When we entered the classroom, our New Testament professor was sitting, perched on the edge of the desk like a falcon anticipating lunch. The slight smile did not bode well for us—he never smiled, at least not in class. There was a piece of paper, face down, on each desk. The dreaded surprise quiz waited like irresistible bait.
“Start now,” he instructed, after we had all taken our seats.
I turned my paper over. After a quick scan, I realized that the questions were based on quotes from the Gospels. We were to decide whether Jesus’ demands on His listeners were too hard, or too soft.
Come follow me…and I will make you fishers of men.
Sounds easy, except these guys and their families survived on real fish. How did they imagine they would support their families? I’d be more than a little concerned under the same circumstances.
I checked the square that read “too hard.”
Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
The Jews must have loved this one, considering the Romans were walking all over them. I’ll bet the fellow the Good Samaritan helped didn’t take his robbery lying down—well, not at first anyway. I might let someone hit me once, but twice. No way.
I marked another “too hard.”
Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.
They probably thought that was a good deal—for the other guy. I don’t mind helping out but I don’t do “door mat.”
Another “too hard.”
My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Well, the whip might have been a little excessive. Maybe prayer meetings in Jesus’ day weren’t down to a few little old ladies like they are today. Prayer is kinda passé. Okay, so cheating the visitors wasn’t exactly kosher, but I mean, what’s wrong with a few bake sales and bingos? Gotta get money into the church somehow.
I checked the fourth “too hard.”
Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
I wonder if He was talking to Judas? He couldn’t have meant the others ‘cause they didn’t have anything anyway. After all a little nest egg, and a nice house in the burbs isn’t bad, is it? A car, and maybe … Nah, the normal stuff wouldn’t lead to greed.
I nibbled on the end of my pencil. The quiz was simple. So far, everything was too hard. Jesus must have been exaggerating for emphasis, overstating His case to get the attention of His listeners.
I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.
The guy was a thief, and he started out by insulting Jesus, just like his buddy. Nope, I’d make him work a little harder, maybe sweat a little, before I’d give him paradise.
I put a heavy, emphatic mark beside “too soft.”
The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.
Believing isn’t work. It’s easy—sort of. You gotta do stuff too.
I checked a second “too easy” though I wasn’t quite so sure on this one.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Okay, there’s love and there’s love. He wouldn’t expect us all to die for Him, would He? Not literally. Mind you, just about all the disciples did. But that was then, and this is now.
I put down a definite “too hard.”
“Put your pencils down,” instructed the professor. “I know I usually ask you to pass your papers to the person next to you before we go over the correct answers. But I’m not going to do that this time. I want you to take your papers home, read through the quotes again carefully.”
He began to pass out copies of the same quiz as he continued speaking.
“Reconsider your answers and pray over them. Then do the quiz again. Tomorrow I want you to come back to class prepared to tell us what you discovered. What adjustments in your thinking have to be made in order for you to bring your life more into line with Jesus’ words and example?”
Something told me the homework would be the real test.
Mark 10:43, 44
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