What History has to Say

It’s the simple joy you get when looking at the measure of a man! There’s nothing better than a good biography, a retrospective view at the sum total of ones contribution to community or the arts… their gift to humanity. Consider someone like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or past US presidents like Lincoln, through the reading you get to pull apart the decisions and environments that shaped who they were and what they did.

What would a modern day biography of Jesus look like today? Walk with me through something I like to call The Son of Man.

Jesus Christ, on the surface, an enigma. He was born into royalty. His bloodline dated back to King David, arguably Israel’s most favoured king. His lineage though runs much deeper than the house of David; historians have shown that it can be accurately traced back to the beginning, Father Abraham. He can boast proudly of the family tree, a royal line of the nation’s forefathers, kings and priests of the highest order. In Israel this is currency that you can trade on and leverage off.

By all accounts He had a rough start to life. Like every kid who was just a little bit different, Jesus had to navigate a lineage that dated back generations, right to the beginning. This, mixed with the strangeness of His birth, a story clouded in myth and speculation. Later this son of man

would claim to be the son of God peaking the interest and attention of the religious leaders of the day.

His place of birth, a stable. He filled his crib under the loving gaze of young parents and curious farm animals. This however should not take away the relevance of His royal stature for in the distance royals of a different kind came in search of Jesus to celebrate His birth. They were men of wisdom and stature, surveying the night sky they studied the stars, educated men, astrologers known to the Greeks as the magi.

They came to herald a King, they came with gifts fit for a King, they came to welcome Him, to honour Him.

The arrival of your first born is an amazing experience, as mother and child settle, as your baby takes in every breath of new life filled with possibilities. There’s a bonding period that begins in the early days. This process is a critical part of the child’s development, but not for the boy Jesus. With barely enough time to finish his first bottle He is rushed off to Egypt for His own protection.

Plagued by insanity Herod was a Jewish king filled with insecurity, he seeks only to please his Roman emperor in order to protect his thrown and maintain control. Tipped off by the wise that a new king was born he responds with genocide, kill every boy child under the age of two’ is his formal decree. Joseph and Mary were right to flee!

With a strong sense of irony just like His ancestor David, Israel’s rightful king is forced to run.

Enough time had passed and Herod died. It was now safe to return from exile, Joseph and his family return to Israel, Nazareth is where Jesus would spend His younger years.

Time would pass, He would come to meet John and be baptised in the waters of Galilee, the river Jordan. Central to this experience was the validation that the heavens would give, ‘this is my beloved Son who pleases me’. Add to this forty days of the darkest wilderness you could ever imagine and you would witness the launching pad that thrust Jesus into the annals of history, scholars and theologians today still marvel at His magnificence. Like then, today the multitudes still ask ‘who is this man?’

He would build a band of brothers known as ‘the disciples’, a fitting word for a group of men that would spend the next three years in training, watching every step. Not everybody would make the cut, some would falter and some would fall…in this game only the strong survive.

In the Greek Decapolis, otherwise known as the ten cities, Jesus would find a hillside to launch one of the greatest sermons ever preached. He famously starts with a message that points back to the creator himself, Elohim. “Blessed, happy and fortunate is he who recognises his need for God.” From here He speaks and instructs those that stopped to listen, life permeated and filled every word, His ability to connect was mesmerising, unparalleled, yet all could understand, no one could touch Him.

His words alone would set Him apart for generations, but His ability to dazzle didn’t stop there. It wasn’t like He worked the crowd, this guy actually stopped to listen to the common man, He would eat with those you wouldn’t share a seat with, and He walked with the kind that you would cross the street to avoid yet He seemed to like them.

He would speak in parables, riddles really, and then go further to explain them, and it all made sense in the end. He would build an illustration of a mustard seed and then segway to faith that can move mountains, hidden treasures and pearl merchants. No one who came to hear, not just listen, ever went away empty save those who sought to finish Him, the religious folk.

He healed without impunity, He touched with no regard to the person, no matter how dirty they were, He loved without condition and cared always.

In courts you need the burden of proof to convict for one’s crime, if He wasn’t the Christ, then the Christ simply doesn’t exist.

Furthermore, a life devoted to His cause would only equal a small measure of reasonable service (Romans 12:2) in light of His sacrifice. Though we today know without any shadow and any doubt that Jesus was the Christ, I am moved to suggest even in my own view and experience that if what Christ did for me on the cross had only paved the way for salvation, a promise of heaven and eternity with my God and Saviour, than salvation would be enough.

Whatever your view of heaven is in your imagination, based on the picture that the Gospel paints, whether there are golden streets, pearly gates or even mansions, I recall the words of a great ole timer: “I don’t care if those golden streets are nothing but muddy tracks a foot deep, and if those pearly gates are nothing but wooden slats that swing on leather hinges, and if those mansions were nothing but cardboard shanties, if Jesus is there, it will be heaven for me.”

Another quote I have always been fond of, though from where I heard it first I can’t recall, is the quote that salvation is free to you today, but it didn’t come cheap! It cost Jesus His life! Though

we can’t take away that this was His mission! Hebrews says, “For the joy that was set before Him (that’s you and me) He endured the cross.” Therefore, I am moved to argue that Hebrews really did promise “so great a salvation” and that’s more than enough!

 

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More than Enough

‘A passer-by named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross…’

Scripture paints a graphic picture of this short walk from inside the city gates to a place called the Skull, Golgotha. It seems eerily fitting for this journey to make its way through the crowded streets of Jerusalem, as fans and followers of The Christ look on with horror and bewilderment, the very crucible of their faith, carrying the burden of a Roman wooden cross, barely recognisable, what a Saviour, what a King!

Now Simon, a Jew – so familiar I’m sure of his people’s painful past (stained with blood and bitter tears under the oppression of history’s cruellest dictatorships) finds himself the centre of attention as a Roman soldier places his demand ‘carry this cross!’

I can imagine the anguish and terror at the mere suggestion he involve himself in such a situation. Despite the presence of any hesitation, a passionate protest will only bring him harm, without choice and without desire Simon picks up that blood stained tree.

Without any reflection and a total absence of human right or dignity, this guest of Jerusalem is thrust into a storyline he has no control over. Despite the dark history of the Hebrew people, never before has a Jew ever had to carry a burden as heavy as our Saviour’s tree!

I have always felt that in a life completely devoted to the furthering of the Gospel based on the accomplishment of the cross, and in consideration of all the promises and benefits that

scripture makes way for, promises that should marvel and astonish all of humankind, if Jesus wasn’t the Christ, He would still be worth the admiration of a great and holy man.