social duties" (Godwin). Passing over all matters of mere ceremonial, and questions of less or more, he lays hold of the spirit of the Law and presents it to his inquirer. It is out of the very heart of the hook of ceremonies (Leviticus) that the duty to neighbors is extracted. He declares "the three unities of religion:
(1) the one God;
(2) the one faith;
(3) the one commandment" (Lunge);
and compels the agreement and admiration of his questioner. "Note also the real reverence shown in the form of address, 'Master,' i.e. 'Teacher, Rabbi.' He recognized the speaker as one of his own order" (Plumptre). All religion is summed up by him in a "great commandment," viz. the love of God, and that is shown in its earthward aspect to involve loving our neighbor as ourselves. That true religion is not ceremonial but spiritual is thus demonstrated; and in quoting the highest utterances of the prophets, the scribe but endorses and restates the same doctrine. Teacher and inquirer are therefore theoretically one. But more is needed; and towards the attainment of this the stimulus is given, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. This meant that -
III. SUCH INQUIRY CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED AND CROWNED BY ACTING UPON ITS HIGHEST SPIRITUAL CONVICTIONS. The words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord's teaching. Now, as when he spoke the sermon on the mount, the righteousness which fulfils the Law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19, 20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as consisting in the fulfillment of the two commandments that were exceeding broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the kingdom. It is instructive to compare our Lord's different method of dealing, in Luke 10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimized the force of the commandments by his narrowing definitions" (Plumptre). "The kingdom of heaven is, for the moment, pictorially represented as localized, like the ordinary kingdoms of the world. The scribe, walking in the way of conscientious inquiry, and thus making religious pilgrimage, had nearly reached its borderland. He was bordering on the great reality of true religion, subjection of spirit to the sovereign will of God" (Morison). This state can only be attained to by conversion, the identification of the sinner through faith with the righteousness of the Savior, and the indwelling of the Spirit of God. It is thus scientific conviction becomes moral, and we are able to carry into effect what we know to be true and right. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?