Mark 12:34
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that dared ask him any question.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(34) Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.—The words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord’s teaching. Now, as when He spoke the Sermon on the Mount, the righteousness which fulfils the law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19-20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as consisting in the fulfilment of the two commandments that were exceeding broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the Kingdom. It is instructive to compare our Lord’s different method of dealing, in Luke 10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimised the force of the commandments by his narrowing definitions.

And no man after that durst ask him.—St. Mark states the fact before, St. Matthew after, the narrative that now follows.

Mark

NOT FAR AND NOT IN

Mark 12:34
.

‘A bruised reed He will not break, and the smoking flax He will not quench.’

Here is Christ’s recognition of the low beginnings of goodness and faith.

This is a special case of a man who appears to have fully discerned the spirituality and inwardness of law, and to have felt that the one bond between God and man was love. He needed only to have followed out the former thought to have been smitten by the conviction of his own sinfulness, and to have reflected on the latter to have discovered that he needed some one who could certify and commend God’s love to him, and thereby to kindle his to God. Christ recognises such beginnings and encourages him to persevere: but warns him against the danger of supposing himself in the kingdom, and against the prolongation of what is only good as a transition state.

This Scribe is an interesting study as being one who recognised the Law in its spiritual meaning, in opposition to forms and ceremonies. His intellectual convictions needed to be led on from recognition of the spirituality of the Law to recognition of his own failures. ‘By law is the knowledge of sin.’ His intellectual convictions needed to pass over into and influence his heart and life. He recognised true piety, and was earnestly striving after it, but entrance into the kingdom is by faith in the Saviour, who is ‘the Way.’ So Jesus’ praise of him is but measured. For in him there was separation between knowing and doing.

I. Who are near?

Christ’s kingdom is near us all, whether we are heathen, infidel, profligate or not.

Here is a distinct recognition of two things-{a} Degrees of approximation; {b} decisive separation between those who are, and those who are not, within the kingdom.

This Scribe was near, and yet not in, the kingdom, because, like so many in all ages, he had an intellectual hold of principles which he had never followed out to their intellectual issues, nor ever enthroned as, in their practical issues, the guides of his life. How constantly we find characters of similar incompleteness among ourselves! How many of us have true thoughts concerning God’s law and what it requires, which ought, in all reason, to have brought us to the consciousness of our own sin, and are yet untouched by one pang of penitence! How many of us have lying in our heads, like disused furniture in a lumber-room, what we suppose to be beliefs of ours, which only need to be followed out to their necessary results to refurnish with a new equipment the whole of our religious thinking! How few of us do really take pains to bring our beliefs into clear sunlight, and to follow them wherever they lead us! There is no commoner fault, and no greater foe, than the hazy, lazy half-belief, of which its owner neither knows the grounds nor perceives the intellectual or the practical issues.

There are multitudes who have, or have had, convictions of which the only rational outcome is practical surrender to Jesus Christ by faith and love. Such persons abound in Christian congregations and in Christian homes. They are on the verge of ‘the great surrender,’ but they do not go beyond the verge, and so they perpetrate ‘the great refusal.’ And to all such the word of our text should sound as a warning note, which has also hope in its bone. ‘Not far from’ is still ‘outside.’

II. Why they are only near.

The reason is not because of anything apart from themselves. The Christian gospel offers immediate entrance into the Kingdom, and all the gifts which its King can bestow, to all and every one who will. So that the sole cause of any man’s non-entrance lies with himself.

We have spoken of failure to follow out truths partially grasped, and that constitutes a reason which affects the intellect mainly, and plays its part in keeping men out of the Kingdom.

But there are other, perhaps more common, reasons, which intervene to prevent convictions being followed out into their properly consequent acts.

The two most familiar and fatal of these are:-

{a} Procrastination.

{b} Lingering love of the world.

III. Such men cannot continue near.

The state is necessarily transitional. It must pass over into-{a} Either going on and into the Kingdom, or {b} going further away from it.

Christ warns here, and would stimulate to action, for-{a} Convictions not acted on die; {b} truths not followed out fade; {c} impressions resisted are harder to be made again; {d} obstacles increase with time; {e} the habit of lingering becomes strengthened.

IV. Unless you are in, you are finally shut out.

‘City of refuge.’ It was of no avail to have been near. ‘Strive to enter in.’

Appeal to all such as are in this transition stage.12:28-34 Those who sincerely desire to be taught their duty, Christ will guide in judgment, and teach his way. He tells the scribe that the great commandment, which indeed includes all, is, that of loving God with all our hearts. Wherever this is the ruling principle in the soul, there is a disposition to every other duty. Loving God with all our heart, will engage us to every thing by which he will be pleased. The sacrifices only represented the atonements for men's transgressions of the moral law; they were of no power except as they expressed repentance and faith in the promised Saviour, and as they led to moral obedience. And because we have not thus loved God and man, but the very reverse, therefore we are condemned sinners; we need repentance, and we need mercy. Christ approved what the scribe said, and encouraged him. He stood fair for further advance; for this knowledge of the law leads to conviction of sin, to repentance, to discovery of our need of mercy, and understanding the way of justification by Christ.This answer of the scribe is not found in Matthew.

Is more than all - Is of more importance and value.

Discreetly - Wisely, according to truth.

Not far from the kingdom of God - Thou who dost prefer the "internal" to the "external" worship of God - who hast so just a view of the requirements of the law - canst easily become a follower of me, and art almost fit to be numbered among my disciples. This shows that a proper understanding of the Old Testament, of its laws and requirements, would prepare the mind for Christianity, and suit a person at once to embrace it when presented. One system is grafted on the other, agreeably to Galatians 3:24.

And no man after that durst ask him any question - That is, no one of the scribes, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees durst ask him a question for the purpose of "tempting" him or entangling him. He had completely silenced them. It does not appear, however, but that his "disciples" dared to ask him questions for the purpose of information.

34. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly—rather, "intelligently," or "sensibly"; not only in a good spirit, but with a promising measure of insight into spiritual things.

he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God—for he had but to follow out a little further what he seemed sincerely to own, to find his way into the kingdom. He needed only the experience of another eminent scribe who at a later period said, "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin": who exclaimed, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me?" but who added, "I thank God through Jesus Christ!" (Ro 7:14, 24, 25). Perhaps among the "great company of the priests" and other Jewish ecclesiastics who "were obedient to the faith," almost immediately after the day of Pentecost (Ac 6:7), this upright lawyer was one. But for all his nearness to the Kingdom of God, it may be he never entered it.

And no man after that durst ask any question—all feeling that they were no match for Him, and that it was vain to enter the lists with Him.

Christ Baffles the Pharisees Regarding David (Mr 12:35-37).

See Poole on "Mark 12:29" And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly,.... Wisely and prudently, as a man of sense and understanding; by taking in the several parts of our Lord's answer very distinctly, and reasoning upon them, and confirming them:

he said unto him, thou art not far from the kingdom of God: not meaning from heaven, and eternal happiness; for right and distinct notions of the above commandments, and even the performance of the in by a sinful and imperfect creature, can neither give a man a title to, or bring him near, or introduce him into the heavenly glory, which is a pure gift of God's grace; but our Lord's sense is, that he was not far off from the Gospel dispensation, and was in a fair way of entering into it; his sentiments were very near to such, who became followers of Christ, and embraced the doctrines, and submitted to the ordinances of the Gospel state: since he preferred those things, which related to the knowledge of the being and perfections of God, to the love and worship of God, and to the good of his neighbour; before the ceremonies of the law; which were quickly to be abolished, and make way for the setting up of the kingdom of God, or of the Messiah, in a more glorious and visible manner. Indeed there are some persons, who seem not far off from the kingdom of God, in the other sense of the phrase, as it may respect eternal glory and happiness, who will never enter into it: there are some that seem very devout and religions; hear the word, attend on all ordinances, join themselves with a church, submit to baptism, and sit down at the Lord's table, and live a moral life and conversation, and yet are destitute of the grace of God: yea, there are some who have clear notions of the Gospel, and make a bright profession of it, and yet have no experience of the power of it upon their hearts, and have not the oil of grace there: and even hold this profession to the end, and yet come short of the kingdom and glory of our Lord Jesus: such are almost Christians, but not altogether; virgins, but foolish ones; have lamps, but no oil; come as far as the door, but that is shut upon them.

And no man after that durst ask him any question; in any captious matter in order to ensnare him; finding they could get no advantage, or occasion against him that way; he having silenced the Herodians, Sadducees, Scribes, and Pharisees.

And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Mark 12:34. νουνεχῶς, intelligently, as one who had a mind (of his own), and really thought what he said, a refreshing thing to meet with at any time, and especially there and then. Here only in N.T. = νουνεχόντως in classics.—οὐ μακρὰν, not far; near by insight into its nature (the ethical supreme), and in spirit—a sincere thinker.—οὐδεὶς οὐκέτι, etc.: questioning given up because seen to be vain, always ending either in the confusion or in the acquiescence of questioners (cf. Luke 20:40).34. discreetly] “wysely,” Wyclif. The word only occurs here in the N.T., and denotes “with knowledge and understanding.”

Thou art not far] The perception of Divine truth which his answer had shewed, revealed that he wanted but little to become a disciple of Christ. “Si non procul es, intra; alias præstiterit, procul fuisse.”

no man … durst] No other attempt was henceforth made to entangle the Redeemer by replies to subtle questions; “all alike kept aloof from one, from Whom chief priests and Rabbis equally went away humbled.” Some, however, would refer to this occasion the question respecting the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11).Mark 12:34. Οὐ μακρὰν εἶ, thou art not far) They therefore axe far from the kingdom who have not νοῦς, intelligent perception.[7] [Such, for instance, were they who were still clinging to sacrifices.—V. g.] Seeing that thou art not far from it, enter into the kingdom: otherwise it would have been better for thee to have been far off.

[7] Referring to νουνεκως, having intelligence, Th. νοῦν ἔκειν, to have intelligence.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 34. - And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly (νουνεχῶς), he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. It would appear from this answer that our Lord regarded him as one who approached him with the sincere desire to know the truth, and so he encouraged him. This shows how powerful an influence our Lord's teaching had already exercised amongst all classes of the Jews. This scribe, notwithstanding the prejudices of his class, had reached the border-land of the kingdom. He had learnt that the true way to the kingdom was by the love of God and of our neighbor. He was not far from the kingdom - not far from "the Church militant here on earth," by which is the way to the Church triumphant in heaven. He was not far from the kingdom, but still he wanted that which in the true pathway to the kingdom - faith in Christ as the Savior of the world. And no man after that durst ask him any question. St. Matthew (Matthew 22:46) places these words after the next occurrence. But there is no inconsistency in the two narratives, because in this next incident our Lord puts the question to them; and this silenced both their questioning and their answering. All felt that there was such a vast reach of wisdom and knowledge in all that he said, that it was in vain to contend with him. Discreetly (νουνεχῶς)

From νοῦς, mind, and ἔχω, to lave. Having his mind in possession: "having his wits about him." The word occurs only here in the New Testament.

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