It was an honest question, especially in these circumstances. He had been listening and heard something in tone or lilt or lift of voice that spoke of something – someone – unusual. There was no shortage of teachers, but they all said more or less the same thing in the same tired ways. But this one…
And so, as he had been trained so far to do on his road to mastery of the law, he asked. That was how one was to approach a teacher. The question would let the teacher know you were interested – prepared to learn – wanting to learn. It was, as well, a way to test a teacher – to find out where he might fit alongside the others.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” An simple, testing, respectful question, seeking an honest answer. One which any teacher ought be prepared to give – this was, after all, their stock in trade. “How, in your teachings, does a person come into the life of the Kingdom of God, the life the Age soon to come?” This is what he was asking.
As expected, the question was returned. “What does the law say? How do you read it?”
Speaking out of the center of his being, formed in him since he was a child learning Torah from his father’s songs in the night came the daily answer. “Love the Lord Your God – and Love your neighbor as yourself.”
There ought now to have been another question, a pressing in, an exploring, a teasing out of meaning. That is what teachers loved to do – make you think. Instead, “Exactly right. Do this. You’ll live!”
Immediately he saw the trap. Too late. The Life of the Kingdom was not to be found in debate about the life of the Kingdom. Only through love expressed in action does life come. It was so simple, a child could understand – but it would take a lifetime of loving to learn.
He was rocked back on his heels. Wanting to save some shred of his inquiry, he pressed in. “Who is my neighbor, then? Who may I love in such a way as to be helpful to my cause?”
And then, a story that turned his question – and his world – upside down. At end, the point of the Kingdom life he was seeking is not in finding someone to love, but in being someone who can love the one who is found – discovered, as it were, in one’s path. And again, the words – spoken with a smile and twinkle in those black eyes. “Go, and do the same.”