"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say tome in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7.21-23)."
What startling words are these! How different the tone. It has been supposed by many of the general run of religion that Jesus ever seeks more and more poor lost sinners to live with Him in His kingdom, and but for their failure to meet His loving overtures they might all finally "go to heaven"
But what is this in our text? In summing up those vital matters of His kingdom which Jesus had spoken on, rather than throwing wide the gates of mercy and enunciating universal charity for all, Jesus renders a stern disclaimer. Not every one! Our Lord winnows the floor; He begins to separate wheat from chaff with simple, but unmistakable, language. The severity of the possibilities contained is sufficient to startle and stagger even the most seasoned of the sheep. Not every one!
Jesus as He is depicted in the Scriptures
Jesus, as seen in the Word of God, is very different from the Jesus portrayed by an uninformed mass of professed Christians. The common opinion of our Lord is that He is a kind and loving expression of His somewhat passive Father in heaven. The Jesus of human opinion labors tirelessly to expand the borders 'of His realm. He is, by most accounts, the perfect example of a good neighbor, a kind friend, an eternal optimist, and a warm benefactor.
Large elements of modern religion have a "be happy" attitude. It is suit and tie religion replete with shined shoes and a big smile. A sign often seen in front of meeting houses says it something like this: "A friendly Church - We love you - Jesus loves you." But does all this charm properly characterize our Lord? We are convinced it does not.
What was the public comportment of Jesus? In reflecting on the record of His behavior, consider, for instance, that we find no where in Scriptures that Jesus ever smiled. He may or may not have smiled, but even so, the Word of God does not reveal such. Neither can we find where He ever occasioned a laugh. He surely never told a joke or engaged in what is called "horseplay." It can be safely concluded that our Lord was ever serious, sober, circumspect, and, rather than being jolly and happy, was sorrowful. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Him thus: "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 borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53.3,4)."
Did Isaiah carry his observation of Him to excess? Not at all. The lowly frame of Jesus is described even in more vivid tones in the New Testament. "Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matthew 26.36-39)."
It may be objected that this observation of Jesus is slanted, for it relates the final dreadful hours and not His early years. Well, what do we know of the early years? Jesus was born in poverty, a manger only was afforded His family to shelter the infant Son of God. Herod plotted to murder Him if possible, but the angel of the Lord sent the family of Jesus on a long and arduous sojourn to Egypt, thus securing His safety until the Father bid them return. We have only one account in the Bible of the life of our Lord from the return from Egypt until His baptism, that being the time His parents found Him among the doctors in the temple, "both hearing them, and asking them questions (Luke 2.46)." Jesus was at that time 12 years old. When His mother, Mary, expressed her sorrow to Him He responded: "...How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business (Luke 2.49)." How different was the young Jesus from other youth that age. Upon His shoulders was the government of the heavenly kingdom. He had come, not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. It may be safely suggested that the ordinary pleasures of childhood were disdained in preference to His eternal delight; the will of God.
We look a little further. At the baptism of Jesus the grand approbation of heaven was expressed in the form of the descending dove and the accolades of His Father. But there was no time, or inclination, for Jesus to revel in the richness of the moment. Yonder there in the frightful wilderness the Devil, charged with malice, awaited the Lord. Jesus must endure 40 days and nights of bitter trial and temptation, accompanied with hunger and thirst scarcely known by man. All this transpired before our Lord had even begun His public ministry.
Upon returning from the conflicts in the wilds there yet awaited other trials conducive to additional sorrows and agony in the heart of Jesus. Our Lord would be pierced within and without. He would both weep over the grave of friend Lazarus and over recalcitrant Jerusalem. More than all else, however, was the constant conflict with the leaders of the Jews' religion. Scarcely ever did Jesus find relief except when He went apart to pray to His Father in heaven. If the Lord may be pleased we would consider these things with awe and reverence as we seek to learn His ways.
The conflicts along the way
We offer a few of many examples regarding those things which our Lord encountered in approximately the order they occurred:
The devils view Jesus as their tormentor. "And. behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time (Matthew 8.29)?"
The residence encouraged the departure of Jesus. "And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts (Matthew 8.34)."
The scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy. "And behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth (Matthew 9.3)."
The Pharisees question the company of Jesus. "And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners (Matthew 9.11)?"
The wailers ridicule Jesus. "And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn (Matthew 9.23, 24)."
Jesus accused of being gluttonous, drunken, friendly with publicans and sinners. "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11.19)."
The Pharisees sought to accuse Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him (Matthew 12.10)."
A council convened to destroy Jesus. "Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him (Matthew 12.14)."
The Pharisees associate Jesus with Beelzebub. "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils (Matthew 12.24)."
The countrymen of Jesus were offended with His wisdom and works. "And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house (Matthew 13.57)."
The above few texts give us some idea of those things Jesus encountered in the early months of His public ministry. It is very apparent that He did not conduct His Father's business in such a way as to please all men. In fact, He generally pleased none among whom He ministered. A careful examination of the first four books of the New Testament will reveal a decided concern even among His relatives and disciples about what Jesus was doing.
Consider the incident when the Lord charged His disciples "that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ (Matthew 16.20)." Instead of granting the disciples words of reassurance or relating all the heavenly wisdom that necessitated this course, Jesus plainly laid out for them the grim facts. "From that time forth began Jesus to shew the disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day (Matthew 16.21)."
Peter, ever impulsive, would have none of this talk. He would urge upon Jesus to abandon such an extreme course at once. This was not the language he and the other disciples had expected from the Messiah. It was staggering. "Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee (Matthew 16.22)." If we understand the situation, Peter would direct the Lord to rid His mind of these morbid views. He could not believe the leaders of Israel would be so cruel as Jesus suggested. "This shall not be unto thee" was the carnal opinion of Simon. But, after all, what did Peter really know of the Lord he suddenly sought to rebuke?
A similar circumstance took place shortly after the incident with Peter. While somewhat more brief, the lesson was essentially the same. "And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry (Matthew 17.22,23)."
These things should give us a little glimpse into the feelings of our Lord, especially since we have the completed Bible before us, a blessed privilege the disciples did not have at that time. Jesus was not here on earth to win approval from the vessels of clay He Himself had formed. That He loved His own is beyond dispute, but first and foremost, Jesus was ere to do the will of His Father in heaven. Jesus was rich yet became poor. Myriad angels had adored Him in heaven, but now His own received Him not. Unparalleled glory adorned His person and from His Father's throne came everlasting approval. After being made flesh, scorn and ridicule dogged His every step, and grief was His constant companion. Jesus had not come to renovate this world or to improve its governments. He came seek and to save His lost sheep and the severest trials or impediments would not detain or deter Him in the pursuit of His goal. He would neither fail nor be discouraged.
These few introductory lines have been but the path to the door of the solemn ministry of the Lord Jesus. Should the Father be pleased to guide us further in the text at the heading of this article we hope to unfold, by His grace, the blessedness of even the most fearful warnings ever to come from the lips of the Lord.
J. F. Poole
Volume 10, No. 6