As you are reading through Scripture, but the Gospels in particular, do you ever have the inner dialogue where you think that Jesus should have answered a question in a different way. A way that is more direct, that lines up better with the theology you have been taught? No, me neither. Who would question Jesus’ words. But if I did have those conversations in my head, Matther 19 would be a great place to have one.
A man comes to Jesus and asks “Rabbi, what good thing should I do in order to have eternal life?” And Jesus responds “There is nothing you can do to achieve eternal life, it is a gift from God, not from works. You must confess your sins, believe in me and be baptized. Then you will have eternal life.” Except that isn’t what Jesus says.
Jesus is Jewish, and responds in a very Jewish way, with another question. “Why are you asking me about good? There is One who is good!” Then he goes on to say something we evangelicals find somewhat disturbing, or at least not what we expect. He says, “But if you want to obtain eternal life, observe the commands” (teachings).
Jesus just missed a perfect opportunity to share the ”Gospel”! I mean, the guy was practically begging to hear the good news, and Jesus told him to obey the commands. Maybe Jesus is just setting Him up to show him that it is impossible to obey the commands.
“Which ones?” the man asks. Jesus replies, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony, honor father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself” Okay, I think, Jesus has set him up to show him his sin, now we get to the “Gospel”.
The young man responds, “I have kept all these; where do I still fall short?” And I think, here we go, this is where Jesus pre-quotes Romans 3:23-24 and says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Except Jesus doesn’t. Jesus doesn’t point out his sin, Jesus doesn’t talk about Himself and what He will do to overcome sin. Jesus doen’t lead him down the Romans Road. Jesus says to him, “If you are serious about reaching your goal, go and sell your possessions, give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me!”
What? This isn’t how the script is supposed to go. Jesus just missed a perfect opportunity to get this man saved. Why would he do that? The text says that the man left sad, because he was wealthy.
All this talk from Jesus about obedience, and than even more radical obedience, scared him away. Why didn’t Jesus just share the “good news”? Why didn’t He talk about faith and belief and inviting Jesus into his heart? And what about “Just As I Am” — why does Jesus require him to go make changes before he can follow Him?
So, if I were going to have a conversation in my head where I questioned Jesus’ words, it might go something like that.
Then I look at the whole of Scripture and see that this idea of obedience is a pretty big deal, the idea of giving up, of dying to self to follow Him is everywhere. That faith is more than just saying you believe something, but proving it by your life. That Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith”, has way more action verbs than many believers are comfortable with.
As I have this inner conversation between the words of Jesus and the theology I grew up with I realize more and more that what we call sharing the “Gospel” looks very different than how Jesus went about it.
Do you ever have those conversations in your head? Of course not! But if you did, what would they look like. Go ahead, share some of them in the comments.