There’s an old Jewish joke, goes like this:
Every day, Morrie has lunch in the same deli, and every day Morrie orders the beef barley soup.
One day he gets his soup, and as the waiter starts walking away, Morrie says, “Come back here. Taste the soup.”
“What’s wrong, Morrie? You’ve had that soup every day for 30 years.”
“Taste the soup.”
“Is it too salty?”
“Taste the soup.”
“Is it cold?”
“Taste. The. Soup.”
“Is there a fly in it, God forbid?”
“Taste the soup!”
“Okay, fine. I’ll taste the soup. Where’s the spoon?”

​Ever wonder why Jesus took the time to speak in parables…?  Was it more instructive?  Somehow, more intuitive?  Was it simply a cute, colorful way to entertain while imparting wisdom?  Those may all have been true.  Until I stumbled upon the fact that my ancestry is rich in Czechoslovakian Judaism, I couldn’t fully understand my own stubborn tendencies to question things skeptically. But Jewish people are – perhaps have always been -- by nature, rather skeptical.  It’s a character trait for which none of us can truly account, nor readily admit. 
Jesus understood this, being both a Jew and a rabbi.  In example after example, when the Pharisees attempted to ensnare Him with questions posing contradictions between the law and His own teachings, Jesus continually prodded them to “taste the soup.”  In other words, He admonished that until they observed themselves in the looking glass of their own hypocrisy, they could never understand the corrosive nature of their own laws.  How can one eat soup if not given a spoon?  How can one embrace a new way without being shown the unloved shadow cast by their own jaded lives of contradiction and hard-hearted embrace of “tradition”…?

In Matthew 19:3, the Pharisees approached Jesus with a question:
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?”

Jesus, understanding that this was merely another cynical test, used the logic of Genesis, citing the passage regarding God having joined man and woman as one, such that “…they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
Of course, their pedantic retort: “Then why did Moses command that the man shall give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her…?”

They weren’t ready for Jesus’ answer: “Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

Original sketch:  H.J. McEnroe

​​Oh, the hardness of our hearts.

To be clear, I’m not slamming Jews.  I’m merely suggesting that “faith” is a hard thing to have, let alone understand…for each of us.  Harder still, if we’ve never “tasted the soup.”

Had a conversation earlier this week with a Jewish acquaintance.  We were talking about the concept of faith, and the intrinsic humor of understanding that more Christians are well-read of the Bible than are Jews…it was, after all, a bunch of Jews who wrote it!  I followed his logic by observing that on Good Friday of each year, Christians pray a decade of prayers…one of those being, that Jews will come to accept Christ.  But I’m not sure Jews actually need our prayers; no, I rather suspect that we need theirs.

Thus concluded an hour-long conversation with yet another Jewish shrink – full circle to his observation that otherwise lifelong hard-assed people, on their death beds, have been known to weepingly express fears of dying without having confessed their sins, asked forgiveness of those whom they’ve repeatedly hurt in life, and acknowledged their need for grace from God.  We are, indeed, a hard-hearted people…Jew and Gentile alike.

Saint Augustine once observed:
“Every saint has a past; and every sinner, a future.”

For Christians, this holiest of weeks is a never-ending, furtive stumbling toward a certain mortal outcome…and a very uncertain immortal outcome.  While Augustine’s words may buoy our hope for a better version of ourselves in Heaven, it is here, on earth, that we must contend with Satan…the darker angels of our nature.  We need look no further than the current war in Ukraine to find our example of the hardest to love among us.  For many of us, unfettered by the propaganda of “state news,” Vladimir Putin is Satan -- a homicidal maniac, hellbent on conquering or destroying a nation of innocent souls.

But if we truly believe in the Gospels, then it is Christ – our teacher and our brother – who offers us this caution: “Father, forgive them…for they know not what they do.”

Upon hearing those words, the criminal crucified on Jesus’ right pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

For me, this is the greatest, most profound expression of faith in the entire Bible.  Here was a criminal who considered himself the recipient of his just deserts.  And with his final moments of mortal breath, Jesus didn’t beckon him to taste the soup.  He gave him Heaven.
Peace.  Shalom.

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