As I prayed over this message, the verse which struck me with the greatest strength was: Jesus “said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
This scribe stands out in contrast to the others – and Jesus deals with his question in a way that is unlike his usual response to the scribes.
In many ways Jesus response is very hopeful – he is not far from the Kingdom.
That is much better than the majority of Scribes who are miles away from the Kingdom and who Jesus has said will be destroyed by God.
This scribe has hope.
Yet it is also a haunting response – “not far from the Kingdom” is not IN the Kingdom.
“Not far is still t be outside the Kingdom”
To be “not far from the Kingdom” might be better than being opposed to the Kingdom but it is still to be outside the Kingdom.
Think about it.
In the days of Noah, how good would it be in the end to be “not far from the ark”?
It would do no good at all.
On the day when the Ark door was closed, and the heavens opened – it is no good to be near the Ark – you needed to be in the Ark.
Like-wise when God was judging Jericho.
Rahab secured salvation for herself and her family. The only condition was that her family must be in the house with the scarlet chord tied to the window.
It was no good being near the house – they needed to be in the house – under the safety of the scarlet chord.
To be “not far from the Kingdom” is perhaps more dangerous than being far from the Kingdom.
When we are near things in terms of proximity we may become complacent – “ach I don’t have far to go”
In Bible collecge days – the students who lived upstairs where always the ones late to class. ) closeness led to complacency.
This is how it was for Israel – close to the Kingdom, but their complacency causes many of them to miss Christ and his kingdom.
This is the danger for all of us gathered here.
We are at church regularly, we hear preaching, we have not abandoned the church altogether – we are close to the Kingdom.
The danger is that we confuse closeness to the Kingdom with being in the kingdom.
Further lets be clear about what this means – to be close to the kingdom, is to be close to salvation – to be close to salvation is still to miss out on salvation.
It is to be on the outside of God’s mercy. It is to be locked out of heaven.
Regarding eternal life/heaven – Jesus says,
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:15-16)
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. (Luke 13:28)
So we see that whilst Jesus statement “you are not far from the Kingdom of God” is hopeful, it is also haunting.
I wonder how the Scribe responded to this statement?
Did it make him feel quite good?
If so, that would be the wrong response – we have already seen the consequences of settling for closeness to the Kingdom.
The awareness of being close to the Kingdom should serve as a catalyst to drive is INTO the Kingdom.
It should be an encouragement – you are not far – like the runner who is close to the finish line, or the climber who is near the summit.
So the question for the scribe is – if I am not far from the Kingdom – what do I lack?
We know what he had going for him –
- He understood the heart of God’s commands – not daft traditions of men – but the essence of the commands – love God and love people
- He knew that it was better to obey, than to need atonement/sacrifice
- He knew that the animal sacrifices were not sufficient in themselves –
In all these areas he had a better understanding than his peers—
Perhaps we can identify with this.
We know that Christianity is about a relationship with God not rituals and regulations.
We know that it is about loving people.
We know that it is better to obey God than to sin and need cleansing.
However knowledge of these truths cannot bring us into the Kingdom of God – this knowledge alone leaves us outside the kingdom.
What did he lack? He lacked Jesus.
35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.
Right after the statement – “You are not far from the Kingdom” Jesus then shows everyone the way to the Kingdom.”
He is pointing them to the scriptures, but showing them that the scriptures point to HIM!!!
Jesus did not just say, “you are not far from the Kingdom” and leave it there – he showed them the way.
Jesus is the way.
“I am the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me”
Listen to David! He says! This son of David you are all waiting for is also the son of God.
He is the one who has come – and yes – he ill be rejected and killed – but this is why he has come – he has come to purchase your place in the Kingdom of God.
We live at the other side of history.
They needed to believe that Jesus could die and rise again – they struggled with that.
We need to believe that He has died and rose again – and we struggle with that.
Today – why remain outside the kingdom?
Why not embrace the Son into your life?
Forget the worries about membership, opinions of men, what will be expected of you – forget all of that.
Just go to Jesus – give him your life – invite him in to your life – and you will be brought into the kingdom—and you will see through new eyes.
The things you thought were issues will slip into insignificance.
“not far from the Kingdom”? The way to the kingdom is simple – believe and receive that Jesus is your saviour.