Beginning in Mark 11, as Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time, he has a series of encounters with the religious leaders that don't go well. He curses a fig tree to represent the unfaithfulness he finds in Jerusalem, he clears out the temple, he tells a parable about the lack of leadership by the "leaders," and then finds himself being confronted by the people he's offended!
In three separate scenes, the religious elite challenge his authority, a political group argues with him about paying taxes, and a bible study group questions how he reads the bible!
After this, one man steps out from the shadows to talk with Jesus. The surprising thing is, it's a teacher of the law! But this teacher is different--he sees that Jesus gave a "good answer" and he genuinely asks a question about how to please God: "Which is the greatest commandment?"
Jesus answers by rolling two commandments into one--love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Then, the teacher submits to the true teacher by restating this and showing his understanding by adding that to do such is better than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
This teacher is trail-blazer for those who would follow Jesus. This is why Jesus tells him he is "not far from the kingdom." This does not mean the man "close to getting to heaven" or "almost saved," but means that this teacher understands the values of God. In telling him he is "not far from the kingdom," Jesus is encouraging him to remain committed to the journey he is on.
We're called to love God and our neighbor more than ourselves. Complaining, criticism, control, and manipulation are not the ways of the kingdom. Love is, and to love another is to sacrifice some of yourself for that person.
If you find yourself sacrificing yourself a little more day by day in service to God and others, you will find yourself "not far from the kingdom of God."
Sermon: Loving God and Neighbor More Than Yourself
You can view the accompanying slides here.