The Way

If thou wouldst be perfect.

— St. Matthew 19:21

The youth is looking for some unknown good thing to do, and the Lord sends him back to the doing of what he knows, and that in answer to his question concerning the way to eternal life. He has already more than hinted where the answer lies, namely, in God himself, but that the youth is not yet capable of receiving; he must begin with him farther back: “If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments.” For verily, if the commandments have nothing to do with entering into life, why were they ever given to men? They are the beginning of the way. If a man had kept all those commandments, yet would he not therefore have in him the life eternal; nevertheless, without keeping of the commandments there is no entering into life; the keeping of them is the path to the gate of life. It is not life, but it is the way to it.

The Lord says nothing about the first table of the law: why does he not tell this youth as he did the lawyer, that to love God is everything? He had given him a glimpse of the essence of his own life, had pointed the youth to the heart of all, for him to think of afterwards: he was not ready for it yet. To love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, is to know God, and to know him is eternal life. But to begin with that would be as sensible as to say to one asking how to reach the top of some mountain, “Just set your foot on that shining snow-clad peak, high there in the blue, and you will at once be where you wish to go.”

Commentary

Little Children, Little Cups
by Dave Roney

As I survey this wonderful, gentle, and heart stirring sermon, my heart is captured by the delight which comes from knowing, more surely than any other thing which can be known, that our Heavenly Father loves us as His dear little children.  And the astounding thing about that love is that He loves us without regard to our condition.  When we say that He loves us too much to leave us as we are, it is also to say that He loves us too much as we are, with supra-abounding Love; for His is not a coming love, not a growing love, nor is it a contingent love, in any way dependent upon what He discovers in us, either now in time or in the life which follows.  Our Father is ever, eternally, completely and perfectly sending out His love, sending it in billows higher than the heavens, as an awful tide flooding over and burying the works of His hands in its shoreless, plumbless, depths.

ow does He best love, in the perfections of Love, His little children?  They, errant and wandering, their little faces smudged and their fingers dirty, playing in the mud and laughing?  Or weeping?  Broken, despairing, dying while they yet live for lack of higher life?  Praising Him, railing against Him, reaching little arms up to Him, pushing Him away, loving Him, denying Him, sundry shapes of their small hearts, swelling, collapsing, yearning and pining, languishing and lusting, deadened to His call, hearing the Voice within, by degree, imperfectly, inconsistently, filled with Self, filled with the Spirit, faces pouty, faces cherubic.  How does He best love His little children, one and all?

In the text drawn from Matthew 19:16-22, the case of the young man who asked of Him “...what good thing must I do that I may have eternal life?”  We see that, of the Ten Commandments, the Lord quotes the latter five to the young man; why does He not immediately and first quote the great command, which is to “Love the Lord your God...?”  The answer, given by MacDonald, is “...he was not ready for it yet.”  If the cup in the hands of this small child could not contain the contents of the First Commandment, how is the Father of him to best love His child?  It is in the giving of what will fit in his little cup; and thus our Lord recites to him the second five commandments of the Decalogue.  For, though the young man might find the contents of that cup bitter to his taste, his small cup was able to hold the contents nonetheless; and those commandments were such as he at that hour could at the least contemplate, as a place of beginning for him.  And when he, even as did we, would come to taste the contents as sweet and no longer bitter, the Lord would enlarge his cup, to hold more, to come in time ashe surely must, to say; “To love God with all your heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, is to know God, and to know Him is eternal life.”

But this great command, to love God so dearly, is not where any man can begin: “But to begin with thatwould be as sensible as to say to one asking how to reach the top of some mountain, 'Just set your foot on that shining snow-clad peak, high in the blue, and you will at once be where you wish to go.”

Small children, with small cups, able to hold but little at the beginning; and how does our Father love such children best but by gently pouring into them that which they are able to receive.  For any more would be wasted on them; they are not yet ready.  And thus the God of all Love, with dearest patience, is working in the lives, in the hearts, of His little ones; though it take many years, or even ages of ages, He will love them until they love Him in return.  Then will their joy be full, and there is no cup which can contain what must overflow out of them, to God, and to their brothers and sisters!