In 1820 Thomas Jefferson produced his own harmony of the Gospels. Using a razor and glue he cut and pasted passages from the four Gospels, in chronological order. However, he excluded any mention of miracles and ended with the sealing of Jesus’ tomb. Jefferson did not believe in God’s supernatural involvement in this world. His Jesus was just a great and good teacher. The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth supported his own opinions.
Is Thomas Jefferson so unusual? Aren’t we all tempted to our own ‘cut and paste’ exercises in our minds, conversations, and behavior? What do we do with those statements in the Bible that grate against our preferences or experiences? We are born into self-rule. The Bible is bound to challenge us. It points to a new life under the rule of a new King.
For instance, take Jesus’ statements about friends and family. Anyone with no exposure to the teachings of Jesus would be shocked and run for the scissors:
Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”(Matthew 12:47-50)
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)
You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14-15)
Let’s be clear, Jesus did not mean that friends and family are bad and are not recognized in His kingdom. He did not say we are to literally hate our family members. Rather, He used a Jewish way of speaking to tell His followers that love for Him must be greater than love for any other person or object, including our own lives. Faced with a choice, we should choose Him. Jesus’ statement about family was a thinly veiled claim to sovereignty.
The new Sovereign stated a new way for life to work best. His kingdom family is not limited as blood and marriage are. The friends of the King are those who do what He commands. That opens the door to everyone who chooses.
Now, if we think that obedience to Jesus’ commands is a daunting demand then we assume that Jesus is pretty lonely. But when we explore Jesus’ life and teachings more thoroughly we find that the only difficult part is giving up self rule. His commands are straightforward after that. Obedience flows naturally when we trust and love Jesus (John 14:15).
But obedience can still sound like servitude, even if the master is a nice guy. Jesus corrected that falsehood. Slaves are kept in the dark about the King’s objectives; the King tells His friends what He is doing and trusts them with His kingdom business. Father provides all the resources we need to do His will.
The challenge to us is to rise above our small world of human relationships, make Jesus King, and live the life of His kingdom.
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