The distance to some destinations may make us anxious, such as the distance from our thirteenth birthday to being “on our own.” Jesus spoke of another distance that evidently was intended to instill focus and determination in the man receiving it. When the man, a scribe, commented favorably on Jesus’ answer to his question about the greatest commandment, Mark says that Jesus perceived that he had answered “discreetly” [“intelligently” (NASB)] (Mark 12:34a). That is when Jesus set the man’s sights on the goal, saying, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34b).
In order to appreciate more fully the assessment Jesus gave of this scribe, consider the hostile environment in which his “discreet” answer is found. He told Jesus, “Well, Master, thou hast said the truth…” (v. 32). The chief priests, scribes and elders had demanded that He prove His authority (Mark 11:27). The Pharisees and Herodians had attempted to catch him in His words (12:13, 14). The Sadducees had also tried to hang Him on the horns of a dilemma (12:18-23). These were trying to win their debates; the scribe was sincerely seeking truth.
Consider also that the distance was not as much about time or space as it was about character. The Lord was not talking about the church being established, but rather about the people who willingly place themselves under the rule of God, those who would be ﬁt subjects for that kingdom. By accepting these basic teachings of Christ (12:29-31), this man was moving in the direction of letting God’s will (and, therefore, God) reign in his life. Childlike submission to the authority of heaven is prerequisite to entering the kingdom (see Matthew 18:3). Friend, the kingdom is THE place to be, both now and forever. Just follow Acts 2:36-47 to enter.
J. Brooks Boyd Jr.
Livingston church of Christ