Shimon was listening. He was always listening.
Each morning as he opened his scroll and prepared his reed pen, Shimon the young scribe listened to old Oren the Pharisee recite the Shema.
“Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one…”
He would listen to the other scribes pray and sing the words of the law they copied, as they hid themselves in the ancient writings of their fathers. He would listen to Oren and the other Pharisees plot their questions of entrapment. Could they lure Jesus, and catch him with words? Adultery, taxes, resurrection, arrest….what could they dangle to snag this man with his own teachings? In the precincts of the temple, Shimon heard many things.
And Shimon was listening again. After hand washing and praying, he had begun the morning’s work of copying the Scriptures. Carefully unrolling the parchment, Shimon returned to where he had left off the previous day, with the words of the prophet Hosea.
Love better than Sacrifice. Love better than Sacrifice.
The words echoed in his mind all morning as he sang them out loud, repeating each syllable for perfection and accuracy.
“Shimon, hurry up,” Oren hissed, looking through the lattice across to the courtyard of the temple. “They say the Nazarene has come and the teachers of the law are debating with him. Put away the scrolls, and come with me.”
Shimon had heard the commotion already. Raised voices were getting louder, as more and more rabbis gathered around this Jesus and his followers. He reached for a small clay pot of sand and gently poured enough to cover the words of black ink. When he had blotted his work, and waved the vellum free of sand, he rolled it and secured the end with a cord.
Oren’s feet could not get him to the temple courts quick enough.
Shimon watched as he darted past people and animals to join the crowds, robes swishing arrogantly as he elbowed his way in.
Like the bells on the hems of the priests’ robes, the murmur of tradition pealed in the temple. The scribes pondered the commandments. They disagreed and argued. Fingers pointed as they fought to secure their own interpretations, each one more convinced of his own truth than his neighbour’s. Shimon approached the rabble, to listen once more.
The Nazarene was looking at something in his hand. A denarius. He handed it to Oren, saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Oren stared in amazement. For once he had been diffused.
No wonder many followed him. Shimon looked down at the ground, his sandals, the stone tiles. He picked grains of sand from his fingernails. His heart was pounding. Something was happening here. Out of the dust, authority was rising in the courtyard.
He listened as the Sadducees talked about the resurrection. Assaulted by the din of words, about a widow, her many dead husbands and no children, Shimon wondered where this would lead. They were casting their nets. They were salivating. He stole a look at the Teacher. Their moment had come. Even Oren who hated them, looked pleased.
What did he say? Was Jesus really telling them they were mistaken? Shimon looked around him at the red faces of men who thought they knew Scripture. Had Jesus just told the scholars and rabbis they were ignorant of God and his law? This man could see through them. The young scribe was listening to the unravelling of treasures only Jesus had the keys to unlock. Unbidden the words of his heart stumbled across the crowd, childlike and thirsty.
“Teacher, which one of the commandments is the most important?”
Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. The second is to love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater.”
Shimon’s heart filled. Words from the scrolls that morning, and now from Jesus meshed together, illuminated and sharp like a sword.
Nodding he affirmed. “Well said teacher. To love God with all your heart, your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour and yourself is better than offerings and sacrifices combined.”
Wisdom blew, like a faint breeze disturbing a thin veil.
The master replied, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus and the Young Scribe – Mark 12
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