“When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And no one dared to question Him any longer.” (Mark 12:34)
There is an old saying we sometimes use: “Close” only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.
In the days before His crucifixion, a scribe asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest one. Jesus essentially said that the greatest is to love God with everything in you, and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe fully agreed with Jesus. The reply Jesus then gave is interesting: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This has to mean that the scribe was on the right track and was near, but it also has to mean that he was still not there. In reality, being near and being far still has the same impact. Neither is actually “in.”
But what was lacking that led Jesus to give this reply to the scribe? He was, in fact, near, but what kept him from being in the kingdom of God?
It may be difficult to know how to answer this question, but there may be a key in the first phrase of this text. Jesus saw that the scribe answered “intelligently.” The scribe had some very good, essential understanding of the truth about the greatest commandment. He answered wisely and with understanding. But maybe, like the rich young ruler, his heart was not there. It seems that what he really needed was to be born again. He needed to come to a faith commitment to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. He just did not know that that was what he needed. We can hope that he came to that deeper understanding a little later.
How terrible to be within reach but not be in.
Lord, We pray for all those who are near Your kingdom and those far away, and we pray that today many may hear the gospel and be born anew into Your kingdom. Amen.