Painted by Ludwig Deutsch (Austrian, 1855-1930),
Painted in 1896,
Oil on panel
© Christian Art
One of the scribes came up to Jesus
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied, 'This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.' The scribe said to him, 'Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.' Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And after that no one dared to question him any more.
Reflection on the Painting
Today's reading follows on from the readings we looked at over the past few days, where Jesus is engaging with various leaders in Jerusalem. We tend to think that these were always disputes, but today's reading shows that their conversations were not always confrontational. The Jerusalem scribe in our reading was in agreement with Jesus, that loving God and loving our neighbour are top of our priorities. By loving our neighbour, we carry out the mission of human dignity that God is calling us to.
The painting I am sharing with you depicts a scribe in Cairo in 1896, who is shown sitting in the street in a meditative state. He would have engaged in similar activities to the scribe mentioned in our reading, earning a living by reading as well as writing. They were respected, educated individuals, in a culture which certainly during Jesus' time would have placed a high value on literacy and the beauty of elegant calligraphy. Set in Cairo, the painting shows Islamic tiles, ornate Mamluk carvings, a mother of pearl inlaid table and other Orientalist detailing. A very atmospheric painting, in my view.
We do not love God with our whole being and we do not love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves. Jesus knows this. In today's exchange with the scribe, He therefore prompts us to fully give ourselves to God and hand over the pen of our lives to Him so He can write and scribe our story…
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Readings related to Mark 12:28-34
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