How Far From the Kingdom?
Mark 12:28 ¶ One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
Mark 12:30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
Mark 12:31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;
Mark 12:33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Mark 12:34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
The religious leaders were constantly trying to “figure out” Jesus. They were accustomed to following many long lists of rules and so somehow they wanted to know where Jesus stood in regard to these. It is at this point that Jesus points out the priority of the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is something that they would have heard their entire lives — it was nothing new. However, one of the scribes is then able to explain his understanding of the great command, to love God and love neighbor and says that this is far more important than all the “burnt offerings and sacrifices.” This is a new paradigm for God’s people and this man is “getting” it. Jesus affirms him by telling him that he is “not far from the kingdom of God.”
The new paradigm is the way to live into the kingdom of God. Jesus had come to usher in the new kingdom and this was very difficult for the religious folks to comprehend. They were awaiting a physical kingdom and yet he was talking about something they had not before experienced. This was a kingdom driven by holy love to be found in God.
How far we are from the kingdom is dependent on how far we are from knowing God. We are invited to become participants in a holy relationship with him and it is in participating with God that we become active in the kingdom. Loving God and neighbor is the key to the kingdom. There is no other way. It will never be by following a list of rules or trying really hard to be a good person, it will only be by stepping into and participating in a holy and transformational relationship with God.
Lord, please draw me nearer to you and use me in your kingdom today. Amen.