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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Not Far

March 17, 2013

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any questions. (Mark 12:32-34, NIV)

On the Tuesday before His death, Jesus was asked four questions, and then He concluded the dialogue by asking a question of His own.

His opponents desired to arrest Him when He answered the authority question (11:27 through 12:12). Then, His critics were amazed at His answer on the question of taxes (12:13-17). No response is recorded after His answer to the question, “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” (12:18-27). The questioner responds positively when Jesus answered the fourth question, “What is the greatest commandment?” (12:28-34). It’s the only question asked honestly with no intent to trap.

The man repeats what Jesus answered and then adds to it this phrase: “is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Why does he add these words?

Remember that this dialog with Jesus occurred in the temple precincts not far from the altar of burnt offerings — an especially busy locale of animal sacrifice at Passover season. The opposition prized attention to religious ritual. Jesus had chastised His opponents for their rigid adherence to ritual and their neglect of fundamental commandments to love God and others. Thus, this man sizes up the response of Jesus as one that was in agreement also with the prophets (Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 6:20).

Love is more important than crossing off a performance list of religious observances. They may have their place, but they have no place without love for God and others.

Jesus commended the man for his answer. He said, “You have answered wisely.” Jesus knew, from His own eternal association with the Father, that love for God and others are the two things God desires.

However, Jesus knows that love for God by itself does not get us into God’s kingdom. It brings you close to the kingdom of God. Jesus did not indicate to the man that his response brought him within that Kingdom — Jesus simply said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” In other words, the man was close but not yet there.

What is lacking? The answer is found in the requirement of the sacrifices. Hebrews 9:22, in reference to the Law, states that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” The sacrificial system had been established as a tutorial leading to the death of Christ on the cross as a substitute for us.

Thus, love for God and love for others is not enough to bring us into the kingdom of God — commendable as that love is. We are powerless to bring ourselves into that Kingdom despite our best and most honest efforts. We are stained indelibly by our sin. But, “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Loving God and others does bring us, however, near the Kingdom! If the man’s response had been sufficient to enter that Kingdom, then Jesus never would have had to go to the cross.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, I trust You in this life and in the life to come. I do believe in Your Word and in Your power.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

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