I hope you read Part 1. My aim there was to sketch a picture of Jesus’s scope of power and authority in the creation and sustenance of the universe. The deconstructionist in me thought it was important to start with that (the big picture). I wrote Part 1 because the Precious Moments franchise, at least when I was growing up, usually presented Jesus as a soft and smiling man in white robes surrounded by little children and singing birds…kind of like Snow White. Their rendition portrayed a very small Jesus, one that failed to convey an idea of His infinite Glory. If the Precious Moments people were to ever call my people and ask how they might improve, I would tell my people to tell their people to send a much grander message. Something like, as the pastor’s at my church often say, “All things converge in Christ.”
Honestly, I find the description of Jesus in Part 1 a little intimidating. How am I supposed to get to know Him when He seems so …I don’t know…BIG! It would be easier to get to know Jesus, the man Who was here, ministering for three years after waiting 30. It seems like a good next step.
Fortunately for me, I’m reading a wonderful book entitled 1The Ideal Life: Listening for God’s Voice, Discerning His Leading by Henry Drummond. Henry Drummond was a Scottish evangelist, biologist, writer and lecturer who died at the young age of 46 in 1897. The book is a collection of his sermons. In the chapter entitled The Eccentricity of Religion, Drummond describes Jesus’s journey. When I’m learning about something complex, I like to start at the highest level, and find the overarching theme. It helps me make sense of the details. Here’s what I see: Jesus is always going to the Father. It’s not just in attitude either; it seems like all the time He’s going to the Father to pray. I mean, He spends so much time in prayer, I wonder how He got anything done! Oh…pardon me. He did get everything done.
The theme always going to the Father is about more than finding a quiet place to pray. Jesus demonstrated an attitude, a mindset, and a will that was set on always going to the Father. His relentless push forward toward the Father was essential to sustaining His interior calm as He faced an extremely difficult ministry journey. Before He even began, Jesus “suffered an enforced silence” for 30 years while:
- Societal wrongs went unchallenged;
- Religion became hollow and pretentious while selling itself as the religion of the living God;
- The poor, the sick and the widowed were respectively trodden upon, unattended to, and ignored;
- His Father’s people were increasingly scattered;
- The truth was constantly misrepresented for elitist gain; and
- The whole earth was filled with violence and hypocrisy.
The center of society was “self.”
Jesus grew up in this mess. He could have made all things whole with one simple thought, but He didn’t. He waited for His time. When it drew near, his friends and family noticed a growing strangeness about Him. They wondered where these odd attitudes and behaviors were taking Him. And then one day they came out from behind the whispers and distanced themselves from Him, defending their own reputations by accusing Him of being mad – beside Himself…eccentric. There’s little more painful than being rejected by your family and having the doors of your own home closed to you. John 1:11 – 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
Henry Drummond observes that the center of society at that time was “self.” He writes, “Man’s chief end was to glorify himself and enjoy himself forever.” Jesus had a different center from other people…He was “off center.” Eccentric. The technical definition of “eccentric” is: not placed centrally or not having its axis or other part placed centrally. There was no “self” to be found in Him. His friends thought that His life revolved around an orbit of His own. It did: incidentally, an orbit of His own making.
So His ministry journey began. Can you imagine having lived in a forced silence for 30 years and just before you begin a huge ministry effort, people are scattering like scared cats? It wouldn’t do much for my confidence, but then again, Jesus had no issue with that. Confidence is a dimension of the “self,” of which He was void. Without hesitation or concern, He went about His business, always going to the Father.
- He humbled Himself in a world that trampled on such people,
- He became of no reputation in a society where namelessness left people with nothing to leverage toward their own benefit, and
- He emptied Himself, leaving nothing for gravitation to work with. This means His center was with God. He had nothing in Him that could be used to attract Him to the things of self (the enemy never had a chance).
He was moved only by the invisible, the eternal, and the seeking of doing good for the benefit of others. He wasn’t seeking gain. He was seeking good in a world that had distorted the meaning of the word. He was “beside” Himself…standing off center relative to societal norms.
His ministry journey moved forward on an ever-narrowing course. Drummond describes it in three stages:
- The Year of Public Favor;
- The Year of Opposition; and
- The End.
In the first year (The Year of Public Favor), John the Baptist gave way to Jesus’s authority, and his disciples began following Him. The crowds were vast and hungry, wanting to hear this new voice. As the name of Jesus spread quickly, the interest of the rulers, noblemen, and rabbis grew and they began competing for His time.
But the buzz quickly died down and in the second year (The Year of Opposition), Jesus faced increasingly intense opposition. The crowds began thinning, the religious leaders left Him, the politicians began opposing Him, and the people gave Him up. Jesus’s path was narrowing.
Finally, as He approached the end of His ministry, He had only the twelve. And then the twelve dwindled by one, then two, and then all of them were gone, leaving Him to die alone.
On a teeny tiny microcosmic scale, I try to imagine how He must have felt. Many of us might understand given our versions of this kind of narrowing progression in our own lives. But we must keep ourselves from identifying with Him in a too-familiar way on this point. We’re not nearly as eccentric as He. None of us have completely emptied ourselves of self. None of us function with a purity of reflective intelligence and moral judgment in our day-to-day lives. And honestly, even if we could match Him action by action and teaching by teaching based upon what we know of Him, we’re discussing an infinite being who is part of a divine community of three. He is of boundless depth, limitless in His presence and His reign over all things, and nothing exists outside of Him. I’d say that’s a little outside of our capacity to understand.
But…think about this.
He is the Creator. In Him all things visible and invisible were made by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together in Himself.
He entered the world and grew up in a corrupt and uncaring society focused on self-glorification at the expense of others. He saw the problems, and He could have fixed them, but He waited for the proper time to execute the final stages of His plan.
Yes, He planned it.
For three years, He presented Himself. All of what He said and did reflected the nature and heart of God. The several and collective aim of all He said and did was to draw us to God and learn how to lead a life that is “always going to the Father.” He did this so that we might become like Him…and have the mind of Christ.
That’s enough for today. There’s more. There’s always more.
Until next time,
1 Drummond, Henry (2014-09-12). Ideal Life, The: Listening For God’s Voice, Discerning His Leading (Kindle Locations 706-790). Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.