JESUS AND THE PROMISES
Jesus made some bold and provocative personal Promises, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live, even though he dies, he will live nevertheless, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26). “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (Jn. 14:18-19). “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (Jn. 14:1-3). “I promise you, I will be with you always, to the very end of the ages” (Mt. 28:20). There are many more promises Jesus had in store for his followers. We shall study them in this and other articles. Before we celebrate our good fortune, we might examine what it cost Jesus to secure for us the Promises.
Jesus introduced himself thus, “Today this Scripture is being fulfilled in your hearing”(Luke 4: 21). The New Testament writers began where the Old Testament ended. The Promises and Conditions remained the same and Jesus came to fulfill or uphold the human end of it. Everything Jesus did was according to the Scriptures. The Scriptures were synonymous with the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. These were God’s directions to man and the only guidelines that helped him obtain the Promises. Jesus came to fulfill the Conditions of the Promises and to assure those that believe in God that nothing can deter the Almighty from finishing what he started. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Lk. 21:33). “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:27-28).
The first thing Jesus did when he began his ministry he linked his mission with the Scriptures. By his arrival he also linked his work with the Promises in the Old Testament. He was not bringing anything different from what God had promised to his people in the past. God’s will or intention had not changed; the people had changed. What Moses predicted, Jesus fulfilled. Jesus said this, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you will get eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. “But do not think I will accuse you before the father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say” (Jn. 5:39-40; 45-47)?
The demonstration of God at the Mount of Horeb was too frightening for the people and they begged Moses to speak for God. Moses said to the people, “For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ The Lord said to Moses, “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account” (Deut. 18:15-19). The Evangelist John has many statements of Jesus that identifies him as the promised prophet through whom God spoke his final word to man. Here is one, “For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word, which I spoke, will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is what the Father has told me to say” (Jn. 12:47-50).
The Prophet was far more than just a speaker for God. He was God present in person and deeds. Jesus answered Philip, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing the work” (Jn. 14:10). In Jesus the Christ we have Immanuel, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit at work in man and in the world. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26). The greatest power in heaven and on earth is at Jesus’ disposal. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. The Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all my honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (Jn. 5:21-23). Hereinafter, Jesus became the only access to the Father. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (Jn. 14:6).
Jesus did not only restore the road back to God the Father, but improved it and finalized the conditions that help the individual to return to the Father. All the emphasis in the gospels is on the individual rather than on a household, a tribe or a nation. The lost sheep were individuals and not a group or a crowd. The people that came to Jesus for help were treated on a one to one basis. Even the case where four people brought a disabled, Jesus addressed him personally. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (Mk. 2:5). Jesus made certain that it was the faith of the individuals in him that healed and saved them. He could do little in his home -town where the people did not believe (Mk. 6:1-6). This is immensely important to a sinner. Jesus did not ask them how many times they have transgressed but simply “do you believe that I can help you change and improve your life?” It was the publican who stood at a distance, bowed his head, struck his breast and said, “God have mercy on me a sinner” was justified or declared forgiven and not the self – righteous Pharisee ((Lk. 18:9-14).
Jesus broke down the wall between God and man by becoming the door himself (Jn. 10:1-18). Before his day, priests and the High Priest only could approach God through sacrifices. Along came Jesus and declared, “I desire mercy not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt. 9:12-13). Sin was a terrible act and the only forgiveness was in the hands of God (Mk. 2:7). In comes Jesus and announces, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk. 2:10). If that stunned the Jewish leaders, then the idea that God accepts men if they forgive each other, was baffling to their minds (Mt. 6:14-15). In fact, Jesus authorizes his followers to practice the ministry of forgiveness (Jn. 20:22-23). God had no problem forgiving man, provided man like their Lord could forgive his enemies (Lk. 23:34; Mt. 5:44). God is not man’s enemy. Man is his own enemy. Jesus the Christ has made things right with God, but men must make things right between each other. Good is no longer the stumbling block. Man is because he stumbles over Christ and himself. The answer to this problem is belief and repentance (Mk. 1:15).
Belief without repentance is not redemptive. It is lip service without the evidence of change (Mt. 7:21-23). Jesus promised a kingdom to his followers here on earth (Lk. 12:32). They have to apply and qualify here on earth. The good news was and still is that man can come back into God’s kingdom. To do so, he must repent. Jesus, who knew man’s tendency to confuse what it means to repent, gave us the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon is a blue print for the new person in Christ. It is addresses to the candidate that want to become members of the kingdom. It was to his disciples that he said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 5:20). It was an impossible task for the disciples and it is for people that are not facing persecution and death for their faith. Jesus did not promise an easy march into the kingdom. He told his disciples, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But narrow is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only few find it” (Mt. 7:13-14).