Ver 28. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”29. And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:30. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.31. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”32. And the scribe said unto Him, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but He:33. And to love Him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”34. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” And no man after that durst ask Him any question.
Gloss.: After that the Lord confuted the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, who tempted Him, it is here shewn how He satisfied the Scribe who questioned Him.
Wherefore it is said, “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the first commandment of all?”
Pseudo-Jerome: This question is only that which is a problem common to all skilled in the law, namely, that the commandments are differently set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Wherefore He brought forward not one but two commandments, by which, as by two paps rising on the breast of the bride, our infancy is nourished.
And therefore there is added, “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one God.” He mentions the first and greatest commandment of all; this is that to which each of us must give the first place in his heart, as the only foundation of piety, that is, the knowledge and confession of the Divine Unity, with the practice of good works, which is perfected in the love of God and our neighbour.
Wherefore there is added, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
Theophylact: See how He has enumerated all the powers of the soul; for there is a living power in the soul, which He explains, when He says, “With all thy soul,” and to this belong anger and desire, all of which He will have us give to Divine love.
There is also another power, which is called natural, to which belong nutriment and growth, and this also is all to be given to God, for which reason He says, “With all thy heart.”
There is also another power, the rational, which He calls the mind, and that too is to be given whole to God.
Gloss.: The words which are added, “And with all thy strength,” may be referred to the bodily powers.It goes on: “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Theophylact: He says that it is like, because these two commandments are harmonious one with the other, and mutually contain the other. For he who loves God, loves also His creature; but the chief of His creatures is man, wherefore he who loves God ought to love all men. But he who loves his neighbor, who so often offends him, ought much more to love Him, who is ever giving him benefits. And therefore on account of the connection between these commandments, He adds, “There is none other commandment greater than these.”
It goes on: “And the Scribe said unto Him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Bede: He shews when he says, “this is greater than all sacrifices,” that a grave question was often debated between the scribes and Pharisees, which was the first commandment, or the greatest of the Divine law; that is, some praised offerings and sacrifices, others preferred acts of faith and love, because many of the fathers before the law pleased God by that faith only, which works by love. This scribe shews that he was of the latter opinion.
But it continues: “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, He said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”
Theophylact: By which He shews that he was not perfect, for He did not say, Thou art within the kingdom of heaven, but, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.”
Bede: But the reason why he was not far from the kingdom of God was, that he proved himself to be a favourer of that opinion, which is proper to the New Testament and to Gospel perfection.
Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 73: Nor let it trouble us that Matthew says, that he who addressed this question to the Lord tempted Him; for it may be that though he came as a tempter, yet he was corrected by the answer of the Lord. Or at all events, we must not look upon the temptation as evil, and done with the intention of deceiving an enemy, but rather as the caution of a man who wished to try a thing unknown to him.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, he is not far who comes with knowledge; for ignorance is farther from the kingdom of God than knowledge; wherefore He says above to the Sadducees, “Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God.” It goes on: “And no man after that durst ask Him any questions.”
Bede: For since they were confuted in argument, they ask Him no further questions, but take Him without any disguise, and give Him up to the Roman power. From which we understand that the venom of envy may be overcome, but can hardly lie quiet.