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Clear Words

Clear Words – (Not) far from heaven (Mark 12:34)

Today’s Reading: Mark 12-13

Today’s Reflection: Mark 12:34

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.

On one occasion when the Pharisees and the scribes were challenging Jesus and attempting to trap Him with their questions, a scribe finds himself actually agreeing with Jesus, and even elaborating on His words.  Jesus, recognizing this, responds by telling him “you are not far from the kingdom of God”, a remark that silences the Pharisees and scribes.  They thought it was a foregone conclusion that they were going to be a part of God’s kingdom.  That is until Jesus told those who thought they were on the inside would be left out.

Matthew 21:31b – “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”

It helps to understand what a scribe was.  In ancient Hebrew culture, these individuals were often charged with copying important documents, including the Jewish scriptures.  This is a much more important task than it may seem.  This was long before computers, photocopiers, printing presses, typewriters, ball point ink, even paper.  Making written documents was a precious and highly prized skill only a few possessed.  These individuals didn’t just copy documents either.  They were also charged with interpreting them, and were able to act as government authorities or judges in helping ordinary Jewish citizens understand how the Word of God applied to them.  Unfortunately most of them took advantage of this authority for their own benefit, a point Jesus raised in His ministry.

Mark 12:38-40 – 38) And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39) and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40) who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

But in this exchange Jesus saw a scribe grasping at the Gospel truth, rather than rejecting it.  It was of particular significance because the issue of discussion was a matter of the law—a matter the scribe would have been considered to be the expert in (Mark 12:28-33).  For him to agree with Jesus was in essence to say He was a greater expert in the law than the scribe was.  And for him to elaborate on Jesus words the way he did was to actually fulfill his duty as a scribe in service of the Gospel rather than in his own interests.  This pointed him in the direction of the kingdom Jesus had come to establish, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven.

And yet, ‘not far from’ is not the same as ‘inside of’.

When we see Jesus for who He is and accept His word as truth, this points us in the direction of His kingdom.  But we need to take the steps towards Him, to accept Him as lord and saviour, be renewed in our hearts and minds and learn to obey Him if we are to find ourselves accepted into His kingdom.

Luke 9:11 – When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

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