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The Life of Christ

The Law of the New Kingdom

 

Volume 33

 

This volume is based on:-

Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:32-45; Luke 18:31-34; 19:1-10.

It is recommended that you read these before you read the book.

 

You may freely copy this book as you desire.

The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.


 

 

The law of love and liberty

"But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man [or woman] shall be blessed in his deed."

James 1:25

 

The Law of the New Kingdom

The time of the last Passover was drawing near, and again Jesus turned toward Jerusalem.

In His heart was the peace of perfect oneness with the Father's will, and with eager steps He pressed on toward the place of sacrifice. But a sense of mystery, of doubt and fear, fell upon the disciples. The Saviour "went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid."

Again Christ called the twelve about Him, and with greater definiteness than ever before, He opened to them His betrayal and sufferings. "Behold," He said, "we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully treated, and spat on: and they shall scourge [whip] Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.

"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hidden from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken."

A real problem

Had they not just before proclaimed everywhere, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand"? Had not Christ Himself promised that many should sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God? Had He not promised to all who had left everything for His sake a hundredfold in this life, and a part in His kingdom? And had He not given to the twelve the special promise of positions of high honour in His kingdom, - to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel?

Even now He had said that all things written in the prophets concerning Him should be fulfilled. And had not the prophets foretold the glory of the Messiah's reign? In the light of these thoughts, His words in regard to betrayal, persecution, and death seemed vague and shadowy. Whatever difficulties might intervene, they believed that the kingdom was soon to be established.

Close to Him

John, the son of Zebedee, had been one of the first two disciples who had followed Jesus. He and his brother James had been among the first group who had left all for His service. Gladly they had forsaken home and friends that they might be with Him; they had walked and talked with Him; they had been with Him in the privacy of the home, and in the public assemblies. He had quieted their fears, delivered them from danger, relieved their sufferings, comforted their grief, and with patience and tenderness had taught them, till their hearts seemed linked with His, and in the ardour of their love they longed to be nearest to Him in His kingdom. At every possible opportunity, John took his place next the Saviour, and James longed to be honoured with as close connection with Him.

Their mother was a follower of Christ, and had ministered to Him freely of her substance. With a mother's love and ambition for her sons, she coveted for them the most honoured place in the new kingdom. For this she encouraged them to make request.

A special request

Together the mother and her sons came to Jesus, asking that He would grant a petition on which their hearts were set.

"What would you that I should do for you?" He questioned.

The mother answered, "Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on Your right hand, and the other on the left, in Your kingdom."

Jesus bears tenderly with them, not rebuking their selfishness in seeking preference above their brothers and sisters. He reads their hearts, He knows the depth of their attachment to Him. Their love is not a mere human affection; though defiled by the earthliness of its human channel, it is an outflowing from the fountain of His own redeeming love. He will not rebuke, but deepen and purify.

He said, "Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?" They recall His mysterious words, pointing to trial and suffering, yet answer confidently, "We are able." They would count it highest honour to prove their loyalty by sharing all that is to befall their Lord.

But they didn’t know!

"You shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with," He said; before Him a cross instead of a throne, two criminals His companions at His right hand and His left. John and James were to share with their Master in suffering; the one, first of the brothers and sisters to perish with the sword; the other, longest of all to endure toil, and reproach, and persecution.

"But to sit on My right hand, and on My left," He continued, "is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father."

In the kingdom of God, position is not gained through favouritism.

It is not earned, nor is it received through an arbitrary bestowal.

It is the result of character.

The crown and the throne are the tokens of a condition attained; they are the tokens of self-conquest through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not understood then

Long afterward, when the disciple had been brought into sympathy with Christ through the fellowship of His sufferings, the Lord revealed to John what is the condition of nearness in His kingdom. "To him that overcomes," Christ said, "will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne."

"Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God... and I will write upon him My new name." Revelation 3:21, 12.

So Paul the apostle wrote, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

The power of the kingdom

The one who stands nearest to Christ will be he or she who on earth has drunk most deeply of the spirit of His self-sacrificing love, - love that "vaunts not itself, is not puffed up... seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil" (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5), - love that moves the disciple, as it moved our Lord, to give all, to live and labour and sacrifice, even to death, for the saving of humanity.

This spirit was made clear in the life of Paul. He said, "For to me to live is Christ;" for his life revealed Christ to men; "and to die is gain," - gain to Christ; death itself would make manifest the power of His grace, and gather souls to Him. "Christ shall be magnified in my body," he said, "whether it be by life or by death." Philippians 1:21, 20.

Selfishness arose

When the ten heard of the request of James and John, they were much displeased.

The highest place in the kingdom was just what every one of them was seeking for himself, and they were angry that the two disciples had gained a seeming advantage over them.

Again the strife as to which should be greatest seemed about to be renewed, when Jesus, calling them to Him, said to the indignant disciples, "You know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you."

The social pyramid

In the kingdoms of the world, position means self-glory. The people are supposed to exist for the benefit of the ruling classes. Influence, wealth, education, are so many means of gaining control of the masses for the use of the leaders. The higher classes are to think, decide, enjoy, and rule; the lower are to obey and serve.

Many religions as well, like all other things, are a matter of authority. The people are expected to believe and practise as their superiors direct.

The right of ordinary men and women, to think and act for themselves, is wholly unrecognised.

The true kingdom

Christ was establishing a kingdom on different principles. He called men, not to authority, but to service, the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak. Power, position, talent, education, placed their possessor under the greater obligation to serve his fellows. To even the lowest of Christ's disciples it is said, "All things are for your sakes." 2 Corinthians 4:15.

"The Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Among His disciples Christ was in every sense a caretaker, a burden bearer. He shared their poverty, He practised self-denial on their account, He went before them to smooth the more difficult places, and soon He would consummate His work on earth by laying down His life.

The principle on which Christ acted is to actuate the members of the church which is His body. The plan and ground of salvation is love. In the kingdom of Christ those are greatest who follow the example He has given, and act as shepherds of His flock.

The purpose of Christian life

The words of Paul reveal the true dignity and honour of the Christian life: "Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant to all," "not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 9:19; 10:33.

In matters of conscience the soul must be left unrestricted. No one is to control another's mind, to judge for another, or to prescribe his duty. God gives to every soul freedom to think, and to follow his own convictions. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." No one has a right to merge his own individuality in that of another. In all matters where principle is involved, "let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Romans 14:12, 5.

In Christ's kingdom there is no lordly oppression, no compulsion of manner. The angels of heaven do not come to the earth to rule, and to exact homage, but as messengers of mercy, to co-operate with men in uplifting humanity.

John learnt the lesson

The principles and the very words of the Saviour's teaching, in their divine beauty, dwelt in the memory of the beloved disciple. To his latest days the burden of John's testimony to the churches was, "This is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters." 1 John 3:11, 16.

This was the spirit that pervaded the early church. After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own." "Neither was there any among them that lacked." "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:32, 34, 33.

The border city

On the way to Jerusalem "Jesus entered and passed through Jericho." A few miles from the Jordan, on the western edge of the valley that here spread out into a plain, the city lay in the midst of tropical delight and luxuriance of beauty. With its palm trees and rich gardens watered by living springs, it gleamed like an emerald in the setting of limestone hills and desolate ravines that lay between Jerusalem and the city of the plain.

Many caravans on their way to the Passover feast passed through Jericho. Their arrival was always a festive season, but now a deeper interest stirred the people. It was known that the Galilean Rabbi who had so lately brought Lazarus to life was in the throng; and though whispers were rife as to the plottings of the priests, the multitudes were eager to do Him homage.

Jericho was one of the cities ancient/ly set apart for the priests, and at this time large numbers of priests had their residence there. Joshua 21:41. But the city had also a population of a widely different character. It was a great centre of traffic, and Roman officials and soldiers, with strangers from different quarters, were found there, while the collection of customs made it the home of many tax collectors.

Zaccheus

"The chief among the publicans [taxation officials]," Zacchaeus, was a Jew, and detested by his countrymen. His rank and wealth were the reward of a calling they hated, and which was regarded as another name for injustice and extortion. Yet the wealthy customs officer was not altogether the hardened man of the world that he seemed. Beneath the appearance of worldliness and pride was a heart susceptible to divine influences. Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus. The report of One who had borne Himself with kindness and courtesy toward the proscribed classes had spread far and wide.

In this chief of the publicans was awakened a longing for a better life. Only a few miles from Jericho, John the Baptist had preached at the Jordan, and Zacchaeus had heard of the call to repentance. The instruction to the publicans, "Exact no more than that which is appointed you" (Luke 3:13), though outwardly disregarded, had impressed his mind. He knew the Scriptures, and was convicted that his practice was wrong.

A practical example of the law

Now, hearing the words reported to have come from the Great Teacher, he felt that he was a sinner in the sight of God. Yet what he had heard of Jesus kindled hope in his heart. Repentance, reformation of life, was possible, even to him; was not one of the new Teacher's most trusted disciples a publican? Zacchaeus began at once to follow the conviction that had taken hold upon him, and to make restitution to those whom he had wronged.

Already he had begun thus to retrace his steps, when the news sounded through Jericho that Jesus was entering the town. Zacchaeus determined to see Him. He was beginning to realise how bitter are the fruits of sin, and how difficult the path of him who tries to return from a course of wrong. To be misunderstood, to be met with suspicion and distrust in the effort to correct his errors, was hard to bear.

The chief publican longed to look upon the face of Him whose words had brought hope to his heart.

A desperate effort

The streets were crowded, and Zacchaeus, who was small of stature, could see nothing over the heads of the people. No one would give way for him; so, running a little in advance of the multitude, to where a wide-branching fig tree hung over the way, the rich tax collector climbed to a seat among the boughs, from where he could survey the procession as it passed below. The crowd comes near, it is going by, and Zacchaeus scans with eager eyes to discern the one figure he longs to see.

Jesus responds to love

Above the clamour of priests and rabbis and the shouts of welcome from the multitude, that unuttered desire of the chief publican spoke to the heart of Jesus. Suddenly, just beneath the fig tree, a group halts, the company before and behind come to a standstill, and One looks upward whose glance seems to read the soul. Almost doubting his senses, the man in the tree hears the words, "Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at your house."

The multitude give way, and Zacchaeus, walking as in a dream, leads the way toward his own home. But the rabbis look on with scowling faces, and murmur in discontent and scorn, "that He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner [a public one]."

A public Christian

Zacchaeus had been overwhelmed, amazed, and silenced at the love and condescension of Christ in stooping to him, so unworthy.

Now love and loyalty to his new-found Master unseal his lips. He will make public his confession and his repentance.

In the presence of the multitude, "Zacchaeus stood, and said to the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold."

"And Jesus said to him, This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham."

When the rich young ruler had turned away from Jesus, the disciples had marvelled at their Master's saying, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" They had exclaimed one to another, "Who then can be saved?" Mark 10:24, 26. Now they had a demonstration of the truth of Christ's words, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Luke 18:27.

They saw how, through the grace of God, a rich man could enter into the kingdom.

No thing of impulse

Before Zacchaeus had looked upon the face of Christ, he had begun the work that made him manifest as a true penitent. Before being accused by man, he had confessed his sin.

He had yielded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and had begun to carry out the teaching of the words written for ancient/ Israel as well as for ourselves. The Lord had said long before, "If your brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay [bad times] with you; then you shall relieve him: yes, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with you. Take you no usury [interest] of him, or increase [or profit]: but fear your God; that your brother may live with you. You shall not give him your money upon usury, nor lend him your victuals for increase." "You shall not therefore oppress one another; but you shall fear your God." Leviticus 25:35-37, 17.

These words had been spoken by Christ Himself when He was in the pillar of cloud during the exodus from Egypt, and the very first response of Zacchaeus to the love of Christ was in manifesting compassion toward the poor and suffering.

This was against policy

Among the publicans there was a confederacy, so that they could oppress the people, and sustain one another in their fraudulent practices.

In their extortion they were but carrying out what had become an almost universal custom. Even the priests and rabbis who despised them were guilty of enriching themselves by dishonest practices under cover of their sacred calling.

But no sooner did Zacchaeus yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit than he cast aside every practice contrary to integrity.

No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct.

Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven.

Christian business people

The Christian in his or her business life is to represent to the world the manner in which our Lord would conduct business enterprises. In every transaction he is to make it manifest that God is his teacher. "Holiness to the Lord" is to be written upon accounts and ledgers, on deeds, receipts, and bills of exchange.

Those who profess to be followers of Christ, and who deal in an unrighteous manner, are bearing false witness against the character of a holy, just, and merciful God. Every converted soul will, like Zacchaeus, announce the entrance of Christ into his heart by an abandonment of the unrighteous practices that have marked his life.

Like the chief publican, he or she will give proof of their sincerity by making restitution.

The Lord says, "If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity... none of his sins that he has committed shall be mentioned to him... He shall surely live." Ezekiel 33:15, 16.

Christian restitution

If we have injured others through any unjust business transaction, if we have overreached in trade, or defrauded any man, even though it be within the pale of the law, we should confess our wrong, and make restitution as far as lies in our power. It is right for us to restore not only that which we have taken, but all that it would have accumulated if put to a right and wise use during the time it has been in our possession.

A blessing to the whole family

To Zacchaeus the Saviour said, "This day is salvation come to this house." Not only was Zacchaeus himself blessed, but all his household with him. Christ went to his home to give him lessons of truth, and to instruct his household in the things of the kingdom. They had been shut out from the synagogues by the contempt of rabbis and worshippers; but now, the most favoured household in all Jericho, they gathered in their own home about the divine Teacher, and heard for themselves the words of life.

A personal Saviour

It is when Christ is received as a personal Saviour that salvation comes to the soul. Zacchaeus had received Jesus, not merely as a passing guest in his home, but as One to abide in his soul temple. The scribes and Pharisees accused him as a sinner, they murmured against Christ for becoming his guest, but the Lord recognised him as a son of Abraham. For "they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." Galatians 3:7.

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