The sun…the same sun that gives us physical light, and catalyzes growth and activity on our planet…had not yet on that day two thousand years ago risen over Lake Kinneret…
…yet the glow of its presence had already begun to warm the air, illuminate the shores and boats on the waters at Kapher Nahum, and inspire the turtle doves and seagulls to activity.
Kapher Nahum, a customs gateway between the Tetrachy of Herod Antipas and its northern neighbor the Golan of Antipas’ brother Philip, was already coming alive with business and commerce. Travelers that had stopped here for the night for their journey on the international trade route to and from Damascus were going over their gear and making preparations to leave. The smell of freshly baked bread and roasted lamb was already ascending into the noses of the people wandering the streets toward the places Divine Sovereignty had assigned them. The caravan drivers were already feeding their camels, donkeys and mules in preparation for the tasks the animals were to perform that day.
And he was already late. He had meant to wake at the third watch of the night (3:00am) but had missed gaining consciousness by nearly two hours. This had forced him to rush through devotion, prayer and getting dressed…eating was simply out of the question. He chided himself for not bringing his servant with him who always made sure he rose on time…but hearing the news that the Prophet was about to leave again on another journey through the country of the Gentiles left him little time for proper preparation.
Now, as he chided his donkey toward the streets of the town named after the house of the prophet Nahum who had hundreds of years earlier lived his life and performed his ministry there, he realized that in his efforts to travel incognito he had sacrificed the speed of his best horse for the slow and steady pace of a donkey that seemed to have no sense of time whatsoever. The fact is, however, that everyone he passed recognized the garb of a man of substance and kept out of his way.
The synagogue was coming up on his right; that was the last land mark. His cousin, who knew one of the Prophet’s disciples, had gotten word that the Prophet, who lived here at Kapher Nahum, made frequent journeys on both sides of the Sea of Galilee and even into the territory of the hated Samaritans to preach and to heal….
…to heal. The news that had reached his ears of the extraordinary miracles that followed this Prophet did strange things to his heart, and illuminated his imagination to flights that soared ever upward into an endless heaven of possibilities. Through the Prophet the God of Israel was manipulating the very fabric of matter, healing every kind of disease that had plagued humanity, exercising unprecidented authority over the demons and commanding the weather to change. There were even whispered rumors of the dead being raised back to life; he knew that he was priviledged to live in an wonderful and special time in the history of Israel. All of the prophecies were coming true: God would finally make Israel the Head of the nations after so long a time of being the tail.
Looking ahead, he could see a crowd of around seventy men gathered in front of a set of houses in the distance. He was determined to approach the Prophet for himself before the Man of God departed on another one of His journeys. Leaping off of the donkey he began to run toward the crowd of men, leaving the donkey there in the street. The force of his gait was kicking up dust into the faces of those he ran past, and some of these were shaking fists after him, cursing and swearing.
It was probably this unusual scene of running feet, flying dust, shaking fists and swear words that turned the attention of the crowd toward his direction. They saw him coming at them at full speed and somehow got the impression that he may not slow himself down in time to keep him from colliding with them. So even as his distance with them was closing, they instinctively, like a large school of fish in the Sea of Galilee, began as one to part their ranks to make way for him.
Of course the man knew he had to slow down eventually, and did so in perfect sychronicity with the parting of the crowd. And just as he came to a stop, the crowd had been completely cut in half, unveiling a single Figure that did not seem concerned whether he would stop in time or not. In the process of catching his breath, the man found himself within arm’s reach of the Prophet.
His breathing returning to normal and his back straighting up, his eyes began to evaluate and assess the Man standing before him. The Prophet was dressed pretty much as those who attended Him, in the telltale garb of a Galilean–except for an outer robe that was obviously of the finest quality. The heaving chest, large arms, rough hands and worn feet were those of a Man Who had worked and labored his whole life to earn a living…this was a commoner. What a contrast from the stout frames and delicate hands of the Rabbis, Pharisees and Levites that the man so often hosted and entertained at his home. Truly God used the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…he expected this, and was not disappointed by the Prophet’s common appearance.
Then their eyes met; and the man was forced to reassess everything. These were not the Eyes of a commoner…these were the Eyes of a King. The man had been in the presence of kings as well as Roman govenors; there was no mistaking the presence of Authority and Power. Yes…he had been in the presence of Authority; yet there was something else in the Eyes of this Prophet that the man couldn’t quite put his finger on, as though they were missing something that he had seen in the eyes of other men who weilded power…
Arrogance! That was it: the Prophet’s Eyes were missing arrogance and pride; and yet those Eyes were just as strong and sure…maybe even more so. As the sun had finally peeked over the house of Simon Peter the air between the man and the Prophet began to change, and not because of the sunlight. The Anointing of the Holy Spirit of God, which seemed to emanate from the Prophet in glorious torrents of Life and Joy much as light and power pours out of the sun, began to have an effect on the man. His memory fell back to his infancy, and the peace and comfort of being in his mother’s arms again. He was suddenly Home, beyond the worries, cares and obsessions of amassing wealth and affluence. He was overcome by the impulse to worship this Man, something he knew was forbidden by the Torah…something he had to fight with all his strength to resist.
The man had a speech prepared to say to the Prophet introducing himself, his life of dedication and service to his kinsmen the people of Israel, his recognition of the Prophet’s Divine Unction, and the request he had to ask of the Prophet; all of this suddenly seemed useless and petty. The man fell on his knees before the Man of God, head bowed; and with the tears of a child welling up in his eyes he uttered a desperate plea: “Good Rabbi, WHAT MUST I DO to inherit Eternal Life?”
There was silence. Then a Finger touched his chin; in response the man lifted up his head til his eyes once again met the Prophet’s.
“Why do you call me ‘Good’,” asked Jesus of Nazareth, one Eyebrow raised and the ever-so-slight hint of a smile on His Lips, as though privy to some unknown Secret.
The man looked at Christ in wonder and amazement. Goodness was pouring out of this Man in massive waves of Peace and Joy, and He was asking him “Why”???
Before the man had a chance to answer Jesus withdrew His finger. “There is no one good but God alone,” Jesus added. The Master’s Presence and Demeanor now changed: it was as though a door that was opened was now shut, and the overwhelming flow of Divine Life now ceased to emmanate from Christ’ Countenance, and He seemed more like a normal man. His face became slightly sterner as He began to address the man’s question.
“You know the commandments…” the Savior continued…”`Do not murder; Do not commit adultery; Do not steal; Do not bear false witness; Do not defraud; Honor your father and mother.`” Christ Himself, as the Messenger of the Covenant, had spoken these same words before the two million people He had rescued from Egyptian slavery hundreds of years before. Back then, the Sound of His Voice had turned Mount Sinai into a smoking furnace, and shook the cells of every soul that heard It to the point that they feared the very fabric of their being would come unraveled.
But that was a secret He kept to Himself. None of His disciples (except for John) had the slightest suspicion that the same Yahweh Who had laid waste the cult of Osiris was now eating, sleeping, living and fellowshipping with them on the shores of the Sea of Galilee…and so it would remain for now.
Christ’s Voice and mannerisms reminded the man of his tutor Rabbi Asher, who had lovingly taught him these and other Scriptures. It was as though the Prophet had actually known his Rabbi and was sharing the memory with him.
“Do this,” the Son of God continued, “and you shall live.” Jesus then proceeded to walk past the man as though the conversation was over. The crowd of men (and a few women) followed Him.
The man stood up, pressed through the crowd and touched Jesus on the Shoulder; it was a touch of desperation and need. The Glory of Israel stopped, but remained facing south toward Jerusalem.
“All these things I have done from my youth til now…What else is there to do? How can I be like you?” The man beheld Jesus, and realized all too clearly that this Man had Something in abundance that he lacked in equal abundance: this Man was filled with the Holy Spirit of God in a measure he had never conceived as being possible. Every gesture, every expression, the way He walked and the things He said gave evidence for a level of existence that had eluded him, despite all the years of diligent study, self-discipline, obedience to the Traditions of the Elders, sacrificial giving and daily devotion.
The Lamb of God turned and faced him. The expression on the Master’s Face captured the man’s heart: it was one of immense sorrow, as though Jesus had already judged him unworthy of what He was about to tell him. The One Isaiah called “Emmanuel” reached out a Hand and placed it gently on the man’s shoulder, and closed His Eyes in a moment of affection and thought. Jesus then opened His Eyes and removed His Hand.
“One Thing you lack,” said the Savior. This drew gasps from everyone around them…it had been quite some time since anyone had received such a compliment from the Messiah. The words filled the man with joy and hope; he now saw the object of all the years of labor and diligence finally paying off. A lifetime of Earthly afluence was now to be followed by an Eternity of Heavenly affluence. He smiled to himself when he thought of his Pharisaic and Levitical friends who had told him not to waste time with the Galilean Prophet; when they see him healing the sick and cleansing the lepers they will turn green with envy!
The same Hand that had touched the man’s shoulder now swept around, gesturing toward the south.
“Go.” Everyone looked in the direction of the Hand, expecting to see something besides the highway leading along the shore of the sea. “Sell all that you possess and give all the money to the poor…every last farthing.”
The man felt a stab of pain piercing his heart. He remembered as a young boy traveling the streets of Jerusalem with his parents and all of the poverty, suffering and disease he saw there. It was then that he vowed to never be poor…NEVER. He learned his father’s trade and expanded the business into an immense success when he took over its control. God seemed to bless everything he put his hand to. God, knowing his heart, had blessed him with the means not only to live comfortably, but to releave the suffering and poverty of his people and community. Now he was to give all of that up? All of the afluence, prestige, respect and admiration he had enjoyed for so many years now surrounded him as if to say, “Remember us?”
What of his obligations to his family to keep the business and their livelyhood solvent? None of them had the mind for business that he had…how would they survive without him? How would the community he grew up in react to find out that he had abandoned his responsibilities as head of his father’s house to follow an itenerate Preacher around the country side?
Jesus, reading his thoughts, said, “You will have treasure in Heaven; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The Nazarene now stepped up to the man, still gesturing with His Right Hand southward and placing His Left Hand on the man’s shoulder.
“When you have done this,” said the Lord, “come…follow Me.”
The man started to walk in the direction Jesus had been pointing. For a brief moment he stopped and glanced at the Savior. The same sorrow he had seen earlier was now slowly returning to the Master’s Face. He knew…and he knew that He knew. The man could feel the eyes of the disciples upon him as he walked back down the street toward the donkey that was sitting in the middle of the road.