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Mark 12:34

Posted 10/06/21, by Dan Vis

Every once in a while I have trouble remembering a reference. It just doesn't seem to stick. But other times, the references are astonishingly easy. Take for example today's verse, Mark 12:34And 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.. Who could have trouble with numbers like that?

To set the context, Jesus was at the temple, and just faced down a series of tests and trials by both Pharisees and Sadducees, designed to "catch him in his words" (Mark 12:13And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.). One scribe, "perceiving that he had answered them well" asked a more honest question: "Which is the first commandment of all?"

You probably remember Jesus' answer: To love God with all our hearts (Mark 12:29-3029 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.), and our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.). This scribe then acknowledged the wisdom of His answer: "Well, Master, thou hast said the truth" (Mark 12:32And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:). Doing these two things "is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33And 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.).

And then this response from Jesus:

Mark 12:34And 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.
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.

There are several things about this scribe, that we can clearly commend. First, he exposed Himself to Jesus. He freely "came" to the temple and listened to "them reasoning together" (Mark 12:28And 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?). Second, he was perceptive enough to discern how well Jesus had answered their questions. Third, he asked a sincere question, interested personally in what was most important to God. And fourth, he publicly affirmed what Jesus said.

Even more, he seems to have had a good theological grasp of the Bible. He understood God's plan was never primarily about the sacrificial system--but about the law of love being implanted in the heart. Doctrinally, he seemed to be like Ezra, a ready scribe (Ezra 7:6This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.). He was a sharp Bible scholar, enough for Jesus to note how discretely he responded--a Greek word meaning wise or prudent.

But even with all these attributes--something still was lacking. This scribe, while "not far from the kingdom", was still outside.

I wonder if sometimes we aren't like this today. We have many admirable qualities, and a firm command of Scripture. When it comes to the fundamental teachings of the Bible, we are blameless, and above reproach. We recognize Bible truth when we hear it. And our comments are always spot on. Yet we still haven't entered in. Like this scribe, we are not far off, but still outside, the kingdom.

Jesus hinted at this in Matthew 5:20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven., when He made it clear our "righteousness" must "exceed the righteousness of the scribes" or we would "in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven". Just having a thorough knowledge of the Bible, or even a flawless understanding of its teachings was not enough.

That missing piece? In speaking to another religious teacher, Jesus explained that "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.). Because it is a spiritual kingdom, one can only enter it through a genuine, supernatural, spiritual transformation. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.). All the Bible knowledge in the world, by itself, will not suffice to garner us an entrance into the kingdom of God. The heart must be made new.

We can get close to the kingdom of God, by exposing our self to Bible teaching, being perceptive to truth, asking sincere questions, and publicly affirming sound doctrine. But we can't get inside. That requires one thing more: we must be become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.).

Which merits a bit of introspection. Have we truly brought our heart to Jesus, and opened ourselves to true transformation? And even more, is this spiritual miracle, a part of our daily
experience?

Let's never content ourselves with just being close to the kingdom of God.

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Posted by Dan Vis on 10/11/21
Good point Qing!
Posted by Qing Ling on 10/11/21
Sixto nice connection with Zaccheus. That story also shows us how full of grace our God is. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us too, (James 4:8Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.) and wants to abide in our hearts 💕
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/07/21
That's was my take away exactly JoAnn. Has my heart truly been refashioned? So critical. Everything starts here.

Thank you for your kind words Kerwin, and you are very welcome! Let's all keep seeking that transformation!

Great comparison Sixto! Love your distinction between just seeing Jesus, and abiding with Him. Huge! So good to see you here my friend. Give my love to your beautiful little family!

Yes Lydia, this passage does help affirm the real meaning of John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.. That's a very good point.
Posted by Lydia Gilbert-McClain on 10/06/21
Not far from the Kingdom of God but not in the kingdom of God - sobering thought indeed. Another reminder that when Jesus prayed "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent," (John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.) he was not talking about head knowledge but rather the knowing that comes from having that personal relationship with Him. It's only when we have that true heart relationship with Jesus we can be transformed into the new creature that he desires us to be. Dear Lord, help us to really know you. Very helpful and thought-provoking blogs. I've been really blessed.
Posted by Sixto Ramos Jr on 10/06/21
As I read the final comments I remembered Zacchaeus. He wanted to change, desired to change, but was conformed to "just" seeing
Jesus( being close to the kingdom).
But the true change happened , when Jesus abode with him. He than became a new creation.
I want to be a new creation!!


Posted by Kerwin Stephens on 10/06/21
This was indeed a wonderful blog. It really is one thing to be exposed to Bible teaching, be opened to truth, asking genuine questions, accepting and affirming sound doctrine but I realize the greater need for a changed heart. Thank you for this message and I pray that God would indeed give me a new heart.
Posted by JoAnn Moon on 10/06/21
If anyone would be “in the Kingdom” it would seem that it would be this scribe. This is a sobering thought for me too. Being born again by the Holy Spirit requires me to ask God to examine my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me (Psalms 139:23-2423 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.).
Thank you for writing these blogs. I have been blessed by the thoughtfulness in each one.


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