Pharisaical Righteousness to be Exceeded
Mark 12:34
And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said to him, You are not far from the kingdom of God…



1. In regard of the means(1) absolute: Such as are wholly and universally deprived of all the ordinances of religion, as are the heathen (Ephesians 2:13).

(2) Comparative remoteness, which we may notice of such as live within the bounds of the church and compass of the Christian commonwealth, and yet have little of the gospel sounding in their ears; they live in some dark corner of the land.

(3) Besides all this there is a remoteness voluntary and contracted in those which are, near the means, and yet never the nearer, who put the Word of God from them.

2. In regard of the terms: Namely, the state in which they are at present, compared with the state which they stand in opposition unto. They are far from the kingdom of God as being destitute of those personal qualifications in order to it. Their principles and life are remote. The notoriously wicked (Ephesians 5:5; Romans 21:8; Revelation 22:15). Hypocrites or secret enemies. All such as are formal but not pious.

3. In regard of the event. In regard of God's purpose and degree concerning them. This was the case of Paul. He was far from God's kingdom in regard of the terms and his personal qualification; yet, in regard of the event, was very near. Sometimes the most notorious offenders are nearer conversion than civil persons. Let us look more minutely at the text.

III. IT IS A WORD OF COMMENDATION: an acknowledgment of that reality of goodness which was in the Scribe, and so encouraging him in it. If we see beginnings of good in any, to cherish them. We should not break the bruised reed, etc., nor nip the sproutings of grace.

1. This does honour God Himself in the bestowing of His graces. He that takes notice of the streams acknowledges the fountain whence they proceed.

2. We draw men on further and make them more willing to improve; it is the whetstone of virtue.

3. By this course we occasionally work upon others who are much moved by such examples.

IV. IT IS ALSO A WORD OF DIMINUTION. Thou art not quite at home; you must go further; an excitement. We must not flatter so as to make beginners satisfied with less grace, but urge them forward. The speech of our Lord was effectual to him hereunto in sundry respects.

1. It showed him his defects and imperfections, for which he had need to go further. There is no greater hindrance to improvement than a conceit of perfection: when men think they are at their journey's end, they will not step any further; but when they are persuaded that they are not at home, they will set them upon going (Philippians 3:12, 13).

2. It showed him also his hopes and possibilities: that is another excitement to endeavour. There is hope of coming hither, for you are almost there.

3. It showed him also his engagements, from what he had done already, to proceed. You have already made some endeavour, do not decline and grow worse. We should imitate Christ in helping others forward in religion, as Aquila and Priscilla did Apollos. Consider these words as reflectively, as coming from Christ the speaker of them. We should discern and distinguish persons. He discerned the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees in the foregoing part of the chapter; now He discerns the sincerity of the Scribe.

V. THE OCCASION WHEREUPON HIS CENSURE WAS PASSED. "When Jesus saw that he answered discreetly." This includes those things.

1. Distinctly as to the matter of his answer. He was right in the notion and in the thing itself. He who knows anything of religion knows that it does not lie in outside duties, but in a gracious soul; yet he does not take away the forms. Those which are above ordinances are below heaven; and they which hate instruction shall never partake of salvation.

2. He answered intelligently as to the principle from whence he answered. He did not speak by rote, but he was able to give a rational account of his religion. We must believe more than we can understand, and yet we must also understand why we believe.

3. He was hearty and serious in it. He spoke as a man that had some savour of that which he spoke. A man may be an orthodox divine, and yet but a sorry Christian.

4. He answered discreetly; that is prudently, as to the manner of it. It was with humility, teachableness, and submission to Christ.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

WEB: When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." No one dared ask him any question after that.

On the Verge of the Kingdom
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