Jesus the Missionary: Startling, Intriguing, Shocking, Inspiring

Sabbath School Lesson Commentary for Lesson #7 (August 15, 2015)

Jesus was certainly the “Master of Missions,” to use the title for this lesson in the standard adult quarterly. But he earned that label by coming in the back door, not the front. By the time he returned to his Father he had surprised everyone.

As C. S. Lewis put it: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins.” – A Grief Observed, IV.15

The Gospels are clear that the “popular” idea of the Messiah in Jesus’ day called for a conquering king who would deliver Israel from all her enemies. The idea of the Messiah as a missionary whose followers would circle the globe to win the nations for God apparently did not cross anyone’s mind – until after the resurrection. Let’s explore that concept under four key words:

1. Startling. As the anointed son of David, Jesus was born in the right city, Bethlehem, the city of David. But everything else was wrong: a virgin mother and born in a manger? First recognized by shepherds and foreign wise men? What a strange way for a Jewish Messiah to begin his earthly life.

After being taken to Egypt by his parents, he eventually returned to Nazareth, a wicked little town in Galilee where he worked as a carpenter’s apprentice until he was thirty. His public call to ministry came at the River Jordan where he was baptized by the recluse preacher, John the Baptist. But then Jesus disappeared again, this time into the wilderness for forty days where he confronted the devil and lived among wild animals.

According to Luke 4, early in his ministry he stood up in the synagogue at Capernaum and read from the Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me,” he declared, “to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, the recovery of sight for the blind, and to set the oppressed free.” The people were enthralled – until he reminded them of Elijah’s sojourn with the Sidonian widow, and the healing of Naaman the Syrian – both foreigners. Adulation turned to anger and the people dragged him to the brow of a hill in order to throw him off a cliff.

2.Intriguing. But in spite of this rough beginning, when Jesus began a larger ministry, he drew huge crowds. And Matthew’s comment at the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is telling: “The crowds were amazed at this teaching, because he taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt. 7:28-29). No doubt there was a contrast in substance. After all, Jesus taught that we should love our enemies, not conquer them. But there was also a contrast in style. Compared with the rabbinic teachers of the time, Jesus’ method was both astonishing and refreshing. No rabbi would dare say anything on his own nickel. The more rabbinic authorities he could cite the better. By contrast, Jesus simply opened his mouth and spoke from his heart. He cited no authorities at all. The people were intrigued and impressed.

3. Shocking. Two aspects of Jesus’ ministry were shocking to his contemporaries. One involved his relationship to people, especially to women and non-Jews; the other involved his understanding of his own death in the fulfillment of his mission.

Two of the more striking New Testament incidents of women interacting with Jesus involved non-Jews: the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and the Syrophoenician woman with the sick daughter who met Jesus near Tyre (Mark 7). In addition, within his own Jewish community, Jesus and his disciples were supported by a group of women, some of whom Jesus had healed. “These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:3).

Other Gospel stories openly attest to Jesus’ positive attitudes towards the despised Samaritans. The “Good Samaritan” helped a wounded Jew on the road to Jericho, a ministry opportunity which a Levite and a priest had both passed by (Luke 10:30-37), and Jesus commented on the fact that only one of ten healed lepers returned to thank him for healing: “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17). Peter’s experience with Cornelius as told in Acts 10 indicates that Jesus’ attitude toward non-Jews hadn’t fazed the deeply-rooted anti-Gentile sentiment that still haunted the Jewish-Christian disciples. Peter bluntly told Cornelius and his friends, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Peter was so troubled by God’s path-breaking command that he took six Jewish witnesses with him.(Acts 11:12), and when the Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles, these Jewish Christians were “astonished” (Acts 10:45).

In short, Jesus’ open acceptance of both women and Gentiles was highly unusual for a Jewish male. “Shocking” is not too strong a word.

But the other shocking aspect of Jesus’ ministry involved his understanding of his approaching death. When Jesus began to open to the disciples his conviction that the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 was central to his own understanding of his mission, the disciples reacted with horror and alarm. Note the dialogue between Peter and Jesus in Matthew 16:22-23:“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’”

The sobering truth is that before the resurrection no one had accepted Jesus’ explanation of his death as essential to God’s plan. None of the disciples. None of the people. A suffering and dying Messiah? Never! Such an idea was too shocking to take seriously.

4.Inspiring. The resurrection changed all that. All at once, Jesus’ death and resurrection were seen to be at the very heart of his message and mission. The early chapters of the book of Acts tell the story. In particular, after Peter’s pointed sermon, Acts declares that the people “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). And as the disciples continued their bold testimony to Jesus’ power and kept performing miracles in his name, Acts states: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13)

Jesus’ path to becoming the “Master Missionary” was slow and difficult. But after the resurrection, those who had been with Jesus saw the light and carried forward the work that we are still called to do today. By God’s grace, our world can sense that we, too, have been with Jesus.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7025
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thank you Alden. A wonderful resume. what a prescription for a Christain.Who is our neighbor, well one in need. I am glad you outlined the steps Christ made to us… Tom Z

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@alden, this is a great adulation of Jesus the Divine.

However, as noted in the citation of C.S. Lewis, this “has to be shattered time after time” in order for us humans to approach Jesus, to comprehend Him especially as a way of life, it is in His full submission of His human-ness to the will of the Father that we come to recognize Him as our Brother.

Does this denigrate His Anointing? Not at all! For none of us can survive the All-Consuming Fire, except by Grace. I think most of us recognise that. It is by that same Grace that we can become living human witnesses of that Grace.

Yet it is unclear that we can appropriate His Divine appointment for our human missiology. That Great Commission calls us to make disciples of Him. Is this discipleship of divine or human construct? We are shown throughout the Gospels how He developed the discipleship of His duly-called Apostles, in very human terms, by practice, in prayer, in forgiveness, in healing, in validation, etc., all of which meet very human needs by very human disciples, by which the receivers discover this Son of Man. (See also The Master Plan of Evangelism - Ronald Coleman, 1963.)

While it the Christ is essential to our redemption, it is Jesus that we follow to point to that.

Trust God.

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It is difficult for us to separate
Christ the God
Jesus the Man
from the Gospels.
There isnt much help from our spiritual leaders to attempt to do so.
There isnt much challenge presented to us to do so in our personal study.
Paul attempts, but his exasperation at not being effective does come through.
We learn from Jesus the Man so we can Imitate the God Christ. In doing so we also Imitate the Father God.
Imitating the God of the Old Testament, who are the God of the New Testament, is what the Old Testament was and is all about. The New Testament is just Commentary on the Old Testament.

I recently read an article regarding the Christian Church giving up the Old Testament. No longer reading it.

Kenn-- didnt mean to “Twist” things again. It was just a thought on How Can I Be Jesus To My ______ ?
How Can I Be Christ To My _________?

Thanks once again Alden. We can rely on Jesus to show us how to reach others — the personal touch-- the one on one conversation,non racist,non sexist,totally accepting. Sometimes that is difficult. Jim Bussau

A valid and valuable contribution, though quite harsh, but I partly agree as quite a few people only go to SS now, me included. I’m glad you said it outside the lounge as I don’t have access, and won’t ask as I’m not sure I’m intelligent enough or comment enough to be worthy of it!

Thank you, Alden. We don’t see you in print nearly enough these days. It is good to see you back and in good form.

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It seems to me Jesus arrived on the scene at precisely the most opportune time in history - “In the fullness of time…” He came as a Jew, to be sure, but not a traditional one. He came at a time when the Greek culture was impacting the Hebrew. Even the Bible Jesus used and quoted from was the Septuagint. This would have given the OT a lightly different slant - perhaps adding a bit of mystery to God’s dealings with His chosen people.

While Jesus may have been inexplicable to the Jewish mindset, the Greek influence might have had a little to do with that as well. But then, you would expect “God become man” inexplicable in any language or culture. Suffice it to say, Jesus did not act like the traditional Jewish teacher, sage, prophet or anything, stepping directly out of the book of Isaiah. He certainly described himself as the “suffering servant” of Isaiah, which would have meant nothing to the Greeks in the crowds, but did he actually think of himself as that? The work of the Holy Spirit, right from Jesus’ birth, to its manifestation in the upper room after his ascension would not have been possible without the Greek influence on the story.

It seems to me, Jesus was reaching out to the world, at large, even while he was walking the country roads of Galilee. He made sure to include in the list of the faithful, people like outcast at the well - never mind that it was a woman. Her nationality may be the more important factor for a Jewish “teacher”. Then there’s the Samaritan and others, as the author has listed.

It is at this point I have to disagree with Steve, who said, “The New Testament is just Commentary on the Old Testament”. I believe it’s the other way around. It certainly is the SDA understanding, but the NT needs to be able to stand on its own if it’s to impact the distant corners of the world. The apostles didn’t go with scrolls of Daniel’s statue and a list of dates. They went as “witnesses” to an unbelievable event - the resurrection and the power of the Spirit, something about which, the OT was silent.

It seems, the story that started in Bethlehem and has not actually ended yet, needed the help of the Greeks to put it in its proper light. It’s an experiential story, not a history. In order to understand it, the Jews had to step out of their Jewishness; and the Greeks had to focus - but both needed to be there.

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I highly enjoyed reading and contemplating on your article Alden. Thank you. I learned a couple of new things here. I would like to bring one of them up, if I may:

I always looked at that passage as the other way around: The devil confronted Jesus. But not necessarily, as you pointed out. Yes, it was Satan who came to Jesus at His weakest moment; but it was Jesus who went into the wilderness. Round 1 went to Satan (Eden lost), but in round 2 (the Cross) Christ not only wins, but He changes the way the world will be from then on, forever.

Edit:

Carolyn, first of all, you’re not missing much :smile: and secondly I’m sure you know deep down inside that intelligence has nothing to do with it. And lastly, if you would really like to come and take a look see for yourself, by all means ask Jarred to upgrade you to rank 3 (Regular); he has with many other people, I see no reason why he would not assist you in this also :sunny:

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Alden, his is a beautiful piece. I have always liked your articles. You speak truth with a capital “T”. Jesus was revolutionary of His time. He dared go against the status quo and show that loves wins over force in bringing people to Him.

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I had a pastor who once said that Jesus could not be deduced from the OT. I believe he was correct. Jewish deduction of their scriptures did not lead them to come up with Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Moving farther afield, neither did the wisdom of the Greeks.

Paul preached the cross of Christ, which in and of itself, moved upon the hearts and minds of his hearers with revelatory power…in essence the power of God’s spirit. The Hebrew scriptures are seen in a whole new light once the power of the resurrection is experienced. This is exactly what happened to Saul of Tarsus, as well as to so many other early believers.

The Torah and the Prophets are a partial and shadowy precursor of the reality that was to come in Christ. They can only be deduced through the revelation and life changing power of him…not the other way around.

Thanks…

Frank

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With all that misunderstanding Jesus faced can we be surprised that we still can’t seem to understanding any better? Our cultural clashes our prejudices our pride of having the truth tell of hearts as hard as what Jesus had to meet.

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Thanks so much, Alden. In this connection (startling, intriguing, shocking), I would add that Jesus wasn’t consciously trying for this effect. Not self-dramatizing.

I like what G.K. Chesterton said about Jesus presenting his ideas and ways as if they were entirely obvious: “Which man among you, if your son asked for bread, would give him a stone?” or (when the disciples said, essentially, “Wind it up, Jesus. We’re miles from the convenience store and you’ve been preaching a long time”) “Well, give them something to eat.” You don’t need to cite rabbinical authority if what you’re saying is obvious.

And Mark sometimes transcribes the eye-roll, the “duh,” Jesus didn’t try to hide when it seems like he’s outraged at the Pharisees’ hardness of heart (or even the disciples’). The obvious thing to do when someone is hungry, or harassed by demons/mental illness, is to feed them or relieve them, even if it requires a miracle.

Maybe discipleship includes tapping into this original, essential human nature, so that what is obvious to Jesus is obvious also to us.

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Ha!

Everyone in the Lounge wants out … go figure …

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Sirje
Addendum: The New Testament along with Paul, James [who was the first to quote Jesus], Peter help us to understand the Old Testament better.
According to Paul the God of the Old Testament was the Christ of the New Testament.
Paul, the Rabbi, with probably several Ph.Ds, allows us to better understand the O.T. and HOW to apply the O.T. in the Christian experience. Since at THAT time there was no N.T, and if people had not saved copies of those letters, there would have been no N.T.

Taking the Bible as a whole, what is its main point? Each book has its own purpose; and each of the two “testaments” has it own as well; but, as a whole, and from a Christian point of view, the NT stands on its own, while OT is there to set it up - as, background. We don’t go to the Bible to understand the OT better and then close the book. The OT supports the New. For us, it’s interesting history; and it gives the NT impact.

The Jews were a people totally enamored with their place as God’s favorite people in the whole world. But, even with all the directives from God, through the prophets, it did them no good in understanding or accepting the real point of the whole “thing” - the death and resurrection of Christ. The main point of the Bible is Christ. The OT ritualistic relationship with God only pointed forward to that main event.

The entire book of Hebrews explains, to the Jews, how the NT (Christ) is superior to everything that was important to them; and on which they “hung their hat” - the prophetic line; the Sabbath; the Aaronic priesthood; the sacrificial system meant nothing on their own. It was there only to get the Jews ready for Christ. Even so, they missed the point anyway. With all the “hands-on” relationships that these people had with God, they still missed the point - because they are on an even level with the rest of the world when it comes to God’s care and grace.

The Adventist people are in the same jeopardy, of not getting the point, if we insist on getting our Christianity out of the OT; and go around flaunting or remnant status. We, too, point to all uniqueness of our relationship through our prophetess and the Sabbath - a direct conduit to God; while missing the message - so often.

We can dig into the OT, and make it our life-long study, if we want, but we can’t live there. We have to emerge and line up with the rest of the peoples of the world, and meet God as brothers and sisters.

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Won’t get the point because of superficial and corrupted knowledge of bible.

Most don’t really read much of it and most have not read much EG White either .

The last 2 Sabbath school classes I attended, I was not even invited to open the bible once and there were zero bible verses quoted.

People of the book??? Lip service.