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Adapted from Leonard Griffith and J. Sidlow Baxter by Bill Consiglio e go to the gospels to find the real Jesus. We do not go to the scholars, the academicians, the intellectuals; especially those who come to the gospels without the Spirit of Christ having been born in their hearts. For to come to the gospels without the Holy Spirit is like making bread without yeast; it is like marrying without love; it is entering a darkened room without any source of light. Look at the real Jesus of the gospels. Look with your heart of faith and your experience of Jesus as he has touched your own life. Let us look with the eyes of his Spirit. By all means, let us bring scholarship and learning to our search for the real Jesus, but not the learning and scholarship unaided by the light of the Spirit of God. ho do we see when we come to the gospels in faith? We see Jesus engaged in four basic ministries which reveal an extraordinary, supernatural and divine Person. Teaching/Preaching..."Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" ~ "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" ~ He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Healing/Deliverance...News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demonpossessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. ~ Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour. ~ When evening came, many who were demon possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. Power/Authority....He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. ~ "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him." ~ After he put them all out,
he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). 42Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. Salvation/Sanctification....As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" ~ "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener". ~ "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–" "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." "My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." First, we see a man who taught and revealed the truth about God. Never had anyone spoken of God with such authority and such intimacy. He called God his Father, and himself God's Son, and claimed that the relationship between himself and God was closer and more divine than that between any earthly parent and his child. On the lips of any other man such claims would have seemed sheer blasphemy, but coming from Jesus they corroborated all that the disciples themselves believed about him. e can almost imagine the evolution which the disciples experienced as they grew in their relationship to Jesus. For there is the secret of knowing the real Jesus. It is the same for us as it was for them. Our growth in closeness and intimacy to him comes from spending much time with him; listening, looking and watching him, receiving and giving to him. When we speak to him and he to us, this alone brings his love and the truth of who he really is into the light. And there's the difference between the secular scholar's approach to Jesus and the man of faith. Ask the secular scholar to just once, get upon his knees and speak to Jesus, just once, and his scholarly work will become a window to truth and light! Ask him to suspend his studies of Jesus and spend 15 minutes in prayer to Him, and all becomes new. His disciples went through many changes in their view of Jesus. t first they may have said that God sent Jesus , but that explanation did not cover the facts. Then they said, God is with him . That went deeper, yet as their experience of him progressed, even that seemed inadequate. Finally we catch the reverent accents of a new conviction God came in him . He not only teaches the truth about God ; he is the truth about God, God made visible and brought within human experience. These days it has become
fashionable to revise our image of God. According to some religious scholars, modern astronomy and space travel compel us to reject the image of God as a supreme, supernatural Being who exists in outer space, separate and distinct from the world which he has made. Yet even this little coterie of avantgarde theologians insist that, wherever God may be found, he has still revealed himself in Jesus. If love be the ultimate meaning of the universe, then Christ, who gave himself perfectly in love, is still the authentic and perfect image of God. he Russian novelist Turgenev described how once there came to him in a kind of vision a swift and wonderful insight into the nature of Jesus. He saw himself a youth, almost a boy, in a lowpitched wooden church. The slim wax candles gleamed, spots of red, before the old pictures of the saints. There stood before him many people, all fairhaired peasant heads. From time to time they began swaying, falling, rising again, like the ripe ears of wheat when the wind in summer passes over them. All at once a man came up from behind and stood beside the Russian boy. He did not turn around, but he felt certain that the man was Christ. Emotion, curiosity, and awe overmastered him. Finally he made an effort and looked at his neighbour. A face like everyone's, a face like all men's faces. What sort of Christ is this?'' he thought, "such an ordinary, ordinary man. It cannot be.'' ut it can be, and it is. The Christ who makes himself known through Sacrament and Scripture, who encounters us in the fellowship of the Church and in the secret place of prayer, the Christ who still represents to us the image of the eternal God, is not some remote, supernatural Deity shrouded in the mystery of heaven. He is the same Jesus, the same ordinary, ordinary man who ate the bread and drank the cup of our human experience here upon earth. He is God in our idiom, a God whom we can understand, because he understands us and comes close beside us in all the common ways of life, so that we can reach out and touch him and know him as our Friend. econdly, we see the Jesus of the Gospels as the man of infinite love and compassion . There is no coherent picture of Jesus in the New Testament. Each of the Gospel writers, like an artist, interprets Christ in his own way, painting, as it were, a portrait. Each brings into bold relief the features of this Divine personality that seem to him most important. Matthew puts a
great deal of his own intentions and motives into his portrait of Jesus as the Messiah longawaited by Israel. Mark's Jesus is the most factual and actual telling. It is the first, seemingly quickly written factual account of the Savior. Luke is the devotional telling of Christ. It is full of prayers and personal applications to our lives. John's Jesus is the most mystical, allegorical, symbolic, and spiritual portrait. Yet from all the New Testament portraits of Jesus one feature shines most prominently; it is his compassion. Never did any man care so deeply for people, identify himself with them so closely and involve himself so completely in their lives. We read that when he saw the multitude "he had compassion on them''. A crowd invariably produced that effect upon Jesus. When he looked at people's faces, sometimes emotionless, hard and even hostile, his Xray vision probed deeply into the secret agonies and anxieties of their souls; his great, loving heart went out to them in sympathy and compassion. His love for others is God's love for all men and women. is miracles expressed this compassion. At the very outset of his ministry he rejected the temptation to be a mere miraclemonger. He who possessed the power of God deliberately avoided making displays of supernatural power ; he did so because he knew that through they might dazzle people, miracles would not convince people, not convert them, not bring them into the Kingdom of God. Yet, because he possessed the power of God, he made that power the instrument of his compassion. It was only right that, having come to make men whole, he should heal their sick bodies as well as their sick souls ; that, having offered the Bread of life for their spiritual hunger, he should satisfy their physical hunger as well ; and that, having come to save men from evil, he should save them from disease and death and all the manifestations of evil's power. hatever Jesus did for peoplewhether to restore their sight or cleanse them from leprosy or bring their dead back to lifehe did because he loved them and had compassion on them. One of the most impressive statues of Christ ever sculptured is that by Thorvaldsen, which stands today behind the altar of the Protestant Cathedral in Copenhagen, Denmark. He worked on it for many months, and at last surveyed the finished product with satisfactiona Christ with strong arms outstretched, raised high in gesturing command, and the fine shaped head thrown back in triumph. "This is he,'' the artist said, the powerful, majestic Christ.'' Thorvaldsen closed the door of his studio for several days so that the clay might set. When he returned and opened the door, he stared in horror and disbelief. There had been a storm. Dampness had invaded the studio and altered the statue. No longer were the arms outstretched ; now they fell low. The moisture had caused the onceproud head to bend. The great physique had drooped. Gone was the triumph of
Thorvaldsen's Christ ; he looked defeated now. For a long time the artist had no heart for work, but finally he went with a friend to his studio again to see if somehow he might repair the damage and recapture the likeness of the strong Man of Galilee. They stopped and gazed in awe at the statue. Bathed in light, the lowered arms no longer depicted defeat; instead they reached out with the compassion of God, sympathetic arms encircling the sorrowing and needy. The head no longer seemed to droop ; rather it bowed low with contrite countenance as if to say, "I understand your travail.'' horvaldsen knew that what had happened was surely an act of God. Some greater Power had breathed meaning into the artist's ruined statue, so that it was no longer a majestic Christ or a defeated Christ, but the Christ of the Gospels. This was the compassionate Savior, the same Jesus who stretched out hands of pity to sorrowing, suffering humanity, the same Jesus who, because his living presence fills the world, comes now to the sick as Healer, to the bereaved as Comforter, to the hardpressed as Helper, to the lonely as Companion and Friend . hirdly, we see the Jesus of the Gospels as the man who brought God's forgiveness to the sinful. Of course, he first made them conscious of their sin. He Judged them sometimes by his words, as when he called the Pharisees mausoleums, beautifully painted on the outside, but inside full of dead men's bones ; sometimes by his deeds, as when Peter, awed by the miraculous draught of fishes, cried out, "Depart from me, for l am a sinful man, O Lord'' ; sometimcs by his very look, as when his eyes bored into the soul of that cowardly disciple who denied him in the courtyard of Caiaphas ; but more often by what he was, by the purity and perfection of his personality which shone like a searchlight on the moral blemishes of all who came near him. aving judged men, howerer, having brought them to their knees in repentance, Jesus then did for them what only God could do, he forgave their sins. He forgave them radically. He did not merely cleanse and recondition them but transformed them from sons of Adam into sons of God, buried their sins, and then resurrected them as sons of God. To a man paralysed by guilt he said, "My son, your sins are forgiven.'' To a woman accussed of adultery he said, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no mere.'' To a dishonest tax collector he said, "Today is salvation come to this bouse."' To a dying criminal
he said even from the agony of his cross, "Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.'' n a prison in the Southern United States there is an inmate who has already served twenty years of a lifesentence. He is a commercial artist who has painted hundreds of portraits of Jesus, all with this strikingly unique feature they all show Jesus with a beaming smile. His paintings have gone all over the 'world. He gives them away, and at present there is a waiting list of nine thousand people. This man's conversion to Christianity came after he had been in prison for seven years. One night he fell to his knees in prayer after months of depression and the striong desire to kill himself. He had heard the chaplain speak about the compassion of Jesus. He said, "That night I levelled with the Lord for four solid hours of prayertalk. I prodded every niche and corner of my brain. I routed out longforgotten mistakes and misdeeds. But suddenly I found myself challenging the Lord. I dared God to give me a chance to do something worthy. I didn't ask him for any particular assignment. I left that up to him . . .'' The convict goes on to say, "that night I had a dream. The details are long forgotten, except for one brief glimpse of a robed, bearded figure who smiled kindly at me, then turned. It was a simple dream, not a mystic vision.'' The dream filled this convicted artist with a strong desire to paint that smile, and since then he has gone on painting Christ smiling, and the Christian world has praised his work. Recently this man wrote, "I don't know what's going to happen to me, but I believe the Lord is merciful to convicts who level with him. He sure gave us a break on Calvary. '' his same Jesusit is he who comes to us in the silent watches of the night ; not some austere judge upon his throne, but the tender, smiling, forgiving man of the Gospels. He still judges us, still makes us want to turn from our failure, our pretence and our hypocrisy ; but if we ''level with him'' as the convict said, if we fall to our knees in repentance, he will speak the gracious words, "My son, your sins are forgiven'' and we shall know that they are the words of God. ourth, and lastly, we see the Jesus of the Gospels as the man who claimed men's allegiance. Never had the disciples known such a magnetic leader. He met them mending their fishing nets by the Sea of Galilee and said, "Follow me !'' and they dropped their nets and folllowed him. Even when he set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, though they lagged behind on the road, knowing that a certain death awaited him there, yet they could not desert him, because his irresistible leadership drew them on. This man commanded the utmost in human loyalty.
et anyone refuse to give it, let him hold something back, as the rich young ruller held back his wealth, as others made the excuse of obligations to business and family, and Jesus simply excluded them as potential followers. When Christ claimed a man he claimed him completely. o the disciples rejoiced as they returned to Jerusalem after their Lord's ascension to heaven. No longer would they see him but they would know his living presence, his same powerful, magnetic leadership directing them in the campaign for' righteousness and commanding their ultimate loyalty. we have only to read the New Testament to be certain that their hopes were fulfilled. In obedience to their Lord, the disciples marched through the fires of persecution and death in order to turn the world upside down. In obedience to the living Christ, Paul and his companions at the cost of their lives took the Gospel beyond the borders of Israel that the Gentiles might hear it. In all history has any leader claimed such allegiance as the invisible Christ claimed from Augustine in the garden, from Francis in thc ruinedchapel, from Loyola, the proud soldier who laid his sword upon an altar and prayed, "Teach me, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek rest; to labour and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing I do your holy will.'' he great Napoleon once asked a friend, "Can you tell me who Jesus was?'' When the friend could not answer, Napoleon said,well, then, I will tell you. Across a chasm of hundreds of years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is above all others difficult to satisfy. He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse : He asks for the human heart. He will have it entirely for himself. He commands it unconditionally.'' hrist upon his throne, whose living presence fills the world, is the same Jesus who became flesh and dwelt in Galilee and Judea long ago. All that he was to the people then, so he can be tome and you nowRevealer of God, Compassionate Saviour, the Forgiveness of our sins, our Lord and Master, the one we would follow wholeheartedly. All of this he can be to us if we open our
hearts to receive him in faith, if we surrender our lives to him in loving obedience.
O Lord Jesus, without having seenYou, we love You, and though we do not now see You, we believe in You.We praise You that when You burst the bonds of death, when You appeared to Your disciples, the same Friend, the same Companion, the same Master Whomthey knew in the days of Your flesh. You make the whole world the temple of Your living presence and every human experience a sacred meeting place with You. Grant that we who confess You Jesus as our Lord and Saviour may know the blessedness of Your friendship. Come be close to us in life. Let us feel the touch of Your Living Spirit in us and hear tbe whisper of Your voice. Be so real to us that we know also the truth of your words when You said, "Behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'' For Your own name's sake we pray. Amen.
hat ia the most important implication of knowing the real Jesus? For me Jesus is the perfect Image of God our Father. Hebrews 1:3 says, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." He is the perfect Son of God. To know the real Jesus, we need to understand what it is to be a son of God our Father. Sonship is the Bible's theme from Genesis to Revelation. We are called to be sons and daughters of God. That phrase "son of God" is a cliché among Christians. It is a neglected biblical focus. It is spoken of lightly and easily; it has no freshness or vitality. A platitude! We pass over it without thought and reflection. "Yes!" we say, "we are all children of God!" But do we really know how precious it is to be called a child of God and to have God as our Father. Galatians 3:26 says, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus", and Galatians 4:7says, "So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." t would be well if we viewed the whole biblical record as the history of God the Father creating and restoring humanity to "sonship" with Himself. From first to last, from Genesis to Revelation, from Creation to Second Coming, our Father God has been engaged in loving us into sons and daughters to Himself. The fine biblical author J. Sidlow Baxter says, "The love of God to the whole world, and the fatherhood of God to each human being, are the crowning revelation of God in the Bible. The biblical revelation as a whole presents first the power of God - as seen in the Creation, the Flood, the Babel dispersion, the Exodus; next the holiness of God - as seen especially in the Mosaic law, dealings with Israel the ethics of the prophets; and then the love of God - exhibited through the Gospel of Christ. Not until Jesus came as the culminating self-revelation of God was the divine fatherhood given prominence. The wonderful truth of that divine fatherhood is not safe for fallen man to possess without the earlier expression of God's awesome power and holiness." he fatherhood of God is His basic relationship to all of us. The fatherhood of God is the relationship that underlies and gives meaning to all others. "Our only true philosophy of God must make His fatherhood the ultimate relationship. God sustains four main relationships to mankind: (1) Creator, (2) King, (3) Judge, (4) Father. Take the fourth: God is Father. Did He not create us to love us and to be loved by us? Is it not true to say that fatherhood (the fourth) gathers up the other three into a larger and higher explanation of the universe? Take away that fatherhood and the universe becomes a vast prison. The fatherhood is the basic, ultimate, inclusive relationship in which God stands to ourselves."(J.S. Baxter, Majesty: The God You Should Know: HERE'S LIFE PUBLISHERS, San Bernadino, CA) he main reason the Bible was written was to explain how God is creating His own
family, the sons of God. It is amazing how few people grasp this incredible truth, yet it is so plain in the Bible. At the beginning of the Bible is the account of the creation of Adam and Eve. All human beings are their descendants. We are, by natural descent, their great, extended family. Adam was, according to his natural parentage, a son of God (Luke 3:38). Therefore, in our natural descent, we are all the children of God. He is our Father by physical creation. ut God's purpose is far greater than the creation of corruptible and perishable human beings. God is in the process of creating His own spiritual children who will be incorruptible-children with eternal life; children who have His divine nature or character. Paul refers to this new creation in terms of "the old man," in contrast with "the new man," who is "renewed in the spirit of [his] mind" and is "created according to God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:20-24). he apostle Paul defined the new creation as a spiritual transformation, at first a change only in a person's nature and character, followed by a change into a literal spiritual being with eternal life. The Bible refers to this process as salvation. The Bible refers to those who are receiving salvation as the "sons of God" in a sense that goes beyond our descendancy from our first two human parents. God is accomplishing a marvelous spiritual transformation in the lives of His followers through His Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. aul explained that "the Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirsheirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:16, 17). Do you grasp the enormous significance of Paul's statement? It explains why we are here, the very reason for our existence, why we were born. It gives meaning to life itself. It explains why God wants all human beings to come to the knowledge of the truth. God is creating a family, His own family. We have the priceless opportunity to be a part of that family. That family relationship-our becoming children of God the Father-is the heart and core of God's great plan for humanity. Notice how Paul expresses it: "In bringing many sons to glory [salvation], it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy [Christ] and those who are made holy [converted human beings] are of the same family" (Hebrews 2:10, 11, New International Version).
rom the beginning of the Bible, this is the clearly stated purpose of God. "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created
man in His own image ..." (Genesis 1:26, 27). Both men and women are created to be like God. The Bible often speaks of physical children as "sons" because that was the custom at the time the Bible was written, and has been in many languages, including English, over the centuries. In the Hebrew and Greek languages, in which the Bible was written, "sons" was used to mean "descendants." When used in this sense, the Hebrew and Greek words for "sons" refer to male and female descendants alike. Today, we use the words mankind and brethren in a similar sense. Both men and women are God's children. ow to the point of Genesis 1:26, 27, which tells us we are made in God's image and likeness. At the first mention of human beings in the Bible, God declares His intent to make us like Him. But to what extent are we made like Him? God's purpose is to make us fully like Jesus Christ! In Ephesians, Paul says in verse 13, "we all come to . . . the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Paul's statement in Galatians 4:19, "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you," expresses the same concept in different words. Do you grasp the significance of Paul's statement? We are to become fully and completely like Jesus Christ. His character is to be formed in us. As Jesus is God's Son, we will also be God's sons. The apostle John is explicit: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:1-3). (Roger Foster, God's Family: The Reason You Were Born, in The GOOD NEWS, May 1996, UCC). o understand the full impact and vital meaning of the Father-son relationship I'd like you to grasp this three-point outline of biblical history. I'd like you to understand that the whole biblical record can be viewed as having these three phases: First, Jesus came to reveal God as "Father". God always was Father. All of the Old Testament record is the story of a loving (yes; holy, powerful, severe, disciplining) Father. Behind all the OT record is a Father building his family and seeking intimacy with his children. Second, Jesus came to exemplify sonship (and subsequently ours) to the Father. His Sonship is the ultimate model of humanity in correct relationship to God. He invites us all to share in his life and relationship to the Father as a sons and daughters. Third, Jesus came to restore each of us to sonship to the Father. If you will allow God's Spirit to walk you through this understanding meditatively and spiritually, you will be blessed and greatly rewarded. My own realization of my sonship to the Father was, for me, a turning point in my walk with God, my discipleship with Jesus, and a personal spiritual revival by the Holy Spirit. That sonship depends greatly upon who Jesus is. This is why we ask to know the real Jesus. ++++++++++++++++++++++ Leonard Griffith, God's Time and Ours, Abington Press, 1964. ++++++++++++++++++++++ See this excellent study of the REAL JESUS
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