We see in Mark 12:28-34, the discussion between Jesus and the scribe, on the greatest commandment:

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered,..... ....... Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Going by today's phraseology, Jesus was using a subtle language to compliment the scribe, at the same time to remind him that he would have to strive harder to get into the Kingdom of God. One can also look at the phrase 'not far' as an example of good humor, said in a lighter vein. Is the dialogue of Jesus with the scribe in Mark 12:28-34 an example of the Lord's sense of humor?


2 Answers 2


Mark 12:34

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.

I take both emphases seriously. Whether you miss the kingdom by a little or a lot, you miss it.

There are instances of humor in the gospel, they appear mostly after the resurrection. E.g, Luke 24:

17 He [Jesus] asked them [the Emmaus two], “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.

What dramatic irony! This is a close encounter of the funny kind.

  • Thanks, Tony Chan . It will not be justice to attribute the stereotype of tight-lipped person to Jesus. He laughed and made others laugh, at least occasionally ! I prize most his remark to the Samaritan woman: "You had five husbands and the one whom you are staying with now, is not your husband " . He could have sternly asked her : "Woman, are you not ashamed of your sinful past and present , of changing husbands one after another, and then following a stay-in relationship ? ". That is divine charity combined with a pinch of humor ! Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 9:27
  • Good point. The woman also reacted to it rather positively.
    – user35953
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 14:13

Such an interpretation, "the lighter vein", will be a reduction of the Lord's words to our human-psychological convenience. Indeed, the Lord uses irony (for instance in Mark 2:17 where He ironically calls the Pharisees "healthy who need not a physician") and even sarcasm (cf. John 3:10), but only with a pedagogic aim and not to ease up the situation or give a lighter air in any respect.

Here also, "you are not far" can be regarded as a pedagogic irony, for to overcome this "little distance" meant for the scribe nothing less than to accept Him, Jesus Christ as the Messiah, for nobody can inherit the Kingdom but through Him (John 14:6).

Thus, no! Not at all! On the contrary, this divine irony was not light, but rather a very heavy one, for it entailed an instigation to the scribe to think deeply in his heart, what was this "little distance" to be traversed? And this meditation would lead him to an affirmation of a horrible necessity of regarding and accepting Jesus as the Christ and the Lord, in order to be saved and not perish outside the Paradise, even "not far" from it.

  • Thanks. Note that Luke goes on to state: " After that no one dared to ask him any question.". Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 8:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.