“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” These are the words that Jesus spoke to a scribe who questioned Him on His last Tuesday before Calvary.
Jesus was again in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was fitting that He would be there. The Temple was the building God had established as the earthly place where He would dwell with His covenant people. Yet here He was in their midst- the incarnate God- the One to Whom they were offering their Passover sacrifices- but they didn’t recognize Him.
“You’re not far….” They could have reached out and touched His garment with honor and adoration. They could have bowed in reverence at His feet. But “not far” proved to be “too far” for many of them.
The question that the scribe asked Jesus was the question of the greatest commandment. Jesus answered the question by quoting from Deuteronomy 6: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
A good answer
“Yes,” the scribe responded. “Loving God and loving our neighbors is much greater than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” This was a good answer.
A scribe was a man who was familiar with the Law. They were the ones who interpreted Mosaic Law into practical legal matters. This man had a cognitive grasp of the truth, but what the truth meant for his own life had eluded him.
He could say that loving God was better than sacrifice, but he couldn’t bring himself to say to the God Who stood before him, “I love You.”
The scribe knew so much about God without ever truly knowing God Himself. And for this reason, I find there to be great sadness in the words that Jesus spoke to him. “You’re not far….”
This man was right there at the threshold. He knew the power of love, the love that God desires more than every offering or sacrifice His people could ever make.
But you see, the scribe was stuck there for the same reason that many people today are stuck.
Loving God takes courage. It requires us to bow our knee to someone other than ourselves. It requires us to humble ourselves, to commit our lives in faith to the unseen God, and to put aside our own will and pray for His will to be done. And just like every other relationship, it takes doing these things every single day.
Every single day
Every single day, we crown our God as King of our lives. Every single day, we proclaim Him as Lord of our lives. Every single day, we worship Him as the only One worthy of praise. Every single day, we renew our love for Him, we plead with Him to know Him more intimately, to cleanse and purify us more fully.
On the days when life is hard or confusing or sad our lonely, we extend our hands to Him and hold on, giving up our own control and trusting Him to guide our next step- an act of pure faith.
There is much that loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength requires of us that is hard to do. It is not an easy road, but it is a path of great peace and goodness. Where God’s mercy and grace meets us at the point of every need. Where His faithful provisions astound us.
If we can only get there. If we can only step over that threshold from knowing about Him, to knowing Him. From knowing that we should love Him, to loving Him.
Are you close? Or are you in?
You know, the scribe must have been surprised by Jesus’ response to him. What must he have thought when Jesus told him that he wasn’t far from the Kingdom? Don’t you think this man who was so well versed in Scripture, who was most likely faithful to his religion, likely believed himself to already have been in the Kingdom? From his perspective, until Jesus uttered those words, he probably believed that he had it all figured out.
What about you today? Are you in? Or are you only close? Are you living a religious life, going through motions, knowing about Jesus without knowing Him, without truly having a relationship with Him?
Do you love Him? Truly love Him?
For others of us, today is a good day to worship and adore our Savior. Linger awhile longer with Him today. Make your heart a sanctuary of thanksgiving and praise, loving Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.