28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 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 NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE 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 NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Here we read Jesus’ proclamation of the golden rule. The question originally posed is one that was used by scribes and Pharisees to reveal what they thought was most important. It was almost like a political statement, as it was a way to describing one’s proclivity to the Law. Of course, Jesus was never one to be defined by the rules of society; He gave them two! We get a glimpse of a scribe who understood what Jesus was trying to teach in this moment, that to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself is more powerful and important than offering sacrifices to God.
Too often we tend to focus on the reparation side of our relationship with God instead of the preventative side. We have grown accustomed, just like Israel was, to concerning ourselves with the sacrifices necessary to cover our sins instead of not sinning in the first place. This is why loving God and others is much more than offerings and sacrifices, because our loving God and others is like a living sacrifice that keeps us from sinning in the first place. This is what Paul was getting at in Romans 12:
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
So, why did Jesus say that the scribe was not far from the Kingdom of God? What did the scribe lack? Maybe it was Jesus’ sacrifice. Maybe it was that the scribe had to actually live out what he just realized. There are many ways that we can speculate as to that small distance that existed between the scribe and the Kingdom. What we must focus on, however, is if we are far from the Kingdom of God. We tend to think that just knowing the principles of the Kingdom are good enough, but what use is knowledge if we don’t put it into practice?
The word Mark used to communicate the scribe’s intelligent response is nounechos, which communicates not necessarily that he was smart, but spiritually wise. When we have this type of wisdom, however, it is still useless unless we have the faith and courage to act upon it. The scribe was given a gift of spiritual wisdom that surpassed the others that were arguing about Jesus’ response. They were caught up in their worldly religion but the scribe picked up on the lesson and engaged Jesus in conversation to learn more. “You are close,” Jesus told him, revealing that the scribe must continue to strive to understand this heavenly wisdom. It’s like Jesus showed the scribe the door to the Kingdom, but the scribe had yet to approach, open, and walk through it. This is the point where we usually stall, concerned about what will happen. This is the crucial moment of our lives where we cross over from the physical to the spiritual. This is when we are at the point of transformation.
What is detaining you from opening the door?