Summary: I believe there are hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions in the church of America and around the world who are close to, in other words, “not far from the Kingdom of God.”
“So Close and Yet So Far!”
It was one of the best football games ever. Remember Super Bowl XXXIV between the Rams and Titans? In the final seconds Tennessee was driving for the game-tying touchdown and on the final play Kevin Dyson caught a pass over the middle and lunged for the goal line. He was tackled just short of the goal line in fact he missed scoring a touchdown by one yard, three feet. So close and yet so far! He missed it by about the same distance between the raised hands of a referee signaling a touchdown.
Mark 12:28-34 is a familiar story I’ve read many times and a phrase that I never noticed before recently caught my attention. Jesus’ answer to the teacher of the law, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” jumped from the page. What did He mean? Is there any significance to that statement or is it not important at all? Since that time I have been haunted by those words and have tried to find the answer. I happen to believe it speaks volumes and especially with what is said by Mark the Gospel writer immediately following. “And from then on no one dared ask Him any more questions.” I wish the man would have asked one.
I believe there are hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions in the church of America and around the world who are close to, in other words, “not far from the Kingdom of God.” You might say well isn’t being “not far from” a lot better than being “far from”? Maybe it is but one thing I know for sure being “not far from the Kingdom of God” is still not in the Kingdom of God. The question in my mind as I look at this text is what’s missing? What was lacking? Here’s a teacher of the law a religious man who’s not in the Kingdom. He was not far so how close was he? A mile, a yard, an inch? And this begs the question what about me, what about you? Might Jesus say to us, “you are not far from the Kingdom of God?” So close and yet so far!
In order to understand the context of this story it’s necessary to look at what happened prior to this. Chapter 11 records Jesus’ triumphal entry and clearing the temple of the moneychangers. In verse 18 “the chief priests and the teachers of the law began looking for a way to kill him.” In verses 27 & 28 “while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you authority to do this?” In chapter 12 verses 12 & 13 “then they looked for a way to arrest Him, Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch Him in His words.” Verse 18 “Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him with a question.” All these questions was an attempt to trap Jesus.
One of the teachers of the law heard them arguing and saw that Jesus had answered them well so he asked a question. Teachers of the law or scribes were men well educated, who new the law. They were called to study, preserve and apply the law and to teach people about God. They were like our Sunday School teachers. However, they drifted away from their calling and used it to rule over and even manipulate the people with power and wealth. Jesus openly criticized them for their hypocrisy, not because of their authority and position but because they willfully distorted His words, living one way and teaching another.
This teacher had a question, of all the commandments, which commandment is the most important? “The most important one” said Jesus, “is this: the Lord our God is one Lord. First: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and second: Love your neighbor as yourself. There’s no commandment more important than these.” And the man replied, “Well said teacher, you are right in saying God is one and there’s no other. To love Him with all your heart, all your understanding and all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than even burnt offerings and sacrifices.” He agreed with Jesus.
When Jesus saw that he had given a wise intelligent answer, He Said. “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” After that nobody dared ask another question. I dare ask one question, what’s missing? So close and yet so far! They say “close” only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades. Remember the phrase “close but no Cigar?”