What is mankind’s highest responsibility to God and man? The answer to that question was given on highest authority in a conversation held in the Temple of Jerusalem. "Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving  that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first  commandment of all?’.  Mark 12:28

This question was the last of several that examined every aspect of Jesus Christ during the four days before His trial and crucifixion. It was also at this time that each family was inspecting their chosen Passover lamb to be sure that it was "without spot or blemish." For nearly 1500 years that Passover lamb had served as a picture of the sacrificial death of Christ for He was ‘the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29.


The chief priests, scribes and elders examined Jesus regarding His authority. "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority to do these things.?" Mark 11:27, 28.

The Pharisees (religious legalists) and Herodians (religious supporters of Roman authority) examined Him regarding His loyalty to Jewish political desires or loyalty to the Roman government. –"Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?" Mark 12:13, 14.

The Sadducees (religious rationalists who denied all supernatural beliefs) examined Him regarding what they considered an impossible contradiction regarding the teaching of a literal resurrection? Mark 12: 18 – 27.

Later, Jesus would be examined by the Jewish High Priest and the ruling body of Israel and, after that, by the Roman governor, Pilate. Concerning the religious leaders we find that Jesus answered them so well that "…no one dared question Him." Mark 12:34b. Concerning Pilate we have the words of Pilate himself, "I find no guilt in this Man." Luke 23:4.


The last person to examine Jesus before His arrest and trial was a Scribe. The primary responsibility of scribes was to make copies of the scriptures. Because of the meticulous ways they produced copies of the scriptures scribes became very knowledgeable of them. They also became very knowledgeable of the Jewish commentary on the scriptures called the Talmud. As a result, they were looked upon as having the authority of religious lawyers.

This scribe not only possessed an intellectual knowledge of the scriptures, but had unusual spiritual perception as well. Upon hearing Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, he knew that Jesus had answered them well. He immediately asked Jesus which of the commandments was first or greatest of all. In this, he was examining Jesus regarding His highest values.


Jesus did not quote from any of prestigious teachers of Israel nor did He quote any time honored tradition. Without hesitation He quoted what is known among devout Israelites as the Shema. "…The foremost is, ‘Hear O Israel; THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE!  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. THIS IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT.  AND THE SECOND, LIKE IT,  IS THIS: YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’" Mark 12:29-31. This is a quotation of the Greek translation of Deuteronomy 6:4, 5.. This commandment gives us mankind’s highest responsibilities to God.


The word Jesus used for love is "agape". This is a love in which the mind and will are more dominant than emotional affection. It may be defined as "an unconditional commitment of thoughts, words, and actions to be in the best interest of the object of our love.

WITH ALL YOUR HEART - your affection

WITH ALL YOUR SOUL - immortal being

WITH ALL YOUR MIND - intelligence and understanding

WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH - power of intense commitment.

When our love for Jehovah is supreme it will motivate us to delight in being that person and doing those things that please Him and refrain from being that person and doing those things that offend and grieve Him.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." 1st John 5:3


After giving mankind’s highest responsibility Jesus added the second; "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" This He quoted from Leviticus 19:18.

We are to love God more than ourselves because He is greater than we are. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves because they are equal to us.

Out of the second greatest commandment flows the Golden Rule that Jesus gave in His sermon on the mount, "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12.

To this the Apostle Paul would later add these beautiful words; "Owe no man anything except to love one another; for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, 'you shall not commit adultery," "you shall not murder," "You shall not steal,"  "You shall not bear false witness,"  "You shall not covet,"  and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely,  ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no harm  to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.’" Romans 13: 8, 9b, 10.

To an impressive degree this scribe grasped the spiritual truth that Jesus taught. He answered, "Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM;; 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."" The response of Jesus was, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." We gather that Jesus was implying that the scribe possessed the spiritual understanding that, if faithfully pursued, would lead him into the kingdom of God.

Some I Have Felt Were Not Far From The Kingdom of God

I think of several people over the years of my ministry who seemed to sincerely approve the truths of God. They accepted the teachings of the word of God as God’s truth and even seemed to delight in God’s word. Some were husbands of wives who were strong Christians and they attended church services over many years with their mates. I felt that they were "not far from the kingdom of God."

I have known others who had a deep sense of their sin and their lost condition. They were fully aware that they were sinners under the just condemnation of God’s law. The battle they were fighting was that they doubted they could ever quit their sinful habits or that God could forgive and save such an awful sinner as they perceived themselves to be. I felt that these were not far from the kingdom of God because I know that Christ has received the punishment for their every sin as their substitute. I know also that Christ is able to give them victory over every sin that holds them in bondage. I know also that they have already made tremendous progress in their journey towards the kingdom of God because the toughest thing with most people is to get them to see that they are a bad enough sinner that they need to get saved.

There is another group that had bought into the Devil’s lie that heaven on earth is achieved by the abundance of possessions; the pursuit of pleasures, and a successful rise to prominence. They had discovered three fatal flaws in the scheme: 1. Things that bring an initial euphoria lose the power to thrill over time. 2. Mankind was created to live in fellowship with God and when God is not in the life, there is an emptiness that cannot be filled any other way and, 3. The unbreakable law of the harvest is "God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will of the flesh reap corruption…" Galatians 6:7, 8a. Some of these people had already experienced disappointment, disillusionment and were tasting despair…and realized the worst was yet to come. They were giving serious thought to the words of Jesus, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly." John 10:10. These I felt were surely not far from the kingdom of God.


To Be Not Far From The Kingdom Is Still Not To Be IN The Kingdom

Our physical birth, no matter how noble, only made us children of our earthly parents, members of the human family, and citizens of the nation in which we were born.

Until we have experienced a spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit we are not children of God nor do we hold citizenship in God’s kingdom.

"Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’". John 3:6, 7.


We can feel that we are only one step away and can take that step any time. But those of us who have been saved many years have observed numerous people who allowed their spiritually complacent condition to become fatally chronic.

Who has not heard the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". That phrase was coined to describe people who were not far from the kingdom of God but became fatally complacent about taking the final steps of entering the kingdom of God.


When the Korean war was winding down the Chicago Tribune told of a mother and father who went to O’Hare airport to welcome their soldier-son back home. They saw the airplane on final approach. It had almost reached the runway when it exploded. Every person on board was killed. Their son was not far but sudden death meant never. It has been thus so with many who were not far from the kingdom of God.


"Then He (Jesus) began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done because they did not repent. Woe to you, Chorazin!. . .Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. . .it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you." Matthew 11:20. 21, 22. Verses 23 and 24 have a similar comparison to Capernaum and Sodom. ". . .For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; . ."     Luke 12.48.

Did this scribe press on to enter the kingdom of God? We don’t know. Perhaps God chose to leave that question unanswered because each person who is not far from the kingdom of God gives the answer to that question in their particular case.

We encourage those who are not far from the kingdom of God to:

  1. Acknowledge they have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (See Romans 3:23)
  2. 2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ received the punishment for their sin on the cross (See Romans 5:6-8)
  3. 3. Ask Jesus Christ to save them and believe Him to do it. (See Romans 10:13)

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted

    Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.