“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, April 12, 2011

Witty Savior

“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Matt. 23:24).

How was Jesus’ public speaking? Prior to the movie, The Passion, two movies on the life of Christ had come out, both representing Jesus with diametrically opposed personalities. In Jesus of Nazareth, the first actor depicted Him as proper and cordial, but sullen, melancholic, morose, and somewhat self-absorbed. In Matthew, the second actor was winsome, loving and kind to the sick and down-trodden, but, buddy-buddy with His disciples, carefree and even careless. The first had too little fellowship of hearts between Jesus and His followers; and the second had too much. Until recently I never thought I would say that it’s possible to have too much fellowship among friends. But my drive for friendship has since been misplaced which has led to misunderstandings.

I still want to give and receive sympathy and laughter with them, and join in faith and love to God; but carefulness is in order so that no one be tempted away from God. Wasn’t undue familiarity Solomon’s downfall? And Samson’s? And wasn’t undue charm and personal magnetism Lucifer’s and Absolom’s device to steal the people’s hearts from their king? We don’t need to tempt ourselves of anyone else.

Jesus drew the people to Him “with cords of a man, with bands of love.” (Hos. 11:4). To the multitude, starving for spiritual food and rest, He said, “I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” (vs. 4). “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.” (Prov. 18:24). Jesus was the personification of true friendship. “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” (Prov. 11:13). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (Prov. 27:6). “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” (Prov. 12:18).

He was the quintessential master of assemblies. His lessons met the intellect and soul of both old and young, male and female. Whole households hung on His words for days. In Him all the families of the earth were blessed. Solomon’s servants rejoiced in his lessons and thrilled at his warm, jocular and respectful delivery. He understood the importance of all this for driving truth home to the heart and conscience. “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.” (Ecc. 12:11). Yet, Christ, the Master Teacher, far exceeded Solomon. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” (Matt. 12:42).

Did Jesus say anything funny? Did He make the people laugh? Was He trite? Ever? I’ve seen this done in the pulpit, some with bad results and some with good. Elder Morris Venden often resorted to a funny quip or story or parable and his hearers greatly appreciated his light-heartedness. But he also wove in a serious message of God’s love, Christ’s love, and the necessary truths of righteousness by faith. Even in his light-heartedness he was reverent and kept the meetings’ laughter under control. It was not disrespectful in the least; it did us a service. We didn’t have to work hard to listen or stay awake; he did that work for us. It was a joy to hear him. I am sad to see his voice go silent due to old age.

He is not the only minister to make use of laughing together with the congregation. I’ve also heard other preachers who use jokes to rally the dying attention of the people, but it did not result in a vibrant church. How come? What was the difference between them and Elder Venden? The laughter was there, but the love of God wasn’t. The light of God’s love shining from the Bible and through the Lord’s messenger gives life that simply laughing does not. Without agape love—grace in word and action—a sermon descends into oblivion; a loveless, Christless preacher, however funny, is no different from a stand-up comedian.

I am careful now to say this because I’m not a preacher or a public speaker, and far from a master of assemblies. But I am hungry for Christ-filled sermons. “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Jn. 1:4). Jesus did use some catchy phrases that made the people smile. The first verse at the top of this post was probably delivered in all seriousness, but His construction of the line must have introduced some levity that should have broken down the prejudice in some of the priests and scribes. And it must have created subject matter for the people for the rest of their lives.

How about Jesus’ somewhat exaggerated comparison of a camel and the wealth class? “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24). Saying this doesn’t detract anything from Jesus’ dignified mien; it adds warmth to His appeals. His ministry testified of both truth and grace, and I believe His overtures to the nation and individuals expressed both seriousness and joy.

On this occasion Christ was heart-broken and distraught at the man’s rejection of the infinite life that comes with disinterestedly giving away wealth to help others. He spoke these words in earnest appeals to the young lord and to the crowds. Yet, while He was pouring out His heart and addressing issues of eternal importance, Jesus tempered His response with a common phrase that cut any sound of ire and softened His condemnation. Maybe offering a tinge of the absurd, while maintaining the same solemn tone, would hold out the invitation before the man left earshot as it bounced around in his head, and He could change the ruler’s heart and mind. Christ would use anything to turn the young fellow around to the salvation he had just begged to have. The Master of persuasion wasn’t back-pedaling on His original conviction for the man, but He was blending truth and grace.

“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (1Cor. 9:22;1Cor. 10:33).

Then there was His cheeky answer to the Samaritan woman’s evasion of His intrusion into her private life. “Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” (Jn. 4:17,18). That must have both shaken her out of her cunning and let her see herself as an amateur con artist before a master of sleuth. Yet, I think His gentleness disarmed her and put a gleam in her eye. Her reply was quick and half honest, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” (Jn. 4:19).

She began to sense the seriousness of this strange Jew, but also His use of wit to soften the tense atmosphere and His desire to continue the exchange. Jesus was able to keep her attention long enough to make His deep, convicting thrust and her whole mind set was altered to one of convincing urgency, and she won the whole village to the gospel. With a new look and voice about her, a powerful new persuasiveness, she brought the old customers of her disreputable business to Jesus.

The Son of God, the Word of God, the heavenly Master of angelic assembles, graces His earthly messages with the same wit and solemnity, poise and reverence, that He used in the courts of heaven. “His doctrine,” “the law from His mouth,” was “full of grace and truth.” (Matt. 7:28;Job 22:22;Jn. 1:14).

“The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” (Ps. 119:72).

“And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isa. 6:3).


Blogger Nsubuga Daniel said...

I am ever blessed when ever I read new Posts. These Tw Why so little of the grace of Christ and Witty Saviour are good. Let me read them again, I always read them several times to better understand the idea.

4/14/2011 1:49 AM  

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