The segments of Mark’s Gospel we read in the liturgies of the first half of this week tell of the tensions that existed between Jesus and Israel’s religious and secular leaders. Some of Jesus’ enemies wanted him arrested, others ridiculed him and his teaching, and still others sought to entrap him in a verbal contradiction.
In today’s reading, a scribe questions Jesus. Anyone familiar with the various groups that populate the Gospels, given the context, would expect the scribe to launch into another attack on Jesus. All scribes, after all, are Pharisees’ men. Along with the priests and the Herodians and the Pharisee all scribes are hostile to Jesus.
And so we might tend to classify a person and judge him as we would judge the group in which he belongs. But this is unjust and unfair. The scribe in today’s Gospel is there not to entrap Jesus but to ask a sincere religious question of him.
Jesus recognizes this and treats the scribe with respect. He even praises him, indicating that his comment on Jesus’ response to his question shows him to be a sincere person who is not far from the kingdom of God.
Jesus could have assumed, as we might well have done, that the scribe should be classified as his enemy. But Jesus doesn’t believe in stereotypes and prejudices.
Jim Auer suggests that we ask ourselves a series of questions: “Whose goodness am I unable to see simply because of who or what they are, what they belong to or believe in, where they live or what they look like.” The response we give to these questions, he suggests, will tell us how close we are to the reign of God.