"... To love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices".
When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him,
“You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
Let me set the context of this passage up for you... Jesus has made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, setting the stage for His eventual trial and crucifixion. He has already thrown the money-changers out of His Father's House, and then the chief priests, scribes, and elders begin questioning His authority to "do these things". When they cannot answer His question about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, He refuses to tell them under Whose authority He acts.
So, now in Mark Chapter 12, we find both the Pharisees and the Herodians (Hellenistic Jews who were more Greek than Hebrew) trying to trap Him in their questions about loyalty to Caesar versus loyalty to God. We then find the Sadducees trying to ambush Him about the afterlife (in which they don't even believe).
But there's one scribe who has been watching all the arguing and subterfuge, and realizes that Jesus's answers are accurate. And then He asks a question that shows His heart ... Which commandment is the most important one of all? He is not interested in maintaining his own power or prestige, or in trying to diminish Jesus's authority. It is in his heart to be obedient to the commands of God and he wants to find out the answer that this man, Jesus, has to this important question.
Jesus gives a two-part answer to the question: "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 your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second [part] is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
The Scribe recognizes that Jesus has captured the entire substance of the Ten Commandments [given to Moses] in this one answer. But he goes further... He shows his understanding of Jesus's Truth by declaring that following God's command to love Him and his neighbor is worth more to God than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices established by the Law. And Jesus's answer to him? You are not far from the Kingdom of God.
I want to expound on what I see happening in this extraordinary exchange between Jesus and the Scribe. What is happening here is what needs to happen in the Body of Christ! Let me try to explain what I mean... This Scribe has discerned that the laws and rituals of the sacrifices are less than God's commandments to love Him and others. And as a good Scribe, he would have been familiar with God's exhortation in Deuteronomy 10: Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? (If you love me, you will obey my commands!)
Furthermore, although this Scribe may not have come to the full realization that Jesus is the Son of God, he has connected the dots that are leading him to the doorstep of the Kingdom of God. He has correctly discerned the underlying principles of the Ten Commandments. The first five point to God as the One True God, and that we are to love and seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The last five commandments exhort us to love our neighbors as we would wish to be loved.
Then the Scribe realized that these two commandments were greater in God's eyes than any of the rituals or sacrifices that had been instituted when Israel came out of bondage to Egypt. Those rituals were established to separate the Israelites from 400 years of being immersed in a false god system. They were meant to be temporary, and God now expected them to have grasped what He wanted to accomplish with them through His covenant.
The next dot the Scribe connected was understanding that God desires that we show our love for Him by obeying His commands. What he doesn't know is the next dot that Jesus is getting ready to put before him. When Jesus tells him that he is not far from the Kingdom of God, our Lord is hinting that there will be more commands coming; that if the Scribe will be faithful to obey these commands [and thereby show his love for God], his obedience will usher in the Kingdom of God.
Those commands are encompassed in the Great Commission ... Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20) ... “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel [of the Kingdom] to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18).
In both of these Scriptures recounting the Great Commission, Jesus begins by giving them a command ... GO! Do the things I showed you and commanded you to do, and disciple others to do these same things. And by now, you should know what those things are: baptizing in His Name; healing the sick; casting out demons; and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom (which includes salvation).
But the two big points I want to make are these: 1) When Jesus tells the Scribe that he is not far from the Kingdom, He is making the point that it is correct to show your love for God by obeying His commands. And there will be commands, soon to be given to Believers (in the Great Commission), to show the Love of God (by healing both physical and spiritual issues) for all those who have faith in Jesus. The Kingdom of God will truly be at hand! 2) Sometimes there are truths in the Bible that have to be discerned by connecting the dots. There is not always a one sentence verse that reveals an easy-to-memorize revelation of God's character or commands.
Remember, Scripture says it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out (Proverbs 25:2). The dots that this wise Scribe connected are these: God commands us to love Him and others ... we show our love for Him by following His commands ... Jesus commands us (in the Great Commission) to do the things He did (healing, casting out demons, preaching the gospel) ... and it brings the Kingdom of God to earth!
The question we must all answer is this: How close am I to the Kingdom of God?