“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jesus, the extremist fanatic?

Something disturbs me about last week’s Sabbath School lesson. Entitled, The Puzzle of Jesus Conduct, Roy Adams being the principal contributor. Each of the following subjects, “Neglecting parents?” “Displaying anger?” “Destroying personal property?” “Neglecting the persecuted?” criticized Jesus for what He did. Was it subtle higher criticism? Shouldn’t we examine His actions and learn how to copy them?

Neglecting parents?
Referring to Jesus’ 3 day stay in the temple at age 12, Mr. Adams writes: “The incident, on the face of it, gives the impression of an irresponsible lad, utterly uncaring about the pain and anxiety of his parents. What parents would not be terribly angry at such apparently callous disregard for their convenience and the rules of their home?

This is one of those events that show the limits of using Jesus’ conduct as a model in every case. What is happening here, it would seem, is that Jesus’ Messiahship has already begun to shine through at the tender age of 12. He is becoming conscious of an allegiance to a Power infinitely higher than His parents, however much He respected them. The brevity of Luke’s account leaves a dozen questions unanswered, such as: Who fed and housed the lad those three days? Did the priests have any concern to find His parents?”

Maybe the author of this SS quarterly doesn’t realize what he has done, but he casts doubt on the actions of Jesus, God’s only Son, who came from the bosom of the Father, and whose life was the outworking of His Father’s love. By saying, “What parents would not be terribly angry at such apparently callous disregard for their convenience and the rules of their home?” and “it would seem,” that even when the Mr. Adams also writes rational and true words, in the minds of many readers, those words are mixed with error and cannot repair the damage done to Jesus and the lessons the Father sought to teach.

“This is one of those events that show the limits of using Jesus’ conduct as a model in every case.” Is there a limit of Jesus’ example that we should not follow, in the correct season and time? “Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.” (Heb. 2:17;1Pet. 2:21;Rev. 14:4)

The lesson here is that parents need to stay aware of their children’s thought processes. Mary and Joseph had it coming to them for not doing this. It is an easy thing to fall into and happens to us all. As consecrated as were the parents of Jesus, they slowly fell away from their heaven-ordained duty, but the providence of God aided them in seeing their failing. Isn’t this how God works with all of us?

Young Jesus was consumed with His life purpose. He must have fasted the whole three days in the temple. He might have wandered through the streets of Jerusalem and slept on the streets, if not praying and meditating a good part of those nights. He had a thoughtfulness way beyond His years. “I must” indicates the determination of His soul.

Mary’s hurt feelings were just going to have to be put on hold. As with all of us, she was going to have to get over it. But, in keeping with His young, sanctified soul, Jesus did not disrespect His parents. He was made under the law in order to redeem us who are under the law by showing us how to give place to self-centered vengeance.

Jesus had not neglected His earthly parents. His action here is not a puzzle, it’s a revelation.

Displaying anger?
Wasn’t Jesus the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Wasn’t He the son of David, the man who slew a lion and a bear and finally Goliath, and then cut off his head? He is the Lord God of the Old Testament, in the flesh.

Too often the principal contributor quotes from a book that I believe to be strange fire, “Presuming that what Jesus would do today has some correlation with what he actually did then—in first-century Roman Palestine . . . —how in the world might a contemporary Christian go about replicating and applying these bizarre incidents of tree-cursing and temple-disrupting? If our favorite grocery store happens not to stock a particular fruit we are craving—because it’s out of season!—do we proceed, with Jesus’ blessing, to curse the fruit bin, the produce manager, and everything else in sight? And if the preacher goes on too much about money one Sunday or if we are just generally miffed at various church personnel and programs, do we bust in during a worship service and start upending pews, pulpits, altars—anything not nailed down—and bouncing ushers from the premises?”—F. Scott Spencer, What Did Jesus Do?, p. ix.

Then the contributor asks, “What principles should we bring to bear upon such questions? Where does spiritual common sense come in? Jesus came as the Messiah, the Savior of humanity. How do we distinguish what He did strictly in that role from that which He intends for us to follow?”

He cast out the thieves, like spraying roach killer all through God’s house. He intends for us to follow it all, without distinction of His Messiahship or Kingship. As King and Savior, He came to shed light on true conduct. By beholding Him we would be changed into the same image. If we accept His justification, we too will be kings and priests in the earth.

My question is, What is this spiritual common sense the author speaks of? When Ellen White has plainly given us great light on the life of Jesus, why must we bring into the study some kind of “sense” that would destroy the spiritual discernment from the Spirit of Prophecy, even if it condescendingly calls itself “common sense?” There is no common sense apart from perfect obedience to Jesus, who lived out the righteousness of the Law. Everything else is foolishness and eternal loss.

Destroying personal property?
Br. Roy Adams: “Why do you think Jesus allowed the demons to enter the herd of swine? Would He have done the same thing if the animals had been sheep? Where is the sympathy in Jesus’ action here? Was there a concern on His part that, regardless of His own dietary strictures, the herd, nevertheless, represented the livelihood of one or more families in the town? How would the idea of compensation fit into this picture?

“‘If these swine were owned by Gentiles, we should be left without a real explanation for their destruction. To say that the devils were ordered merely to leave the men, and that their entering the swine was their own act, contradicts their request to Jesus and the plain statements of Mark and of Luke that Jesus gave them permission’—R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), p. 353. Another Bible scholar sees in Jesus’ action ‘a powerful protest.’ ‘The name “Legion” and the pig mascot,’ he says, ‘both signify Roman military occupation.’ Thus Jesus’ intention was to ‘protest against oppressive Roman possession of Israel’—F. Scott Spencer, What Did Jesus Do?, p. 101.

“Ellen G. White says that ‘it was in mercy to the owners of the swine that this loss had been permitted to come upon them. They were absorbed in earthly things, and cared not for the great interests of spiritual life. Jesus desired to break the spell of selfish indifference, that they might accept His grace’—The Desire of Ages, p. 338. While these comments might help us to understand certain calamities that come upon us personally, how do you see it setting any precedence in regard to our own action? Or is this one of those actions pertaining to Jesus’ role as Messiah-prophet, and not intended as an example for us to follow, as such? How would you make the case that the same is true as regards the cursing of the fig tree (which probably had a personal owner)?”

Why bring up these confusing issues? Why question Jesus’ sympathy and concern for people’s livelihoods, instead of praising Him for it? Christ was simply removing the obstructions to the kingdom of God which they had set up. He was giving them a blessing in disguise. “It was in mercy to the owners of the swine.” They were rewarded for sacrificing self, even if they cursed Jesus that day. Later, the blessed fruit of righteousness and obedience came clear to them and they welcomed Jesus back when He finally did return to their coasts.

A powerful protest against Roman military occupation? Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world; His work was to break the spell sin had on the human race. His enemy was not flesh and blood, so He never fought against the Empire. Such a sentiment comes from modern evangelical dispensationalism, which is in the process of destroying the United States Government to make it conform to their false doctrines, the false revival that is taking Christianity by storm. Introduce this falsehood into the Adventist church? Why, Mr. Adams?

Do we criticize Jesus for doing all He did? Should He be afraid of our ignorant criticism? Obviously Jesus wasn’t. And I’m glad He did not fear to stare Satan down and reclaim Satan’s territory.

Neglecting the persecuted?
Continuing on, “How is Jesus’ conduct during the imprisonment of John to be explained? Upon first hearing of John’s incarceration, He returns to Galilee…. Following the visit of John’s people, Jesus launches into high praise for the embattled prophet but does not visit him.” “One of the most persistent questions we face as human beings centers around the issue of suffering: ‘Where is God when we hurt?’ In the experience of John, we have a partial answer, in terms of Jesus’ conduct. Though He was God in human flesh, with power to act, Jesus does not intervene to rescue the one who had helped prepare the ground for His own ministry. And following John’s murder, all we get from Jesus (Who, we suspect, felt it keenly) is silence. Nor is it likely that He or His disciples attended John’s funeral.”

Jesus gave John just what John needed and wanted. Blessed is he whosoever he be that is not offended in Me. John went to his death surrendered like he could never have been without those stronger, affirming words of the Son of God. If Jesus had sent pitiful words He would have abetted Satan in tempting the Baptist into self-pity, to overthrow his faith. If Jesus had stood outside the prison calling for John to stand firm, Jesus would have disgraced the work of the gospel. If Christ had saved the prisoner from his time of trouble, John would not be among the redeemed.

And, yes, Where is God when we hurt? Right next to us as He was with His only beloved Son on the cross. How can we truly understand what Jesus went through for our redemption and what God the Father has been through because of the great controversy, unless we go through hard times? How else will we ever be able to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus unless we suffer the consequences for our failures, including the separation from God which we choose?

Satan knows how to turn around everything that is wrong and make it seem right. Jump, Jesus, for the Bible says that God will send His angels to catch You. Let me quote to You some scripture... Eat, Jesus, Your Father has given You the power to create, and He doesn’t want You to die before You even start Your ministry!

We can begin to see how destructive human philosophy comes to be. It is when good people lose their hold on a self-sacrificing God, that they cannot endure hardship anymore. They water down duties and requirements of God, and Satan then has the opportunity to take control of doctrine and manipulate it to teach his will. The intoxicated religionists never see the new administrator of their doctrines, and they continue on as if nothing changed, as if their religion hadn’t changed hands. Then, over time, Satan, working through doctrine and philosophy, slowly brings the people to become more and more critical of primitive godliness and more and more distant from it.

Thus very familiar truth slowly comes to be strange, bizarre, puzzling. To them as He did to Israel, God says, “I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Hos. 8:12).


Blogger Gabrielle Eden said...

Those are some very compelling questions regarding what Jesus did, and ones I don't even think of, just taking for granted what the scriptures say.

5/20/2008 9:04 AM  

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