Contend Earnestly: The Incomparable Christ

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Incomparable Christ

This comes from John Piper's book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.


Let me try to illustrate what I mean by the self-authenticating message of Christ and His witnesses. The biblical accounts present Jesus as a man of incomparable love for God and man. He became angry when God was dishonored by irreligion (Mark 11:15–17) and when man was destroyed by religion (Mark 3:4–5). He taught us to be poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness, pure in heart, merciful, and peaceable (Matthew 5:3–9). He urged us to honor God from the heart (Matthew 15:8) and to put away all hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). And He practiced what He preached. His life was summed up as “doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38).

He took time for little children and blessed them (Mark 10:13–16). He crossed social barriers to help women (John 4), foreigners (Mark 7:24–30), lepers (Luke 17:11–19), harlots (Luke 7:36–50), tax collectors (Matthew 9:9–13), and beggars (Mark 10:46–52). He washed disciples’ feet like a slave and taught them to serve rather than be served (John 13:1–17). Even when He was exhausted, His heart went out in compassion to the pressing crowds (Mark 6:31–34). Even when His own disciples were fickle and ready to deny Him and forsake Him, He wanted to be with them (Luke 22:15), and He prayed for them (Luke 22:32). He said His life was a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), and as He was being executed at age thirty-three, He prayed for the forgiveness of His murderers (Luke 23:34).

Not only is Jesus portrayed as full of love for God and man; He is also presented as utterly truthful and authentic. He did not act on His own authority to gain worldly praise. He directed men to His Father in heaven: “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” (John 7:18). He does not have the spirit of an egomaniac or a charlatan. He seems utterly at peace with Himself and God. He is authentic.

This is evident in the way He saw through people’s sham (Matthew 22:18). He was so pure and so perceptive that He could not be tripped up or cornered in debate (Matthew 22:15–22). He was amazingly unsentimental in His demands, even toward those for whom He had a special affection (Mark 10:21). He never softened the message of righteousness to increase His following or curry favor. Even His opponents were stunned by His indifference to human praise: “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God” (Mark 12:14). He never had to back down from a claim and could be convicted of no wrong (John 8:46). He was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29).

But what made all this so amazing was the unobtrusive yet unmistakable authority that rang through all He did and said. The officers of the Pharisees speak for all of us when they say, “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). There was something unmistakably different about Him: “He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).

His claims were not the open declaration of worldly power that the Jews expected from the Messiah. But they were unmistakable nonetheless. Though no one understood it at the time, there was no doubt that He had said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19; Matthew 26:61). They thought it was an absurd claim that He would singlehandedly rebuild an edifice that had been forty-six years in the making. But He was claiming in His typically veiled way that He would rise from the dead—and by His own power.

In His last debate with the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41–45), Jesus silenced them with this question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “The son of David.” In response, Jesus quoted David from Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” Then, with only slightly veiled authority, Jesus asked, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” In other words, for those who have eyes to see, the son of David—and far more than the son—is here.
“The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41–42). This kind of veiled claim runs through all Jesus said and did.

Besides that, He commanded evil spirits and they obeyed Him (Mark 1:27). He issued forgiveness for sins (Mark 2:5). He summoned people to leave all and follow Him to have eternal life and treasure in heaven (Mark 10:17–22; Luke 14:26–33). And He made the astonishing claim that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33).

Piper, John: Desiring God. Sisters, Or. : Multnomah Publishers, 2003, S. 324


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