The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 11

Jesus' Faith

   Jesus could only look forward to an early death. He would be beaten into an unrecognizable hulk, tortured, ridiculed, abandoned by friends, mocked by enemies and finally crucified. Before His 34th birthday, He would be hanging on a stake, naked and dead. All this He knew, and knew fully, throughout His adult life.
   Under these circumstances, most of us would be so self-pitying, and would harbor such feelings of martyrdom, that we would only find it possible to moan and groan, doing the very most effective job of eliciting sympathy from others over our terrible plight.
   But Jesus had perfect faith.
   Faith is conviction. It is the full assurance that, according to God's specific promises, certain events such as miracles, healings and the exorcism of evil spirits — which were given as signs and testimonies to unbelievers, and as aids in the conduct of Jesus' work and ministry — would absolutely occur whenever Jesus desired it.
   Jesus knew who He was; knew from whence He had come, and knew precisely what the future held.
   Perhaps the analogy of an individual who, as a result of a blow on the head, loses his recent memory and then gradually regains it, could be applied to Jesus. Through a process of visiting familiar scenes and meeting with familiar faces during Jesus' young life, and continually as He absorbed more and more of the written word of God, plus direct personal communication with His Father through deep sessions of prayer, coupled with fasting, His awareness grew and grew until He came to "re-remember" the tremendous amount of spiritual knowledge He once had had.
   When Jesus told some of His persecutors, "Before Abraham was I AM," He revealed an unusual amount of insight into this concept. Not only did Jesus believe He was the Son of God through His mother's teaching, but He also knew this through His own personal contact with God, and encounters with spirit beings, both obedient angels and evil spirits!
   Therefore, Jesus knew.
   To millions of professing Christians, "faith" is an elusive "something" everyone wishes to have. All seek it through diverse sorts of physical and psychological phenomena; traveling to one place and another; trying to fix or set their minds in a particular channel; attempting to follow routines or ceremonial procedures; going to a famous "faith healer" and trying diligently to bolster up one's nagging doubts by any number of psychological and spiritual exercises or tricks.
   Jesus' faith was so superb that, when it served an effective purpose, He quite literally had power over the elements. Yet this was not always the case, for on one occasion when He came among some of the religious teachers of the town where He had grown up, Nazareth, He was "unable to do any mighty work there, save that he laid hands on a few sick folk." In this case, Jesus was said to have "marveled at their unbelief," thus illustrating the fact that, as the Bible reveals, especially in cases of healing, it seems to require both "faith mixed with faith" to produce the miracle.
   On a number of other occasions strange miracles occurred which were supportive of Christ's Messiahship and which dumbfounded and amazed His disciples as well as others, including detractors and persecutors.
   When Jesus walked on water, He knew He would be buoyed up and simply stepped out on the water as if it were concrete or solid ground. Here He was, strolling about on the surface of the glassy waters of the Sea of Galilee when Peter looked out in dumbfounded amazement and recognized Jesus. To Peter, this was another novel "trick" of some sort, and He assayed to leave the boat and walk right out to where Jesus was, feeling that whatever applied to Jesus most certainly would have applied to Peter as well.
   Peter thought he might be able to walk on water, but Jesus knew. Immediately, Peter began to sink into the water, and Jesus had to reach out and pick him back up by another miraculous act, and give him a gentle chiding about his lack of faith.
   In order to provide a further miraculous testimony to His credentials, on one occasion Jesus told His disciples to go to a nearby body of water, catch a fish, and they would find a coin in the fish's mouth!
   Wonderingly, they did precisely as He said, and sure enough, there was the coin.
   Again, anyone who decides to take it upon himself to be a one-man critic of the Bible could simply decide he has discovered that one "loose brick" somewhere in the foundation walls of Holy Writ which renders him skeptical of the entirety of the remainder. For the purposes of this book, whether the reader believes it is mere theory or practical fact, the Bible is accepted as being the divinely revealed will and purpose of a great infallible God who cannot lie. Therefore, though most skeptics would immediately claim they disbelieve the miraculous, for miracles cannot be explained by physical or scientific means, for the purposes of explaining the personality and character of Jesus Christ these miracles are accepted as bona fide fact, as much a fact as is any physical law.
   Jesus' faith was built on certain knowledge. He knew His Father heard His prayers; and though He did not have "X-ray vision" like the fabled Superman from Krypton, He did have both the insight and the ability to read the thoughts and hearts of human beings by a combination of body language, the looks in their eyes, as well as a very great amount of spiritual perception which some might call mental telepathy.
   Therefore, on some occasions when an individual seemed to have a great deal of faith, Jesus would immediately answer the request for healing or for the expulsion of a demon.
   On other accounts, even though one sincere believer might have asked for a miracle, Jesus asked that the unbelievers be put out of the environment prior to the healing taking place. On another occasion a Roman soldier, a captain over one hundred men, begged Jesus to come to his home to heal his sick servant. Jesus turned and pointed out to His own people that He had not found such faith in all of Israel using the analogy of the Roman soldier.
   The military man had said, "You don't need to come all that distance if you don't want to, Lord; I know all you need to do is give the word and it will be done! After all I'm a military man; I am a captain over a hundred men. If I give orders for a man to come, he comes; if I say go, he goes. Therefore, all you have got to do is give the orders and I know my servant will be healed!"
   Following the Roman's analogy, Jesus gave the object lesson to His own disciples that He had not found such an example of straightforward, simple faith, "No, not in all Israel." He told the Roman, "Go your way, and as you have believed it will occur to you" (Matt. 8:8-10, paraphrased).
   On the occasion at Lazarus's tomb, Jesus also reveals that He was in an attitude of prayer a great deal of the time. Upon nearing the tomb, He was met by Lazarus's relatives who came out weeping and wailing and wringing their hands in absolute anguish, telling Him, "Oh Lord, if you had only made it a few days earlier — but it's too late now, for poor Lazarus has been dead for four days already!"
   Then follows another of the misunderstood texts in the Bible. Almost everyone remembers hearing the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept."
   Few seem to know why He wept. Most would assume it was because of His feeling for poor Lazarus, or the terrible loss of His loved ones.
   But wait. Read the inspired account and you will see that Jesus lifted His eyes to the heavens, and said loudly enough for a few of His own disciples to hear it, "Father I thank you that you have heard me, and I know that you hear me always."
   And finishing this brief prayer as if an addendum or postscript to lengthy prayers said in private previously, Jesus said in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"
   Miraculously, and throwing stunned disbelief and shock into the detractors as well as disbelieving joy into the hearts of his loved ones, Lazarus stood up and came out of the tomb still wearing the grave clothes, whereupon Jesus said, "Loose him and let him go" (John 11:31-44). The account proves Jesus knew what He would find and knew of the surety that God was going to answer His prayer to miraculously resurrect Lazarus from death itself.
   Therefore, it is utterly impossible that the brief two-word verse, "Jesus wept," could imply either sorrow for Lazarus, or for His loved ones.
   But study Jesus' life carefully and recall the example of His "being grieved at the hardness of their hearts" on another occasion when a miraculous healing was to take place, or His expressions of grief at His disciples' lack of faith in the case of the healing of the boy who was possessed with a demon that was trying to destroy his life!
   On this occasion, the distraught father came to Jesus and told him that the disciples had tried to cast out the demon but were unable; the father was despairing because apparently the spirit was literally trying to destroy the boy, by throwing him into any water nearby, or even into a fire; and the young lad was "torn" by fits and seizures which caused a great deal of trauma and pain.
   Jesus commanded the spirit to come out, and even then in the last frenzy of hate, the demon was said to have cried with a loud voice and brought about another violent fit prior to his departure.
   Later, the disciples had asked why they were unable to cast the demon out and Jesus said, "Oh ye of little faith," and told them that this kind "will not come out except by a great deal of prayer and fasting."
   He knew that His disciples were spending nowhere near as much time in prayer as they should; and He also knew very obviously that they were not fasting anywhere near as often.
   Obviously, then, because of Jesus' grief over examples of lack of faith, and the hopelessness of human anguish, His emotion at the tomb of Lazarus was more one of anguish and deep personal grief because of their lack of faith, than for any other cause.
   It was, perhaps, similar to the anguish of a loving parent, who, though trying time and time again to teach an important object lesson to a child, sees the child slip up repeatedly, only to hurt himself severely. The parent cries out in anguish over the seeming inability of the child to learn the lesson.
   Jesus wept at Lazarus's tomb not because of any frustrated feelings of hopelessness, sense of loss, or even necessarily deep compassion toward a loved one; for He knew Lazarus was going to walk out of that tomb in only moments! He wept simply because He was in deep personal anguish over the continual lack of faith of these people!
   A custom of the day required the continuous wailing of members of the family over a protracted period of time, and could also even feature the actual hiring of professional "wailers" to do so on the occasion of a funeral.
   Remember, this wailing and weeping was still going on after four solid days.
   Jesus had faith, then, to work whatever miracles were absolutely necessary for the proof of His authority; for the presentation of His true credentials as the Messiah of mankind; for demonstration of the "power of the kingdom of God," for the casting out of demons, for the healing of the sick, and also for a testimony to His own disciples that they might have the courage backed by faith at a later date to perform miracles which Jesus said would be "even greater than these."
   The "faith" experienced by most humans today is more of a frantic hoping, a quest, a desire, a deep and sincere thirst for something wanted than it is the calm, full-bodied, confident assurance, the foreknowledge that certain events are going to take place prior to their occurrence!
   The greatest detriments to faith are fear, pain, doubt, or vanity. Perhaps the first three are obvious, but what about vanity?
   Of assurity, though many would-be faith healers would desperately like to utilize some supernatural power for the propulsion of themselves into a theological limelight to create a vast following, God is never going to honor a request either in private or in public for miraculous events or for the healing of the sick merely to satiate ego and vanity.
   On the other hand, how does one explain seemingly incontrovertible cases where individuals claim they had been healed miraculously on such occasions?
   Notwithstanding the allegations of circus freaks, appearing and disappearing goiters, people who are not really crippled after all, what of those cases which would seem to defy scientific investigation? Perhaps there is another answer.
   Jesus revealed another principle concerning faith: He said on more than one occasion that an answer to prayer would be "according to faith"!
   When Jesus said, "It will be done, or it will occur according to your faith," He is throwing the burden of proof and the direct weight of responsibility squarely back on the shoulders of the supplicant.
   It is not impossible to imagine occasions where individuals who were looking beyond the alleged human healer, looking directly toward Jesus Christ's own personal sacrifice (the Bible reveals, "by his stripes were ye healed") could be, under those circumstances, miraculously delivered from physical illness or deformity.
   Careful study, however, of the examples of the healings found throughout the four gospels, cannot turn up one single healing done in a carnival-like atmosphere for the purpose of gaining attention.
   Rather, there are any number of examples where even though a miraculous healing did occur, Jesus privately warned the individual who had been so blessed, "Tell no man, but go your way and show the gift to the priest as the law of Moses commands."
   Thus, after performing the ceremonial ritual of cleansing in the case of blindness or a disease such as leprosy, Jesus strongly urged most individuals who were greatly blessed by being healed that they "tell no one about it," in order that Jesus would not bring too much persecution upon Himself too soon.
   What a far cry is this quiet, once-in-a-while blessing, extended toward sincere supplicants, from the blatant circus-like attempts of individuals who proclaim themselves to be evangelistic healers and who advertise widely that they are going to provide a "double portion night" every Tuesday at 10 o'clock!
   Perhaps the greatest example of the tremendous assurance which Jesus possessed and which resulted in a miracle is the occasion when He and several of the disciples were aboard a fair-sized boat in the Sea of Galilee, and an unusually strong desert wind arose which caused huge whitecaps to nearly swamp the boat. Jesus was in the bottom of the boat asleep and finally was roused by all of the frightened chatter by the disciples who thought the boat was surely going to sink.
   Coming on deck, Jesus merely looked at the intensity of the storm, and gesturing to the waves and wind, said, "Peace, be still."
   The waves began to die down, and within only a matter of minutes, as can occur after the passage of a violent windstorm when a lake which had been tempestuous only minutes before can become almost glassy — still, the lake took on a great calm.
   The disciples were absolutely dumbfounded and said, "What manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?"
   On this occasion, while many might be tempted to see Jesus in the role of showman, merely gesturing or posturing in an attempt to gain popularity or notoriety, He was actually saving several lives, including His own!
   While the account is cursory at best, there is every reason to believe it was a serious enough storm that if Christ had not intervened, it quite literally would have meant the sinking of the ship.
   Skeptics would be tempted to say, "Well, so what, He could have walked on the water anyway, couldn't He?" But again, this book is not intended to "bring you to the Lord" or to convince anyone who wishes to disbelieve, but to set forth the simple truth about the personality, nature and character of the real Jesus Christ of Nazareth as closely as the personal eyewitness accounts will allow.
   Perfect godly character would have absolutely demanded that Jesus never utilize any special supernatural powers for the mere purpose of show.
   Furthermore, any attempt to utilize supernatural powers for such a purpose would have meant the automatic cancellation of miraculous powers in the first place! Nothing is more detrimental to faith than vanity and ego!
   Entirely too many people feel miracles are "credentials" of personal righteousness, holiness and power, instead of aids to evangelism. "Signs" were utilized by God's prophets to dumbfound and convince skeptics and unbelievers; special blessings from time to time have come from God in especially outstanding cases to display God's mercy. But most assuredly, God will never permit real godly miracles to be prostituted in a form of spiritualistic gimmickry for the purpose of inflating the ego of would-be spiritual leaders.
   Even as the teaching of the real Jesus is virtually intolerable to so many today, it was also intolerable to the religious leaders of His day. Jesus actually attempted to begin the formal segment of His ministry by honoring His own country, sadly but fully expecting to be rejected by His own people.
   Some interesting doctrinal truths are discovered in Jesus' first rejection at Nazareth.
   Read Luke's account, chapter four, verses 16 through 30, and you will find that He was appearing in His own hometown synagogue. Jesus had already been in Judaea and had understood that the Pharisees were rumoring that He was becoming more of an important figure than John, allegedly baptizing even more people than John, and therefore looming as a larger competitive threat in the religious marketplace (at least in their minds). So Jesus left Judaea and went again into Galilee. However, it required Him to pass through Samaria (John 4:1-4).
   It was during this journey that Jesus met the woman at Jacob's well and gave the Samaritan woman the lesson about "living water."
   Following Jesus' miraculous ability to tell the woman many details of her past, plus His plain teaching about a "well of water springing up unto eternal life," many of the Samaritans began to believe that He must be the prophesied Messiah or Savior. It was only two days later (John 4:43) that Jesus went into Galilee. He had said earlier (Luke 4:24; Mark 6:4; Matt. 13:57) that no prophet has any acceptance in his own country.
   In Luke 4:16, Jesus was in Nazareth, where He was brought up, and "as His custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day." On this occasion, according to the custom of the synagogue, He was asked to read. He found the place in Isaiah where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:16-19, RSV). After reading this segment from Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2, He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. There was a protracted silence, with all eyes still upon Him, when He confidently proclaimed, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
   He went on to proclaim Himself as the Messiah who was actually fulfilling those centuries-old pronouncements from the scroll of Isaiah. Everyone listened intently, and began to wonder at both the eloquence and the vast biblical knowledge, as well as at the sincerity that gave His words a ring of truth.
   But true to His predictions, their hometown prejudices began to get in their way.
   Some began to reason, "Isn't this Joseph's boy?" Many of them had perhaps not paid much attention to Him in the last several years, though some few must have recognized Him as the young man who had grown up right in the city as a laborer at His father's side and who had been conducting His father's business together with His several brothers since Joseph's death.
   Recognizing their beginning doubts He said, "Probably you are going to repeat to me the tired old parable 'Physician, heal yourself!' Since we have heard all those marvelous rumors about what you did in Capernaum why don't you do the same things right here in your own hometown and show us?" He went on to say that "no prophet is acceptable in his own country."
   Then followed a very concise statement which is impossible for most people to believe, even today.
   Jesus said, "I am telling you the truth — there were many widows in Israel during the days of Elijah when the heaven was shut up three years and six months; and great famine came over the whole country. In spite of all the terrible duress, Elijah was not sent to any of them but only to Zarephath in the land of Sidon unto a woman that was a widow." (Obviously, the implication was that even though a major prophet of Israel, Elijah was sent to a Sidonian and therefore to a Gentile.)
   He continued, "Also, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha's prophecies, and none of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian" (II Kings 5:14).
   They were all so enraged at His obvious inference that great prophets and men of God who were champions and heroes of Israel had actually turned away from their own people because of their paganism, and had been sent to isolated Gentiles for special purposes, that they "were all filled with wrath."
   As the men in the synagogue heard these things they "rose up, and cast him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereupon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way" (see Luke 4:22-30).
   Much can be gleaned from this account — not the least of which is additional confirmation about the obvious plainness of Jesus' appearance, necessary for Him to be able to lose Himself in the crowd.
   But perhaps more importantly, this abortive attempt of the beginning of a public ministry in His own hometown is illustrative of a major scriptural truth rejected by so many millions today: to wit, Jesus did not come to save the world then, and He is not setting His hand to save it now!
   The concept held by the religious leaders of the day demanded a returning, conquering Messiah who would once again exalt the nation of Israel to its Davidic greatness, or the glitter of the reign of Solomon. They wanted a military king; one to overthrow the yoke of the Roman conquerors, and to so expand their own borders, commerce, domestic economy and social order that they once again became a great kingdom.
   Many other examples in the four gospels illustrate the same point.
   Jesus had said repeatedly, "Why do you call me Lord and yet do not the things which I say? Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall in anywise enter the kingdom of my Father."
   "None can come to the son except the spirit of the Father draw him."
   And, in answering His disciples' queries as to why He spoke in difficult-to-understand similes and parables, He plainly referred once again to a prophecy by Isaiah in which He instructed His disciples, "Because as Isaiah said their eyes are totally blinded and their ears are deafened and they stumble at my teaching, lest at any time they should turn and be converted and I should heal them."
   Read the thirteenth chapter of Matthew and you will discover a profound truth which is rejected by most professing Christendom today — Jesus deliberately concealed His message from the majority, and privately taught it to a select hand-picked group of disciples for the purpose of raising them up as His immediate successors to form the human building blocks of the New Testament Church of God which He predicted would continue from that age to this.
   Never at any time, not during the human lifespan of Jesus Christ of Nazareth when He with His own footsteps trod the pastures, orchards, and grainfields of Palestine, or throughout the intervening millennia, has the real Jesus set His hand to save the world!
   Anyone who believes in the childish beddy-bye concept that Jesus has been trying to save the world must automatically believe, at the same time, that Satan's efforts are infinitely more powerful; that Jesus is weak and inept, and that God seemingly is losing the battle on all fronts.
   Jesus' attitude throughout His life was not one of pomp and vanity. There was not one iota of braggadocio in the man — but there was a deepening awareness, especially following the frightening confrontation with Satan the Devil in the wilderness, that His public ministry would result in a growing hostility and resistance on the part of political and religious leaders.
   Yet Jesus had the faith to see it through.

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Publication Date: 1977
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