MAN IN CHRIST IN THE GOSPELS: IX
Jesus, too, had ideas of the kind of a person or persons who could fill His shoes. Jesus’ followers had to have a strong disposition against being senselessly aligned with evil, even with Beelzebul and Satan, the devil. Jesus told his disciples what they had to face for following Him and to do things that do not cause others to stumble:
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household (Matthew 10:24-25)?
Far too many people have the wrong idea as to why Christ came. The harsh truth was and still is — that “human redemption” requires very costly and irreplaceable sacrifices. Jesus, in His invitation to follow Him warned of the sacrifice his disciples would have to make:
And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and he said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father (Mark 8:34-38).
Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who find his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10: 34-39).
According to Jesus, there are three things that are the greatest. The greatest of all Commandments is “love.” And the greatest example of love is to “offer up one’s own life” for a friend. And the “greatest in the kingdom of God” is a child.
A Pharisee asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another (John 15:12-17).
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:1-6).
The “Commandment to love” is not expressed in words, but the “Commandment of love” is expressed in actions. Love requires obedience to what it represents. One cannot truly love without doing what love calls for. Love is not merely words, but deeds, which back the very nature of love. Man is not born with love. Man must learn to love people and the things, which are not lovable. God’s Commandments are the “heart of love.” God’s Commandments help love not to hurt others or yourself. Every time man breaks a Commandment, man breaks the heart of God, the heart of his fellow man, and also his own heart. It is particularly painful when your own loved ones do not reciprocate. In my own family, my father and I were on different wavelengths, my brother is in a completely different world, and my sister is upset with me because I wear a cross. We do not fight, but we simply do not agree. But that is not how Christianity is received and treated by other persuasions and religions. Jesus, as the Man from God, was not welcomed at home and among his own people. It was inconceivable that a carpenter’s son could be God’s choice to help them. The Nazirites became very angry when Jesus told them that He was acting according to Isaiah, fulfilling the Scriptures:
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away (Luke 4:28-30).
He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching (Mark 6:1-6).
The same treatment that Jesus received will also be handed out to his followers. They, too, will be rejected and persecuted in this world, which is hostile to God and His Laws. The presence of Christ’s followers in the world, just as the presence of Christ was, makes the un-repented and unredeemed person feel guilty and even revengeful. Christ’s witnesses are a constant reminder to the transgressors that they face some form of recompense for their sins. That is why they accuse Christians of being judgmental. Sin is an ugly thing! You cannot hide sin! And the disclosure of sin is very embarrassing, even to the worldly person. The Gospel or the message of salvation does not judge the sinner. The sinner judges himself by refusing the messages of salvation. Therefore, the Gospel offers a way out of the ugly embarrassment of sin. Jesus had much to say about the hatred and the persecution of the bearers of His Good News. Like their Lord, they too shall pay for it:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.’ But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:18-27).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:9-12).
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the town of Israel, before the Son of man comes (Matthew 10:16-23)
But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it. One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your father; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes I tell you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:42-52).
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate before hand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (Luke 21:10-19).
Christ’s final message to his followers was not uplifting. Their efforts will not convert the world into a kingdom of heaven. In fact, the whole world will hate Christians for having failed to bring in a kingdom where the swords would have turned into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4). Christians have been guilty of projecting a reign of Christ that has turned the world against them. The mere attempt, by misguided prophets and teachers, to tie heaven to Israel, or Great Britain, or the USA has had reverse effects on the genuine followers of Christ. Things have become far worse than better for the disciples of Jesus, and they must be more prepared, be more ready, and be more watchful for being accused of promises that they cannot deliver. The Gospel message will reach the world, but conversions will not result in large changes, which can avert the “Cause and Effect” to play out their hands (Galatians 6:7-10). And thanks to the Creator of all things, who in His wisdom has set a limit on everything that goes out of the order of nature for which it was intended. Death is not a curse, but death is a blessing and Christ has proven it. Here are some excerpts from Jesus final words to his followers:
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.
So when you see the desolation sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then if any one says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightening comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together (Matthew 24:9-28)
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will punish him, and put him with the hypocrites; there men will weep and gnash their teeth (Matthew 24:45-51).
Every generation is bound to experience a storm that is life threatening. I have faced several such storms and I did not feel that I was fully prepared. How prepared and ready are you when you should be faced with a fatal crisis? How does one prepare for such a surprise? Jesus left us many examples, but we shall use two for our preparedness:
Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because if had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:24-29).
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet their bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him. Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also saying ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:1-13).