Not Far From the Kingdom
It is just one sentence out of an entire conversation. It might be nothing more than a passing statement. One could easily overlook it. In fact, the other Gospels don't include it. Matthew and Luke record the same or similar conversations with Jesus (Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-37). Neither ends the encounter the way Mark does.
A teacher, obviously a very religious man, comes to Jesus. They talk. As they part, Jesus offers the observation, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." So close, yet so far!
Today I want to explore what might at first blush appear to be a detour from the main event of this encounter. But the more I think about it, the more I am convinced we will never understand what's happening in this text without seeing the significance of Jesus' parting comment.
"'You are not far from the kingdom of God." There is something striking about the line. It is almost haunting in its effect. How can one short statement be so hopeful and encouraging on one hand and yet so ominous on the other?
Jesus words contain a bright side and a dark side. On the bright side, the Lord offers encouragement to the teacher. He had asked a good question. He had recognized a good answer when he heard it. He was not far from the kingdom of God.
"You are not far from the kingdom of God" reminds us that there are degrees of separation. Not everyone is at the same point in the journey of faith. We know that by observation. We all know people who have yet to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Some are a long way away. It's hard to imagine them ever coming to faith. But harder things have happened. We have watched others come closer and closer. Maybe our witness and encouragement nudged them nearer to Christ. Maybe life experiences put Christ on their radar screen. Whatever it was, the distance changed. We pray for the day when we will no longer look at him and think "not far from the ki ...
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