Not Far from the Kingdom of God (Mark 12:34)
“And Jesus saw that he answered thoughtfully, and said to him, ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God.’ And no one was bold enough to question him any longer.”
And Jesus saw that the man had answered thoughtfully, or, as in many of our English translations, “wisely,” though the word sofi/a (sophia) is not used, which is the normal word that means “wisdom” as we understand it. The term that is used here is nounecwvß (nounechos), which is derived from the term nouvß (nous), which refers to one’s intellect. Thus, the response that the scribe gave to Jesus was one of thoughtfulness, though it was not necessarily one of wisdom. Sometimes we forget that there is a difference between intellect and wisdom in our culture. We think that wisdom is a result of great intelligence, and that is not necessarily true. Intellectual knowledge deals more with what you know and wisdom deals more with what you understand. Intellect is developed through education; wisdom is developed through Godly experience.
So what are we to make of Jesus’ statement that the scribe was not far from the Kingdom? Is that to suggest that the Scribe understood the gospel? I am not sure that the text gives us enough information about this scribe to go quite that far in our assumption, though the scribe was on the right path. Note, that Jesus does not tell the scribe that the Kingdom is his, but rather he is not far from it. For the scribe to have come into the kingdom, he would have had to become a follower of Jesus Christ and the text remains silent about this particular scribe from hereon out. What we do know, though, from this interaction is that there were some scribes that had not fallen into the legalism of the Pharisaical school, though who still had a high regard for the law. Sometimes, when we read the Biblical accounts, we automatically group all of the Jewish teachers and officials in the same category of legalism. While many did fall into this error, there were some that were faithful in seeking out the intent behind the law that God gave—instructions for holiness, not a license for legalism.
The second thing that we learn from this final statement of the interaction is that this is the last time during the Passion Week that the Jewish authorities question Jesus in this way. As the text records, they were no longer bold enough to challenge Jesus any longer. Was this due to Jesus’ fine answers? Probably not. The fact is that these Jewish authorities had been hounding Jesus with questions trying to trap him for the past 3 years—you would think that they would have gotten it by now and repented, following Christ as Lord and Savior—if they trusted the wisdom of his answers. It is most likely because they realized that Jesus had quite a bit of popular support from the crowd. Jesus’ enemies knew that they needed to arrest him and convict him at night where the crowds could not intervene. This event took place on Tuesday of Jesus’ last week, by Thursday evening, Jesus would be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. That time is coming, but for the moment, it is not quite there yet. Oh, beloved, one of the great difficulties of the study of this week is that we know the horrors that await our Lord. We rejoice that he would sacrifice himself for us so, but oh, how we agonize over the price that Christ had to pay for our sin. Beloved, in the shadow of the cross, remember this teaching of Christ—we are to love God with all of our being—every inch of our soul—and we are to love others as Christ loved us. Oh, how different our lives might be if we were able to faithfully live that commission out in all that we do.