Starting All Over Again to Know Jesus

As I daily make my way through the gospels again, towards the goal of meeting and knowing Jesus as if for the first time, I occasionally come upon a story that I can not leave. I replace my bookmark on the same page and return to the story the next day. I spent four days with Matthew 19:16-30, daily underlining more words and writing more notes in the margins. Some might say I was stuck. I knew that I had not yet gotten the message.

For example, I underlined the words “eternal life,” in both verses 16 and 29. In verse 16 the Rich Young Man hopes to learn from Jesus how he can take ahold of eternal life. In verse 29 Jesus says that eternal life must be inherited. “Taking ahold” suggests an action on my part. It is something I must “do.” On the other hand, to “inherit” something suggests I must be in a child-like relationship to the one who decides who will inherit what He chooses to give.

Yesterday, as I pondered this gospel reading for the fourth day in a row, it dawned on me exactly what it was that kept me coming back to the same story. It was in fact the contrast between “doing” and “being;” between “taking ahold of,” verses, “inheriting;” between, “works” and “faith.”

On the side of “it is all about doing, “works” you have these declarations of Jesus:

Obey the commandments…
Sell all your possessions and give to the poor…
And everyone who has left houses or brothers…
On the side of “it is all about being, faith,” you have these declarations of Jesus:
With God all things are possible…
[You] will inherit eternal life…

And if the debate between faith and works is not complicated enough, this story, I just realized, is followed by one of the most controversial stories in Jesus’ amazing repertoire of difficult lessons; “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard,” which drives die-hard capitalists crazy; being that wages are not dependent on work done.

Here is what I concluded after listening to Jesus again, as if for the first time. I concluded that the dichotomy of faith and works is a bogus controversy. In the spiritual realm, they are the same thing, just as giving and receiving are the same thing; just as justice and love are the same thing; just as joy and sorrow are the same thing; just as life and death are the same thing.

Ponder that for four days before you comment. But, please, do comment.

The more I get to know Jesus, the more it seems to me that Jesus has no interest in narrow propositional truth, either or thinking, you are wrong and I am right conclusions. That stuff just makes people hate, or even kill, each other.

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