The story you are about to hear is not true. Not factually anyway. But it is truer than true in the way that stories are supposed to be. Any resemblance to characters living or fictional is pure coincidence.
Boys, I’m so sorry we had to bury your dad today. He was a good man, a sharp business person and a wonderful business partner. I shall miss him. I saw him just two days ago and he seemed so healthy—none of us had any idea that he would die in his sleep before the next morning.
It was just two evenings ago that your dad and I were drinking wine and talking about the old days—before we became as rich and powerful as we are now and well-connected with the scribes, Pharisees and Temple rulers downtown.
I don’t know, it was probably the wine talking, but your dad seemed a little sad and reminded me of a conversation we had some 20 years ago with a Rabbi they called Jesus. We’ve spoken about it several times and I don’t know if he’s ever told you the story—but if not, you should hear it from me.
It seems your dad first heard the Rabbi as he was speaking to a rather large multitude in the desert. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life and he decided that he and I needed to speak with this man they called the Christ. Your dad was quite taken by the man and said, No man spake as he did He said he made the commandments come alive—and that you could summarize them as Love God with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself! Good words to live by to be sure—but we’re merchants and the world isn’t so black and white.
Your dad was much younger and had received an inheritance from his father to start a new export business in wine and olive oil. Who could have believed how good that business would turn out to be? I warned your father that if he knew what was good for business, we should stay away from Jesus. Still, your father insisted and I made secret arrangements for us to meet with him late one night.
Jesus and your dad exchanged pleasantries and he began to ask the teacher about some of the things he had said to the crowd on that day. Your dad really wanted to talk with him about eternal life! Such a dreamer your father was—how could anyone be so silly as to believe in eternal life? Anyway, the master said it was something we had to inherit and we both wanted to know more. Your dad seemed to believe him and I thought—eternal life? Maybe it would be good for business after all!
I remember your dad asking, Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus answered quickly and he said that we should be faithful about keeping the 10 Commandments. That’s when things started to get a little funny and upside down. Your dad got real serious and excited—you know like he does—and he told Jesus,
The 10 Commandments? Really Master, I’ve kept those since I was a little boy.
Then Jesus told your dad something I’ll never forget, *Well then, there remains only one more thing for you to do, go and sell all that you have and give the proceeds to the poor then come and follow me and you shall have eternal life.
Well now, I thought, That’s ridiculous. These prophets are always asking people to do kooky things.
But the rabbi and your dad began to talk even more seriously, and for a moment there I thought your dad just might do as Jesus said. But your dad was a smart man, and as it turned out, it was a good thing he didn’t sell everything that he had—given the way things worked out for Jesus with him dying on the cross and all—but at that moment I could tell that your dad was seriously thinking about selling all that he had and giving it to the poor—just like some of those other guys—disciples or apostles or whatever they called them.
The one they called the Christ told your dad, You must be born again! I couldn’t keep silent any longer. He was asking your dad to give up everything that he owned and the business we were planning on starting and telling him to just walk away from it all and follow him. Somebody had to speak up and break the spell—so I spoke up and told the Rabbi that your dad needed a little more time to think about all of this. But Jesus began pressuring your dad even harder by saying that stuff like, Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not worthy of following me. And just as your dad was about to give in to the teacher, I reminded him of his new responsibilities and his elderly uncle who was depending on him and would surely die in the next year or so. I told him it would be easier on all of us if he would wait just a little longer until his uncle died. I tell you boys, if I hadn’t spoken up, you guys wouldn’t have anything nowadays!
Jesus seemed unconcerned and told me Let the dead bury the dead.
But God be praised, the spell was broken. It was getting late and we all needed to go. Jesus said he was headed to the desert to pray and I told him I had a little more scrollwork to finish before a big meeting the next day. Your dad went away very sorrowful. On that day I think he wished he had never inherited all that money. And honestly, I think we both felt a little bad for Jesus because neither of us were sure that he even had a place where he could go lay down to rest.
I saw Jesus a few more times in Jerusalem giving those temple scribes fits by calling them snakes, thieves and liars. And your dad went on a business trip to Crete for a few months to get the business going good. Jesus was killed while your dad was away on business. I hated to hear that. Jesus was a good man, and even though he nearly got your father to sell the business, he didn’t deserve to be killed that way.
As I said, it’s been 20 years since our conversation with the one they call the Christ. Your dad has asked me several times if I ever believed that Jesus was the Christ—the son of God. Each time I answered your father, Who knows? but that Jesus surely thought that he was.
Anyway, two nights ago, when we were drinking wine, your dad got all sad and all and said that if it was true that Jesus was the Christ, he had just made one of the biggest mistakes a person could ever make. Your dad said a lot of other things too—that crazy things like, I’ve placed my life, money, business, and my family ahead of God. It had to be the wine talking—like your dad said, he’s followed those commandments since he was a little kid!
We were both getting a little sleepy from hard work and the drink. I think I cheered him up before I left. I reminded him that the years had been good to us that our fortunes had grown—so much so that we didn’t have enough room to store all of the things we have. The last thing I remember talking to him about was tearing down our barns and building even bigger ones. And that’s what I hope you boys will agree that we should do—to honor your dad’s last wishes. Oh, I think the last words your dad said to me was this, It’s getting late, I need to rest. This thinking about the Christ and the old times has made me tired.