One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Mark 12:28
After Jesus silenced the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees, a scribe took his turn. Whether he was persuaded by the Lord’s responses or simply shrewd, he asked a sincere question, “What commandment is foremost of all.” Since the Jews counted 613 statutes, the majority of which were negative, to focus on the first and foremost might be a better use of time and effort.
By the way, if I were to ask Jesus a question, I’d certainly want to avoid any slight of hand, especially after his associates had been schooled.
Whatever the case, Jesus could now pivot off a passage familiar to all the people of Israel, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) which was recited twice daily: Love the one Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to this he added, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
To fulfill this brilliant synopsis of all the law would be better than “all burnt offering and sacrifices,” said the scribe. He’d answered correctly, but knowing was much easier than doing. In James 4:17, the principle is this, “he who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
The scribe had happened upon succinct marching orders. He was not far from the kingdom. Would he go there? Will we?
It’s so much easier than keeping track of 613 dos and don’ts!