"‘There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
The scribe’s insight, that “to love [the Lord] with all our heart, with all our thoughts and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves” are “worth more than any burnt offering or sacrifice”… is worth a closer look, because this insight helps us understand what Jesus did for us on Mount Calvary.
First: the idea that we are to love God completely had been memorialized centuries before Jesus, in the Shema. But… who is God? This is the question that shook the Jews’ faith when Jesus declared “I AM”. His words were blasphemy. But revenge was had by nailing Jesus to the Cross, for they proved Jesus wrong, since God—as we all know—cannot die.
That we are to love our neighbor as ourselves was no new insight. But… who is our neighbor? This is the question that shook the Jews’ faith when Jesus taught the parable of the Good Samaritan. But by crucifying Jesus, they made fairy tales of Jesus’ parables, since Jesus could not even save himself from death.
However, that these two insights together are “worth more than any burnt offering or sacrifice” is a new insight. Every member of the human race—except Jesus and Mary—is radically estranged from God not only by our sharing in the sin of Adam, but by our personal sins as well. In the person of Jesus these two commandments become one, and in the Cross of Jesus Christ, we see the perfect Sacrifice.