When the Loyola University men’s basketball team reached the Final Four in 2018, many thought their Cinderella season would end with a NCAA championship. Entering the tournament as a No. 11 seed, they defeated opponent after opponent to secure their spot in the Final Four. Taking a first-half lead against the Michigan Wolverines, Loyola’s victory seemed secure. But Michigan’s offense proved too powerful, and they were defeated. Loyola was so close to winning, and yet so far away.
The scribe who asked Jesus about the most important commandment was so close to fully understanding the identity of Jesus and entering the kingdom. Already he had found Jesus answering the other religious leaders’ questions very well. Now, rather than testing Jesus like his peers, he seemed to want affirmation of who he thought Jesus was. Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And also to love one’s neighbor as oneself. These words seemed to satisfy the scribe’s inquiry as he concurred with Jesus’ understanding of the uniqueness of God and His definition of the two greatest commandments. But Jesus’ response indicates that the scribe’s intellectual agreement (“he had answered wisely”) was not enough (v. 34). He was close to the kingdom without fully believing.
Agreement with the truth about God and even acknowledging “good things” about the Bible are not enough to enter the kingdom of God as a citizen. While right thinking about God is necessary to confess that God came in the flesh to redeem us, this confession must be coupled with a heart of faith in Christ and His redemptive work. Our heart and our mind are deeply connected as we place our trust in Christ alone for our salvation.
Some people may feel like they are Christians just by knowledge of the Bible or association with the church. But knowing the facts about Christianity is not enough. We are called to come to Jesus in faith, to open our hearts to His truth and acknowledge Him as our personal Lord and Savior.