THE MINISTRY OF MESSIAH (1)
In studying the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, our consideration must have a meaning to us. The Lord Jesus must be a reality in our lives, as he was to the Apostle Paul, who wrote:
“For me to live is Christ”
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Phil. 1:21, Gal. 2:20).
We have been crucified with Christ in the waters of baptism, therefore Christ should similarly influence our lives as the Apostle shows in Colossians 2:8-12:
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead”.
We should always approach our heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. Some feel that they would like to pray direct to Christ, because he is able to sympathise with our infirmities, but the word teaches us that we should pray to the Father. The very name Jesus demonstrates this, for it means “Yahweh the Saviour” or “He who will be the Saviour”, showing that the Father saves through Christ. To think of some of the titles of Christ as we pray to our heavenly Father, can help to keep in mind his greatness and his closeness to us. I can think of forty titles of Christ in the Word: there are no doubt more. Some of them, if not all have a particular relevance to us. Jesus is:
Yahweh the Saviour
Emmanuel – God (El) with us
Yahweh our righteousness
The Bread of life
The Light of the world
Master – Instructor or teacher
The Head of the Ecclesia
The Name which is above every name
Our great High Priest
The great Shepherd of the sheep
Him that loved us
The Faithful Witness
These titles, and in fact all the titles of Christ, should have an effect upon our lives and our approach to our heavenly Father. Are we continually conscious of all Christ has done for our salvation, that although we are saved, we should realize our need for salvation, which is a process, beginning with our baptism and ending with our falling asleep in Christ or our appearing before the judgement seat of Christ. Christ is the only righteous one, He is “altogether lovely”. Do we meditate on the beauty of his character and try to reflect all his attributes in our lives? Christ is Emmanuel, El with us. He is the perfect manifestation of the Father. He is able to succour us, to come to our help. Do we realize that we have no righteousness of our own and that righteousness is accounted to us according as we walk by faith? Where we do not continue to walk by faith, God will no longer impute righteousness to us (Ezek. 33:13). Christ is the Bread of life. Is his word more important to us than our daily bread? “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, Deut. 8:3). Do we realize that there is no other light but that which comes from the word of God, or do we fill our minds with the writings of the world? To be a disciple of Christ, Christ must be our Master-Instructor or Teacher, for a disciple is one that is taught. We can only learn of Christ by studying the word of God, for the whole of the Scriptures reveal to us God’s purpose of salvation in Christ. How important therefore are our daily readings. Thereby each day we can learn of Christ.
Do we always remember that Christ is the Head of the Ecclesia; that it is Christ’s Ecclesia, not ours? Do our decisions reflect what Christ would have us do as revealed on God’s word, or do we follow our own selfish ends? There are many great names in the religious world and in the world of learning, music and art, but do we courageously witness to our belief that Christ has been given “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9) and one day every knee will have to bow to that name?
Christ is “our life”, so we read:
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:3-4).
Do we believe this? Christ will only be our life, if we mortify our members which are upon earth:
“fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. . . put off all these; anger, wrath, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. . . And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge (or “being renewed by knowledge” (E.D) after the image of him that created him” (“the one creating him” (Int. Bible) (Col. 3:5-10).
After our baptism our life is hid with Christ, and if we manifest these attributes in our life, we shall “appear with him in glory”. He is “Our Great High Priest”. He is not the high priest of the names and denominations of Christendom, but the high priest over his own house, “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:1-6). Do we remember that Jesus is “The Great Shepherd of the sheep”, who the God of peace “brought again from the dead. . . through the blood of the everlasting covenant”, and that the Almighty through Jesus is able to make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ? But for this to happen, we must be obedient and, “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Heb. 13:20-21, Phil. 2:12-13). Christ is “him that loved us”. Are we conscious of his love for us? Does it affect our walk? Does it constrain us, i.e. hold us together as brethren and sisters? Does it affect us so that we live “unto him which died for us and rose again” (11 Cor. 5:14-15). As Christ was “The Faithful Witness”, do we faithfully witness to the truth, even if this means unpopularity and rejection, whether in the ecclesia or the world?
CHRIST A REALITY
Brother Roberts wrote the following as he began to write “Nazareth Revisited”:
“We are indebted for our knowledge of him to a piece of writing which is extraordinary, and which may be said to be his most stupendous monument on earth, namely the four gospels, bearing the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The antiquity and literary quality of these productions combine to impart to them a value and a significance that cannot be overstated, though familiarity interferes with perception a little. By all the ordinary rules of literary transmission they are the indisputable productions of Christ’s friends and companions, they having been in the hands of the Christian community with that reputation ever since the beginning of Christianity. But it is their character which gives them their chief weight. They are unlike all biographical performances in this, that they make no effort to commend their subject to the reader. There is no attempt at panegyric; there is no extolling of Christ’s virtues; there is no pointing out of heroic qualities; there is none of the customary commendation or praise of his hero that is natural to a biographical writer. There is nothing even in the nature of a complimentary allusion. All we have is a plain ungarnished recital of what Christ said, and what he did- and this in the simplest language.
This is wonderful when we consider the scope there was for hero worship, and the temptation to indulge in it on the part of enthusiastic disciples. But how much more wonderful it is that this bald recital of facts conveys to the mind the impression of a personality unapproached in the whole range of human thought or writing- a character such as is never seen among men for godlike dignity, purity, beneficence and power, a figure as far above men as the heaven is above the earth”
THE PLACE OF CHRIST IN HISTORY
The time of the birth of Christ, as his death, must have been in accordance with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. It was a fulfilment of the 70 weeks or 490 years of Daniel 9. There was an expectation therefore among the faithful at the time of the birth of Christ, as we see from the following Scriptures:
“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. . . And she (Anna) coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Israel”.
“And all the people were in expectation, and all men mused on their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not”.
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”.
“Philip findeth Nathaniel, and saith unto him. We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph”.
“But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Lk. 2:25-36 & 38, 3:15, Matt. 2:1-6, Mk. 1:15, Jno. 1:45, Gal. 4:4).
The wise men from the east came to worship Christ possible through their understanding of the times in Daniel’s writings and through seeing the star.
Christ was born in the fourth period of 1000 years from creation. This was approximately 2000 years after the birth of Abraham 2000 years before his second advent. Those living before looked forward in faith to his birth, whereas those of us afterwards look back in faith, but all of us look forward to his coming again. Perhaps it is a reflection on our faith, compared with that of the Patriarchs, that they had to wait up to a period of 4000 years to Christ’s birth and 6000 years to the kingdom whereas those born after Christ only have to wait a maximum of 2000 years. We are living at the very end of this period. Clearly we should be earnestly longing and preparing ourselves for the coming of the Master.
The political background to Christ’s birth is also significant. Judah, who had been in captivity in Babylon, had to be back in the land. They returned under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah and were established under the Maccabees so that there was a nucleus in the land when Christ was born. Judea was conquered by Rome under Pompey 63 years before Christ was born for Rome had to be there during Christ’s ministry as we see from Psalm 2:2 and 22:16. Rome also had to adopt the standard of the eagle, which she did about 100 years before Christ’s birth, to fulfil Deuteronomy 28:49 and Matthew 24:28.
It was also necessary that the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate should be there, for they were all involved in the death of Christ. Who would have anticipated that at Christ’s birth there should have been such a wicked ruler as Herod, who did all that was in his power to kill the Son of God, causing Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt. But this fulfilled the Scripture, “Out of Egypt have I called my son” (Mat. 2:15). When Herod was dead and they returned back into the land, their turning aside into Galilee, because Archelaus reigned on the death of his father Herod, was also in accordance with God’s word, for it was necessary that Christ should grow up in Galilee, in despised Nazareth. This was a very worldly area, despised by those in Judaea. Yet it was from this area that Christ called the twelve Apostles. How wonderful that Jesus grew up in this part of the land, fulfilling the words of Isaiah 9:2:
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined”.
Jesus was despised and rejected from his birth, but the Father chose that he should dwell for the first thirty years of his life in this despised land to prepare him for his 3½ years ministry:
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of Yahweh revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a render plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath born our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53: 1-4).
In subsequent articles we propose to consider the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in order.