I don’t know about you, but I get tossed between absolute wonder and utter frustration when I read the moral challenges of Jesus. Some days I wonder if we ought not call Jesus a "moral zealot" to chase away our beliefs that he is an avuncular Lord. Consider words like this: "Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect" or "Let the dead bury the dead," or the always yougottabekiddin’ me! line of Jesus that if we don’t give up our possessions we can’t be his disciple.
Sometimes, if I were to confess the deepest truth, I can almost unconsciously dismiss these lines with "that’s just the way Jesus talked," but I can’t for one conscious moment think Jesus said some of the following things and didn’t mean business:
If you don’t have surpassing righteousness you can’t enter the kingdom (Matt. 5:20)
If you don’t do the will of my Father you can’t enter into life (Matt. 7:21-27)
If you don’t become like children you can’t enter the kingdom (Matt. 18:1-4)
It's the "you can’t enter" stuff that disturbs me.
My years of studying these lines (and I teach some of them nearly every semester and encounter them more times a year than I care to count) has convinced me that they are designed at their deepest core to confront us with the singular challenge Jesus gives to us as a daily summons. It goes like this: