The third entry from my upcoming booklet “Our Darkness, His Light”. Whatever happened to the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful after Jesus told him to sell everything and give it all to the poor. This is what may have happened.
Sunlight scattered off the coins as Abram let the golden disks cascade from one hand to the other. Normally, the sensation brought him joy. But, since his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, his desire for the feel of the coins had diminished.
“Give it all away?” He muttered, dropping all but one of the coins in his tunic. “The man is insane! I can’t give it all away!”
He shook his head as he walked along the rows of beggars inside the temple, his eyes roving over the groveling figures. He came to the spot closest to the Pool of Siloam. The bent and deformed figure crouching in the dust was a stranger.
“Where is Simeon?”
The old woman looked up with a toothless mouth. “Who?”
“The blind boy? Where is he? I come here every week and give him a coin.”
The old hag laughed wetly and wiped her lips. “Don’t know. But, you can give it to me.”
Abram jerked his hand away as the old woman reached for the gold coin. He backed away until a hand rested on his shoulder.
“Abram, I see you still have your fortune.”
Abram turned to see his friend Samuel surrounded by a group of Pharisees. “What do you mean?”
“We heard about your visit with the Teacher.” Matthias leaned forward, his lean, sharp nose reminded Abram of a vulture.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Abram pulled away, walking down the rows of beggars toward the open area of the temple. Samuel appeared at his side, keeping pace with him.
“Oh, come now, Abram. We heard you went and asked the Teacher a great question. What was it, ‘Master, how can I gain eternal life?’”
“That is not what I asked him.”
Samuel stepped in front of Abram and halted his advance. The rest of the Pharisees hovered around him. “So you did talk to him?”
“I heard you called him, ‘Good Teacher’.” Matthias smiled smugly.
“Very well. I did go and talk to him. And, yes, I did call him Good Teacher. He is a rabbi, after all. There is nothing wrong with that.”
“Do you not know how he healed on the Sabbath?” Benjamin stepped forward, his bearded face hidden in shadow. “A blind boy. Right back there.”
Abram tried to hide his surprise and glanced back toward the beggars. “Simeon?”
“He heals on the Sabbath. I hear he claims to be the Son of God.” Matthias spoke hoarsely.
Samuel winced. “Don’t even hint of such blasphemy. Unless, of course, Abram here can assure us that this Jesus is not the Messiah. Just what did he tell you?”
“I didn’t ask him if he was the Messiah. I asked him ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’. Don’t tell me you have not wondered what lies beyond the grave? We speak of it often in our debates.” Abram pushed passed them and stepped out into the open courtyard of the temple. Sunlight streamed down around him. Samuel appeared again at his side.
“And, is it true he told you to sell all that you have?”
Abram stopped, felling the cold pressure of the coin in his hand. “Yes. He said it was not good enough just to keep the law. I had to sell all I had and distribute to the poor. And, then follow him.”
Laughter burst around, raucous and derisive. Matthias tapped the gold coin in Abram’s hand. “The rich, young ruler sells all to follow a carpenter. How absurd. Doesn’t he realize the poor are that way because they sin?”
Samuel did not laugh, rubbing his chin with his hand. “It disturbs me that you value the opinion of someone who thinks so poorly of the Law. Perhaps it is time we confronted him.”
Matthias pointed excitedly over their shoulders. “Here is your chance, Samuel. Witness the approach of the Teacher.”
Abram whirled. Jesus and his disciples entered the temple courtyard, surrounded by a rabble of people. Samuel tugged at his tunic. “Come, Abram. Let us question your Good Teacher further.”
Before Abram could stop him, Samuel was away, leading his crowd of vutltures across the tiled floor of the temple. He watched as Jesus stopped, eyes fixed quietly on the approach of the Pharisees. Abram hesitantly followed, feeling the weight of the coin in his palm.
“Teacher,” Samuel asked with just a touch of sarcasm in his voice, “we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for you do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Casear, or not?”
The crowd fell silent, all eyes turning to Jesus. Abram felt heat begin in the back of his neck and creep up into his hair. His face flushed as Jesus’ eyes turned full onto him. Jesus’ stare remained fixed, his eyes filled with a touch of incredible sadness. Jesus turned back to Samuel.
“Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money.”
The gasp from the Pharisees was audible, and sent a flock of doves scurrying into the sunlight. Samuel grinned wickedly and extended his hand toward Abram. “Abram, let me see your coin.”
“What?” Abram gasped.
Samuel jerked his head toward Abram, his eyes filled with devious hatred. “The coin. Now! Surely a man of your wealth and position can spare one coin.”
Abram hesitantly opened his hand, palm up and Samuel snatched the gold coin. Samuel handed the coin to Jesus.
Jesus delicately took the piece of gold, his eyes straying toward Abram. “Whose image and inscription is this?” He pointed to the face on the coin.
Samuel’s face wrinkled in puzzlement. “Caesar’s.”
Jesus nodded and handed the coin back to Samuel. “Then render therefore to Caesar the things,” He paused piercing Abram with his eyes, “that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Samuel opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Jesus turned away and the moment of tension and silence broke in the rabble of the crowd. The people moved away as Jesus went his way, leaving Samuel and the Pharisees alone in the sunlight.
Matthias spat on the ground and shook his head. “He is dead! I tell you, his time has come.”
Abram walked up to Samuel and reached for the coin. “Let’s go, Samuel. You’ve tested the Teacher enough today. Now you know why his words trouble me so. Give me my coin.”
Matthias reached over Abram’s shoulder and snatched the gold coin. “I have a better use for it. Perhaps I can convert it to silver. I know someone who can help us with this so-called Messiah.”
Abram shook his head. “No! That coin is mine. Give it to me.”
Matthias laughed wickedly. “What’s wrong with your devotion to our cause, Abram? Are you now going to follow this Jesus, even as he said you must do? Whose side are you on?”
Abram glanced at the coin gleaming in Matthias’ hand. “I don’t really know anymore. Take the coin. Perhaps it will be put to good use.” Shaking his head, he walked away sorrowful.
“You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”