Ninety Nine & A Half Won't Do
Many of us, parents in particular, know the exhilarated feeling you get when you load up the luggage and the kids, and hit the road for a vacation or visit to a relative. We all know that sometimes you just need to get away from the house, and go somewhere where you can just relax and let your hair down. The children are all excited as you buckle them in, knowing that they're going someplace that they've never been before, and that they will be having fun. You begin your drive, and for the first couple of hundred miles everything is good, everything seems to be going on without a hitch. The children are entertaining themselves watching selections from the repertoire of movies you brought along, or playing video games on the drop down screen in the rear. What really amazes you, as you take notice, is that your children are actually talking to each other civilly and cordially, they're singing songs together, or pointing out interesting things that they see along the road.
But, after a while, one of the children starts to scream about needing to take a bathroom break, while another makes it known in his high pitched voice, that he's hungry, and that if he doesn't eat soon, he's not going to make it. Riding along, you do your very best to calm them down, assuring them that it won't be long before you will stop for gas, and at that time, everyone can use the facilities, and get something to eat.
After the car has been gassed up, everyone is full, and relieved by way of their bathroom break, you get going again. But by now, one of the children, who has become bored with watching movies, doesn't want to play anymore video games, refuses to speak anymore to their siblings or sing another song, and can find absolutely nothing interesting to look at out of the window, starts asking the question none of us wants to hear in the middle of a long drive, "Are We There Yet?" How much farther is it, and how long will it be before we are there? And you answer your own child, ( for your sanity, of course) " We are Not Far."
In the Gospel of Mark, the 12th Chapter, Jesus is teaching, and many people have gathered to hear him. The Chief Priests and the Scribes are present, but like other times, they only came to test Jesus and to question His authority. Jesus tells them a parable about a landowner who leases out his land to a tenant and goes away. When the time for harvest comes, he sends his servants to bring him some of the fruit. But the tenant takes his servants, and one by one, beats them and casts them out of the vineyard. Finally, the He sends His only son, and they take him and kill him, and cast him out.
The Pharisees understand that Jesus is telling this parable about them, and they seek to arrest him, but they feared doing so because of the crowds. So they send other Pharisees and Herodians to him, to question him, to test him, and to trap him in his teachings.
They start by asking Jesus is it lawful to pay taxes unto Caesar ? Then the Sadducees come, and they ask Jesus about marriage in the resurrection. But we all know that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Then one of the Scribes come to Jesus. Believing that he can outwit all the others, or that he's superior to all the others in his knowledge of God, asks, " Which commandment is the first of all?"
Mark 12: 28-34, And one of the Scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, " Which commandment is the first of all ?" Jesus answered, " The first 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." The second is this, " You shall love your neighbor as yourself."There is no other commandment greater than these. And the Scribe said to him, " You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love ones neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, " You are not far from the kingdom of God."
It did my heart good, for a brief while, to hear Jesus tell this man that he was "Not Far" from the Kingdom of God. I was somewhat proud of this man, for a second. Until I was snapped back into reality. Brought back to the realization that this man only answered wisely. Saying the very things he knew would impress the crowd that was gathered, and hopefully, in his mind, to impress Jesus.
Remember, this man was a Scribe. They knew the law. They were the ones responsible for writing or transposing the law into the different languages. This man was a recognized and respected leader in his sect. But also remember, that he had come, like all the others, only to try and test Jesus.
Knowing these things, I realized that it wasn't such a good thing for Jesus to tell this man he was " Not Far" from the kingdom of God. I remembered the old saying, " Ninety-Nine and a Half, Won't Do."
Many of us are saved, blood bought, and water baptized. Many of us are faithful to our churches, and to our duties as members. Yet, far too many of us fail to keep and abide by these great commandments of love. Many of us pick and choose those we allow ourselves to love, and we're never open to give love, or receive love from all of God's children.
Because of our " Love Walk," many Christians today, are " Not Far."
Think about it, how many of us want to hear Jesus say to you that you're " Not Far?"