28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other 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 oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The scribe made a great first move. He came to Jesus. But he didn’t come close enough. He came to Jesus to ask a question but he didn’t draw close enough to see the true answer. If he had, he would have seen that Jesus not only knew God’s law but obeyed God’s law. He would have seen Jesus wasn’t only a teacher but a savior, a man like himself in appearance but unlike him in divinity. He would have seen a perfect man there before him who loved God with all he was, who never disobeyed for a second, and loved his neighbor as himself, headed to the cross to prove it. But the scribe didn’t see that because he didn’t come to Jesus as a sinner in need of saving but as a scribe in need of a theological answer.
How have you come to him?
Jesus told the scribe he was not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). But being not far doesn’t mean being in, and the difference between being near and being in the kingdom of God is simple, though I admit, not easy. It comes down to this: What do you do with Jesus? Is he a teacher or a savior? Can you see him for who he is and what he did or do you merely admire him for what he taught?
Standing before Jesus, the scribe never saw him for who he truly was. He who transcribed the Old Testament events about God’s glory coming into the temple didn’t see it when glory stood before him. He never saw the crushing weight of the law. He never realized the man before him was a Rescuer, the Son who, as Paul said in Galatians 4, “God sent forth…born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus was there to pull him from under the law by taking his place. The scribe remained a slave to the law, but how close he was to being a son! How close he was to finding in God not only a great law-giver but a loving Father! Jesus was there for that very reason, but he missed it! And because he missed it, he was outside the kingdom. He wasn’t far, that’s true, but to be not far is to be altogether out.
Let’s beware of missing Jesus. Let’s beware of standing in the presence of God and missing the hope of the gospel. Let’s beware of our knowledge and agreement shielding us from repentance and belief. Let’s not merely discuss matters with Jesus but fall down in worship before him, crying out for rescue. There is only one way to enter the kingdom of God, and the Bible is clear from cover to cover that the one way is faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone.
So here’s the hope for any of us that feel not far from the kingdom but want in. As great as his teaching was, Jesus did not come only to give you tips on how to live. He did not come merely to show you how to be kind to others. He came to rescue you from sin and death. He came to save you from the crushing weight of the law. He came, as he said in John 10, to be the door by which you enter the kingdom of God. He came to have his flesh torn open so that by his blood you find cleansing and hope. He suffered the separation on the cross that you deserve to give you the peace of God that you don’t deserve.
So if you want to be a citizen of his kingdom, all you have to do is ask him to bring you in. He will gladly do it. If you’re tired of trying to obey a law you’ve already failed and you’re tired of gaining more knowledge for knowledge’s sake and you’re tired of just agreeing with God and you’re ready to lay it all down at his feet and ask for new life, he’s ready to welcome you. How do I know? Because he said he would. To all who are weighed down by their sin and their failed attempts at obeying the heavy yoke of the law, Jesus says this morning, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The kingdom of God is not for high-achievers. It is for repenters. If you can repent and admit your need for Jesus, the kingdom of God can be yours. If you see the law is killing you, Jesus will be your life.
I want you to know about God and I want you to agree with everything God says, but that alone won’t get you into heaven. And, in fact, the first step is knowing and agreeing with God that you’re a sinner in need of a savior. You enter God’s kingdom by coming to Jesus as your only hope and laying every other merit down at his feet. Your hope cannot be in your obedience. It cannot be in your character. It cannot be in your knowledge or agreement with God or anything else. Your hope must be placed in the power of Jesus Christ crucified, raised, ascended, glorified, and coming again. If it is anywhere else—even God’s law—you stand outside the kingdom looking in. But you must be in. Life is in there!
That’s not a matter of theological debate. It’s the truth of the gospel—something to rejoice in and enter into.
And if you’ve not come in yet, well, the door is still open. Hurry inside.
Editor’s Note: This originally published at Things of the Sort