I had never been so outraged in my life as on that day I walked home in the dust from the Judean countryside. I am trembling now, even as I remember the encounter. The waste, the stupid waste of things offered in good will on a silver platter…but let me explain.
My life has been privileged; my prominent family educated me at the best synogogue, with the most learned teachers. My parents have modeled true faith before me. And yet, I have never quite experienced complete happiness. My future is guaranteed; I’ll be married to a beautiful woman of excellent lineage, and hopefully, we’ll raise a house full of children.
So why was I so restless and bored?
News of a teacher circulated throughout Judea, and I resolved to secretly find this man and hear him. They said he could heal. They said his words carried truth and authority about them. People said this man could look at your face and see your very soul. The common people were rejoicing, and yet the religious authorities remained cynical. However, I wanted to weigh this man’s words for myself. They couldn’t be any more empty than those I heard bantered about by the temple teachers, groping for hope in our oppressed land.
I followed a throng into the area of Judea near the Jordan River. There he was, Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, after listening for a short time, I felt that that curtains of heaven were flung open and all the glory of God unveiled. Compelled, I ran forward and flung myself at his feet. “What must I do to be saved?” I asked.
Jesus peered searchingly into my eyes. “Keep the commandments,” he said.
“Which ones?” I asked.
Knowingly, he listed the basics on which all the other ordinances are hung.
“I have done all these things and more, meticulously, ever since I was a child. There must be something more. Teacher, tell me what to do!”
Thank God none of my friends saw me groveling there in the dust, filled with the impulse of the moment. For Jesus’ reply was a complete impossibility.
I was prepared to make sacrifices; I could have supported Jesus’ ministry handsomely for years to come. His disciples might have refreshed themselves in our expansive dwelling. With my help, Jesus might possibly have straightened out all those misunderstandings with the Pharisees and gained a following among the respectable in the community. Instead, He made a ridiculous demand.
“Give all your riches to the poor, and follow Me.”
I blinked, stunned. “I have responsibilities,” I stammered. “In my position, there are expectations. I can’t just walk away from all that.” Jesus continued looking at me with love and pity. Pity! For me! He was a fool. He must have known that I had wonderful connections; they say He knows immediately if one is a lair, cheater, or man of truth. I rose slowly and walked away.
Later, I heard that they crucified Him. I was grieved to the point of not eating for several days. I wondered if He thought about me on the cross, regretting his outrageous demands. I might have prevented that, smoothed the way into the better social circles, helped him present his religious message in a more refined and palatable way. He could have had a long, satisfying career as a teacher and leader in Israel. Instead, He died like a criminal. What a regrettable, miserably lost opportunity. Jesus could have gained everything through me, and he wasted the chance.
And yet, when I hear the rumors in the market place that He lives again…when I see the stars in the summer sky, large, unblinking, cold, remote as eternity…when I consider what little comfort are my riches, and how dull and drab are my weary days …I wonder. What would it have been to trail this man through the desert, to drink in His spirit? Would I have been satisfied right now? Perhaps I am the one who passed up the opportunity.