RCL Year B, Proper 26 (Alternate Readings)
Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Psalm 119:1-8, Hebrews 9:11-14, Saint Mark 12:28-34
This week I puzzled over the Gospel for quite a long time before a bit of clarity dripped in. When Jesus says to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” what specifically does the scribe lack? As I said, I looked for an answer to this question for quite a long time. I went far into the wilderness, I mean, of course, the world wide web, where seemingly every preacher and every blogger has a different and unpersuasive answer to the question.
Then I realized that Jesus had just told the scribe what he lacked. The scribe had asked Jesus which commandment is the first of all. You could expect Jesus to give a single answer to the question. And he does. He recites the shema from today’s First Lesson from Deuteronomy, saying, in shorthand, “You shall love God.” But then Jesus goes on to give a second answer, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This answer is what the scribe lacks. Jesus and the scribe agree that loving God is the first commandment. The scribe embellishes their agreement by adding that loving God is more important than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Loving his neighbor, the second part of Jesus’ answer, Jesus demonstrates in his passion and crucifixion. Jesus goes to Calvary because he loves his neighbor, all of his neighbors, across all space and throughout all time. The love of neighbor he possesses knows no boundary. It runs through every wall. It reaches everyone everywhere. Jesus loves every one of his neighbors, no matter what they have done, and no matter who they are.
That is undeniably good news. The merest act of our will to return that love pushes us over the finish line and into the kingdom of God. That also is good news.