So, imagine the scene: Jesus is in Jerusalem and has been approached by the elite religious group, the Sadducees, who have presented their sharply honed trick question to Him, which He has expertly answered. To one side is an expert in the Law-so this is the Jewish religious Law-who would have been very pleased at the Sadducees' embarrassment because they rejected the Oral Law- then approaches Him with a question and this one is sincere and honest.
This question was a well-known one, often a matter of debate in Rabbinic schools. It reversed the quest for greater and more in depth knowledge of the Law and sought to make it pithy, a soundbite we would call it. Jesus answered the man's question by quoting two great commandments:
1. Firstly the call to recognise God as One and to love Him wholly. This sentence Jesus uses are the words still used to begin a service in a Jewish synagogue. We can read it fully in Numbers 15 v 37-41 and when Jesus recited this command every devout Jew would have agreed with Him.
2. ''You shall love your neighbour as yourself'', quoting from Leviticus 19 v 18. Originally this commandment to love was taken to mean fellow Jews only, but Jesus quoted it without qualification, He took an old law and filled it with new meaning.
You may feel that the reply of Jesus was a fairly obvious one, but no Rabbi had ever put these two commands together before! Religion to Jesus is loving God and loving one another and the only way to demonstrate one's love for God is through loving others.
The scribe noted the wisdom of Jesus' words, but even with us, it is easy to let ritual take the place of love. In the parable of the Good Samaritan-of particular relevance to this conversation-the Priest and the Levite hurried past the wounded traveller because they were eager to get to the Temple and partake of the rituals there. Jesus in response could see that this man was near to the Kingdom of Heaven.
After the cynicism of the Sadducees came the earnest question of this man. What does that tell us about how we are to answer those who come with their questions to us today?