Gospel: Mk 12:28-34
A teacher of the law had been listening to this discussion and admired how Jesus answered them. So he came up and asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?“
Jesus answered, “The first is: Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.“
The teacher of the law said to him, “Well spoken, Master; you are right when you say that he is one, and there is no other besides him. To love him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.“
Jesus approved this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.“ And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Almost, but not quite!
“Almost, but not quite“ is a phrase we use to console those who missed the grade. It tells them that just a little more and they would have made it. It is a complement but hardly an accolade. A grade of 74 is almost 75. It is not yet enough to pass, nonetheless. Such is the grade of the teacher of the law who interviewed Jesus. “You are not far from the kingdom“ said Jesus. He was almost in but not yet inside, unfortunately.
Why was the wise teacher still outside? Because he knew the truth, but knew it only in his head. To be part of kingdom one must not only know the truth in ones’ head but also to know it in one’s heart, that is, to live by it. The one “best in religion“ is not really the one who has a grade of 95 in the test examination but the one who practices his faith. One may know the definition of love, but if one does not actually love what good is the knowledge of it?
In the Gospel of Luke version of this episode the interlocutor would further ask “who is my neighbor?“ Jesus will then answer with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Those who belong to the kingdom are not so much those who know as much as those who do! Are you in the kingdom? Or are you “almost in, but not yet quite?“