A lawyer rose up to trifle with Jesus, saying, “Professor, what do I need to do to live forever?”
Jesus answered, “You’re a hot-shot lawyer, you tell me.”
The lawyer said, “You must love God with your whole heart. You must serve God by everything you are. You must work for God with all your might. You must direct all your thoughts to God. And you must love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus said, “That’s the right answer. If you do what you said, you’ll live.”
But the lawyer wanted to save face, so he said, “Yeah, but who is my neighbor?”
It would have been just as ridiculous a question if the lawyer had asked, “Yeah, but who is God?”
Most of the questions we ponder – the big questions – are questions for which we already know the answer. The lawyer knew the answer to his question about eternal life before he asked it. He knows the answer to his follow-up question, too. He knows who his neighbor is. He doesn’t need Jesus, or anyone else, to tell him.
Knowing the answer isn’t the problem. The problem, as Jesus points out in response to the lawyer’s answering his own question, is doing what we know. “You have the answer. Now do it.”
Rather than do it, though, the lawyer (who could be any of us) hides behind yet another question to which he already knows the answer.
What if 90% of meetings are just excuses to hide behind the need for more information, when what is really called for is action?
What if 90% of our “yes, buts” are our telling ourselves that we need more information before we can do what we really know we need to do?
Jesus continued, saying, “How to describe the Goal? It’s like yeast mixed in 3 to 1 with flour. Before you know it, the whole ball of dough is rising.”
You need yeast to make bread, of course. But keep in mind that yeast is a germ. It’s a microorganism that multiplies feeding on the nutrients in the flour. If you let it go too long, the whole thing spoils.
Jesus, and those who heard him tell this koan, didn’t know anything about microbiology. But they knew that once it gets started in the flour, it grows, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, short of baking it. Everything it touches is affected.
Still, it might be useful to think of the goal of life (the kingdom of God, the fulfillment of the purpose for which you were made) as something like germs. How contagious are you? Are you growing? Of course, you could be growing too much or too fast, too.
Then again, yeast is something that takes hold from the inside. What is growing inside you that’s stretching and expanding you?
The amazing thing about dough is you can play with it, pull it in different directions, fold it over, stretch it into different shapes. When it gets punched down, it has an amazing capacity to rise up again, over and over. Eventually, though, you have to commit to some shape or another and bake it, for it to actually become something nourishing and do the world any good.
So take your time, stretch, grow. Then commit. Be something wonderful for the world.
When John’s students told him all of this, he summoned two of them and sent them to ask Jesus, “Are you the one we’re waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”
When they arrived, they told Jesus, “John has asked us to ask you if you’re the one we’re waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”
As they looked on, Jesus cured many people of their ills and injuries. He rid many of evil spirits, and restored sight to several blind people. Then he told them, “Go and tell John what you’ve seen and heard. The blind see. The crippled walk. The defiled are made pure. The deaf hear. The dead live. The poor are given relief. If you’re not offended about this, you’ll be alright.”
Hard as it may be to imagine, some folk talk a good line about taking care of the sick, the troubled, and the poor, but when it it starts to really change lives, they take offense.
It’s the difference between actually changing people’s economic or social position, and offering a handout that just gets someone by one more day or one more meal. One is revolutionary, the other is just patronizing. One is the real thing, and the other is – well, you may as well look for someone else.
Think about it. If you’re poor, good news – real good news – is not that you’re going to be able to stay the night in a homeless shelter. It’s that you’re not going to be poor any more.
For some people, that’s pretty offensive. It means you might actually have to treat “those people” like equals.