Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Learning From What We Don't Know

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 ESV)
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The above verse indicates that the wonderful actions of Christ, even during His short (approximately three year) public ministry, were innumerable. Though we have sufficient material to inform our faith, practice, and worship, an earth-sized library would not hold the volumes that the apostles could have written about the activities they personally witnessed between the Lord's baptism and ascension.

In addition to Jesus' unrecorded works, it is also interesting to note how many basic personal facts go unmentioned in the Gospel accounts. Four different kinds of biographies of Christ are recorded in Holy Scripture. Yet there are a host of details that-in this world-we will never know concerning the Son of Mary.

We're pretty certain that Jesus
looked nothing like this guy.
What did He look like? Though He was apparently physically unremarkable, and certainly no Aryan superman, given the prophecy in Isaiah 53:2b and the genealogies in Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38, we have no details concerning His height, eye and hair color, etc.

What did He sound like? Now that He has been glorified, Christ's voice is overwhelming, like a trumpet blast (Rev 1:10). During His pre-ascension public ministry, Jesus spoke with unusual authority (Matt 7:29). But what was His tone as He delivered His authoritative teaching? Did He speak with the Middle Eastern equivalent of a country twang, or was His voice a booming baritone? There is no way to know.

What was His favorite food? This is a question that my six-year-old son asks. I've told him that the answer might be "fish," since Jesus-after His resurrection-apparently ate fish with His disciples on at least two occasions (Luke 24:42-43; John 21:9-15). However, we can't be sure.

What was He like as a child? Prior to when He amazed teachers in the temple at twelve years old (Luke 2:46-47), we know basically nothing about Jesus' personality and experiences as a child, except that He grew in wisdom, stature, and God's favor (Luke 2:40). The lack of biblical information concerning the childhood of God incarnate has successfully tempted some authors to wild mythologizing. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas asserts that the boy Jesus gave life to clay birds and that He struck another child dead then raised him back to life. Some Arthurian legends clam that Jesus travelled to Britain with His uncle. More recently (and less fantastically), I read an article by an evangelical leader who portrayed the infant Jesus living as an illegal alien in Egypt (though we obviously have no information on what steps Joseph did or didn't take-or exactly what societal expectations were-regarding possible immigration laws).

What were His political views? Jesus definitely believed in a kind of separation between Church and state obligations, and He upheld the propriety of paying taxes (Mark 12:17). But notice how many important political issues Jesus did not address. For example, Jesus did not speak about slavery, torture, or Caesar vs. republican rule. If the burning political issues in the Roman Empire of His day were reduced to a political platform, it is hard to know where Jesus would have stood on every issue or how He would have ranked the relative importance of each plank.
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Set His face like flint:
not this Flint.
The lack of personal information concerning the incarnate Word is no mere oversight. Near the end of His ministry, Jesus set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem, full of determination to accomplish His atoning work on the Cross and to be restored to His rightful glory in the ascension (Isa 50:7; Luke 9:51). But even before that time, Jesus-during His entire public ministry-has a laser-like focus on His mission: to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) through the crucifixion and resurrection (Mark 10:33-34).

Jesus' ministry on earth was a ministry of humiliation. In humility, Jesus did not glorify Himself. He glorified the Father, trusting the Father to vindicate Him and to return Him to the state of glory that they had together "before the world began" (John 17:4-5).
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The lack of personal information concerning the incarnate Word is especially instructive to us in the digital age. We live in a situation where it is possible, accepted, and almost expected that we broadcast a great amount of personal information. Especially with smart phones, which can keep the Internet at our fingertips 24/7, our public presence can become dominated by personal pictures and likes or dislikes on gourmet food, fashion, cars, entertainment, political issues, etc., etc.

I am NOT suggesting that we cannot speak or write about anything unaddressed by Jesus. We have a whole Bible-not just the Gospel accounts-for a reason. The Apostle Paul, for example, gives instructions on how Christians should think about a wider range of issues, such as: homosexuality, divorce due to abandonment, ecclesiology, etc.

Also, I recognize that Jesus' ministry was unique. He alone came to live, die, and rise again in order to bring justification before God to undeserving sinners. Followers of Christ must proclaim the good news of who Jesus is and what He has done, but we cannot replicate His work.

Christians today may find ourselves in all manner of various vocations. It may be appropriate, and even necessary, for a Christian for a Christian chef to constantly broadcast information concerning recipes, a Christian politician to broadcast information on healthcare or immigration reform, or a Christian film critic [I'm thankful for resources such as Plugged In Online] to broadcast information about movies.

I am concerned, however, with how we Christians often spend our discretionary time, as reflected by our presence on the Internet. Many Christians have Facebook status pages (for example) that are dominated by personal information, entertainment likes, or political views. I believe that, if we are not careful, this kind of public presence will have two results:

1. We may make much of ourselves and little of Christ. John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). This must be the attitude of every follower of Christ.

2. We may tacitly present the gospel as relatively boring or unimportant. What captures our minds' attention and our hearts' affection? What gives us the most joy? Is it the entertainments of this world or the hope that we have for the world to come? What causes us the most concern? Is it the agenda of a political part, or the condemnation faced by anyone who does not accept Christ (John 3:18)?

Remember, beloved: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do [even post to the Internet!], do everything for God's glory. (1 Cor 10:31 HCSB)

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