Mark 12:34, in context, reads: “28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ?Of all the commandments, which is the most important?? 29 ?The most important one,? answered Jesus, ?is this: ?Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.? 31 The second is this: ?Love your neighbor as yourself.? There is no commandment greater than these.?
32 ?Well said, teacher,? the man replied. ?You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 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.?
34 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 more questions.
1. The scribe’s question appears to be a genuine one — he wants to know how to put all of the Law into one bundle of clarity. Jesus’ clarity is what I call the Jesus Creed: love God and love others.
2. The scribe’s attempt not only to restate Jesus’ point but also extend it lead us, so I think, to his heart: he gets it. Yes, Love of God and love of others is the heart of the Torah and they “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” This puts the scribe with some of the prophets who also called Israel to the heart inside the ritual.
3. Jesus’ response touches on kingdom of God: this man’s response reveals that he is not far from the kingdom — and it is not hard to see that “not far from” might be a litote (deliberate understatement) to say this: “You are in, brother.”
4. I infer that “entrance” into the kingdom involves perception of the essence of God’s will as taught by Jesus and commitment to that Jesus.
5. Some see the “not far” to be descriptive only (not a litote). That is, this response reveals the scribe is close — very close — to entrance into the kingdom of God. He gets it; he’s on his way … that sort of thing. (There is no reason to be dogmatic about this for we can’t tell from this grammar if it is a litote or a description; furthermore, both views are consistent with things Jesus teaches.)