Mark 12:28-34: Not Far from the Kingdom of God
May 10, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
1 Samuel 21-23, Psalm 104, Mark 12:28-34, 2 Corinthians 9
Jesus continues to be tested. They are looking to trap him in his words. This time the trap that is sprung is one of theological orthodoxy. Will he find a way to summarize the law that is simple and yet accurate? If fluffs and mumbles, then his teaching will be undermined. If he gets it wrong, then his teaching will be undermined too.
What is the greatest commandment? Jesus’ answer is justly famous. The law is summarized in two commandments that are interconnected and are in a sense jointly the greatest commandment. The first is to love God completely and utterly. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. These are the greatest.
If you want to summarize what the law teaches, here it is: love God, and love your neighbor.
But, note. First, Jesus does not say that the commandment is to love ourselves. He says the commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The assumption is that we do love ourselves. It is true that our self-love can become twisted and toxic, but the nature of man is such that we do love ourselves – even the person who commits what appears to be the ultimate act of self-hate (suicide) is actually still loving themselves, albeit in a twisted and terribly sad way; they are acting that way to put themselves out of unbearable pain. We do love ourselves. The commandment is to love our neighbor with a God-centered (love for God first) and healthy version of the love we have for ourselves.
And then also, second, note that this summary of the commandment is the summary of the law not the summary of the gospel, nor the summary of what the Bible as a whole teaches. The message of the Bible as a whole is not love God first and love your neighbor as yourself. That is a summary of the law. That is why when Jesus replies to the Scribe he says that even though he affirms this importance of loving God and loving neighbor he is still only “not far from the kingdom of God.” You do not get in to the kingdom of God by loving God and loving neighbor. That is the law; a law which none of us keep. And can only lead us to the realization that we are not in the kingdom of God.
Indeed, not only was he not far from the kingdom of God he was not far from the King of that Kingdom, Jesus himself. And it is that message – the message about Jesus – which is the summary of the teaching of the Bible as a whole.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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