I was surprised to discover that Jesus cares what I think, and just as surprised that sometimes I don’t seem to care what he thinks.
Luke records this interesting dialogue between Jesus and an expert in religion. (Luke 10:23) This expert is testing Jesus, but quickly becomes the one feeling tested. He asks a simple enough question-‘What must I do to have eternal life?’. Jesus’ response is amazing if you step back and examine it. In true Rabbinic form Jesus answers a question with not one but two questions, ‘what is written in the Law, and how do you read it.’ To paraphrase-‘what do you think?’.
In asking the man what he thinks, it is like he is starting with were his is at. In order to answer the question, Jesus wants to know where he is coming from. God always starts with were we are at.
His answer is the perfect Jewish answer-‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength-and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus however gives the man no sense of arrival but just an affirmation of direction. ‘Do this and you will live’ Jesus replies. It seems this man asking the question knows more than he is letting on. Which isn’t unusual especially when trying to test someone. But what I want to know is does this man believe more than he is letting on? I think we can only let on what we believe. We demonstrate our beliefs everyday in all we do. When we buy clothes we demonstrate what we believe about child labor. When we buy coffee we demonstrate our beliefs about fair trade. Whether we shop local or carpool. If we feel moved by poverty or get involved in foster care. Everything we participate in or exclude ourselves from demonstrates what we believe about God, about love, and about eternal living. I don’t like that notion, but I’m convicted by it.
This man comes to test Jesus, but it seems to backfire. We discover that it isn’t really about whether you know the answer, but do you believe it. The difference between the two shows up in our behavior. We can deduce this from Jesus’ answer to ‘do this and you will live’ or better understood ‘live this way and you will live’. The man doesn’t get eternal living because of information but because of a transformation of movement in this direction.
This lawyer is troubled by this. so he asks another question in order to justify something that isn’t described in Lukes account. ‘Who is my neighbor?’ the man asks.
I wonder-if you don’t know who your neighbor is, can you really know who God is?
Wasn’t it Jesus who implied that he shows up in the least of these? A Neighbor is more than someone who lives beside you. It is anyone who is caught in your gaze. Physical proximity doesn’t need to be the determining factor.
This encounter reminds me that you can’t cross examine Jesus, without the cross examining you. This expert couldn’t, neither can we. He wanted to ask questions but wasn’t prepared that he answer might question him. The cross examines us because the cross is about us. The cross is about much more than the death of Jesus. It needs to be about the whole life of Christ that took him to and off of the cross. Jesus calls us to that life. And he meets us where we are on that journey, and he starts there-like he did with this man. Some meet God because of their sin, and they need freedom from it. Others meet God because there lost and he shows them the way. Still others discover a purpose to an otherwise empty life. Those who feel like failures, they are confronted with a God who says you are worthy. And those who can’t understand love, Jesus spells it out with his life and sometimes ours.