NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM
You will appreciate this message more if you read from the book of Mark 12:28-34. A Jewish scribe asked Jesus this question, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus said the first commandment is, “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 you mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment, and the second like it is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Jesus, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth.” In this study we shall be concerned with what Jesus said to this learned Jewish scholar, at the close of their conversation. Jesus was quite impressed with this man, for he responded well to the Lord's teachng. Then Jesus said this about the man, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
The first thing we learn from these words of Jesus is that some people are more likely to enter the kingdom of God than others. In certain respects all people are alike, for all have sinned from their youth, all are separated from God, and all have need of a Savior. There are not three different gospels for the fair, good and bad. God sets the same Christ before the lost people of every kind, whatever their social, moral or religious condition. The same message is to be proclaimed to every one of them, and the sum of it is to believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, repent or turn away from a past sinful life, recieve forgiveness of sins by immersion in water, and then walk with God for the rest of life.
However, it is a mistake to deal with everyone in the same way, for all human beings are not exactly alike. Jesus made distinctions conerning those who came to Him while He was on earth. He used some very strong language to Pharisees who resisted His teachings, but He used much different language in speaking to the learned scribe in our text. To him Jesus said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Long indulgence in evil habits and a sinful way of life has a way of separating people farther and farther away from God. But there are other people who have many desirable traits of character. Jesus recognized the good in this man, and we should follow His example..
Secondly, since Jesus said this man was not far from the kingdom of God, we inquire what was this kingdom? He was already in the Old covenant kingdom of God made with Israel at Mount Sinai. The kingdom he was near but not in, was the new covenant kingdom of God, also called
the kingdom of Christ, the Church of Christ, and the Church of God. Although God's new kingdom predicted in Daniel 2:44 was not in existence when Jesus talked to this man, it was very near. It had its beginning on earth fifty days after the death of Christ. The disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus during His earthly ministry were automatically inducted into the kingdom of Christ which began on earth shortly after His resurrection and ascension The disciples of John and Jesus made their past lives right with God. by believing in Christ, by turning away from or repenting of past sins and obeying the command of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The message of John and Jesus was, “The kingdom is at hand; repent and be baptrized for the remission of sins.” All who obeyed this messagse were, so to speak, charter members of the new kingdom which began on earth ten days after Jesus returned to heaven. The baptism of John was valid until the Kingdom of Christ had its beginning on earth. This is the kingom this scribe was not far from, but not in.
Next, what was there about this learned scribe that placed him near the kingdom of God, which would shortly begin on earth? For one thing it is quite clear that he was a sincere seeker after truth. He was not as prejudiced as most of the other scribes were. His mind and heart were open to conviction. He listened as other scribes put hard questions to Jesus, and He answered all their questions. . Yet not a one of them admitted they were wrong, and Jesus was right. So this man decided to ask a question. When Jesus told him what the number one commandment in the law was, he at once said to Jesus, “You answered my question well; you spoke the truth.” I don't know how he could have put it better than that. I think Jesus is teaching us here that whatever opinions people may hold, if they are firmly resolved to follow truth wherever it may lead them, then we can say of them, “You are not far from the kingdom of Christ on earth.” All who are seeking to know the truth about the Christian religion would be wise not to be overly self-confident, or rely too much on their own judgment. An honest seeker after truth will not be long before truth finds him, and he finds the truth.
Another commendable trait in this scribe's character was that he had some degree of spiritual understanding. When Jesus answerd his question the man said, “To love the Lord with all of one's heart, soul and strength and to love one's neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” That was very good. He wasn't like most Pharisees of whom Jesus said that they tithed mint, anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law such as judgment, mercy and
faith. These you should have done, and not leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). Jesus said that they obsrved the outward ceremonies, but did not live good lives. Church attendance is important, but it is equally important to live Christ-like lives seven days a week, twenty four hours a day. This scribe had also advanced further than those who believe that just as long as people do what they think is right, that is all we need to be concerned about. This man spoke of the need to love God with all the heart, mind and soul. This man certainly had a degree of spiritual understanding.
I will mention one more commendable trait of this man's character.
He evidently was teachable. He was in such a frame of mind that he was willing to hear what the great Teacher had to say. It is a hopeful sign when peiple are eager and willing to learn what the Bible really teaches. Jesus said, “Except you turrn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kigndom of heaven(Matthew 18:3) That statement proves that the kingdom of Christ was not on the earth during the earthly ministry of Christ. While Jesus was on earth, it was only the preparatory period of the kingdom. In speaking of becoming as lilttle children, the reference was to the teachability of children. Some people are so wise in their own estimation that they are not willing to be taught, even by infinite wisdom. They are so satisfied with themselves they are content with their knowledge of right and wrong, truth and error. However, it is a hopeful sign when people are teachable. If you are so, you are not far from the kingdom of Christ.
I conclude with the mention of a peculiar danger people are in who are not far from the kingdom. The great danger of it is that though they are not far from the kingdom, they are not in it. The two should not be confused. To be near the kingdom is not to be in it. One preacher said it is like a man in a sinking ship who almost leaped into the lifeboat, but just missed it and drowned. To be almost saved is to be altogether lost. Many people are living in the suburbs of the church. They have heard many sermons and enjoy attending church. They are standing just outside the door of the church, but have ot entered in. It is dangerous for unbelievers to remain on the borderline between the church and the world. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven “ All seekers after truth should study that statement until they understand it. The water refers to immersion in water and the Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit, who through the gospel brings us to faith in Christ and causes us to turn from our past sinful life. That produces the new birth. The word of God says, “As many of you as have been baptized
into Christ, have put on Christ. As a child emerges from the mother's womb as a new born child, so one emerges from the obedient act of immersion as a new born child of God in Christ Jesus. That is why Peter says that baptism saves us. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” The preacher said to Paul who had believed and repented for three days, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins.” Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding.