Inside or Outside the Kingdom? (Mark 12:28-34a)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 21, 2014


28 And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; [Deut. 6.4] 30 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’ [Deut. 6:5].

31 “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ [Lev. 19.18b]. There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him [Deut 4.35]; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, [Deut. 6:5] and to love one’s neighbor as himself [Lev. 19.18b], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices [Hos. 6:6].” 34 And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34a.)

Notes:

  • Here is Mark’s gospel Jesus has already entered into Jerusalem for the last time and has already clashed with several groups of people.
  • But suddenly out of the crowd of antagonists comes a surprise, a Scribe whose heart and mind are open Jesus and his teachings.
  • Scribes were experts in the study of the Law of Moses.
  • The Scriptural terms “scribe” and “lawyer” are synonymous.
  • Sometimes they are referred to as scribes and sometimes as lawyers because they served three functions:
    • 1) preserved the law; preserved in written form the oral law and faithfully handed down the Hebrew Scriptures.
    • 2) taught the law; gathered around them many pupils to instruct them in the law; and,
    • 3) judged the law; served as the judges in the Sanhedrin, the highest tribunal of the Jews which met in Jerusalem.
  • Satan was complaining to God,
    • “You made the world so that it was not fair,
    • and you made it so that most people would have to struggle every day,
    • fight against their innate wishes and desires, and deal with all sorts of losses, grief, disasters, and catastrophes.
    • Yet people worship and adore you.
    • People fight, get arrested, and cheat each other, and I get blamed, even when it is not my fault.
    • Sure, I’m evil, but give me a break.
    • Can’t you do something to make them stop blaming me?”
    • And so God created lawyers.
  • You Might Be A Lawyer If….
    • You have a daughter named Sue and a son named Bill.
    • Your other car is a BMW.
    • When you look in a mirror, you see a lawyer.
    • When your wife says “I love you,” you cross-examine her.
  • Likewise, the Scribes often cross-examined Jesus,
    • testing him and trying to trip him up because he taught with authority,
    • and because he condemned external formalism which they promoted.
  • But this man is different. His attitude and his intellect bring him, as Jesus says, “not far from the KOG.”
  • Let’s look at where he is, what has brought him to this position, and what he still lacks,
  • and thus look at where we are, what has brought us here, and what we may still lack.

First, let’s look at our relationship to the kingdom.

  • There are three issues in our relationship to the kingdom: 1) inside or outside; 2) far or near; and, 3) so near yet so far.
  • First, is our relationship to the kingdom inside or outside?
    • The Bible teaches we are either in the kingdom or outside of it.
    • There are many misunderstandings about how one becomes a member of the kingdom.
      • Christianity is a denominational identity: something we are born into, a Catholic, Lutheran or Presbyterian.
      • Christianity is a family identity: something we catch from our parents or grandparents.
      • Christianity is a national identity. If you’re American you’re a Christian.
      • Christianity is something we can’t be sure of, but can only “hope” for (Illustration).
  • However, Jesus knows whether or not a person is inside or outside the kingdom.
    • This man has not yet entered in, “You are not far from the KOG.” IOW, you are not in it, you are outside it.
    • We can know whether we are in or out of the kingdom if we have individually come face to face with God, have confessed our sin and have believed on Jesus Christ.
  • Second, is our relationship to the kingdom far or near? There are variations in people’s relative positions with respect to the kingdom.
    • This man is “not far from the KOG.”
    • Gentiles are described by Paul as “far off” before becoming Christians, while Jews he described as “near.”
    • Today some people are as far as they can be from the KOG. Don’t give God a single thought, or push him out of their minds at every opportunity. Others are nearer, reading their Bibles, asking questions, attending Bible studies or worship services.
  • Third, is our relationship to the kingdom so near yet so far? A person can travel far in the direction of the kingdom and yet still be outside it.
    • This man is standing just outside the door.
    • He seems to have come a long way compared to the other scribes.
    • Yet he is still outside and not inside.
    • No matter how near or far one has travelled in the direction of the kingdom, it doesn’t matter.
    • There is no advantage to being near if you are not inside.
    • “Close only counts in horse shoes and grenades.”
    • Illust…There was a man standing in line for a bus, but not getting on, the bus has left… 

Second, let’s look at our nearness to the kingdom.

  • Not only can we understand our relationship to the kingdom, we can know how to draw near to the kingdom.
  • This man used his intelligence to draw near.
  • He was not antagonistic to Jesus and did not come just to trip him up or test him as the Pharisees and Herodians in v. 13 and the Sadducees in v. 18.
  • Also, he demonstrated an appreciation of J and his teaching.
  • He notes first how well Jesus argued his points in the previous conversations with the Pharisees by quoting the Scriptures and with the Sadducees by preaching the doctrine of the resurrection. Look at verse 28.

28 And one of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognized that He had answered them well…

  • Then he affirms Jesus’ answer to his own question saying, in verse 32.

32 “Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him [Deut 4.35];

  • Finally, he demonstrates his understanding that it’s no use relying on forms of religion which amounts to good works in hopes of pleasing God by human achievement. Look at verse 33.

33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, [Deut. 6:5] and to love one’s neighbor as himself [Lev. 19.18b], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices [Hos. 6:6].”

  • Surprisingly, the scribe, whose profession focused on proper sacrificial regulations, demotes the whole system of temple sacrifice.
  • It doesn’t imply any doubt about the necessity of the sacrificial system at the time. The POINT is its relative importance.
  • He understood that love for God and neighbor are more important than merely going through the motions of burnt offerings and sacrifices.
  • He understood the principle that to obey is better than sacrifice.
  • Likewise we can draw near to the kingdom by understanding that love for God and our neighbor is more important than merely going through the motions of worship.
  • For example, by understanding that when anyone has something against us, we should leave our offering at the altar, and go and be reconciled (Matt 5).
  • Or by understanding that if a brother or sister has sinned against us, we should go and seek to restore them privately in a spirit of gentleness” (Mat 18:15, Gal 6:1).

Third, let’s look at how we can enter into the kingdom.

  • Not only can we understand our relationship to the kingdom and our nearness to the kingdom, we can know how to enter into the kingdom.
  • This man was still outside the kingdom because his interest in the law was only theoretical and intellectual.
  • Someone has said, “The law of God is not here for you to applaud but to apply.”
  • As Paul wrote to the Roman believers, “Not the hearers of the law, but the doers of the law shall be justified (Rom 2.13)
  • He did not go on to ask the question that follows: what must man do when he realizes he has not kept the law?
  • There was no acknowledgment of failure, no sense of need.
  • He didn’t realize his need of salvation, was a pure theorist, just interested in religion.
  • He didn’t ask “what must I do to be saved?”
  • He never realized who Jesus was and why he had come into the world.
  • He didn’t realize that the only one who can help a person in that position was standing in front of him.
  • He honored the law, but the law had been broken and the punishment for breaking the law is death – the wages of sin is death (Rom 6.23); but the free gift of God is eternal life in XJ our Lord.
  • May God deliver us from a mere intellectual, theoretical interest in the kingdom of God.
  • It will be no use telling God all the good you have done.
  • He wants our hearts. He wants our lives. He wants us.
  • There’s only one way to be right with God.
  • “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes (Rom 10.4).
  • Have you believed?
  • If so, you are in the kingdom.
  • If not, you remain on the outside and die in everlasting misery.
  • Believe on the Lord JC and be saved.
  • Someone has said, “Hope is the only thing that can help us take a step forward instead of backward.”
  • Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Pro 13:12 ESV)
  • How can we regain hope?
  • Paul wrote to the Romans,
  • “Through Christ we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God,
  • And we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
  • and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
  • and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:1-5 ESV)
  • We regain hope by embracing Christ once again by faith.
  • He is the only one who can truly fulfill our de
  • He is the only one who in whom we find the hope of the glory of God,
  • He is the only one whose sufferings in us produce endurance and character that result in hope that never puts us to shame.
  • Because only in Him God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through his Spirit.

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