GOD’S WORD: Reason over Recall
by Impact Church
Mark 12: 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
35 And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself said in the Holy Spirit,
‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET.”‘ 37 David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; so in what sense is He his son?” And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.
“The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated…’” Wow. That’s pretty bold for that scribe to affirm that Jesus was right as a teacher in stating the greatest commandant. Jesus had answered the scribe’s question about the Greatest Commandment and he was clearly pleased that Jesus answered him as he felt He should. As Mark records Jesus’ assessment, the scribe had indeed answered intelligently, there is a somber response on Jesus’ part: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” There was something in the man’s answer that wasn’t enough to demonstrate that he was IN the kingdom of God. Close and yet so far.
What the man knew was right. His study of the Word of God had properly prepared him to know the value and the rank of what mattered the most in terms of the Commandments. A reading from Deuteronomy 6 reveals what matters the most to God by way of the Law: there is One God, YAHWEH, and He is to be loved with your entire life. But something was missing. He wasn’t in the kingdom. Knowledge of the Law and the most important commandment will get you to the doorstep but not into the kingdom. With Jesus’ pronouncement of the scribes’ shortcomings, the large crowd didn’t ask any more questions.
Still in the Temple, Jesus turns the conversation to the great crowd and asked them all a question that challenged what the scribes taught: “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” Had the audience considered the implication of what the scribes were teaching? Did the scribes understand its meaning? Jesus, knowing the source of their teachings, Psalm 110:1, seeks to learn if they understood not just what the Scripture says, but better, what it means. The scribes and the crowd were accustomed to a recitation of the Word of God but they evidently didn’t understand what God intended by it. They knew what it said, but had failed to consider what the passage actually meant. Because they had failed to consider what the passage meant, the scribal instruction had multiplied the ignorance of the crowd and doomed them all with the same thing Jesus said of the scribe, “not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus focuses in on the precise phrase, “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit down at my right hand…” In so doing, He positions two things together that are in reasonable conflict: The Christ, the Messiah, will be a Son of David, and thus a man; and, David acknowledges that this man, The Messiah, will also be God. The coming Messiah will be God/Man. Jesus, taking what the scribes taught and the people no doubt could recall from memory, asked them what did the passage mean. He was asking them if they understood what they heard and read. They were amazed at His question and thoroughly enjoyed listening to Him but they didn’t have a clue about the answer to His all important question. They thoroughly enjoyed the preaching and remained not far from the kingdom of God.
Unexpectedly, Jesus the Teacher, doesn’t answer His own question. He left the question to them to reason about what the Word of God meant. What did God intend to be understood in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit’s writing through David in Psalm 110? And what did God intend to be understood from His inspiration in the writing of Mark 12?
As a believer in Jesus Christ, it is important to know the Word of God. It is the breath of God, revealing His mind and will. It reveals the mystery of Christ and God’s redemption story through Him. To be able to recall it in our need is critical for our spiritual growth and health. And yet, from a reading of this passage in Mark 12, recall isn’t enough. The scribal recall came up short; “not far from the kingdom of God.” Understanding what it means, what God intended by His writing, is of critical importance.
Being able to understand, to reason about the Word of God, will take us to a new place in our spiritual life. Had the scribes reasonably considered the implications of Psalm 110:1, that the Son of David would be a man and God, then they would have taught the nation of Israel to be looking for a man who would be a descendent of David and believe that He is God by virtue of His words and deeds. Had they done their job as teachers of the Law, then they would have prepared the mind of the people to reasonably consider the claims of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught them to love God with their mind for a reason. He was there, in their midst, and each of them was “not far from the kingdom of God”. Had they understood that Jesus was David’s Son AND his LORD, then they would be able to consider the truth that He was the promised Messiah and not simply another teacher. To believe truths of a teacher is to be a disciple. To believe in the Truth of a Teacher, Who is God, is to enter the kingdom of God.