I can almost imagine the compassion and sorrow in Yeshua’s eyes when the rich young ruler knelt, soiling his costly garment in the Judean dust, and asked, What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Yeshua must have felt compassion because the young and wealthy man had come to the right person and had asked the right question, but sorrow because other priorities roadblocked his spiritual journey. I think of that account in light of a recent encounter I had.
The Liberated Wailing Wall was at the close of its musical presentation at St. George’s Episcopal Church. As one of the team members challenged the audience to examine their relationship with God, I saw someone slip out.
He flashed me a guilty smile as he tiptoed past me at the back door that led to the foyer. He didn’t need to explain his early departure, but I found out later that Taj was a polite person who would have felt that the polite thing to do would be to wait until the concert was over before leaving. I was still staring at him after he passed. He took a few steps, then returned to get within whispering range.
“I’m sorry to leave now, but I cannot stay any longer,” he whispered. “I’m Jewish.”
I am not one to stereotype, but I would not have guessed that Taj was Jewish. In fact, I was slightly skeptical. Both his clothes and his appearance suggested that he was from India. He must have sensed what I was thinking, because he added, “I am from Pakistan, but my family and I are Jewish.” Before he turned to walk away, I got a better look at the book he was carrying. It was a Hebrew Bible.
Taj was now opening the front door of the church as I hurried across the foyer to speak further with him. I caught up with him on the steps outside.
“Excuse me a second,” I said. “Would you mind if I asked you something?” Whoever or whatever he was, I wanted to talk with him. After all, he was carrying a Bible, and he had possessed the bravery to come to the church alone to hear what we had to say. I asked Taj what he had thought of the concert. He seemed anxious to talk, but his body language also showed fear. He kept moving away from me the entire time we were talking. I thought that if I just remained stationary, he would stop moving away, but he continued to extend his distance from me. After talking with him for a minute, I made it a point to introduce myself. That also gave me a chance to get within normal talking range, but it didn’t last long.
I think Taj was a seeker. I even think he would have been one of those at the concert to raise his hand to receive Yeshua as his Messiah, had it not been for his family and friends. For the rich young ruler the stumbling block had been wealth; for Taj it was what his family would have to say about his faith in Yeshua. Evidently, his family had been persecuted for generations because of their Jewish background. How could he now challenge the tradition for which they had suffered?
I tried to speak to the real issue and confront Taj’s fears, but I must confess I did not feel that my words had much impact. As Taj left me on the steps of the church, my one consolation was that he had agreed to take along a broadside with our address and telephone number, in case he changed his mind. That night I prayed for Taj and committed the whole thing to the Lord. Like the rich young ruler who is never mentioned again, I did not expect to hear from Taj.
Yet the next morning who should call me but Taj. “You mentioned something about more information…” he began. “Yes! Yes, Taj! I can send you something,” I said, groping for a pen and pad. “It must be in an unmarked envelope, yes?” he asked. “Yes, of course,” I said. “I’ll send it out today. Tell me your address.”
Taj gave me the address of a friend where I could send more information. He was wary, but at least he was reaching out. Was I any better before I came to faith? Probably not. There is a little of the rich young ruler in everyone who hears the gospel and walks away. My prayers are with Taj, that he will make the Prince of Peace the top priority in his search for the Truth.