It's important that we look at this exchange within the context of the entire passage. 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.
And then follows Jesus's answer and the curious words that I wonder how many Christians have seriously pondered ... “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” What did Jesus mean, and what's the connection between the commandments to love God and your neighbor being more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and being not far from the kingdom of God? Let me see if I can make sense of what God revealed to meals those years ago; revealed by casting a series of bread crumbs throughout Scripture that led me to a profound Biblical truth.
Although this Scribe may not have come to the full realization that Jesus is the Son of God, he is beginning to connect the dots that are leading him to the doorstep of the Kingdom of God. I believe he was able to correctly discern the underlying principles of the Ten Commandments in Jesus's answer. The first five commandments 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 Jesus was saying that the two commandments He mentioned 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. And it was also understood that these numerous rituals could never save them from the judgment of Almighty God. That's why they had to be repeated each year for the nation. Salvation would never come through observing rituals! It would come from a heart connected to God!
The next dot Jesus connected for the Scribe [and He connected for me through Scripture] was the understanding that God desires that we show our love for Him by obeying His commands. And I can remember the moment that connection was made in my spirit -- that I am to show my love for Him by obeying His commands to do the Great Commission [which is to cast out demons, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers/spiritually unclean, raise the dead, and spread the Good News that the Kingdom of God had arrived on the earth]. My obedience [and yours!] will certainly mean that territory will be taken from the kingdom of Satan and transferred to the Kingdom of God.
It wasn't long before Jesus led me to the next bread crumb ... a more credible understanding of His remark that the Scribe was not far from the Kingdom of God. And it is centered on Jesus's conversation with Nicodemus, another religious man, in John, Chapter 3. He tells the Pharisee priest that unless one is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified -- SAVED] he cannot see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-5). So, can you see that Salvation is the key to our admittance into the Kingdom? But in the Mark passage, Jesus has not yet gone to the Cross, so mankind has not been given the gift of Salvation at this time. But it wasn't far off... hence, this is why Jesus tells the Scribe, "You are not far from the kingdom of God". Furthermore, it is important to understand that Salvation is the first essential step, but it's not the the ultimate conclusion of the matter.
I just love it when the Holy Spirit reveals another nugget of truth and glory in the Word! 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 of truth that the 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! I just added dots that the Scribe would have been unable to understand because Salvation was not a reality yet.
So, I invite you to join me; whether you are Saved or not, the Kingdom is nearer than you may think. But it's not enough to be Saved --- to enter the Kingdom, Jesus desires that we DO kingdom ... anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. Don't waste another day! I believe that seeing the Kingdom and entering it may be two different things. For myself, I do not want to be like those servants who were invited to the wedding feast, but paid no attention and disregarded it with contempt, choosing to go about their business. I want my life to be about doing Jesus's business! I want a seat at that wedding banquet table! Thank you, Father, for revealing these scriptural jewels, and I am not through with being willing to learn more. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
Matthew 5:20 "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."