What an interesting conversation! It followed the confrontational exchanges with the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees, who were trying to catch Jesus in something He said. (See: Mark 12:28-34.) One of the scribes, (also a Pharisee, according to Matthew’s account) who knew Jesus answered them well asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
The Lord affirmed the most important commandment is to love God with every fiber of ones being—all your heart…soul…mind…and…strength. Jesus added the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He concluded, “There is no commandment greater than these.”
The scribe gave Jesus’ answer high marks. That always cracks me up: the scribe gave JESUS high marks! Additionally, he noted these are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that the scribe answered with understanding He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Do you know anyone who, like this scribe, is not far from the kingdom? Clearly, Jesus was not speaking of where the scribe was standing, though he was, in fact, standing close to the King. Jesus observed that the condition of this man’s heart made him close to understanding and acknowledging God’s sovereignty in his life. Don’t we all know people who are close, really close? How should we relate to these precious souls? From Jesus, we learn many things in this regard.
First, notice Jesus showed interest. Those who are close to the kingdom need encouragement. Remembering the Parable of the Sower, we realize that Satan’s desire is to snatch the sprouting seed of God’s Word from the seeker’s heart. This underscores the urgency. By showing interest—staying close to kingdom-seekers—we help them stay close to the kingdom.
Second, Jesus responded to the scribe’s question with a clear, concise and Scriptural answer. Jesus was not always so straight forward in answering questions. Yes, Jesus was able to discern that this man had “ears to hear” His message. This greatly influenced how He replied. We do not have this ability. Nor do we have all of the answers. Indeed, we cannot know everything, but we must be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us. (See: 1 Peter 3:15.) And, people will ask! When it comes to satisfying the thirst of those who are seeking living water, only the pure gospel of Jesus Christ will suffice!
Third, Jesus was unequivocal in telling this teacher of the law exactly where he stood. Again, Jesus’ ability to know the man’s heart put Him at a special advantage. We do not have this capacity. What we can do is point people to Jesus, who is the way, truth and life (John 14:6). What we can do is share the good news, concerning the riches of God’s grace, which are made available to all who believe (Ephesians 2:1-10). What we can do is just what Jesus did when He talked with another person who was quite obviously close to the kingdom. We can tell people exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus. An inspired account (John 3:1-6) of the encounter follows:
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him."
Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again."
"How can anyone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!"
Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
To speak so forthrightly about spiritual things is not easy. We need to be sure that our sole interest is the spiritual welfare of those with whom we converse. Still, we must, if we are to be like Jesus, tell of God’s mercy and grace with joy in our hearts, as well as with a clarion voice.
Let us, therefore, do our best to seek out those who are close to the kingdom. Let us welcome the opportunity to engage in spiritual conversations and develop redemptive relationships. Let us show interest in them and share the reason for our hope with them. Let us, also, lovingly and compassionately talk with them about God’s deep and abiding love for every soul on this planet, including them. And, let us eagerly encourage them to step out in faith and make their entrance into the kingdom of God. In doing this we will be walking in the steps of Jesus, leading those who are close to the kingdom into a kingdom-relationship with God.
© Bill Williams
June 7, 2006